Continuing my 16-year tradition, here are a few favorite (mainly cultural) things I experienced during 2016:
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, Max Porter
How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World, Michael Bierut
Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast
My Struggle: Book 4, Karl Ove Knausgård
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
My Struggle: Book 3, Karl Ove Knausgård
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein
The Days of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante
Known and Strange Things: Essays, Teju Cole
The Monocle Guide to Cosy Homes, Monocle
Nobody Grew but the Business: On the Life and Work of William Gaddis, Joseph Tabbi
Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power, Mark Landler
Notorious RGB: The Life & Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
Seven Interviews with Tadao Ando, Michael Auping
Max Beckmann at the Saint Louis Art Museum: The Paintings, Lynette Roth
Believer: My Forty Years in Politics, David Axelrod
The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens, Paul Mariani
The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End, Katie Roiphe
Eleven Museums, Eleven Directors: Conversations on Art & Leadership, Michael E. Shapiro
Manchester By the Sea
The Big Short
Love and Friendship
Straight Outta Compton
Better Call Saul, Season 1
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Seasons 1-2
The Americans, Seasons 1-3
The People vs. O.J. Simpson
The Night Manager
Broad City, Seasons 1-2
Veep, Season 5
The Good Wife, Seasons 5-7
One of the things I like most about being a Spotify subscriber and daily listener is being able to quickly tune into new artists — whether I read about them or they’re served up via the app’s “Discover” tab. New-to-me folks I enjoyed this year include Eskimeaux, Father John Misty/J. Tilman, Florist, J. Cole, Laura Gibson, Alina Ibragimova, My Bubba, Agnes Obel, Angel Olsen, Andy Shauf, and Sun Kil Moon. Among the artists I’ve long loved, I couldn’t get enough of Radiohead’s beautiful 2016 record, “A Moon-Shaped Pool.”
Last year I had a whole Podcast section. Many of my favorites this year are the same (Design Matters and Longform remain must-listens), so I’ll just note new ones I enjoyed: The Design of Business | The Business of Design; The Axe Files; The New Yorker Radio Hour; and the short-lived Mystery Show.
Select highlights from another fun, productive year at Forest Park Forever include our first-ever “Artists in Residence” program; the audio project Listenforestpark.org; our exclusive series of posters from friend and artist Michael Eastman; and a short-video project with Once Films that came in parts one, two, three, four and five. I also enjoyed sitting down for conversations about the Park and our conservancy with Don Marsh on “St. Louis on the Air” and Andrew Davis on “STL Community Cast.”
In terms of side projects, in September of this year, I was honored to be part of “The William H. Gass Symposium: International Writing” at Washington University in St. Louis. I joined Lorin Cuoco, who co-founded the International Writers Center with Gass in 1990 and was its associate director until 2001, in giving some opening remarks, then discussing Gass’s work with William H. Gass Fellow Matthias Göritz and Ignacio Infante, associate professor of Comparative Literature and Spanish at the university. I was also pleased to move “Abstractions Arrive,” which had been an iPad-only e-book pairing a Gass essay with photographs by Michael Eastman, to the open web via Medium.
We enjoyed spending some time with my brother’s family in Minneapolis — return trips to the Walker Arts Center and MIA (International Modernism was memorable), catching a show at the Dakota Jazz Club and enjoying a great meal and beers at Surly Brewing Co.
A special cultural and family highlight for me this year was taking in four shows at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation that my wife, Tamara, was a part of either as curator or co-curator: The Ordinary Must Not Be Dull: Claes Oldenburg’s Soft Sculptures; Exquisite Everyday: 18th–Century Decorative Arts Objects from the J. Paul Getty Museum; Ellipsis (Janet Cardiff’s “The Forty Part Motet” was unforgettable); and Medardo Rosso: Experiments in Light and Form (nice video overview).
Of the many hundreds of photos I took of our son, Leo, this year, the one up top is a favorite, as is the one below. Background: Tamara was in the midst of a work trip to Italy, and when Leo saw this beam of light on the floor, he sat down and asked, while tracing the line with his finger, if it was Mama’s plane in the sky.