Favorites of 2016

2016 may be remembered more for its tragedies and losses, but lots of great art work appeared too. For example…


I played through these five albums countless times in 2016, far more than any other new albums. Any best of list for 2016 that doesn’t have ★ on it is just wrong.

  1. ★ by David Bowie (see In Death as in Life by Sean Nelson)
  2. The Hope Six Demolition Project by PJ Harvey
  3. Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest (see them live at KEXP)
  4. A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
  5. Pothole in the Sky by Lisa O’Neill. (This album is still hard to get hold of. The one I listen to was, she said, “smuggled” out of Ireland by Lisa herself, and then imported into the US by an anonymous third-party. However, it is evidently available world-wide via iTunes, if you can stomach that form of distribution.)


  1. Good Morning, Midnight (2016) by Lily Brooks-Dalton. Like Alfonso Cuarón’s film, Gravity (2013), everything in Good Morning, Midnight is anchored in the technical reality of the early 21st century — not quite what is usually meant by SciFi. A novel, with dreams and mysteries, and no speculative science indistinguishable from magic, it tells two stories in parallel. Both stories hinge on severely isolated settings as an inexplicable silence falls on the rest of humanity. One happens on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, at an Arctic latitude of 80° or so, so the winter is one long night while the summer is an equally long day. The other story wanders through the solar system from Jupiter back to Earth aboard a vessel, with a crew of six sent to explore the Galilean moons, designed to dock with the ISS and serve as a permanent module in Earth orbit upon its return. The characters’ interactions with one another and their challenging situations are vividly, chillingly painted.
  2. Never a Dull Moment: 1971 The Year That Rock Exploded (2016) by David Hepworth
  3. Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution (2016) by Nathaniel Philbrick
  4. Death’s End (2016) by Cixin Liu. Part 3 of Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past series. Unlike Good Morning, Midnight, this is SciFi in high gear.
  5. The Hidden Half of Nature (2016) by David R. Montgomery and Anne Bikle


  1. Arrival (2016) directed by Denis Villeneuve
  2. Jackie (2016) directed by Pablo Larraín
  3. Hell and High Water (2016) directed by David Mackenzie, written by Taylor Sheridan
  4. Eye in the Sky (2016) directed by Gavin Hood
  5. Sicario (2015) directed by Denis Villeneuve, written by Taylor Sheridan. This is a work of fiction, in which any resemblance to reality is a coincidence, yes? Anyone one who believes a wall can solve problems related to criminal immigration ought to see this. It was released in 2015, but I didn’t see it until the end of its run in January 2016, and I have gone back to it several times via Amazon Prime. I don’t think you can go too wrong with any of Villeneuve’s work, and many of us are looking forward to his Blade Runner 2049, set for release in October 2017.

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