Favorites from Year 26

I feel like I am 2 million years old, but in the grand scheme of things, turning 27 is still very young. Regardless, 26 was a somewhat monumental year for me, culminating with leaving the only place I’ve lived longer than my parents’ house. There’s plenty I did and accomplished, and even more people, places, and things I found myself absolutely loving this year.

Books

Obviously, books top the list. I made it to my goal of reading 52 books in 2019, and am on track to read close to 70. I also want to throw in a plug for public libraries! I started utilizing my library card last summer and it’s been incredible. Yes, I’ve had to wait a while for some books, but it supports the library system that’s doing other incredible things for the community, and it saves me money. I do still buy books, but only after I’ve read and loved it, so I can re-read later on. Anyway, of all the books I consumed, some I loved more than others, but the ones I loved the most were:

  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh: I have recommended this book to approximately two thousand people this year. It’s funny and sad and uncomfortable, and I cannot wait for her new novel to come out next April.
  • Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton: I was dense and didn’t appreciate Wharton when we read her in college. Prompted by Molly Young’s recommendation, I finally read and loved this novel. Like a Gilded Age Real Housewives book. And of course, Jia Tolentino recently wrote the forward for a new edition of the book. As if I couldn’t love it more.
  • The Gloaming by Melanie Finn: I discovered independent publisher Two Dollar Radio this year, and this became my favorite book of theirs. It’s a great thriller/mystery while also being intelligent and thought-provoking about who is an outsider where.
  • The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang: An incredibly self-aware and well-researched collection of essays about mental illness. Although I have not been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, some of Wang’s insights and experiences resonated with me deeply. She is also an incredible writer and storyteller, weaving clinical descriptions and definitions with her own painful personal experiences.
  • The Nickel Boys by Colston Whitehead: I absolutely loved Whitehead’s previous, Pulitzer-winning novel The Underground Railroad, and this one is just as horrific, yet powerful in its writing as well as the story it tells.
  • Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino: I’m a huge fan of Jia, and her book is so insightful it truly changed how I think about so many different things. I would read anything Jia writes, but this specific collection peers deeply into what it means to be a person (and often, specifically a female) in this modern world, and emerges with conclusions I couldn’t have drawn in a million years.
  • Prep by Curtis Sittenfield: As I mentioned in the initial review of this, I can’t believe it took me this long to read it. It brought me right back to just how awkward and upsetting high school , and for me, college as well, could be, all the while making me laugh at the absurdity of it.
  • American Predator by Maureen Callahan: A riveting true crime story of a serial killer almost no one has heard of. And he was caught in 2012! Unreal! The book begins with the arrest of the killer, and moves backward through the investigation, revealing just how meticulous and extensive his murders were. Callahan is a fantastic storyteller, and the whole thing reads more like a novel than nonfiction. On par with I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which I read, loved, and was disturbed by last year.

Music

I would describe my music taste as mildly adventurous. Of course I have my favorite artists who I have loved forever, but I’ve added quite a few new (to me) folks to my heavy rotation, a few of whom I got to see live this year.

  • Manchester Orchestra: Andrew got us tickets to their show in New York last winter with the Front Bottoms, and I of course went along because I’m always open to expanding my musical horizons. Of the two, I favor Manchester Orchestra, mainly because their music is a little bit more melodic and moody to me. (Although I will add that my absolute favorite Front Bottoms song is Maps and I think about it daily). Favorite tracks from Manchester Orchestra include: The Maze, The Moth, The Gold, and Cope.
  • Pinegrove: Not a new group by any means, but definitely new to me. I spent month with Pinegrove on constant repeat. What I love about their music is that it’s heartfelt and emotional, often times painful. We saw them live in September, and being able to scream-sing along was deeply cathartic. Favorite songs include: Need 2 (the Audiotree Live version, specifically), Cadmium (also Audiotree version), Old Friends, Rings, Aphasia, and The Metronome.
  • Boy Genius: I am a big big fan of Julien Baker, and her raw, powerful music. Who I didn’t know was the group she recorded an album with, BoyGenius, which also includes Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers. Boy Genius’s music retains the power of Julien’s solo work, but somehow more lively? Since it includes three vocals and guitar and piano, there’s more umph behind these songs. I’d say they’re upbeat, but the lyrics are otherwise. Favorite songs: Salt in the Wound, Souvenir, Me and My Dog.
  • Maggie Rogers: Sliding in right under the deadline, the Friday before my birthday, I finally got around to discovering Maggie Rogers, as I have clearly been living under a rock. Maggie’s blending of folk music with techno back-beats is…haunting . It’s the kind of music that makes me want to dance outside. I sadly missed her touring to Radio City by mere weeks. I do look forward to her making more music and coming back on tour, though. Favorite songs: Alaska, Back in My Body, Burning, On + Off, Light On.

Podcasts — or better put, Comedy

More aptly, 26 was the year I discovered Las Culturistas, hosted by comedians Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang, which opened an entire world of today’s up and coming comedians to me. LC is a free-wheeling discussion of culture between Matt and Bowen, and their guests who often times (but not always) come from their world of comedy. They are goofy but also tackle more serious issues like queer culture, race, depression, and anxiety. After I discovered this podcast in April, I went back and listened to their entire back catalog.

The show has a few regular segments, which include them asking each guest “what part of culture made you think ‘culture is for me’?” Meaning, what was something formative in pop culture that shaped who you are today. I’ve had long discussions about what my answer to this would be, ranging from Barbie to The Amanda Show to A Series of Unfortunate Events.

The likely most well-known segment of Las Culturistas comes at the end of the episode: I Don’t Think So Honey. Here, hosts and guests get one minute (timed!) to truly just go off on something in culture that is just not doing it for them. They also do live shows (WHICH ALWAYS SELL OUT) where around 50 local comedians go on stage, one after the other, and do their one minute rants.

This show introduced me to another, chaotically good podcast: Seek Treatment, hosted by Catherine Cohen and Pat Regan. Also comedians, Seek Treatment focuses more on relationships than culture, but Cat and Pat are always uninhabited, brutally honest with each other, and wildly hilarious. There have been several times where I have laughed so hard in public that I choked.

The crossover episodes of Las Culturistas and Seek Treatment, otherwise known as “Seek Culture” are also absolutely off the rails. They are intended to take questions from listeners about relationships and culture, but in the most recent episode, it is over 45 minutes before a single question is even considered. And that was very okay with me.

Also from Las Culturistas came my discovery of several other comedians, including Julio Torres, who just released a special on HBO called My Favorite Shapes, which is so odd and weird and funny. I’ve also found something of a kindered spirit with Mitra Jouhari, Sudi Green, Natalie Walker, Mo Fry Passic and Ruby McCollister. And two episodes that are delightfully off the rails are with: Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson, and Jesse David Fox.

In New York

While I’m leaving, there have been several places in New York that we’ve returned to over and over again, and that we will likely come back to once we leave the city (in addition to our usual neighborhood haunts).

  • Other Half: One of the best breweries in the city, if not the country? Continuously brewing good, hazy New England-style beers with interesting flavors. Gowanus is by no means anywhere near where we live, but we often go out there on the weekends, especially with another one of our favorites so close by…
  • Pig Beach: Some of the best BBQ, amazing sides, and lots and lots of outside seating. Both places are also dog-friendly.
  • Milk and Hops: Another beer shop, but not in Brooklyn! This one is slightly on the Upper East Side, and doubles as a Ramen Shop. Some of our good friends live on the UES, so this is a somewhat convenient for all. They play great music, have a great draft beer selection (and a ton of cans to buy separately) and they serve ramen.
  • Beacon, NY: We don’t make it up to Beacon as much as I’d like (it’s been a busy summer/fall) but I do love this little town along the Hudson River. About an hour and a half trip on the Metro North, it’s nestled between mountains in a way that reminds me of our trip to the Scottish Highlands. Beacon has a cute Main Street with shops and restaurants, as well as Hudson Valley Brewing, a great brewery, especially if you like sour beers. We’re still dying to take a weekend trip up and stay at the iconic Roundhouse Hotel, and finally make it to Dia:beacon, a modern art museum. Which brings me to my next point…
  • Museums: When I finally confirmed we were moving at the end of the year, one thing I knew I wanted to make sure to do was visit as many iconic NYC museums as I could. I have already been to The Met a handful of times (and love it) and went to the Cloisters last summer, and wanted to take advantage of all the other incredible spots around the city. Enter New York Public Library’s CulturePass. With an NYPL card, you can visit most NYC museums for free! The catch is that you have to reserve ahead of time, there are only a limited number of ticket, some of the most popular places (The MoMA, The Whitney, etc.) book up fast, and you can only visit each museum once with the CulturePass. Regardless, starting in March, I set out on my journey to visit the best museums at no cost to myself. I made it to the MoMA, The Whitney, The Guggenheim, The Morgan Library, and the Brooklyn Library. I still want to visit the Frick Collection, but I know time is short. Highly recommend if you’re in NYC and have a Library Card!

Misc.

And then there were a ton of other things that I’ve just become obsessed with over the past year. In absolutely no order:

Peloton: Lauren takes me to a bootcamp-type class every Saturday when I visit in Philly (Unite Philly, it’s incredible) but it’s pricey. On a whim, I downloaded the Peloton app, looking for guided treadmill workouts I could do in the fall winter. What I didn’t expect is to fully drink the Kool-Aid. But here we are. The app has spin classed, treadmill classes, strength, bootcamp, yoga and meditation, varying in lengths from 10 min to an hour. They’re recorded while the instructors are teaching a live class, so they’re actively cheering folks on while guiding the workout. I have been pairing 20-30 min treadmill interval workouts with 20-30 min strength and absolutely loving it. The first two weeks are free, and then it’s $20 a month after that. After two weeks, signing up was a no-brainer.

Jewelry: I’m a minimalist when it comes to jewelry. Until this year I just wore a pair of pear studs and my grandmother’s ring and that was just about it. And while I am still minimal, I think I’ve updated my look? I got these tiny hoops earlier this year, which replaced my pearl studs. They’re simple and cute but a little different. I ordered a tiny pair of studs from the same Etsy shop, but I’m so dumb and had them shipped to my college address. Here’s hoping that they make it back to me…someday.

I also got this necklace, sort of to “match” the earrings, which I wear 3-4 times a week. I’ve also started getting into layering and even shopping around for — gasp — a choker.

Meal prepping: This feels so annoying, but this year I got very into making a big batch of something at the beginning of the week, and eating it all week. Even more annoying, my lunches have been primarily plant-based. In the past, I’ve made sad salads and brought those, but I’ve started experimenting more with cooking and recipes, and found some foods I actually love eating. This salad with green tahini dressing is a staple, as well as chana masala (which I make with this recipe, obviously subbing chickpeas for chicken, and eat with faro), and falafel(recipe rec from my lovely and wonderful friend Jamie), which I eat with Trader Joe’s Zhoug, Garlic Sauce, and Tzaziki.


I’ve had a wild year and while I am so sad to leave New York behind, I am also so excited for what my 27th year in a new city will hold. Cheers!

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