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These Things I Loved in 2020 Will Change Your Life. And yes, this post is belated, though too, as terrible and sad as the year was, there were still things to love. There are also guest bloggers joining me for this post: Wondrous return guest Myles Tanzer and now the equally splendiferous Noah Tanzer. So, do take a moment to rejoice and enjoy. And not necessarily in that order.

A wholly, though not quite, pre-pandemic photo circa February 2020.

· These Things I Loved,Movies,Books,Television,Podcasts

I always write that I believe that I will have some new kind of introduction to this post, but how can I? I have also written in the past and as recently as one year ago this week:

"The year is the year it is, and was, and so in an otherwise really not terribly great year in so many ways, as opposed to a merely not terribly great year in so many ways, such as last year or the one before that, and for so many people at that, there was still good, because there is always good."

The thing is that really isn't the case this year.

2020 was terrible for most.

Full-stop, period, as my boys might say,

And yet, there were still books, television, music, podcasts, art, comedy and movies. Though even then, it's not enough, never enough, of any of it. It's also true that for the first time in my life I had trouble concentrating on books and I read less than year in recent years. Like many I also watched a lot of television.

Which is to say, we do what we can and I did what I could do. And here we are, ignoring so much of the year, if only for a moment, to look back, and share what there is, and what there was, with you, now, totally. So yes, there is all of that, and this, there are not one, but two guest bloggers this year: none other than consumate pop culture consumers and sons extraordinaire Myles and Noah Tanzer.

Nice, right?




Cultural criticism and memoirs that read like personal essays and personal essay collections that read like memoir and cultural criticism. That sing. And explore sickness, art, nostalgia, pop culture, social issues, literature, the present, past and future, and everything in between.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body/Roxane Gay and Tomboyland/Melissa Faliveno

Biography that ruled, changed brains and spoke to the subject's greatness and importance.

I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters/David Masciotra

The book that was my favorite all year, because there has to be a favorite, yes?
little threats/Emily Schultz

Kick-ass short story collections by kick ass writers who, you know, kick ass (okay, I only read one short story collection this year, but it did kick-ass indeed).
Each Of Us Killer/Jenny Bhatt

Novels by authors who I would suggest are much too underappreciated.
East Pittsburgh Downlow/Dave Newman and The Rumphulus/Joseph G. Peterson

Novels wonderful and substantive by authors wonderful and substantive.
Ina-Baby/Ben Drevlow, The Ancestor/Matthew Lee Goldberg, Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear/Matthew Salesses

A perfectly moving YA novel that I wanted to read because my son loved it and we all loved the movie.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower/Stephen Chbosky

And poetry. Never enough, really not, and so much more next year, promise (and I know, I promised that next year), but what I read, really fucking good this year.
American Gun: A Poem by 100 Chicagoans/Editor, Chris Green and {#289-128}/Randall Horton

The movies that involved Pete Davidson, which were arguably of equal quality.

Big Tine Adolescent and The King of Staten Island

The movies that involved Aubrey Plaza good.

Black Bear

And a Rom-Com (and Rom-Coms are fine, read on, just maybe not this one).

Happiest Season

There were a lot of Rom-Coms actually (as alluded to above), some mostly fine.

The Lovebirds and Feel the Beat

Some less than fine.

Love Guaranteed

Some really fun.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You

And one just quite excellent.

The Half of It

The movies I was happy enough to see during a year where I saw even more movies than last year, being at home all the time and all, though I'll never see enough to satisfy my movie Jones.
The Way Back, The Life Ahead, Devil All The Time, Tigertail, Uncle Frank, Bad Education, On The Rocks

A recently unprecedented only one superhero movies all year, but such a good one indeed.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Well-crafted movies I really liked.
Da 5 Bloods, Palm Springs, The Assistant, The Trial of the Chicago 7

The best crafted movies of the year that weren't quite my favorite movie of the year.
Soul, Sound of Metal, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, First Cow

The abortion rights movie that was surprisingly delightful.


And the abortion rights movie that was as well-crafted as any movie this year.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always,

The quite well-crafted movie that may be the best movie of the year.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

But the movie that is ultimately, probably, my favorite.
The 40-Year-Old-Version

Also, documentaries, wonderful, tough, sad, shocking, goodness.

A Secret Love, Rewind, Class Action Park, Circus of Books, Speed Cubers

Movies I still hope to see.
Nomadland, Minari, One Night in Miami, Pieces of a Woman, Supernova, Dick Johnson is Dead, Mank

New music which I did a much better job of finding this year mostly via the Spotify and was mostly happy with.
NAS/King's Disease, Steve Earle/Transcendental Blues, Chris Stapleton/Starting Over, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit/Reunions, The Chicks/Gaslighter

New music by artists I was familiar with and really surprised me because of how much I enjoyed it.

Fiona Apple/Fetch The Bolt Cutters, Taylor Swift/Folklore

Music and artists quite new to me that I really loved.

Phoebe Bridgers/Punisher

The music that was just the best music all year.

Run The Jewels/RTJ4

Music I got to listen to live that may be the last music I listen to live for some time, as well as the first and last time I get to escort my younger son to a show, because when this pandemic ends he'll be too old to want to go anywhere with me.

Television shows I kept on watching, finished watching or caught-up on, that were actually, mostly, usually very good, and got in the way of reading, thinking, getting work done and sometimes sleeping, but ultimately made me very happy.
Ozark, Dead to Me, Shrill, Fargo, Search Party, Sex Education, Ramy, All American, Westworld

Shows that I caught-up on that I quite loved.

Vida, The Boys, Cobra Kai

Shows I caught-up on that yes, I really loved, and so did everyone else.

Schitt's Creek

Television shows that ended, that were exceptional and that I'm going to really miss.
BoJack Horseman

Television shows I lovingly consumed, or continued to consume, because my at least one, or both, of my children said it must be so.
Black-ish, The Goldbergs, Single Parents, The End of the F***ing World, Bigmouth, F is for Family, Insecure, Big Mouth

Limited run shows okay.

Defending Jacob

Limited run shows good.

Little Fires Everywhere, Grand Army

Limited run shows surprisingly good.

A Teacher

Limited Run shows surprisingly good and addictive.

The Queen's Gambit

Limited run shows I was quite, even compulsively, taken with.

Normal People

The limited run show that was absolutely my favorite show all year.

I May Destroy You

New shows and mostly quite good.

Perry Mason, Love, Victor, Never Have I Ever, A Teacher, Frayed, Woke, #blackaf

New shows really good.

Lovecraft Country

New shows so surprisingly good.

Ted Lasso

And just my ongoing favorite show.

Better Things

Also, docuseries, many, mostly fine.

Murder on Middle Beach, The Vow, Dirty Rich, Tiger King

And the docuseries I loved so much, despite my great love for the 90s era Knicks.

The Last Dance

Finally, a show that is almost like a docuseries, but might have also been a visual essay, and either way was wholly addicting.

How To With John Wilson

Live theater, pre-pandemic, of course, and so promising, for a moment, good.
Layover | The Greenhouse Theater Center

Live theater, pre-pandemic, of course, and so promising, for a moment, really good.

Middle Passage | Lifeline Theater and I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter | Steppenwolf Theater

Theater filmed and televised and quite wonderful.


Art exhibits, way too little, and way less than last year, the pandemic, so there's that.
Andy Warhol - From A and B and Back Again | The Art Institute of Chicago

Podcasts I still listen to again and again, if sometimes inconsistently at that and less than usual, though that's the pandemic again, yo.
WTF with Marc Maron, Other People with Brad Listi, The Slate Culture Gabfest, Heavyweight

And now for my guest bloggers, the Myles and Noah Tanzer respectively.



Unpregant (Top Movie of the Year)

Big Tme Adolescence

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Black Bear

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Happiest Season


The Prom

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Uncle Frank


Little Fires Everywhere (Top TV Show of the Year)

The Bold Type


Grand Army

Never Have I Ever


The Queen’s Gambit

Sex Education

Ted Lasso

Tiny Pretty Things


Survivor: Winners at War (Top Competition Show of the Year)


The Circle

Floor is Lava

Glow Up

How To with John WIlson

Love is Blind

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season 12

Too Hot to Handle

Visible: Out on Television


All American

Broad City

Derry Girls

My So-Called Life


Future Nostalgia: Dua Lipa (Top Album of the Year)

Calm: 5 Seconds of Summer

Chromatica: Lady Gaga

Confetti: Little Mix

Evermore: Taylor Swift

Folklore: Taylor Swift

High Road: Kesha

Plastic Hearts: Miley Cyrus

Positions: Ariana Hrande

Ungodly Hour: Chloe x Halle


Rain On Me: Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande (Top Song of the Year)

Daisies: Katy Perry

Holy: Justin Bieber feat. Chance the Rapper

Levitating: Dua Lipa

peace: Taylor Swift

pov: Ariana Grande

Savage Remix: Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyonce

Sweet Melody: Little Mix

Ungodly Hour: Chloe x Halle

WAP: Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion


TV: Ted Lasso, Lovecraft Country, Insecure, Big Mouth, Schitt's Creek, Good Place, On my Block, Never Have I Ever, F is for Family, Dead to Me

Movie: The Trial of Chicago 7, Lovebirds, Borat, The Photograph, Ma Rainey, Big Time Adolescence, Happiest Season, Birds of Prey, On the Rocks, Soul


Albums-- Detroit 2 by Big Sean, Eternal Atake by Lil Uzi Vert, Fuck Love( savage) by The Kid LAROI, The Goat by Polo G, Ho, Why is you here? by Flo Milli, Chilombo by Jhene Aiko, Take Time by Giveon, Tickets to my Downfall by Machine Gun Kelly, Welcome to O’Block by King Von, Wunna by Gunna

Songs-- Happy Yet by Devin Kennedy, Martin & Gina by Polo G, JLO by Internet Money( feat. Lil Tecca), OHFR? by Rico Nasty, Lucky Me by Big Sean, Move Ya Hips by A$AP Ferg (feat. Nicki Minaj & MadeinTYO), Say So(remix) by Doja Cat(feat. Nicki Minaj), Soda by DJ Scheme, Cordae, Ski Mask the Slump God (feat. Take A Daytrip), Stuck On You by GIVEON, B.S. by Jhene Aiko(feat. H.E.R)

Books: Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, The Last Good Halloween by Giano Cromley, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Lord of Flies by William Golding, The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Hairstyles of the Damned by Jo Meno


Most finally, there are many people to thank for making this a good year or just rule in general) in spite of all that has been going on and feels like still will be. And I'm most definitely overlooking some, a lot maybe, and I apologize for that, but there you go.
Matt Rowan, Jacob S. Knabb, Jason Behrends, Jason Pettus, Moeses Soulright, Ryan W. Bradley, Steve Lafler, Lavinia Ludlow, Rob Funderburk, Greg Olear, John Barrios, Joseph G. Peterson, Michael Seidlinger, Gabino Iglesias, Adam Lawrence, Dave McNamara, Mike Smolarek, Beth Gilstrap, Duncan MacKenzie, Andrew Keating, Avner Landes, Matty Byloos, Brad Listi, Michael Czyzniejewski, Ken Wohlrob, Myles and Noah Tanzer, Leza Cantoral, David Masciotra, Clayton Smith, Bryanna Tartt, Mel Bosworth, Paul Cohen, Joshua Chaplinksy, Lee Matthew Goldberg, Todd Summar, Eric Vaubel, Megan Stielstra, Hosho McCreesh, W. Todd Kaneko, Jim Warner, Mathieu Cailler, David S. Atkinson, Debbie Pritzker, Steve Eisner, BL Pawelek, James Yates, Kristin Fouquet, Clayton Smith, Seth Berg, Maggie Manoyan, Amber Sparks, James Tate Hill, Mike McClelland, Lori Jakiela, Robert Vaughan, Michael Gillan Maxwell, Meg Tuite, Chris Linkenbach, Robert Duffer, Kathy Haueisen, Brian Alan Ellis, Keir Graff, Emma Irving, Joanna Topor MacKenzie, Jeff Linkenbach, Anthony Michael Morena, Brad Wolff, Amber Griffith, Bob Hartley, Shifra Malka, Joanna Shroeder, Barbara Newman, Johnny Misfit, Greg Gerding, Victor David Giron, The Book Cellar, Gretchen Kalwinski, Michael Paige Glover, Jennifer Banash, Bill O'Neill, City Lit Books, Marilyn Atlas, Matt Fitzpatrick, Art Edwards, Judith Tanzer, Kimberly Ann Southwick, Erika T. Wurth, Leesa Cross-Smith, Brian Gresko, Beth Splaine, Garret Schuelke, Shaindel Beers, Chris L. Terry, Kara Vernor, Adam Tanzer, Patricia Ann McNair, Glen Binger, Sean Beaudoin, Sean H. Doyle, Stephani Nur Colby, Ken Sherman, John Reed, Jerry Brennan, Serena Makofsky, Callie Nelson, Lauren Becker, Marisa Siegel, Brad Listi, Robert James Russell, Jenny Bhatt, Brian Gresko, Lori Hettler, Sharyn Skeeter, Tobias Carroll, Leah Angstman, Christian Winn, Charita Cole Brown, Brad King, Spencer Dew, Glen Binger, Neile Parisi, Steve Karas, Aubrey Cox Warner, Sarina Prabasi, Barry Graham, Jennifer Steele, Wendy C. Ortiz, Dave Newman, Jeremy T. Wilson, Steve Eisner, Donald Quist, Christine Maul Rice, D. Foy, Ben Drevlow, JH Palmer, Cari Luna, Amber Griffin, Elaine Soloway, Rachel Slotnick, Judith Krummeck, Behn Reza, Alex Rhodes, Largehearted Boy, Cyn Vargas, Greg Santos, Allison Joseph, Alan Heathcock, Tony Brunelli, Keith Lesmeister, Sara Lippmann, Mikaela Shea Fowler, Ariel Rudolph, Giano Cromley, Zoe Zolbrod, Kali VanBaale, Tom Williams, Jennifer Pastiloff, Joshua Mohr, Neil Elman, Amy Danzer, Patrick Wensink, Nicholas Barron, Stuart Ross, Alice Kaltman, Paul Cohen, Susan Messing, James Hornor, Rick Kogan, Amy Guth, Khloe Karova, Andie Lorch, Jeff Pfaller, Emily Schultz, Shaindel Beers, Christine Eberle, Volumes Bookcafe, Susan Messing, Jonathan Evison, Leland Cheuk, Rebecca George, Robert James Russell, Donald G. Evans, Matt Covert, Davis Schneiderman, Ray Charbonneau, Sam Slaughter, Gina Frangello, Steph Post, Rachel Hyman, Nick Ostdick, Len Kuntz, Pete Anderson, Terry Hiner, Alicia Del Real, Pam Hoadley, the Tomaloff's, Paula Bomer, Brandon Will, Melissa Faliveno, J. Bradley, Jason Fisk, Gint Aras, Yogi Roth, Eric Spitznagle, Beth Gilstrap, Ryan Ridge, Lisa Fay Coutley, Jeffrey Pfaller, Lee L. Krecklow, Keidra Chaney, Christopher Bowen, Liz Mason, Chris Tarry, David Olimpio, Jessica Kashiwabara, Micah Philbrook, Christoph Paul, Ines Bellina, Jon Papernick