Cultural Diary

Favorites over the last many years. —
Favorites By Year
1. Counterpoint: A Memoir of Bach and Mourning, Philip Kennicott 2. The Most Fun Thing: Dispatches from a Skateboard Life, Kyle Beachy 3. Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design, Michael Bierut 4. Suppose a Sentence: Brian Dillon 5. Hannah Wilke: Art for Life’s Sake (Eds., Tamara Schenkenberg and Donna Wingate) 6. Three Women, Lisa Taddeo 7. They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Hanif Abdurraqib 8. The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War, Louis Menand 9. Of Human Kindness: What Shakespeare Teaches Us About Empathy, Paula Marantz Cohen 10. Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres, Kelefa Sanneh 11. The Monocle Book of Homes (Monocle) 12. The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time, Jim McKelvey 13. Studio Culture Now (Ed. Mark Sinclair) 14. The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel, Kati Marton 15. Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks, Adam Nayman 16. This Isn’t Happening: Radiohead’s “Kid A” and the Beginning of the 21st Century, Steven Hyden 17. After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made, Ben Rhodes 18. Vesper Flights, Helen Macdonald 19. An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination, Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang 20. The Master: The Long Run and Beautiful Game of Roger Federer, Christopher Clarey 21. Proustian Uncertainties, Saul Friedländer 22. Seeing Serena, Gerald Marzorati 23. Graphic Life, Michael Gericke 24. How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims 25. Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson, paired with Twelve New Essays by Jessica Helfand 26. Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century, Tim Higgins 27. The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, Jonathan Alter 28. No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer 29. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, Adam Grant 3. Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam 4. The Copenhagen Trilogy, Tove Ditlevsen 5. Whereabouts, Jhumpa Lahiri 6. The Morning Star, Karl Ove Knausgaard 7. Beautiful World, Where Are You, Sally Rooney 8. The Sellout, Paul Beatty 9. Tenth of December, George Saunders 10. My Heart, Semezdin Mehmedinović 11. Fox 8, George Saunders 12. The Carrying: Poems, Ada Limon 13. New Teeth, Simon Rich
The Source of Self-Regard, Toni Morrison
Uncanny Valley, Anna Weiner
Our Man: Richard Holbrooke…, George Packer
Having and Being Had, Eula Biss
My Parents, Aleksandar Hemon
Minor Feelings, Cathy Park Hong
Weather, Jenny Offill
Promised Land, Barack Obama
Then the Fish Swallowed Him, Amir Ahmadi Arian
Jack, Marilyn Robinson
My Life in France, Julia Child
Severance, Ling Ma
Caste, Isabel Wilkerson
Luster, Raven Leilani
Intimations, Zadie Smith
Monocle: How to Make a Nation
The Passion Economy, Adam Davidson
These Fevered Days, Martha Ackmann
Wine Simple, Aldo Sohm
Normal People, Sally Rooney
The Lying Lives of Adults, Elena Ferrante
Girl, Edna O’Brien
Lurking, Joanne McNeil
How to Be a Family, Dan Kois
Mies van der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and the Fight Over a Modernist Masterpiece, Alex Beam
The Secret Lives of Color, Kassia St. Clair
No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram, Sarah Frier
Go Ahead in the Rain, Hanif Abdurraqub
How to Write One Song, Jeff Tweedy
How Architecture Works, Witold Rybczynski
Dark Mirror, Barton Gellman
To Start a War, Robert Draper
The Spy Masters:, Chris Whipple
Agent Running in the Field, John le Carré
The Monocle Guide to Better Living
Hell and Other Destinations, Madeline Albright
The Ride of a Lifetime, Robert Iger
Bitter Brew, William Knoedelseder
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong
The Gathering, Anne Enright
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, David W. Blight
Becoming, Michelle Obama
Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino
The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis
Small Fry, Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), Jeff Tweedy
Grand Union: Stories, Zadie Smith
Beastie Boys Book, Michael Diamond, et. al
Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney
The Mueller Report, Robert S. Mueller III et. al
The World of Charles and Ray Eames
Sontag: Her Life and Work, Benjamin Moser
The Chief, Joan Biskupic
Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing, Robert A. Caro
The Indispensable Composers, Anthony Tommasini
Fleishman Is in Trouble, Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
Parisian Lives: Deirdre Bair
Poetics of the Everyday (SLAM on John Foster!)
The Education of an Idealist, Samantha Power
Striking Power, Edward Bleiberg and Stephanie Weissberg
It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson
What We Lose, Zanzibar Clemmons
Breaking News, Alan Rusbridger
Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, Mike Isaac
Dreyer’s English, Benjamin Dreyer
Dear Data, Georgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec
Tough Love, Susan Rice
Finding My Voice, Valerie Jarrett
Call Them by Their True Names, Rebecca Solnit
Shortest Way Home, Pete Buttigieg
Avid Reader: A Life, Robert Gottlieb
Sight, Jessie Greengrass
Design and Content, Abbott Miller
Reading Between the Wines, Terry Theise
We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates
My Struggle: Book 6, Karl Ove Knausgård
The Odyssey, Homer (Emily Wilson, tr.)
Paula Scher: Works
Feel Free: Essays, Zadie Smith
Lost Property, Ben Sonnenberg (again)
Medardo Rosso: Experiments in Light and Form
The World As It Is, Ben Rhodes
Obama: An Intimate Portrait, Pete Souza
Architecture's Odd Couple, Hugh Howard
Yes We (Still) Can, Dan Pfeiffer
Frenemies, Ken Auletta
Happiness: Ten Years of n+1
Mona Hatoum: Terra Infirma, Michelle White
The Threat Matrix, Garrett M. Graff
Magnitude, Kimberly K. Arcand
A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir, Ian Buruma
Saving Central Park, Elizabeth Barlow Rogers
An Equation for Every Occasion, John M. Henshaw
Pops, Michael Chabon
Made to Stick, Chip Heath
Yes!, Noah J. Goldstein
My Struggle: Book 5, Karl Ove Knausgård
Blind Spot, Teju Cole
Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine
Exit West, Mohsin Hamid
Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
Swing Time, Zadie Smith
Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches, John Hodgman
Now You See It and Other Essays on Design, Michael Bierut
Home and Away: Writing the Beautiful Game, Karl Ove Knausgård and Fredrik Ekelund
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood, Trevor Noah
Obama: The Call of History, Peter Baker
Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure, Bianca Bosker
A Separation, Katie Kitamura
Paul Rand: A Designer's Art
More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers, Jonathan Lethem
Powers of Ten, Philip Morrison
Freud: Inventor of the Modern Mind, Peter D. Kramer
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, Max Porter
How to..., 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, Joseph Tabbi
Alter Egos, Mark Landler
Notorious RGB, Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
Seven Interviews with Tadao Ando, Michael Auping
Max Beckmann at SLAM: The Paintings, Lynette Roth
Believer: My Forty Years in Politics, David Axelrod
The Whole Harmonium, Paul Mariani
The Violet Hour, Katie Roiphe
Eleven Museums, Eleven Directors, Michael E. Shapiro

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante
The Story of a New Name, Elena Ferrante
The Story of the Lost Child, Elena Ferrante
Lila, Marilyn Robinson
My Struggle: Book 2, Karl Ove Knausgård
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald
The Balloonists, Eula Biss
Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
Becoming Steve Jobs, Brent Schlender
Stress Tests, Timothy F. Geithner
Van Gogh: A Power Seething, Julian Bell
Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo, Nicholas Carlson
Bark, Lorrie Moore
Girl In a Band, Kim Gordon
On Immunity: An Inoculation, Eula Biss
My Struggle, Book One: Karl Ove Knausgård
Little Failure, Gary Shteyngart
Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays, Eula Biss
What We See When We Read, Peter Mendelsund
Inferno (The Divine Comedy, #1), Dante Alighieri (Mary Jo Bang, Translator)
Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst, Adam Phillips
, by William H. Gass
, by Anne Carson
, by Dave Eggers
, by Megan O'Rourke
, by Steven Johnson
, by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal
, Jodi Kantor
, by Rosamond Bernier
, by Chad Harbach
, by Robert Walser
, by Sophie Calle
, by Julian Barnes
, by Ivo Andrić
, by Ismet Prcić
, by J. M. Coetzee
, by Sarah Bakewell
, by Mercè Rodoreda
, by Henry A. Crumpton
, by Christopher Hitchens
, by Dubravka Ugrešić
, by Philip W. Conkling
, by Christian Patterson
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (exquisite, perfect)
Marriage Story
Little Women
Uncut Gems
Meyerowitz Stories: New & Collected
The Irishman
The Trip to Greece
Palm Springs
Knives Out
The Other Guys
Maggie’s Plan
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The Price of Everything
Ford v. Ferrari
Despicable Me
The Favourite
Call Me By Your Name
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The Souvenir
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Ad Astra
Spirited Away
Juliet, Naked
Brexit: Behind Closed Doors
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Get Out
Private Life
A Ghost Story
Phantom Thread
20th-Century Women
45 Years
The Death of Stalin
The Post
First Reformed
The End of the Tour
Molly’s Game
The Big Sick
The Lobster
Lady Bird
Under the Skin
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Clouds of Sils Maria
Life Itself
Manchester By the Sea
The Big Short
Love and Friendship
Force Majeure
About Elly
Straight Outta Compton
The Assassin
Going Clear
Café Society
Ex Machina
While We’re Young
Mr. Turner
Magic in the Moonlight
Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present
Gerhard Richter Painting
Moonrise Kingdom
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
The Master
The Queen of Versailles
Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap
The Dark Knight Rises
Bill Cunningham New York
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Certified Copy
Margin Call
A Dangerous Method
Young Adult
Conan O'Brien Can’t Stop
J. Edgar
Too Big to Fail
Better Call Saul, Seasons 4 and 5
Atlanta, Seasons 1 and 2
Schitt’s Creek, All Seasons
Never Have I Ever
Call My Agent, Season 1
Great British Bake-Off, Season 6 and 8
Ted Lasso
Fleabag, Seasons 1 and 2
Barry, Seasons 1 and 2
Succession, Seasons 1 and 2
Russian Doll
Veep, Season 7
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 3
Killing Eve, Season 2
Howards End (TV Miniseries)
Great British Bake-Off, Season 10
The Americans (Final Season!)
Atlanta, Season 1
Killing Eve
Succession, Season 1
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 3
Bojack Horseman, Season 1
Silicon Valley, Seasons 1-3
Better Call Saul, Season 3
The Americans, Seasons 4-5
OJ: Made in America
Master of None, Season 2
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
Borgen: Season 3
Mad Men: Final Season
An Honorable Woman
Black Mirror: Season 1
Master of None: Season 1
Veep: All Seasons
The Good Wife: Seasons 1-6
My Spotify’s a shared-with-kids mess, and for loads of weekly hours I stream jazz and classical music that I don’t make a note of to be recalled. That said, I did especially enjoy new records from Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers, Adrianne Lenker, Jeff Tweedy, Lomelda, Bob Dylan, Run the Jewels, and Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist. I’m grateful to have been turned on to the music of Big Thief, Harold Budd (via the e-newsletter ), Eleanor Bindman, and Haley Heynderickx, whose always brightened our family’s quarantine, with the kids screaming and jumping along to the swelling refrain, “I need to start a garden!” Here’s to what’s to come.
Hours and hours of daily Spotify listening again this year. A few new-to-me artists I enjoyed: Lomelda, Florist, Big Thief, Father John Misty, Better Oblivion Community Center, Julia Holter, Clifford Brown, Red Garland.
Beyond the many hours of classical music I listened to at work through the headphones, the the albums I most enjoyed this year were (nearly a daily listen for me), as well as new/newish records from Julien Baker, Boygenius, Jeff Tweedy, Pusha T, Earl Sweatshirt, Cat Power, Damien Jurado and Lomelda, whose song “From Here” in a way that always makes me smile and sing along.
I'm going to skip making a long list of favorite albums and podcasts, and instead note a discovery in each, respectively: (watch her), and . They each feel a bit haunted, and they share, in parts, a gothic sensibility. (Also: I can't not mention Black Thought's instantly classic , which c'mon.)
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.”
I used to make long lists of specific albums purchased and enjoyed, but since I’ve gone to paid streaming (and, maybe, since I’ve become a committed podcast listener), it’s harder for me to point to specific recordings at a year’s end. This is especially the case since Rdio shut down, and I’m now starting fresh with Spotify — my digital records are kind of a mess. While I listen to hours of classical and ambient/lush music through the headphones during work, a few specific artists I spent more time with in 2015 include Angel Olsen, Youth Lagoon, Sun Kil Moon, Sharon Van Etten, My Bubba, Jennifer O’Connor, Girlpool, Atlas Sound, Earl Sweatshirt, J Cole, Common, Pusha T, A$AP Rocky, Villagers, Natalie Prass, and Perfume Genius.
I can’t recall a year when I saw less art — whether here in St. Louis or in cities we didn’t travel to. With that unfortunate reality, I’m especially grateful to have been able to see the fantastic exhibition at the Pulitzer this summer.
Close to home:
Ruth Asawa: Life’s Work at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation (curated by my wife and called by the Washington Post)
Mona Hatoum: Terra Infirma at the Pulitzer
Lola Álvarez Bravo: Picturing Mexico at the Pulitzer
Amy Sherald at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
Kehinde Wiley: Saint Louis at the Saint Louis Art Museum
During a wedding trip to Chicago, I enjoyed diving back into the permanent collection of the Art Institute Chicago and doing quick cruise through the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
While attending and speaking at a conference in D.C., museum highlights included:
Watching “Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death,” an unforgettable, gut-wrenching video work by Arthur Jafa at the Hirshorn
Baselitz: Six Decades at the Hirshorn
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
A trip back to The Phillips Collection
Less happy note: Excitedly took a morning cab to the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, but there were no tickets to be had. Great for the institution, though I was bummed.

During a day-and-a-half trip to NYC, I was able to see a remarkable amount of world-class art, including:
The stunning Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future at the Guggenheim
Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts at MoMA
Charles White: A Retrospective at MoMA
Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980 at MoMA
Delacroix at the Met
Jewelry: The Body Transformed at the Met
Relative Values: The Cost of Art in the Northern Renaissance at the Met
Martha Rosler: Irrespective at The Jewish Museum (plus the permanent collection)
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