Wednesday, January 01, 2020

With Renewed Clarity: 2019 in Review

Happy New Year! I hope that your final day of 2019 was bright and that you’re looking forward to a better year starting today. I know I am.

And now, without further ado, my annual review of books and music.

The Textual World
Without question, 2019 was the worst year I’ve had in reading since I’ve been keeping track — and possibly ever. If it were not for reading children’s novels for academic purposes, I doubt I would even have cracked one hundred books. As it is, my total is dismal: 116. Here’s the breakdown:

Books by women: 78
Books by men: 35
Mixed/Unstated: 3

For the first four months of the year, most of what I read was middle-grade or YA, in support of the seminar I was teaching. No seminar this term, and the publication I’ve been reviewing for since 2013 has shuttered, so who knows what I’ll read this year.

I read limited poetry but absolutely loved Kath MacLean’s Translating Air and Emilia Danielewska’s Paper Caskets. I continued to read anything John Scalzi published, and through his endorsement read Mary-Robinette Kowal’s Calculating Stars works — immensely satisfying SFF. I stumbled on a quirky cozy mystery series by Leigh Perry: preposterous in its premise, but spot on in its details about the life of contract faculty. The most unusual book I read was Bibliophile by Jane Mount, a book about loving books, embellished by art representing book spines. If you’re a bibliophile, it’s sure to speak to you.

Sadly, my own book was not printed in 2019 but should be available in the first quarter of 2020. Fingers crossed!

The Aural World
Well. After a second year of intentionally listening to music as albums rather than as singles, I can see some changes in my listening habits. All the dance classes I’m taking are also affecting what I listen to — as are sessions on the bike. But comfort listening still dominates my list. Unsurprising, given the year that was — and, more granularly, given my ongoing experience of bus commuting. Here are my top tracks:

“Not About You” - Haiku Hands
“Dance Apocalyptic” - Janelle Monáe
“Golubka” - Vopli Vidopliassova with Amarilyo
“Sueltala” - Jorge Luis Chacin
“You’re My Best Friend” - Queen
“Whenever, Wherever” - Shakira
“Wash and Set” - Leikeli47
“Burning Bridge” - Kate Bush
“I’m So Excited” - Pointer Sisters
“Voicemail for Jill” - Amanda Palmer
“Hot-n-Fun” - N.E.R.D (feat. Nelly Furtado)
“Take a Chance on Me” - ABBA
“Brand New Lover” - Dead or Alive [single edit]
“Sarah” - Sarah Slean
“Summer Night City” - ABBA
“Long Train Runnin’” - The Doobie Brothers
“An Everlasting Love” - Andy Gibb
“Hungry Like the Wolf” - Duran Duran
“Come Alive (War of the Roses)” - Janelle Monáe
“Dreams” - Brandi Carlile
“Samson” - Regina Spektor
“Sky Full of Song” - Florence and the Machine
“Salsa Caliente” - Grupo Bip
“Sweet Dreams” - Air Supply [album edit]
“Moderation” - Florence and the Machine
“Venus Fly” - Grimes with Janelle Monáe
“I’m Your Baby Tonight” - Whitney Houston
“Tiny Thing” - Jenson Interceptor
“Let Go the Line” - Max Webster
“Con Calma” - Daddy Yankee feat. Snow

Two shoutouts here: the glorious Janelle Monáe and the incomparable Amanda Palmer. You may recall that my birthday present last year was a pair of tickets to see AFP in concert while I was in Vancouver for Congress. I went with my research assistant and friend, Rebecca; it was a staggeringly impressive concert. I discovered Janelle Monáe in a more roundabout way but quickly embraced her — I played the Dirty Computer album all the way through twenty-six times. Expect to see more from both performers on future lists.

Meanwhile, in my ongoing quest toward completeness, I managed to play about 15,000 of some 17,250 tracks in my library, including every track tagged “Holiday” (meaning the household was subjected to A LOT of Christmas music this year). Just over 1900 tracks received at least five plays.

So that’s me. What caught your ears and eyes in 2019?

Once again, I wish you a brilliant, joy-seeking new year — and new decade. And here’s to fun with math!

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