So it’s the 31st December. If you were born in Scotland – Hogmanay. New Years Eve to the rest of you. I’ve just made a brief visit to the country of my birth but am now on a very quiet train back to Manchester. I do sort of feel like I’m going in the wrong direction. After a run of being on very overcrowded trains this one is half empty. No normal person LEAVES Edinburgh on Hogmanay…
But anyway. I’ve had a bit of spare time to fill on the journey and it’s that time of year when the papers and social media are doing all the looking back. Reviews of the year, reviews of the decade, the bests of, the favourite books, the stand out films, the flops, the triumphs, the disappointments, the iconic events, the honours ( and leaked addresses) the scandals, the sporting victories, and on it goes.
I’ve just read Barack Obama’s lists on Twitter. He has a tradition of sharing all the music, books and films he has loved over the past year. Oh heavens, Barack you are prolific. I’m not sure how you manage to get anything else done. The 44th president of the USA reads a staggering number of books on all manner of topics, as well as consuming a stack of films and music. In her best selling memoir “Becoming”, his wife Michelle told the story of how he woke her up in the middle of the night once because he was pondering how to solve income inequality. He clearly has a razor sharp mind and a huge capacity to analyse and digest a lot of content.
Well, I’m not in Barack’s league. His lists are a great read in themselves, and would keep me busy for decades. And we don’t particularly share a taste in music. However, just for the fun of it, here’s a much smaller list of stuff I’ve enjoyed this year.
Feel Better Live More by Dr Rangan Chatterjee
It’s hard to overstate how much I love this podcast. I have long admired Dr C and his holistic approach to health. He is whip smart and on the ball with his research, yet down to earth and not at all Lpreachy, and he has interviewed some great people this year. His episode on sleep with Professor Matthew Walker was a game changer for me, and he had a really fascinating chat about the role of alcohol in our culture with Andy Ramage, the founder of One Year No Beer.
Another important influencer for me on health and wellbeing is Suzy Glaskie, a local business owner who gave up her corporate career in PR to become a health coach. She’s inspiring but not patronising and is on Instagram – @peppermintwellness.
Desert Island Discs on Radio 4
Oh yes! I know it’s been around forever but it’s a newish discovery for me and now I literally have years of archives to dip into whenever I have a mundane job to do. It ticks my boxes because I’m curious about people and like being introduced to new and old music. I was disappointed to read a snobby article in the Sunday Times Magazine slating Lauren Laverne for her style of interviewing – implying she wasn’t heavyweight enough for the job and was too understated. Sorry, but isn’t that the point? Letting the guest be the focus? You’ll never please everyone Lauren but I think you’re wonderful on this show. Standout episodes – Emily Eavis, the daughter of the founders of Glastonbury, James Rebanks, the sheep farmer/Oxford graduate, and the Liverpool actor Stephen Graham who was phenomenal in the last series of In the Line of Duty.
The Crown on Netflix.
Need I say more? I actually love the Queen. Long may she reign. All bets are off for the monarchy once she has gone. I’m not a massive watcher of TV these days and this is the only programme that I will consistently sit down and watch by myself. My only reservation is that it’s based on real events which are creatively portrayed in a way which may or may not be accurate and possibly not welcomed by the the real people involved. Not sure what Her Majesty would make of it. But still wonderful. Claire Foy and Matt Smith were superb in series 1 and 2. It took me a few episodes to warm to Olivia Colman in series 3 but the episode which covered the Aberfan disaster of 1962 was the most moving piece of telly I watched last year.
4) NON FICTION
Joint favourites: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and The Righteous Mind – Why Good People Are Divided By Politics And Religion by Jonathan Haidt.
I’m aware of the irony of recommending the former while typing on my computer but honestly, I nearly threw my phone in the Manchester Canal after reading this book. I may write a separate blog on the topic of how our digital lives are impacting our actual lives in ways we have not intentionally chosen and I plan to do a bit more digital detoxing this year.
The Righteous Mind was released in 2013 but could not be more relevant in the era of Brexit, Trump and General Elections. Jonathan Haidt is Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business and his main area of study is the psychology of morality. If you are even slightly interested in current affairs and why humans behave the way they do, read this book. ( especially the chapter called Elephants Rule).
As my teenagers would say, I’m “not gonna lie.” Fiction is a challenge for me. I aspire to be that person who reads lots of great literature. The reality? I get bored. I skip chapters and give up too easily. I read at night when I’m too tired. I fall asleep, the book thuds on the floor, and then the next night I have no clue what I read the night before. Years ago my husband read The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. He loved it and passed it on to me. A few weeks later, he asked me about it. Of course I tried to pretend I’d read it all when I actually hadn’t. Never do this! At least not with my husband because you’ll be rumbled in 30 seconds… However I am proud that I am now half way through Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro which I think I will actually finish. It’s gentle, beautiful and slow, in a really good way.
I’ve run out of time for a FILM. Nothing stood out for me this year but a couple of months ago I finally got round to watching an oldie – The Mission with Jeremy Irons and Robert de Niro, the story of a Jesuit missionary in 18th century South America, featuring a piece of music that I have loved for years; Gabriel’s Oboe by Ennio Morricone. I cried my eyes out at the end of this movie. Its available online.
So there’s my list. What would be on yours? What films and telly have I missed this year? Bookworms, what works of fiction would you challenge me to tackle?! I really really appreciate recommendations so let me have them.
And Happy New Decade to you and yours!