Seasons Change With Their Scenery: Best-of 2013

An annual tradition. Here’s the one from last year; here are the previous ones. As always, “best” is an unstable mix of “my personal favorites” and “stuff I actually think has exceptional quality.” I’ll defend anything listed in this post with my teeth, but I don’t want to fight you about whether Life and Fate is really “better” than A House for Mr Biswas….

Best books read for the first time (non-fiction): Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson, Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City. Pointed, empathetic, and spiritually challenging. Look for a more thorough review from me in the New Year.

Jennifer M. Silva, Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty. The kind of book for which the descriptor “flawed but important” was crafted.

To be honest, this was not a big nonfiction year for me, so I think I’ll leave it at these two. I highly recommend them both.

Best books read for the first time (fiction): Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavransdatter. I read a ton of fantastic novels this year but the winner in this category was obvious. Just a great, great book.

Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch. Again, my review will arrive in the New Year, but the short version is that this is a book about the longing for home, the longing for ecstasy, and the difficulty of distinguishing beauty and self-immolation. The Secret History literally changed my life but I still think this new one is her best.

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead and Home. Beautiful and brutal.

George Eliot, Middlemarch.

VS Naipaul, A House for Mr Biswas.

Also notable: The Artificial Silk Girl, Crossing to Safety, How to Be Good, Life and Fate, Some Prefer Nettles, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Tales and Conjurations, What Happened to Sophie Wilder.

Best movies watched for the first time: Act of Killing.

Beyond the Hills

Amour

Frances Ha

A Fistful of Dollars

Also notable: Black Narcissus, The Boys Next Door, Dracula’s Daughter, The Great Beauty, Harakiri, No, Notes on a Scandal, Rosetta, Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now, The Stuff, Thanks for Sharing, Trading Places, The World’s End.

Best theater (etc): Dialogues des Carmelites, Metropolitan Opera.

The Convert, Woolly Mammoth.

Torch Song Trilogy, Studio Theater. Passionate and mostly convincing. Brandon Uranowitz was a phenomenal Arnold. The play has a whiff of misogyny but that’s true of a lot of otherwise brilliant works.

Contractions, Studio Theater.

Atonement: Stories About Confession, Redemption and Making Amends, Theater J/Speakeasy DC.

Best art shows (new category!): “Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909 – 1929,” National Gallery of Art.

“A Haunted Capital: LaToya Ruby Frazier,” Brooklyn Museum.

The Pre-Raphaelites,” National Gallery of Art.

Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926 – 1938,” MOMA.

A Sense of Place,” Sackler Gallery.

Best posts or articles by other people: “The Shocking Power of a Word of Love.”

A Big Heart Open to God.” IT’S POPEALICIOUS.

The Language of Addiction Takes Over.” (Which I’ll take as an excuse to link my responses here and here.)

The Hand That Feeds You” (Al-Jazeera America on welfare fraud)

And there has been so much good writing on gay Christian life this year! My new AmCon piece (subscribe with your Christmas money!) was a response to a growing movement, and it’s hard for me to pick just one or two pieces of writing from Gabriel Blanchard, Wesley Hill, Matt Jones, and the many, many other people writing on this topic. I’m going to go with Brent Bailey’s diptych on the desolations and consolations being gay has provided for his faith, both because they’re excellent pieces and because they hit a lot of resonant and recurring themes.

And I have to add one last, because I think a lot of readers will relate to this.

Best blog posts by me: “Francis’s Conservatism (Uh, Sort Of)” and postscript.

Thanatostalgia.”

The Beauty of Obedience.” I’m still totally unsatisfied with this post, but I think it Raises an Important Issue, so here it is. Not sure “Listen to the Church because Christopher Bowman was an amazing skater” makes sense to anybody else, but I gotta do me.

The Pope and the Pregnancy Center.”

Bedrooms and Bootstraps.” Or maybe “St. Odysseus and St. Antaeus.”

Best articles by me: “I’m Gay, But I’m Not Switching to a Church That Supports Gay Marriage.” That is not my title! I think this is a pretty good look at where my head’s at these days.

Middlemarch and What We Mean When We Say Shame Works.”

Beyond Critical Thinking” (and follow-ups here and here).

You Can Go Home Again.” In defense of living with your parents.

What Is the Purpose of Lent?

And an honorable mention to “Sparrows and Fathers,” which could definitely have been more tightly-constructed but which I think made a good central point–and fell with a great crashing thud. Nobody liked or was persuaded by this post except me. I STILL LOVE YOU, LITTLE POST.

To close us out, here is a song I’ve listened to a lot all year. Why has nobody skated to this yet?

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