Knowing the craptaculousness that has marked most of the year, anything that says “Best of 2016” is going to inspire a smirk. Like saying “Best of My Root Canal” or “Highlights of My Bitter, Drawn-Out Divorce.”
But even the worst, most miserable experience can have some good come out of it. It usually doesn’t, but it can. This year had plenty of bad, but c’mon, it was a whole year. It can’t be all bad!
With that in mind, here are some of my “bests” from 2016. Things like “best movie” and “best book” aren’t necessarily things that first appeared this year; they’re just things that I first experienced this year. Sometimes I’m a little slow to get around to my media-consumption duties. On to the list!
Best Movie – The End of the Tour – I think this was in theaters for about 10 minutes in 2015, but I saw it on Amazon Video (thanks, Prime!). It’s the first movie I’ve seen in a long time that I wanted to watch again as soon as it was over. It tells the story of the interview of author David Foster Wallace (played by the big guy from How I Met Your Mother) by Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky (played by Mark Zuckerberg from the Facebook movie).
And that’s it. It’s just two hours of these two guys talking to each other. And it is fantastic. It captures beautifully the clumsiness of two people dancing around each other as they try to develop some kind of rapport. If you watch it, make sure you first watch a couple of interviews with the real Wallace, so you can see how Segal absolutely nails his squirrely, hangdog genius.
Best Book (fiction division) – The Martian – I saw the movie before I read the book, and I liked the movie, so I had high expectations going in. The book far exceeded expectations. Much funnier, and great at holding your attention through long stretches of technical jibber-jabber. If people like Andy Weir wrote textbooks, I would’ve done a lot better in science classes. Honorable mention – No Country for Old Men.
Best Book (non-fiction division) – Moneyball – If you’ve seen the movie, the book is a completely different experience. To enjoy the book, you have to like baseball and appreciate statistics a lot more, and you have to be okay with not having Jonah Hill as comic relief. If you’re good with all that, it’s jam-packed with fascinating insights into how you can do a lot with a little if you understand the game really well. Honorable mention – Desiring God.
Best Book (seminary textbook division) – Love Your God with All Your Mind – Compelling argument for the value of intellectual rigor in Christianity. For a long time, I’ve been disappointed with how poorly the church prepares Christians to argue their case in an increasingly anti-Christian world, so I ate this book up with a spoon. A lot of Christians like to say, “Well, no one’s ever been argued into salvation.” But when people see, over and over again, Christians getting clobbered in intellectual debates, they can certainly be argued out of it.
Best TV Show – Fixer Upper – The only show running right now that I will make a point of watching.
Best Podcast – The Andrew Klavan Show – During many of the darkest news cycles of 2016, Klavan’s no-nonsense wisdom and unfailing optimism pulled me out of despair. He’s also very good at saying things that everyone knows are true, but everyone else is afraid to say.
Best Display of Stones where there had Previously been Little Evidence of Stones – The US Senate refuses to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland.
Best Snack – Let me introduce you to the wonder that is habanero bbq almonds. Delicious, and you’ll never fill up on them because pound for pound they’re slightly more expensive than plutonium.
Best Viral Video – In the Year of the Chewbacca Mom, this is a dark horse winner, but easily my favorite:
Best Restaurant (Birmingham division) – FIVE – The menu only has five entrees to choose from on any given day (get it?), but you won’t be disappointed by the selection. Try to go on a day when they’re serving risotto, because it is like candy. Great service, great ambiance.
Best Restaurant (Non-Birmingham division) – Creole House, New Orleans, Louisiana – We ended up here mostly because it was walking distance from our hotel, but zowie, a great dining experience. When you think about fine dining in New Orleans, this is the kind of place you’re thinking about.
Best Gadget – Moto G smartphone – This is supposed to be an “entry level” or “budget” smartphone, but dang, y’all, I have yet to find anything I want to do that it can’t do. It just goes to show how fast new technology goes from “Miraculous!” to “Anything that can’t do that is garbage!” Folks, don’t pay $700 for a phone.
Best Underwear – Uniqlo’s AIRism – Like not wearing underwear at all, except not gross.
Best Thing I Found at the Estate Sale at that House in my Neighborhood – A very nice, and very lightly used, treadmill – Woo-hoo! Now I have zero excuses for not running! Hey, wait a minute…
Best Thing for Helping Me Keep My Sanity – Hillary Clinton loses the presidential election – I’m sure there are plenty of crazy-making things to come from the winner of this election, but ahhhh… knowing Hillary won’t be president is like having a splinter pulled out of my brain.
Ok, that’s all I’ve got for now, but I’m sure there were more great things that happened this year that I’m forgetting. What was a best of 2016 for you? I’d love to hear about it.