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Chris' Best of 2022

"If you would not be forgotten
As soon as you are dead and rotten
Either write things worth reading
Or do things worth the writing."
-- Benjamin Franklin

2022 brought us an extraordinary number of good books, TV shows, and films. When I looked back at what I had enjoyed watching and reading in 2022, I was pleasantly surprised at how extensive the list was. In fact, I had to make some tough choices.

Here are my top ten 2022 cultural moments.


10. Where the Crawdads Sing (Film)

Four summers ago, when this book came out, a good friend of mine who is a librarian insisted that we all read it, claiming it as one of the best in the past five years. Those of us who listened to her stayed up far into the night to finish this beautifully told story of a young woman living in the swamp.

I was hesitant to see the movie when it came out this year. I was afraid that the filmmakers would not be able to give the story the justice it deserved and that the ending, which is one of the greats, would not be able to be adequately filmed.

I worried in vain. This film is a nearly perfect retelling of the story, hitting all the best points and ending in a completely satisfying way. I went to the cinema to watch it on the big screen and have since watched it several times on the small. My favorite film of the year.


9. Harvey Weinstein (Book and Film)

Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence is a brilliant biography of Weinstein that goes into serious detail about his personality and the demons he lives with. While the man obviously belongs behind bars, the reasons for why he is the way he is are compelling.

The book also goes into detail about how “normalization” enabled Miramax’s development. The description of the normalization hit me hard. After I read this book, I called two of my closest friends whom I worked with on Wall Street in the 90s to talk about the various behaviors that we, three of the few women around, normalized. It is sobering and not something I look back on with pride.

This fall saw the release of She Said, a movie based on the investigative work of Jodi Cantor and Megan Twohey of the New York Times that initially broke the Weinstein story. While I don’t think it’s the best movie of its genre I have seen (All the Presidents Men wins that award), it is an interesting account of how the two women were able to put together their story.

The better film on the subject is Untouchable on Hulu. In this documentary, you get to hear the real women and real reporters tell their stories. Several years old now, it is still riveting stuff.


8. Benjamin Franklin (TV)

Another Ken Burns triumph.

A nearly four-hour exploration of the life of one of the most interesting men to have lived. Older than most of our founding fathers, he had so much life experience that he brought a perspective I had never really considered.

Jefferson, younger than Franklin's children, had written the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. He gave it to Franklin to review who, recognizing the beauty of the writing, made very few changes. One, however, is extraordinary. He changed Jefferson's "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable" to "We hold these truths to be self-evident" explaining to Jefferson that in the same way the sun rises in the east, the Americans have the right to revolution.

Additionally, I completely identified with the way he loved the people and the places he found in London and his struggles to leave it.

I highly recommend giving this one a chance. I blasted through the whole thing in a morning and then did it again a few months later.


7. Atlas Obscura and Gastro Obscura (Books)

Here is this year’s entry to satisfy my love of travel. And yes, I know that one of the two was on my list last year.

The editors spent years tracking down the oddest travel sites and food options they could find around the world. The mildly interesting is mixed in with the truly bizarre. These are great books to skim around in, trying not to say “Oh, ick” too often. I loved them and added several things to my bucket list including the worm-filled, coconut-flavored tree tumor found in Australia and the fermented shark in Iceland.


6. Grantchester, Seasons 6 and 7 (TV)

Grantchester is one of those weird series that, for some reason, I just keep coming back to even though I don’t love it. I had watched season five, but the final episode was so over the top that I had decided I was finished with it.

But one rainy afternoon, scrolling Amazon for something to watch in the background while I played with my new LEGO set, I decided to try season six not worried that I was going to miss anything important. I was wrong. At the end of that first episode, I put away everything else and binged through all eight episodes.

The writers have wisely put the vicar in the background and concentrated this season on two of the main supporting players. Leonard goes through hell, and we finally find out what makes Geordie the curmudgeon that he is. The emotion is sky high, and I cried through most of the episodes. Everything in this season from the story to the writing to the acting has been improved exponentially, making it one of the great seasons of any show I watched this year.

Season seven started well. The conflicts of the season were interesting and, again, some of the supporting players had truly wonderful moments. Unfortunately, the ending was so boring that I believed we had watched the finale of the series, not just of the season. Nope, wrong again. Season eight is in the works.


5. Competition Shows (TV)

In addition to my passions for travel and cooking, I am a LEGO fanatic. Not a room in my house is without some sort of LEGO build in it.

Imagine my excitement when scrolling through Netflix one day, I stumbled on LEGO Masters, where teams compete to build the most amazing things — like race cars and fountains and castles hanging off cliffs — things way beyond my skill level. This is just a fun way to spend some time and to look with awe on what creative people can build with little plastic bricks.

Finding this show led me to some other great competition shows which I have devoted more hours to than I care to admit. Among them are Blown Away (glass blowing), Glow Up (amazing make-up artists), Big Flower Fight, Great Pottery Throw Down, and Domino Masters.


4. The Holocaust (TV and Books)

Yes, another Ken Burns. And yes, I am beginning to think I am his biggest fan.

These three episodes, that span between six and seven hours, should be required viewing for everyone. It is humbling and terrifying to realize just how badly the US treated the hordes of Europeans who truly needed help. At one point Hitler pointed to Roosevelt and said, “You don’t want them any more than we do.” I got chills.

This series led me to re-read The Diary of Anne Frank and to discover another book, The Betrayal of Anne Frank. It is the story of a group of people in 2019 who decided to discover once and for all who betrayed the group in the most famous Annex in the world.

A very vocal group on the internet disputes the findings. I understand why they are taking the stand they are, but I was convinced by the authors’ claim. Fascinating stuff that I couldn’t put down.


3. Martha Grimes’ Inspector Jury Series (Books)

I had read about half the books in this series as they came out, but then somehow got off track and stopped reading them. All except the first. The Man with a Load of Mischief is one of my favorite books of all time, and I have read it more times than I can count. This year when I picked it up again, I kept going through the series.

I had forgotten how good the series is. As in any series, some books are better than others, but not one (at least not yet) is a total failure. The characters are always fascinating, and the crimes, while not always that difficult to figure out, are interesting and well plotted.

At this point, I am still re-reading the books I read originally. No matter. It has been such a long time that I have forgotten most of the details and am enjoying learning everything again. And, now that I know some of the major plot twists coming up, the foreshadowing is impressive.

If you are a fan of English mysteries, try these. I recommend you read them in order as the characters develop through the series.


2. Bad Ass Jacks (TV)

My love affair with bad ass guys named Jack started with Jack Bauer then morphed into Jack Ryan. This year, it morphed again.

Jack Reacher is bad ass indeed. Able to destroy a cell phone just by crushing it and open a beer bottle with his bicep, he is also able to kick anyone’s ass who comes after him or those he cares about. I was rooting for him from the start.

The other thing I loved about this show was Roscoe, the woman in Reacher’s life — at least for this season. Unlike so many other leading ladies in this genre, she was very nearly as bad ass as her partner. And she made the right decision at the end without being girly. I loved her.

A great deal about this show was predictable, but it had a few twists that I did not see coming. I was riveted through eight episodes and am looking forward to the next installment.

Jack Ryan is now in his third season and is going as strong as ever. While he is not quite as physical as Reacher, he is brilliant and uses his brain to get out of some pretty tricky situations. This is not to say that he can’t kick anyone’s ass who gets in his way. Fantastic stuff.


1. All Creatures Great and Small (TV)

Once again, the best of the year.

I’m not sure what it is about this show that speaks to me so completely. When the second season dropped, I spent an entire day binging through the whole thing. As the year has progressed, I have watched both seasons three more times and will do so again over the New Year’s break to get ready for season three.

I love the characters; I love the acting; I love the changes the writers have made to the original material. In all honesty, there is nothing I do not like about this show. It always leaves me with a smile on my face and many good feels.

I am looking forward to seeing what 2023 brings us. Happy holidays to you all, and I wish everyone all the best for 2023.

ChrisB has been posting here for a decade and is still spending a lot of time staring at screens and books.

12 comments:

  1. Such a fan of Jury and Melrose Plant!

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    1. Right? I love them as individuals and I adore their friendship. One of my favorite pairings of all time.

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  2. I love all of the competition shows that you mentioned, with Blown Away and Glow Up being my personal favorites. I also cannot recommend Face Off enough. It's been off the air for a few years now, but it was special effects make up and it was always so, so cool. Also all of the competitors seemed to like and support each other, which was nice to see.

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    1. LEGO is my favorite with Glow Up a close second. My sister got so involved in Blown Away that she has started taking glass blowing classes. She loves it.

      I will look for Face Off.

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  3. Face Off was awesome for exactly the reason Honest Fangirl says. Everybody was always just so supportive of one another, and the judges were constructive rather than mean. I watched it religiously when it was on.

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    1. You guys! Face Off is amazing. I am in awe of what the contestants create and I find the judging to be kind, not snarky. Thank you so much for steering me towards it.

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  4. Right? I have the biggest girl crush on Ve Neill!

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    1. Me, too! I love how kind she is to everyone without being cloying. She'll tell you what you did wrong, but in such a way that you can't help but agree with her. Glenn Hetrick is a character. Hard to imagine someone else in his role. I love when he shuts down the whining.

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  5. Oh, I'm so glad you like it! I always love the end where they morph the model into the creature. Now I'm itching for a binge as well.

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  6. What an eclectic selection. I don't know whether to thank you or curse you for adding to my never ending To Be Read and To Be Watched lists!

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    1. I hope you find something wonderful, Shari. It was a good year. I left a lot of things off the list!

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  7. My parents made me watch anepisode of All Creatures Great and Small--my first time viewing the show.
    I hadn't yet realized just how cute the show was, and one of the plots involved a dog in peril, and I started crying a bit. "This is hard to watch!" I exclaimed, hoping we'd switch to something less suspenseful.
    But all they said was, "Yes, it is."
    (The dog turned out okay.)

    It was an emotional roller-coaster.

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