In the office, we have a running joke that the job description for all employees should include "Must watch The Bachelor." Of course, this isn't true, but between our dedicated Slack channel and competitive fantasy leagues, it's certainly an important part of our office culture. But when we aren't betting on who will win the Neil Lane diamond ring, we promise we're still reading and watching other things. We thought it'd be fun to round up Leslie and my favorite, new-to-us books, shows, and movies from 2017. Enjoy! xEmily
1. I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
As you'll see from my list of favorite books from 2017 below, I clearly have a type (anything creepy/murder-y/kidnapping-themed) and this one was by far the most unsettling. I don't want to share too much, but it was a fast-paced, quick read (I finished it in one night) and was seriously jolted by the ending.
2. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
This story is told in reverse (from day 15 to day 1), so it takes some getting used to, but ultimately I enjoyed how it unfolded. Nicolette returns to her hometown, from where her best friend disappeared ten years prior. A few days later, another girl goes missing, which prompts Nic to discover shocking truths about who's involved and what really happened a decade before.
3. You by Caroline Kepnes
A reader recommended the audio version of this book and it was such a good call. I started it on a plane and was immediately captivated by the narrator's voice. The book follows Joe, who begins stalking a girl who eventually becomes his girlfriend. It's more of an erotic thriller that has you questioning whether Joe is charismatic and likable or a complete psychopath. I loved it so much that I immediately followed up with the sequel, (which I wouldn't recommend).
4. The Widow by Fiona Barton
After Jeanie's husband passes away, people begin asking her what she knew about his troubled past. She dutifully stood by him, even after he was accused of murder, though things begin to shift once he's gone.
5. Into The Water by Paula Hawkins
Though I read and enjoyed Girl on the Train, I wasn't one of those die-hard fans. Regardless, I was excited to read Paula Hawkins' follow up novel, 'Into the Water.' There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but the descriptions and eerie settings were enough to keep me entertained throughout.
6. A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
Tom comes home to find his wife, Karen's car is gone, but she's left behind her purse and phone. Around that time, she's gotten into a car crash (in a sketchy part of town where she wouldn't normally go) and suffered a concussion, causing her to forget everything from that night. You're left questioning whether or not she actually remembers what happened and why she fears someone besides her husband has been in her home.
7. The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard
After Rach named this as one of her favorite books from last year, I was excited to read it. It's a beautiful collection of personal essays, ranging from childhood to marriage, and her descriptions are poetic and familiar. It was a clear departure from my go-to genre, but I found myself reading certain pages multiple times because they were so moving.
8. How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell
Woof. Cat Marnell's memoir is an uncomfortable read from start to finish, detailing her drug-fueled downward spiral as a beauty editor at Lucky magazine. It's hilarious and cringe-worthy and though there's not much in terms of redemption, I found her honesty to be refreshing.
So we’re literally years behind on this guy, but G and I just recently binge-watched the entire first season in a matter of hours (which is saying a lot for people who typically go to bed by 10 p.m.). It takes place in the small town of Broadchurch, after an 11-year-old boy is found murdered on the beach. The first couple of episodes are heartbreakingly painful watching his parents' agony, though the unfolding mystery and character development is superbly done.
I loved Mindhunter, but it was admittedly much slower (don't let the first ten minutes trick you) and less scary than I'd imagined. It follows the story of FBI agents, who in the '70s, began interviewing incarcerated serial killers in an attempt to understand their motive in hopes of preventing future crimes.
I'd meant to read the book (which I'd heard was the ideal beach read), and found the show to be so satisfying that I never ended up picking it up. Following the seemingly perfect lives of mothers in a seaside town, you'll find yourself entirely engrossed trying to figure out what goes wrong that ends in someone's murder by the end of the series.
4. The Big Sick
This was such a delightful movie and found myself laughing, crying, and literally clapping along as I watched it. After Emily contracts a mysterious illness that lands her in a coma, her ex-boyfriend, Kumail, is forced to reconcile with his feelings and decide whether their cultural differences are worth fighting for.
5. Wonder Woman
This was probably my all-time favorite movie this year. I'm a sucker for any kind of comic book hero type of film, but it wasn't until I'd left the theater that I realized how much I'd been impacted by the fact that there hadn't been a female lead portrayed this way before. I'm already counting down the minutes until Sloan is old enough to watch it because it's empowering, touching, and wildly entertaining.
6. Baby Driver
I love a good bank heist movie and this is one of the best out there. I'm now officially obsessed with Ansel Elgort and the soundtrack alone makes it such a fun ride.
1. My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
It's amazing to me that My Absolute Darling is written by a 30-something rock climber living in Salt Lake City, since it's about anything but. Set in Northern California, it follows Turtle (or "Kibble" or "Julia"), a 14-year-old girl who's sexually and emotionally abused by her father. With her mom out of the picture, the two of them live a sequestered life on their 60-acre plot by the ocean, largely off the land that surrounds them. Told from her point of view, the result is a jarringly dark portrayal of the psychology behind an abused child. As a reader put it to me in an Instagram DM, there were some parts I wanted to read with my eyes closed, they were so disturbing, but once I started reading it, I literally couldn't put it down: I started it in the evening, and had finished it by the time the sun came up.
2. Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline
Even though I read this book at the start of the year in one plane ride, it's one of the books I've thought the most of, written in my favorite genre: post-apocalyptic sci-fi. Set 30 years in the future, it takes place in a world divided by global warming and housing crises, where most people prefer to spend their time in the high-tech virtual reality world known as OASIS. When the founder of OASIS dies, he sets up a scavenger hunt within the virtual world where one lucky winner has the chance to inherit his entire, vast fortune.
3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
I only read this book over Thanksgiving break, but enjoyed it so much that I had to add it to this list last-minute! In a quiet suburb of Cleveland, the Richardsons' house is on fire—and their youngest daughter, missing, is presumed the arson. The rest of the book includes rich character development that takes place over the course of small town politics, and interactions between unlikely neighbors.
4. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
While you could easily read this short memoir, about a woman who works at a crematory, in a day, it could easily be read as a series of short stories since each chapter has a unique stand-alone story about her experience. But don't let the subject matter fool you—this book is rich with hilarious insights on death, and how we treat it.
5. How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell
Just thinking about Cat Marnell's memoir about her drug-fueled days working in the New York magazine world makes me laugh, and then quickly cringe. Over the course of several years, Marnell successfully hid her addiction to adderall (and pretty much everything else) from the team of beauty editors she worked with, including Jean Godrey-June, while her personal life cycled out of control. Her descent to rock bottom is glamorous, messy, hilarious, depressing, privileged, and upsetting all at the same time. Most importantly, it makes for a page-turning read.
6. Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
It took me a little longer than promised to start this book, primarily because I thought I already knew what it would be about (both the cover and the description are carbon copies of one of my favorite books, Station Eleven)—and I was half-right, but that didn't keep me from loving it. Another post-apocalyptic novel, instead of following a traveling Shakespeare troop like the one in Station Eleven, this story is about two societal recluses, an astronaut and an astronomerm after an unspecified event ends the world as we know it. The story unfolds slowly and beautifully, and inspires introspection: What does a legacy mean if no one's around to witness it?
7. So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Jon Ronson is, in my opinion, the male version of another one of my favorite authors, Mary Roach. Like Roach, he's unafraid to jump into any world head-on, which is also what makes him one of my favorite contributors to This American Life. In this book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed, he addresses the phenomenon of groups publicly shaming and trolling people online. While I knew a little bit about the psychology of trolls, Ronson's book traces public shaming back to its historical roots and makes the argument that, in most cases, no matter how bad the origin of the shame was—making an insensitive joke on Twitter, for example—the "escalating war on human flaws" people are so quick to take part in is far, far worse and more detrimental. I highly recommend it to anyone who's ever read—or written—a mean comment online.
8. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Have you ever heard of the "many worlds theory"? It states that for every single decision to choice that's made, there are parallel worlds in which every single possible outcome is lived through in another universe—so there are infinite versions of you (in theory). Skipped this morning's workout? Don't worry—another version of you hit the gym (at least, that's how I like to think of it). Dark Matter explores this idea by asking, "Are you happy with your life?" and explores that question in an incredibly unique, thought-provoking way.
When months pass without so much as an investigation into her daughter's murder case, Mildred Hayes (played by Frances McDormand) puts up three billboards calling out the town's chief of police, demanding action. Written like a Flannery O'Connor story or a Coen brothers film, though its directed by Martin McDonagh, it's dark, funny, and incredibly smart—no one is as good or bad as you think they are, and the plot twists until the very end. It's probably my favorite movie since No Country for Old Men—I'm already excited to see it again in theaters!
2. Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig's semi-autobiographical movie Lady Bird was a favorite of mine this year. Set in the early 2000s in California, Christine (self-nicknamed "Lady Bird") battles all the normal teenage things—college applications, an over-bearing (but warm) mom, "popular" girls, romance, and home—in this sweet, thought-provoking movie. It's full of sweet moments, like giggling and snacking on communion wafers, stealing glamour magazines, and resonated with me 100%. I called my high school girlfriends as soon as I stepped out of the theater.
3. This is Us
I have a very strong bull-shit meter for cheesiness, and don't love it when I know a show is trying to manipulate me to feel all the feels, but dammit I love this show and have yet to not cry during an episode. I get teary at Jack and Rebecca's relationship, giggle at all of Randall's dad jokes, and love that the brilliant writers at NBC somehow managed to cram literally every single hot-button topic—homophobia, addiction, obesity, prejudice, cancer, infertility, adoption, mental health, mother-daughter relationships, death (am I missing anything?)—into it. Also who is the continuity supervisor on that show? Because whatever they're earning, they deserve a raise.
4. Get Out
The terror in Jordan Peele's social thriller, Get Out, is scarier than any boogeyman, since it's just an extreme representation of real social norms. In it, a white woman brings her black boyfriend home to meet her parents, who live in a Stepford-like, white suburban neighborhood. Suspense builds until we realize her family's inherent prejudice is much darker and mysterious than we could have imagined.
Gypsy is an objectively bad show, and I know that. The dialogue is laughably awkward and the plot moves at a snail's pace. But I love it. To me, Gypsy, which follows a New York therapist's (played by Naomi Watts) double-life is almost hypnotic. Since it's one of the only shows I watch without friends, it feels super indulgent and almost like a secret, best-enjoyed with a glass of wine—just don't expect a second season.
6. The Big Sick
As Emily said above: There's hardly anything not to love about this adorable true-life rom com. Loosely based on Kumail Nanjiani and his co-writer (and wife) Emily V. Gordon's courtship, it follows a brief period when Emily (played by Zoe Kazan) unexpectedly goes into a coma. While under, Kumail (played by himself) is put in the uncomfortable position of getting to know her parents under incredibly stressful circumstances. It's hilarious, endearing, and universally enjoyable.