It would seem that I have the dubious distinction of blogging for so long about things that will change your life, as they have mine, always, that I'm onto my second decade-ending list. At the time of the end of the last decade I wrote the following:
"Are we jumping on the decade-ending bandwagon? Way. Still, when your goal is to change lives, its not always clear how you're going to accomplish this. So, as we began prepare our year-end Top Ten lists we started thinking about the last decade as well and like everybody else we thought we would weigh-in on what we liked and/or influenced us and/or brought us joy. Over this week we are going to hit books, movies, television and music. And then next week, or shortly thereafter, we will begin rolling-out our year-end lists. Cool? Great."
Can I write same and get away with that?
Which is not to say it's all the same as it ever was. When I wrote that last set of decade-ending lists I was still at the beginning of something. A ten-year period where I was getting started at all this, whatever this is is, blogging, influencing, promoting, sharing, podcasting, writing, especially writing, and still trying to find my way.
I still am.
But that's not going to change, I will always want to produce, consume, hype and fanboy more than I am. And there will always be new things to produce, consume, hype and fanboy about. So, today, this, is another sort of beginning, the end of something, a decade anyway, with another to come, and then, God-willing, another one after that, and so on and so forth.
I will not be running separate lists this week though, one decade-ending post seems fine, though I will run a year-end list as well in a couple of days. I am also sharing groups of my Top-Ten favorites over the decade, but not ranking or rating or anything like that. Nor am I doing a straight forward music list per se, records anyway, because I'm no longer sure how to listen to albums (is that even a word) in their entirety anymore.
But we'll see what happens, yes?
These Top Ten Books of the Decade Will Change Your Life.
Bones Buried in the Dirt by David S. Atkinson (2013)
David S. Atkinson has gone on to write many fine, weird, wonderful books, but nothing (or many books period) has quite affected me like the stories in this one. All awakening, coming of age and pain. Indelible.
Every Kiss a War by Leesa Cross-Smith (2014)
What a beautiful introduction to a beautiful writer whose words glow and who makes sexy just so, you know, sexy.
Excavation: A Memoir by Wendy C. Ortiz (2014)
I read it in a fever dream and fugue state, really, I was crazy sick, but I can't imagine how else one can experience this book as it takes you in its twisty grip and never lets go.
Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010)
Art, making it, eating it, searching for it, and at all and any costs. Beautiful and nicely, oddly, touchingly matched by Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (2015).
MEATY by Samantha Irby (2013)
As glorious a debut as you will find. Like a rocket ship, a fucked, funny, fantastic rocket ship.
Raymond Carver Will Not Raise Our Children by Dave Newman (2012)
As absorbing and in touch with everyday life, the struggles and quotidian moments, as any book one could hope to read.
The Revolution of Every Day by Cari Luna (2013)
The boldest, most lived-in book I read, soaring and detailed. A triumph.
The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan (2015)
This could have been just as easily been Crapalachia (2015) or Stories V! (2011), because Scott is fact and fiction and fiction and fact and a blur of boundaries and stories that feel so real and visceral you can taste them.
They Can't Kill Us Until The Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib (2017)
Is there anyone who does pop culture, race, personal stories and political commentary better? No, really, please let me know, because I can't imagine who that would be.
We The Animals by Justin Torres (2011)
Of all the books here, this is the only one I truly stumbled into. How I didn't know it existed before I found it is quite beyond me, but it is tender and real time, a gut punch of the highest order.
The rest (and there are certainly others I loved, and represented, or blurbed, all good, but this makes for fifty books in total this past decade, a good number, with these in no particular order at all): The Fugue by Gint Aras (2015), Belief Is It's Own Kind of Truth by Lori Jakiela (2015), Wheatyard by Pete Anderson(2013), Code for Failure by Ryan W. Bradley (2012), Addicts & Basements by Robert Vaughan (2014), Gay Zoo Day by Mike McClelland (2017), Gideon's Confession by Joseph G. Peterson (2014), The Damnation of Memory by Mark S. Brand (2012), Swarm Theory by Christine Maul Rice (2016), Volt by Alan Heathcock (2011), The Expanse Between by Lee Krecklow (2017), The Mimic's Own Voice by Tom Williams (2011), Salt Creek Anthology by Jason Fisk (2012), On the Way by Cyn Vargas (2015), Patricide by D. Foy (2016), Kinda Sorta America Dream by Steve Karas (2015), The Telling by Zoe Zolbrod (2016), Zero Fade by Chris L. Terry (2013), Aviary by Seth Berg (2017), Once I Was Cool by Megan Stielstra (2014), What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Boomarked by Brian Evenson (2018), Staggerwing by Alice Kaltman (2016), No Good Very Bad Asian by Leland Cheuk (2019), Barack Obama: Invisible Man by David Masciotra (2017), Broken Piano for President by Patrick Wensink (2012), Harbors by Donald Quist (2016), The Temple of Air by Patricia McNair (2011), Doll Palace by Sarah Lippmann (2014), The Dead Wrestler Elegies by Todd W. Kaneko (2014), The Place You're Supposed To Laugh by Jenn Stroud Rossmann (2018), What We Build Upon the Ruins by Giano Cromley (2017), A Tree Born Crooked by Steph Post (2014), Mesilla by Robert James Russell (2015), Hustle by David Tomas Martinez (2014), A Deep & Gorgeous Thirst by Hosho McCreesh (2013), Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias (2015), The Voyager Record: A Transmission by Anthony Michael Morena (2016), DEBT by Christopher Bowen (2017), ENJoy: Stories by the Sea by Glen Binger (2017).
These Top Ten Movies of the Decade Will Change Your Life.
This could be Before Midnight (2013), it could be a lot of things, which is just to say, that Linklater makes movies like I try to write, raw, real, happening now and evolving over time.
The Florida Project (2017)
Such a lovely, lively, sad movie, and full of the kind of live-wire energy found in few movies except maybe the director's most excellent previous movie Tangerine (2015).
Fruitvale Station (2013)
If this isn't quite the beginning of Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan's world domination, it's a stunningly crafted piece of work. Devastating.
So many superhero movies I know, and so many good ones (and yes, maybe too many, for many), but so crushing this one, and literate, and everything I might have wanted as a kid, but didn't know I could ask for.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
My favorite movie all decade. Raw and slamming and so much fun.
Minding The Gap (2018)
Race and class and poverty and abuse, but just terrific, which seems like the wrong word, but isn't.
Nothing more beautiful all decade.
O.J.: Made in America (2016)
The most audacious work of recent memory as it takes on the full sweep of race and violence in Los Angeles and America. Not pretty. But impossible not to watch.
We loved this so much, I'm not even sure I can pinpoint why. I just know it was engaging and full of joy and tension and mystery. Bravo.
Winter's Bone (2010)
The young J Law alone makes this worth watching. That it's so riveting and scary and a picture into a world of poverty and violence so few of us witness makes it a stunner. Which isn't to overlook the director's other movie this decade, Leave No Trace (2018), no less riveting, and full of ache.
The rest (and again, in no particular order): A Separation, Wonder Woman, Black Panther, The Immigrant, Whiplash, Get Out, Green Room, Drive, 12 Years a Slave, The Kids Are All Right, Selma, Straight Outta Compton, Lincoln, Girls Trip, Parasite, Captain Fantastic, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Spring Breakers, Hell or High Water, Booksmart, Mud, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Marriage Story, Bridesmaids, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Inception, Slo-West, A Life in Walk, Inside Out, Ingrid Goes West, Deadpool.
These Top Ten Television Shows of the Decade Will Change Your Life.
A spy story, which is really a story about marriage, hopes, dreams, communication, all of it.
Striving, succcess, failure and trying to be the person you think you can be. Also weed, race, rap and magical realism. Nothing like it.
I hate to use a word like real, or refer to the greatness, abrasiveness and warmth of this show as a salve of Louis CK's ongoing horribleness, but it is that, and I love it.
So fucking weird, funny, surreal, and the most incisive exploration of mental illness, substance abuse, family in all its fucked-upedness, and celebrity, happening anywhere in any fashion.
Is it the dialogue, timing, the messed-up chemistry, or the desire to make the unworkable work? I don't know, but other stabs at relationship and all the madness inherent therein pale in comparison.
Game of Thrones
It could have not made the list, but it was too big, too brash, and almost completely engaging to the very end.
Dude, what despair looks like, which I mean in the best way.
An elegiac and beautiful rumination on truth and grace and what it means to be free.
Call it a story about the rich, abuse, ego and the media, both new and old. That's all true. But in doing so, don't fail to call it a story about family in all its Oedipal and Shakesperian horror. Because it's so that.
Family, family, family, Jews and identity, so many, so much, and so fucked-up and messy and wonderful. Love.
With Extraordinary Special Props to these Limited Run series (and all somehow from 2019):
Almost too unreal to be believed, almost science fiction, but leaves one with the sense that no entity can be trusted.
See the above. But also see it for the most empathic and upsetting, yet uplifting police procedural ever produced.
When They See Us
See the above, and the above, and then cringe, cover your eyes, and keep watching. Infuriating and unprecedented.
The rest (yeah, no particular order): Justified, Orange is The New Black, Girls, True Detective, Big Mouth, Fargo, Insecure, Westworld, Black Mirror, The Fall, Broadchurch, Jessica Jones, Happy Endings, Orphan Black, You're The Worst, Mr. Robot, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Silicon Valley, The Handmaid's Tale, American Vandal, Watchmen, Lodge 49.
These Top Ten Musical Moments of the Decade Will Change Your Life.
Straight-up, I don't listen to enough music in the ways I was once accustomed to any more, though I listen to it all of the time, but there are albums (again, is this a word or concept any more) and shows, that broke through during the 2010s, and I don't know that I feel like trying to describe any of this, or them, because ultimately what I really feel, or felt, when I experienced them is joy, which feels like enough, right, yes. So here we go.
Courtney Barnett/Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (2015)-Courtney Barnett-Chicago Cultural Center (2018)
Chance the Rapper/Coloring Book (2016)
Girl Talk/All Day (2010)
The Hold Steady-Empty Bottle (2017)
Jason Isbell/Southeastern (2013)
Jenny Lewis/The Voyager (2014)
Matt & Kim-The Riviera (2019)
Killer Mike/R.A.P. Music (2012)-Killer Mike-Pitchfork (2013)
Ike Reilly-Schubas (2013)
Sufjan Stevens/Carrie and Lowell (2015)
The rest (you know the drill): Billy Bragg-Lincoln Hall (2019), 21 Pilots-The Aragon (2014), Justin Earl Townes/Nothing is Going to Change the Way You Feel About Me Now (2014), The Peekaboos-Empty Bottle (2013), NAS-Riot Fest (2016), Run the Jewels/Run the Jewels (2013), Jamey Johnson/Guitar Song (2010), Julian Velard-Joe's Pub (2017), Kendrick Lamar/To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy/Kanye West (2010), Billy Joel-Wrigley Field (2016).
These Top Ten Podcasts of the Decade Will Change Your Life.
Other People with Brad Listi, WTF with Marc Maron and The Slate Culture Gabfest
The ongoing standby's, making my runs, drives, the laundry, day-to-day life and brain better and more joyful.
Dolly Parton's America
A rumination on storytelling, spirituality, race and sexuality, and just wow, fantastic, moving and wonderful.
Greatly loved, endlessly missed, and possessing of a weird, beautiful, searching energy.
I don't ever want to not be thinking about him.
S-Town and Searching for Richard Simmons
Both felt more than kind of voyeuristic, and at times just truly icky, while never being anything but wholly engrossing.
Running from COPS
From the creator of Searching for Richard Simmons, and anything but icky, fascinating and horrible.
There may be never be anything like the first season of this show in terms of appointment podcasts, and utter fascination, but the third season makes for a head-spinning, and terribly saddening, companion piece to Running from COPS.
The rest (and not so much, but yeah): Homecoming, Steve McNair: Fall of a Titan, To Live and Die in L.A., Heavyweight, In the Dark.
Which, may be enough for now, no? It is. But I'll be back in ten years, though more importantly, for now, I'll be back in a few days with my These Things I Loved in 2019 Will Change Your Life list. And that might I add, will include a special guest. Mysterious, yes? Yes. Also exciting. See you soon.