29 December 2016

I've Got a Little List – 2016 Edition

by Brian Thornton
"I've got a little list, I've got a little list!"

I don't know about you, but I hate 'em.

End-of-Year lists.

You know what I'm talking about: those completely arbitrary lists, usually skewed toward coverage of celebrities (or, in many cases, what passes for them in this age of social media-driven PR campaigns).

Who was what?

Who did what?

What was "Best"?

What was "Worst"?

Who dated whom?

Who had babies?

Who lost that post-baby weight?

Who bombed?

Who triumphed?

(And that perennial favorite: "Who bounced back in a spectacular fashion after a supposedly career-ending bomb"? Because Americans love a good bounce-back story, with a fallen champion, now humbled, pushing through to success.)

Says Who?
Who broke through?

Who broke up?

Who reconciled?

Whose break-up is guaranteed to screw up the rest of their career?

What music was great?

What music sucked?

Which moves were the best?

Which movies sucked?

And so on.

And so on.
Ummm there isn't one.

And who gets to decide what makes this list and what gets left off? And who picked these people put in charge of making these lists? And just what is the selection process for these would-be tastemakers?

And by the way, who really gives a damn what made which list? I mean, isn't art at its best a deeply personal thing? And in this age of ever expanding choices for how to spend our artistic consumer dollars, shouldn't we care less about the artistic opinions of someone we don't know, whose taste might (as my sainted grandmother was wont to say) "all be in their mouth," and care more about what moves/intrigues/stirs/inspires us?

Which brings me to my own little list for 2016.

Now, I have a young child in the house, and a full time non-writing gig. Plus a life outside of writing. So for me, time is at a premium  these days. I have a finite amount to invest in frivolous activities, and they sure don't, as a rule, include clicking through to clickbait crap like the above.

So, in the interest of providing you, our loyal blog readers, with a year-end list that might actually be worth the time it takes to read, I humbly (no sarcasm) offer the effort below.


Best New Music:

Anything I was able to listen to all the way through, and having finished, wanted to listen to it more than once.

Best New Movies:

Anything I was able to watch all the way through either because it held my interest or because I didn't get called away by either my son or my schedule. More likely some combination of all of the above.

Best New Books of 2016:

Any of the ones I finished. And I started WAAAAAAAAAY more than I finished.

Best New TV Series of 2016:

"Stranger Things." (See what I did there?)

I guess my point is that this sort of thing is sooooo completely subjective, and nowadays, more than ever, it seems as if we have would-be tastemakers coming out of the woodwork to tell us what is and is not good, and why we should either embrace or ignore it, and to that I say, "Phooey!"

Look, I've written seven books, co-written a couple of others, and acted as collector/editor of two book-length anthologies (one non-fiction, the other fiction.). All but two of these have gotten published. One of those was my first (mistake) novel and the other was one the publisher requested, and got, only to decide they couldn't sell it because of in-house competition from one of the big bookstore chains. (I found it really tough to be cut up about that one. I didn't want to write that particular book anyway, and so I asked for way more money than they usually paid for a project of this time, and they paid up. So win-win.)

As far as I'm concerned, in the entertainment business, if you can do what you love and get paid for it, you've already won the most important prize.

So can you imagine what kind of thoughts you'll get from me during award season (the Oscars are only a couple of months away!)?

Just some food for thought in this, my final post of 2016.

Happy New Year, and see you in January!


  1. VERY much enjoyed this! Our son just turned 5, but some days (weeks, months....) still feel like that. And we too loved Stranger Things. The term "binge watching" has little meaning for us, since it still takes us a couple of nights to get through even a single episode of some series (and then many days til we start the next episode). But that series... well, we tore through it.

    Hope you're doing well. Best of luck in all areas of your life and best wishes for a great 2017 ahead. :-)

  2. I've yet to find anyone who didn't like Stranger Things. Great show--I'm looking forward to the second season.

  3. All right, that does it. John Floyd recommended STRANGER THINGS to me at Bouchercon, and I tried to get it through Netflix but failed--it's in the "availability unknown" section of my queue, and that undoubtedly means "never available." I just tried to buy it from Amazon, but it's listed as "unavailable" there, too. Now you three have me more determined than ever to watch it. I'm not tech-savvy--I like a DVD I can hold in my hand, just as I like a book I can hold in my hand--but if I have to try to stream this series (whatever that means) or drag it down from some cloud (whatever that is), I will. Wish me luck.

  4. Brian, on your subject of lists, I've been going over the beer list from the menu I filched that end of April night we went to the Russian Vodka Room in Manhattan. I know the four of us liked the Baltika #3, but was our second choice on the list the Baltika #7, #8 or #9? You got to admit that was a good list for 2016. I ask, because, even for a Russian beer, all of them are now available here in the Springs.

  5. I hate those lists, myself, Brian. Also, to be honest, after this year, whenever they start showing "Highlights of 2016" I turn the channel to something else - preferably The Three Stooges.
    Re best TV show - "People of Earth" on TBS. Laugh out loud funny to me!

  6. Me… I dislike year-end retrospection, especially the maudlin televised replays of the things we found annoying when they were going on. Is there such a thing as a New Year's Eve Grinch?

  7. Hilarious. It's true, who appoints the guardian of good taste?


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