A Good List Goes a Long Way- 2020 Edition

This year I skipped the ‘traditional’ best of posts, as they simply did not feel right. There have been good moments, but most of it was about lying low and waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel, hoping it’s not a train. I do not want to overdramatize either. I suffered no fundamental loss, my family and friends are mostly safe, I could work from home and occasionally, especially over the summer, do some of the ‘extravagant’ activities that were the salt and pepper of our lives ‘BC’, as in, before corona.

I miss carefree travel, being able to visit my family without worry, restaurants with packed terraces, reading away in cafés, going to thermal baths, and concerts. The grand total of concerts I’ve been to in 2020 amounts to three, so no real best of list is possible here, they are the best by default simply because they happened: Bajaga i Instruktori in Dürer Kert (which, sadly, will not reopen), Editors at Gasometer and Tycho in Akvárium. I have the occasional odd feeling that the person leaning on the fence in the first row, beer in hand, moving her face real close to the ear of the listener when chatting through the loud music isn’t me, just some stranger I’ve heard stories about. I feel a pang of regret for events that did not happen: the Euros, with games taking place in Budapest, and Sziget. I often wondered what could come between me and my beloved festival. A global pandemic was never on the list of possibilities.

I also miss cinemas, more than I thought I would. The dismal number of films I watched this year is clear evidence that I just need ‘the magic of the big screen’ to fully enjoy a film. At home, the temptation of stopping, skipping, just giving up if something starts the wrong way is just too overwhelming. In spite of ambitiously signing up to four streaming services, I didn’t even find many series I liked, binged on nothing, in final desperation I resorted to the comfort of reruns, Seinfeld and House MD, my favourite episodes with the favourite jokes I know by heart. As such, this list is a hodgepodge of old and new, films and series, in no particular order.

I fared considerably better with music, so much so that occasionally I felt I was living from Friday to Friday, waiting for each week’s new releases. In the period when we were in almost full lockdown. film premieres were being postponed, there were no live sports events either, new music felt like a celebration, proof that life, even if in a muted form, still soldiered on. This was the second year of a shared playlist with my partner in crime Carmen. Since limited travel and the cancellation of Sziget meant we did not meet personally, the playlist became a way of communicating and keeping it touch. It’s a little bit Christmas every day when you check the list to see if your fellow ‘list parents’ found some new songs. While everyone else was raising kids, nurturing plants, feeding a sourdough or baking banana bread, we raised a playlist, and very proud of it we both are.

Such a bourgeoning playlist means I ended up with emotional investment in a lot of songs, so I find it impossible to narrow the list down to ten, but Spotify’s year end ‘summary’ did inform me that I listened to The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights the most, which is almost cheating, because while the album containing it was released this year, the song dates back to the carefree days of late 2019. I did make an effort on the album front, the favourites are again listed in no particular order. And while it was and still is very difficult to escape the harsh realities of 2020, it soothes me to look at this list, see two very strong and relevant efforts from the The Killers and The Strokes and, for a few seconds, transport myself back to the cocoon of safety that were the noughties. Before COVID, Trump, Brexit, climate crises and Tik Tok dances, we smiled like we meant it.

  • The Killers- Imploding the Mirage
  • Ela Minus- Acts of Rebellion
  • Kelly Lee Owens- Inner Song
  • IDLES- Ultra Mono
  • Sufjan Stevens- The Ascension
  • The Strokes-The New Abnormal
  • Perfume Genius- Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
  • TORRES- Silver Tongue
  • Matt Berninger- Serpentine Prison
  • Jessie Reyez- Before Love Came to Kill Us
  • Muzz-Muzz

I heard people say that they read immensely this year (Tony Mortimer of East 17 fame seems to have read his first book, at 50, then followed up with a strong showing of 70 others, which is both scary and impressive) while others, avid readers before the pandemic, confessed to having no patience for literature, especially its longer forms. I was luckily among the former ones, so I venture a list of my favourite books too (read in 2020, years of publishing vary greatly), something I have criminally not done in previous years.

  • Polly Samson- A Theatre for Dreamers
  • Ottessa Moshfegh- My Year of Rest and Relaxation
  • Hiromi Kawakami- Strange Weather in Tokyo
  • Ocean Vuong- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
  • Elena Ferrante- The Lying Life of Adults
  • Narine Abgaryan- Three Apples Fell from the Sky
  • Ben Lerner- Leaving the Atocha Station
  • Elif Shafak- 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
  • Henry Miller- The Colossus of Maroussi
  • Douglas Stuart- Shuggie Bain
  • Lana Bastašić- Catch the Rabbit

Since I somehow ended up with 11, and not 10, items on each list, I’ll make it 11 for my favourite pictures of the year too. The cover shots, though, is not mine: it’s a contribution from the blog’s industrious co-photographer, taken on one of his socially distanced lockdown ramblings.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sadly this year I read fewer books. Something I want to ammend for 2021 is to use my spare time in more rewarding ways. Reading and playing my guitar rather than defaulting to Netflix or social media. The social media, in particular, needs a drastic reduction. It’s been too easy to spend large chunks of time scrolling through all the bad news on twitter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, same here, I spent a lot of time just scrolling through my social media, so working on doing that less. I am trying to pay attention to moments when I just pick up my phone to randomly check some apps for no reason. I realised it’s frankly scary how often I’d do that, and it’s not so easy to stop it now that it’s become a reflex.

      Liked by 1 person

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