At the close of another year, I love to ask people what their 5 favorite films, records, and (especially since it’s the rabbit room) books were of 2010. (Note: said films, records, or books need not have been released in 2010 – only discovered and enjoyed.)
2010 was an exceedingly busy year for me with little time to take in much in the form of entertainment, and as I sit down to make my own list, I realize that I don’t have much to draw from. But here it goes anyway:
I actually read exactly 5 books this year (and started my 6th yesterday). But if I was only to read 5 books, these were really good ones!
5. Telling Secrets – Frederick Buechner
In preparing for my Hutchmoot talk, I revisited my favorite author and for the first time ever read a book for a second time. It was even better than I remembered. Telling Secrets is the third of four memoirs written by Buechner and is also my favorite of his books.
4. Birthright – John Sheasby
John spoke at an artist retreat I attended this year and what he had to say was exactly what I needed to hear at this time in my life. His talks at the retreat are what this book is comprised of and though I may enjoy him more as a speaker than an author, his insights on our identity in Christ are truly transformational. His book helps lead us from the servant’s quarters to take our place as sons and daughters in our Father’s house (and heart). (This post from earlier this year is the fruit of this message’s work in my life: http://bashful-building.flywheelsites.com/?p=10054)
3. Letters From The Land Of Cancer – Walt Wangerin Jr.
Again, in preparation for Hutchmoot I turned my attention to one of my favorite authors and picked up this journal of his experience of being diagnosed with cancer. Full of grace and soul-baring honesty, this is a book that will be meaningful for people whether they have had to deal with cancer or not. Mortality is a teacher that leads its students into depths of wisdom usually reserved for the dying. Think of this book as an opportunity to gain access to wisdom and beauty without having to pay the usual harrowing price of admission.
2. Fiddler’s Green – A. S. Peterson
Pete entrusted me with an advance copy of his new book and honored me by inviting me to make suggestions and speak into his creative process. It was a generous invitation and I had a blast returning to the world of Fin Button! I couldn’t put it down and was delighted to witness my friend discover his creative voice with such surety. I loved it!
1. Intimate Allies – Dan Allender
This is perhaps an unusual entry, but I regard Allender’s book as the single most transformational book – outside of the bible, of course (that’s for the fundy watchdogs out there ;- ) – that I’ve ever read. After 18 years, Taya and I were both surprised to discover our marriage was more fragile than either of us suspected. The Holy Spirit used counseling, community, and this book to guide our ship to safer waters. I’ve already read this book twice and will be reading it soon again. It gets to the heart of what’s broken in all of our relationships, focusing on the curse detailed in the opening chapters of Genesis, helping us to see the Big Idea of marriage as a holy means of sanctification. So good – even if you’re not married or if you’re marriage seems healthy and happy. This book revealed to me the fallout of the curse and how it affects every area of my life.
Yesterday I just started reading The Charlaton’s Boy by our own Jonathan Rogers and so far I LOVE IT! I’m two chapters in and can’t wait to get back to it…
I didn’t see a lot of movies either. Or if I did, they weren’t all very good. (Yes, I’m one of those who saw The Last Airbender). Though I don’t think my list is particularly interesting (I didn’t see a lot of art films this year), I still offer it humbly:
5. Shutter Island
It was good clean fun to see a legit suspense/psychological thriller with such a signature atmosphere and competent performances from both cast and director.
4. Toy Story 3
My low expectations were blown away by the emotional weight of this family film! I laughed, cried, and thoroughly enjoyed it in spite of myself. Pixar for the win. Again.
3. Harry Potter
My favorite of the Harry Potter films so far. I really like the Harry Potter universe and have enjoyed the films thus far for what they were, but this was the first one that delivered more than I expected. (Though I wish the one – for lack of a better descriptor – “love scene” had been handled a little differently.)
2. Up In The Air
This is a 2009 film that I saw in early 2010. I thought it lived up to the hype and especially resonated with me as a person who travels extensively and experiences first hand the challenges of staying connected with community and resisting the constant temptation of isolation. A great film with great performances that skillfully explores it’s themes with a light touch.
Loved it. Just like most everybody else. What I loved most about it was that I had never seen anything like it. A great idea well executed that generated a lot of great conversation (especially here in the rabbit room!).
5. Sigh No More – Mumford & Sons
This gets my vote for the raw passion of it alone. This record also gave voice to many of the things I was feeling in the midst of a turbulent season in our marriage. I felt like they wrote the soundtrack to my journaling. Interestingly, Taya felt much the same way, and so this record became a kind of common ground for us in a time when we needed it. Besides that, the post-Christian consciousness of much of the lyric content provided good fodder for reflection and understanding the current zeitgeist.
4. Waking Up – Onerepublic
An unapologetically great pop record. My sons discovered this one and shared it with me, which was a rewarding experience in and of itself. Big, hooky, anthemic melodies set to classic pop music with a hip-hop rhythmic sensibility. A fun record with surprisingly organic production and GREAT sounding drums.
3. Flamingo – Brandon Flowers
Another great pop record recommended to me by Andy Osenga. Thanks Andy! Brandon sings with 80’s alt/pop bravado and brings Daniel Lanois in to participate in the production, bringing musical gravitas to these catchy melodic gems that harken back to the hip records of the late 80’s. This is more than your average pop record, with a sonic landscape that calls to mind the open lonely spaces of New Mexico and the shiny “all that glitters is not gold” lights of Las Vegas, Nevada.
2. Scratch My Back – Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel has been one of my favorite artists of the 80’s, 90’s, and now into the new century with the best cover record I’ve ever heard. Here he takes a sampling of songs that have meant something to him and covers them backed only by orchestration, thus rescuing the songs from the sonic era that would otherwise entrap them. The orchestration is timeless and progressive in it’s elegance. It was also fun to learn what Gabriel is listening to, from David Bowie and Lou Reed to Arcade Fire and Bon Iver. “The Book Of Love” alone is worth the whole price admission. (I wrote a review of this record here: http://bashful-building.flywheelsites.com/?p=6559)
1. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire
Though I was initially disappointed with it, this became my favorite record of the year. Worthy of an entire post, it’s hard to sum up what I love about this record in a paragraph. It’s reflections on the spiritual and emotional sickness of the modern man is insightful and artfully rendered, describing the hangover of modernity (or what I’d like to think of as our generation’s version of what Walker Percy called the “malaise”). In a single line, Winn Butler names what we’ve lost for all that we’ve gained: “I used to write… I used to write letters, I used to sign my name…” Check out the remarkable interactive video for their song “We Used To Wait”: http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/
So what have you been listening to this year?
Jason Gray is a recording artist with Centricity Records. His latest single, out now, is "When I Say Yes".