Favorites of 2014

Mad Men

For the past few years on this blog I have spent much of the month of December compiling best-of lists of various genres (books, movies, music, food). This year I’ve decided to list all my favorites of the year in one place. In addition to simply being a fun activity for me to reflect back on the year, I hope the following also serves the purpose of putting some good recommendations on your radar. Below are, in order, my favorite books, films, documentaries, TV shows, albums, songs and food experiences of 2014. What were your favorites of 2014?

I try to read new books at least as much (and hopefully more) as I watch new films and television, and this year there were quite a few that I loved or greatly admired. Below are my favorite books released in 2014:

  1. Lila by Marilynne Robinson
  2. Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness by Richard Hays
  3. Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World by Michael Horton
  4. How (Not) to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor  by James K.A. Smith
  5. Beginning With the Word: Modern Literature and the Question of Belief by Roger Lundin
  6. Once in the West: Poems by Christian Wiman
  7. United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity by Trillia Newbell
  8. 1927: One Summer by Bill Bryson
  9. Theology and California: Theological Refraction on California’s Culture edited by Fred Sanders and Jason Sexton
  10. Culture and the Death of God by Terry Eagleton

In spite of North Korea-sponsored hacks and Hollywood’s subsequent self-censorship, constant doomsday talk of box office decline and much ink spilt about The End of Movies, it was a terrific year for cinema. It’s always difficult in years like this to narrow down to ten favorites, but  below is my attempt. These are films that moved me, astonished me, taught me, and focused my attention more clearly than any others this year. I heartily recommend them all to you.

Top 10 Movies (more detailed descriptions here): 

  1. Boyhood
  2. Two Days, One Night
  3. Under the Skin
  4. The Immigrant
  5. Locke
  6. Noah
  7. Ida
  8. It Felt Like Love
  9. Calvary
  10. Only Lovers Left Alive

Honorable Mention: Cold in July, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Interstellar, Nightcrawler, Night Moves, Snowpiercer, Thou Wast Mild and Lovely,  The Wind Rises, Whiplash.

Top 10 Documentaries: 

  1. The Overnighters
  2. Life Itself
  3. Manakamana
  4. Rich Hill
  5. The Unknown Known
  6. The Internet’s Own Boy
  7. Desire of the Everlasting Hills
  8. Mitt
  9. Sing Over Me
  10. Korengal

The onward march of television’s cinematic ascent continued in 2014, as “prestige” TV become more than the norm than the novelty it once was. These days, television is mostly where artistic boundaries are being pushed. It’s exciting to see, even as it’s a bit overwhelming given how much quality there is and how little time one has to see it all. I admit I’ve not watched nearly as many of the acclaimed shows as I wished to. Of those I did see, here are my favorites.

Top 5 Television Shows: 

  1. True Detective
  2. Mad Men
  3. The Leftovers
  4. Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts
  5. The Walking Dead

I suspect that I purchased fewer albums this year than I did any year in the last two decades. But I probably listened to more new music this year than I have in years (thank you Spotify!). Is this a good thing? Probably not for the artists (Taylor Swift, of all people, became their advocate this year). But for music lovers, it’s great! More opportunities to enjoy all the creative variety that is out there.

Top 10 Albums:

  1. War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream 
  2. The Antlers, Strangers
  3. Sleeping At Last, Atlas: Year One
  4. Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour
  5. Chromeo, White Women
  6. Erik Hassle, Somebody’s Party EP
  7. Bombay Bicycle Club, So Long, See You Tomorrow
  8. RAC, Strangers
  9. Sun Kil Moon, Benji
  10. St. Vincent, St. Vincent

Honorable Mention: New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers; Real Estate, Atlas; Beck, Morning Phase; First Aid Kid, Stay Gold; Coldplay, Ghost Stories; Bootstraps, Bootstraps; Matthew and the Atlas, Other Rivers; Pharrell Williams, GIRL, Mr. Little Jeans, Pocketknife, Ghost Beach, Blonde.

Best Songs of 2014: Spotify playlist here.

For the past few years, in keeping with the cultural genres I explicated in my book Gray Matters, I’ve also made year-end lists of the best food I ate that year. Not only is this relatively easy to do (taste is remarkably tied to memory), but it’s a fun and I think beneficial exercise in gratitude for the blessed gift of culinary art, which so often gets relegated to disposable, forgettable consumption. As with any list of this sort, the act of remembering and praising that which is memorable and praiseworthy can, I think, be a healthy process.

Top 10 Savory:

  1. KGB (Paris) – Grilled White Tuna, tomatoes, sesame and balsamic
  2. The Clove Club (London): Steamed Cornish turbot, courgette, basil & Indian spiced butter
  3. KGB (Paris) – Grilled and confit pork, white peach and galanga condiment
  4. Little Beast (Eagle Rock): Crispy brussel sprouts with sweet potato, maple vinaigrette, cashew and mori
  5. Cafe Constant (Paris) – Beef stew with boiled potatoes and carrots
  6. Wedgewood (Edinburgh) – Cheddar and onion bread and butter pudding, roast tomato, soused fennel, fennel ice cream
  7. The Old Parsonage (Oxford) – Rabbit, girolle, onion and garlic savory pie
  8. Lockeland Table (Nashville) – Empanadas with chimichurri
  9. Fifty-Seven L.A. – Hot Parker House rolls with local olive oil
  10. Pizzeria mozza (Newport Beach): Goat cheese, scallions, leeks, garlic and bacon pizza

Top 10 Sweet:

  1. KGB (Paris) – Confit apricot, ginger, meadowsweet flower ice cream
  2. Galette Cafe (Paris) – Caramel apple buckwheat crepe with ice cream
  3. Cafe Constant (Paris) – Ile flottante with salty caramel sauce
  4. Fatamorgana (Rome): Basil, honey and walnut gelato
  5. The Abingdon (London) – Sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream
  6. Little Beast (Eagle Rock): Warm “Fallen Apple” pastry with dulce de leche and vanilla cream
  7. Ristorante PorriOne (Siena): Sunchoke Ice Cream
  8. Ristorante Il Campo (Siena): Cioccolata Calda
  9. KGB (Paris) – Mango and passion fruit cappuccino with vanilla ice cream
  10. The Clove Club (London) – Lea Valley strawberries and cream

Top 5 home-made (by Kira Joy McCracken):

  1. Ribollita
  2. Apple pie with streusel topping and homemade vanilla ice cream
  3. Pumpkin pecan sugar cookies
  4. Butternut squash, sage and ricotta pizza
  5. Crostini with whipped feta, tomatoes and shallots

One response to “Favorites of 2014

  1. The Lego Movie.

    By a mile.

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