At Years End: Our 2020 Favorites

The criteria for our 2020 favorites is simple.

What media did we revisit multiple times in 2020?

Let’s find out.


Art of Manliness podcast #587:

How to Get More Pleasure and Fulfillment Out of Your Reading with Professor Alan Jacob and Brett Mckay.

This interview rejuvenated my reading life.

Here Professor Jacobs presents reading on a Whim. The idea that one should read what interests them, rather than what “you’re supposed to”.

Professor Jacobs argues reading shouldn’t be a chore, but rather a pleasurable experience.

You don’t have to read according to an assignment or according to a list of approved texts. Enjoy your freedom. Go out there and follow your whim. And by that, I mean follow that which really draws your spirit and your soul and see where that takes you. If it turns out that you spend a year reading Stephen King novels or something like that, that’s totally fine. That’s not a problem. Read your Stephen King novels, but there are also really good novels.

But whatever it happens to be, if you’re reading young adult fiction for a year, read young adult fiction for a year. After a while, you probably got to have enough of that. But don’t go around making your reading life a kind of means of authenticating yourself as a serious person. It’s just no way to live. So, I would always tell them, “Give yourself a break. Don’t make a list. See where Whim takes you.”

Professor Jacob’s reading advice to his students

YouTube Video:

Kevin Kelly’s 68 Bits of Unsolicited advice

Kevin wrote this as a letter on his 68th birthday as a gift to his son (He practices the Hobbit tradition of birthdays).

Thankfully, he recorded and shared the advice on his YouTube channel. It is a word of encouragement for us all:

There is no limit on better. Talent is distributed unfairly, but there is no limit on how much we can improve what we start with.

– Kevin Kelly


On the Move: A Life By Oliver Sacks.

This book took 5 years to finish, not because Sacks’ memoir isn’t compulsively readable, but because there were other books I thought I should read instead.

Sack’s life is one to emulate. Not by becoming a neurologist and cultivating a British Accent. But rather by seeing life, all of life – love, career, hobbies travel, failure, success, as an adventure to pursue.

At one time, my father had thought of a career in neurology but then decided that general practice would be “more real,” “more fun,” because it would bring him into deeper contact with people and their lives.

This intense human interest he preserved to the last: when he reached the age of ninety, David and I entreated him to retire-or at least, to stop his house calls. He replied that home visits were “the heart” of medical practice and that he would sooner stop anything else. From the age of ninety to almost ninety-four, he would charter a mini-cap for the day to continue house calls.

Dr. Sack’s on his father’s career


The life of Philip Glass, by Dan Wang

Dan Wang’s article on Philip Glass’ memoir –Words Without Music was inspiring.

Learning that Glass drove taxis, and was a self-taught plumber proves there’s no shame in taking day jobs to support one’s calling.

Learning that Glass didn’t succeed as a full time composer until his forties served as a reminder.

Stamina can take one to the impossible.

Glass didn’t work just as a taxi driver and as a (self-taught) plumber. He also worked in a steel factory, as a gallery assistant, and as a furniture mover. He continued doing these jobs until the age of 41, when a commission from the Netherlands Opera decisively freed him from having to drive taxis. Just in time, too, as he describes an instance when he came worryingly close to being murdered in his own cab.


Paterson: written and directed by Jim Jarmusch

Kylo Ren’s new life as a bus driver poet?


I’m more and more captivated by movies where the stakes aren’t the end of civilization. Paterson is a entertaining example of this idea.

Paterson was also a gateway to the poet William Carlos Williams. Who somehow I’d never heard of before 2020.

Twitter Feed:

Ted Gioia, @tedgioia.

Who else can recommend 4 books they “consult often” on Duke Ellington? Next level stuff, that.

Gioia’s Annual 100 favorite albums list is a must read. Here’s 2020’s:

He could not stop writing poems

But no matter how many babies he delivered,

no matter how many sick people he cured,

Willie could not stop writing poems.

A River of Words is a short, illustrated book about the life of Dr. William Carlos Williams.

His life, as both doctor and poet is inspirational.

I keep this book close by.

You should too.

From: A River of Words

Written by: Jen Bryant

Illustrated by: Melissa Sweet

Four Panel Friday: Joe Kubert’s Tor: A Prehistoric Odyssey

Dream state

The late Joe Kubert was one of the finest comic book artists of his generation. He was also an underrated paleo-artist.

TOR – A Prehistoric Odyssey unleashes Joe’s paleo-chops. The panels are filled to the brim with not only Dinosaurs, but Sabre-tooth tigers, giant squids, prehistoric alligators, and yeti as well.

Jhumpa Lahiri and Ernest Hemingway’s adoration of far away lands

I’m opening 2020 reading Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and Jhumpa Lahiri‘s In Other Words.

This wasn’t a planned joint reading adventure, but there was a natural connection between the two – the deep adoration both authors shared for their temporary homes.

Lahiri on the sounds of Florence that captured her:

– But from the start my relationship with Italy is as auditory as it is visual. Although there aren’t many cars, the city is humming. I’m aware of a sound that I like, of conversations, phrases, words that I hear wherever I go. As if the whole city were a theater in which a slightly restless audience is chatting before the show begins. I hear the excitement of children wishing each other buon Natale – merry Christmas – on the street. I hear the tenderness with which, one morning at the hotel, the woman who cleans the room asks me: Avete dormito bene? Did you sleep well? When a man behind me on the sidewalk wants to pass, I hear the slight impatience with which he asks: Permesson? May I?

In Other Words, pg 13,15. Lahiri, Jhumpa

Hemingway on the coming Paris Spring:

With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning. Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. This was the only truly sad time in Paris because it was unnatural. You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason.

In those days, though, the spring always came finally but it was frightening that it had nearly failed.

A Moveable Feast, pg48. Hemingway, Ernest

Four Panel Friday: Making Comics – Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels


There’s plenty of how-to guides for making comics out there. Still, I can’t think of one as comprehensive as Scott McCloud‘s Making Comics.

Though first published in 2006, Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels holds up. Even chapter 7, The Comics Professional, still shares sage advice to aspiring comic writers and artists alike.

Life Lessons from The Name of the Wind

As I continue reading The Name of the Wind, I keep noticing Patrick Rothfuss drop small wisdom nuggets in each chapter.

Some of them apply to the real world:

On doing business with a tinker:

Still, it’s never wise to look eager to sell.

The Name of the Wind: 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, pg 524. Patrick Rothfuss

On negotiating for a horse:

I spoke with certainty in my voice, but no hope in my heart. He was a gorgeous animal, and his coloring made him worth at least twenty talents. Still I’d go through the motions and hope to squeeze the man down to nineteen.

The Name of the Wind: 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, pg 519, 520. Patrick Rothfuss

On using common sense when dating:

I might not be one of you University folk, but I can see the moon on a clear night. I’m smart enough not to stick my hand in the same fire twice.

The Name of the Wind: 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, pg 491 Patrick Rothfuss

New Years Walt Whitman Special: Great are the Myths pt.11

Great is language….it is the mightiest of sciences,

It is the fulness and color and form and diversity of the

earth….and of men and women….and of all

qualities and processes;

It is greater than wealth….it is greater than buildings or

ships or religions or paintings or music.

Let Walt Whitman bring in 2020.

Happy New Year!

From: Leaves of Grass 150th Anniversary Edition (Penguin Classics), pgs.158

Walt Whitman: Great are the Myths pt.10

The truth in man is no dictum….it is vital as eyesight,

If there be any soul there is truth….if there be man or

woman there is truth….If there be physical or

moral there is truth,

If there be equilibrium or volition there is truth…..if

there be things at all upon the earth there is truth.

O truth of the earth! O truth of things! I am determined

to press the whole way toward you,

Sound your voice! I scale mountains or dive in the sea

after you.

Walt Whitman often speaks of balance in his poems by calling out life’s opposite forces.

If there be man or woman there is truth

If there be physical or moral

I scale mountains or dive in the sea

Each example is an opposite. Each noun or verb needs the other to exist.

From: Leaves of Grass 150th Anniversary Edition (Penguin Classics), pgs.158

Neil Gaiman on that bastard medium – comics

A comic tends to be a small enough, personal enough, medium that a creator can just make art, tell stories, and see if anyone wants to read them. Not having to be liked is enormously liberating. The comic is, joyfully, a bastard medium that has borrowed its vocabulary and ideas from literature, science fiction, poetry, fine art, diaries, film, and illustration. It would be nice to think that comics, and those of us who come from a comics background, bring something special to film. An insouciance, perhaps, or a willingness to do our learning and experimenting in public.

Neil Gaiman, The View from the cheap seats, On Comics and Films: 2006. Pg 224.

I won’t lie here. I did have to look up insouciance.