Oh boy, one year ago I had the courage to write I didn’t feel inspired to compile this kind of list… if only I knew what 2020 had planned for all of us, and yet here I am, very lucky to be able to do it once more.
On paper and unwillingly, I had more time - more than ever, really - to watch and listen and read and play. I won’t go into sad considerations about the awful year we had, or reflect on how that huge amount of time seems to have disappeared into very little, and (mostly) concentrate on the good stuff I discovered instead.
Here are the picks that made 2020 a little more bearable (same categories I used the past couple of years, and as always no affiliate links):
Best song: Last Hope by Paramore, and I especially and truly love this live version I linked to. I’ve occasionally listened to Paramore albums for over a decade, but somehow I never heard Last Hope before being in lockdown last March, and it feels perfect for this year, and one of the best songs I’ve ever listened to, period.
Best album: While I listened to many good singles this year, I couldn’t say I had a favorite album, and then Taylor Swift released Evermore and saved the day; I really like Willow (the photography and colors in the video are also great!), Marjorie, Long Story Short, ‘tis the damn season, Champagne problems… almost every song is good, and one has to wonder how did she do it, twice in one year.
Best book: Despite all the time I had on my hands, I read an unusual small number of books this year, and among them my favorite was (for the second year in a row) a novel by David Baldacci, The Christmas Train; not a masterpiece, but it was light and delightful during the uneasy months of the last spring. I also liked How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams, even if it’s in a category of books I usually avoid.
Best movie: I have watched 21 movies this year, according to the ratings I usually leave for myself in IMDB. While I’ve seen a few pleasant titles (Togo, Wild Rose, Christmas in Conway and Jack of the Red Hearts all deserved a 7, and I had no higher ratings for “movie-movies” in 2020), and I watched the last four Star Wars movies (confession: I never saw any film of this saga before, and I skipped the originals going directly to The Last Jedi, which also was my favorite), I have a 10 that stands out in IMDB while not being a “real” movie - but sort of fits this category: Hamilton was everything, and more. Actually, I should watch it again…
Best TV show: The hours I didn’t spend watching movies and reading, very much went into TV shows. And it was a great year for TV. Honorable mentions: the second season of Castle Rock, Line of Duty, Home Before Dark, Defending Jacob and Mythic Quest (especially the 10th episode, Quarantine, which can only be appreciated after seeing the previous episodes, though). AppleTV+ played a big role in my entertainment this year, but the show of 2020 is certainly Homeland, which had a fantastic last season and the perfect finale.
Best podcast: On the top of my head, I would have not said that This is Love was my favorite podcast this year, but when I stopped and thought about it, 3 of 4 of my favorite podcast episodes in 2020 were from Criminal’s sister podcast in rose-colored glasses: The Wolves was a masterpiece and my favorite, with Gobi immediately behind and Something Large and Wild was also very good. In case you wonder what was the 4th podcast episode I really enjoyed, it was Modern Love’s Dusty-Danger Dog, even if it was really, really sad… “No, you’re crying” sad.
Best tech podcast: I renew my appreciation for Automators for the second year in a row, but to be honest tech podcasts don’t entertain me much anymore. I’ve started The Ladybug Podcast, which at least brings me some fresh perspective, and Cortex, though, and I think I might continue listening to both in 2021… so maybe there’s hope for tech?
Best investigative reporting podcast: oh well, I’m going to keep the category alive for the future, but I don’t have a pick this year.
Best news article I read: While I am breaking rules… this year I’ve had enough with the news. I am thankful, they played the most important role ever, and deserve to be praised, but I’m picking a blog post I very much enjoyed instead… go read Give Yourself More Playtime by Martin Rue today, instead of a news website, and you’ll thank me later.
Best Mac app: In 2020 I started using Drafts much more, and it’s being a useful and effective tool (but not the perfect single solution for my notes, because I need and want inline images), and yet I think the most delightful app for me to use this year was Pixelmator Pro.
Best iOS app: Shortcuts deserves the spot again this year (it was my pick in 2018 too)… thanks to its widget and the Airtable API I’ve built some neat automations, and had lots of fun doing it.
Best videogame: While my ankle kept me on the sofa for over a month, I did spend an unreasonable amount of time playing Butter Royal, and I regret nothing. Actually, I’ve just noticed that the game is now available on macOS too, so you might not see me for a while…
Best video: as much as I tried to ignore the elephant in the room for most of this post, 2020 was the year of a tragic pandemic and lockdowns, and I did find How to Be at Home moving and the perfect fit for this category. On a lighter note, 2020 by Ben Folds also deserves a mention…
Thank you for bearing with me while I remembered the few good things 2020 had to offer.
I want to leave you with my best wishes for a completely different - much better, safer, happier, vaccinated - new year, but also with the wise words of John Oliver about 2020, because they perfectly express my feelings towards a year that lasted a decade, and finally ends tomorrow 🍾.