It's fun, and a strong blogging tradition, to look back over year just gone and create "best-of" lists. So here's absolutely the definitive list of the best music, books and films from the year. Just kidding, it’s just a random list of my favourite stuff of the past year, conjured by my imperfect memory and no-doubt riddled with omissions, but filled with gems regardless, promise!
Best Music (I discovered this year):
A great band from Australia's Gold Coast introduced to me by a friend who stayed with us earlier in the year. alternative/electronic/hip hop/flamenco. Unique and awesome.
An incredibly-talented kid from Berkely whose first album "The Human Condition" will be released next month. We found him a couple of months ago via a friend and he's been on high-rotation ever since. His sound is... um... pop-orchestral soul?
You can choose what you want to pay to download the album pre-release.
The ex-lead singer of Sigur Ros released his first solo album this year - "Go" - and it's wonderful. As ethereal and soaring and gorgeous as you would imagine.
I adore Shpongle, so no surprise I think their latest album "Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongeland" is another classic.
This album isn't from 2010, or even close. A Strangely Isolated Place (which the track below is on) is from 2003, and Far Away Trains Passing By came out in 2001, but I only discovered them by chance this year and regret the years I was unaware of this gorgeous ambient music.
Best Books (I read this year):
Absolutely my book of the year and genuinely one of the best things I've ever read, The Tall Man - Death and Life on Palm Island is the story of an Aboriginal death in police custody in 2004 and a searing portrait of white/indigenous relations. Should be required reading for all Australians.
The follow up the Made To Stick, Chip and Dan Heath have done it again with Switch. It's both an inspiring call to action and a practical hand-book for creating change in your life, community or world. Switch is written with the journalistic flair and storytelling style of Malcolm Gladwell but rather than describing a phenomenon it extracts lessons and teaches you how to do it too.
America is a very big, very diverse and very beautiful country. After we drove from DC-SF in June I wanted to know more about how it got to be the way it was, so read Flannery's riveting account of North America's evolution over the past 65 million years. Ever since I have been able to impress friends with insights on how the Sequoia's survived the asteroid impact, why most of the world's edible nuts are from North America and how horses evolved here. Americans - if you want to understand the continent you are standing on, read this book.
Clay Shirky is the internet whisperer. He brings together diverse trends and disparate information and weaves them all together to reveal a deeper and more nuanced picture of the world social technologies are creating. Like his previous book Here Comes Everybody it is the most insightful thing I've read on the subject, aimed not at illuminating some business strategy or risk as so many books on the internet are but instead designed to reveal how these technologies are changing our cultures, societies and, ultimately, us.
We set off from DC with two smartphones, an iPad and a GPS. They weren't nearly enough. With coverage in the middle of the country incredibly patchy and the GPS being useless for choosing long-distance routes on day 3 we bought a proper countrywide map, the kind you spread on your lap in the passenger seat (or "navigation station" is it became known) and get an overview of your next three days of driving and imagine alternative ways of getting there. So much more fun this way too.
Best Films (I saw this year):
Banksy's first film and, like much of his art, it's edgy, unique and a lot of fun. It combines incredible footage of now-famous street artists like Space Invader and Shepard Fairey with a is-this-real-or-not portrayal of the arts industry they (and he) have created.
A wonderful and bitter-sweet biopic of the short-lived but groundbreaking political career of Harvey Milk. And we live just a few blocks from where it all happened!
One-third Alan Ginsberg biopic, one-third the courtroom drama of the Howl obscenity trial, and one-third a psychedelic animated reading of Howl, Ginsberg's most famous poem. 100% great.
A genuine technical triumph. Just a great cinema experience.
Best Websites (I used for the first time this year):
A super-intelligent question-and-answer site. So much wisdom so freely shared.
I've been looking for a homepage like this for a while.
Best Software (I used for the first time this year):
Integrates social media with gmail, a really powerful tool for building business relationships.
What I'm using to draft this post. The opposite of Rapportive in a way - it blocks out all the noise on your screen (social media notifications, tabs, various programs), giving you just a plain black box to type in. It's helped me become much more productive when I write.
That's more than enough, I hope you either had or are about to have (depending on where you are in the world) a fun and fabulous New Years Eve and that 2011 has amazing things in store for you.