Bests and Favorites of 2018

Having done this once before, I venture out again. In each category my choices are not listed in priority order, but usually in the order I read or saw them, or remembered them.



Of the thirty-some I read last year, these stand out.

Fear, Trump in the White House. Bob Woodward. Another chapter in the “All the President’s Men” tradition.

Unbelievable. Katie Tur. She covered the Trump campaign from day one to election day, 2018. Yes, Trump tried bullying and mocking her, but she persevered.

A Higher Loyalty. James Comey. While he has offended leaders from both parties, I believe he really cares about honor and duty, a higher kind of loyalty than partisanship.

Playing with Fire: 1968, Lawrence O’Donnell. A look at the year in which so much went wrong in America. (But that was the year I married Rachel, so some things went well, really well.) This was my favorite book of the year.

Inspired. Rachel Held Evans. A fresh and artistic take on the nature of the inspiration of the Bible.

Obama, An Intimate Portrait. Pete Souza. Obama’s official White House photographer gives wonderful insights into the Obama presidency with some narration and lots of beautiful photos. This goes alongside The Face of Lincoln, a treasury of photographs of my favorite president that I bought in a used book store in Grand Rapids, MI, over 20 years ago for $7. This one cost more.



Note that I don’t see most of the year-end releases until early or not so early in the new year, so there is a time warp here. I anticipate seeing some of the notable movies of 2018 in the next two months.

Lady Bird. The amazing Saoirse Ronan strikes again. See anything with her in it (especially Brooklyn, my favorite Ronan movie thus far).

The Greatest Showman. This fictionalized story of P. T. Barnum didn’t got so-so reviews, but I am still thinking about it months after seeing it. The vision of a bunch of misfits, brought together by Barnum for his financial success, becoming a community was wonderful, as was the music.

A River Runs Through It. I hadn’t seen this in about 25 years. It popped up on one of the old movie networks and I remembered it well so thought it time to give it another look. This is one of the most beautiful movies—scenery and story—I have ever seen.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?  I want to live in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood. What a kind and caring person was Fred Rogers. How we need such persons today (though I expect there are always plenty around, showing kindness without fanfare or self-interest).

First Reformed. A rather dark look at a struggling pastor in a tough place, but raising important issues.

RBG. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What an amazing woman.



60 Minutes.  A weekly look into fascinating stories, places, and people, running strong after 50 years.

Blue Bloods. My favorite weekly series. I love the camera angles of NYC and the Reagans’ Sunday dinner discussions.

American Experience. I don’t catch every one of these PBS documentaries, but I love the ones I see.

The Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Okay, I am drawn to princes named Harry. That black gospel choir. That stirring sermon on love by the American Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. A British royal marrying a once-divorced, bi-racial American commoner. Bring back Downton Abbey, set in our time.

Mayo Clinic: Faith-Hope-Science. Another fascinating documentary from the Ken Burns team. Previously unknown to me, William Mayo teamed with Mother Alfred Moes and the nurses of the Sisters of Saint Francis to create one of the most heralded and renowned hospitals in the world. Mayo and his two sons saw faith and medical science working hand in hand. Hmm, faith and science working together…. What a wonderful concept.

The MLB playoffs and World Series. The best team won the most games in the regular season, then every AL playoff series, and then the World Series. It rarely works out that way—this time it did. Sweet thoughts to hold close till mid-February, when pitchers and catchers report. I watched every inning of the World Series except the bottom of the 18th of game three.

The Kennedy Center Honors. Every December, right after Christmas Day, I revel in this tribute to performing artists of the highest caliber.

Great Performances. I don’t see all of these on PBS, but the ones I see are usually outstanding (like the 100th birthday tribute to Leonard Bernstein and the New Year’s Eve show with Renee Fleming (of Rochester, NY) and the NY Philharmonic.


Stage performances

Fiddler on the Roof. I don’t know how many times I have seen this on stage, plus the excellent movie, but I will never tire of it. A national touring company came to Rochester in December. Of all musicals, and I have my handful of favorites, Fiddler has the greatest emotional grab on me. Ask the woman seated next to me how many tissues I need.

Hamilton. Yes, on Broadway! It is as good as everything that has been said and written about it. And a touring company is coming to Rochester this spring. Can’t wait to see it again.

Come From Away. We saw this musical about the response of the people of Gander, Newfoundland, to thousands of weary travelers suddenly stuck there for almost a week right after 9/11 the day after we saw Hamilton. While Hamilton may have dwarfed this modest production, it did not.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This wonderful musical adaption of the Victor Hugo novel and various other productions of it was performed by the Gates-Chili High School and featured my younger grandson as Quasimodo. Wow!

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