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I've been reading the MurderBot series of books and novellas from Martha Wells. I really empathized with a main character that's good at their job, but bad at knowing how to deal with their feelings. A new book in the series came out this year, and they recently announced that Apple TV is going to make a show based on it.

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Dec 15, 2023Liked by Parker Molloy

One of my absolute favorite movies this year was Polite Society, Nida Manzoor's debut film! Super funny, super sweet, incredible costuming, BONKERS action sequences. And it's just refreshing to see a fun, original story about a teenage girl hero who fucking rules. Everyone in it is so good, especially Priya Kansara (our protagonist), Ritu Arya (her sister), and Nimra Bucha (her arch-rival). I was walking on air after I saw it. I felt like I could punch God.

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Dec 15, 2023Liked by Parker Molloy

I've loved Baldur's Gate 3 and Alan Wake 2 for games this year! I've also been playing shows again for songs I wrote a few years back that have taken on new meaning as I've been transitioning.

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Dec 15, 2023Liked by Parker Molloy

Season 2 of Our Flag Means Death was every bit as good as the first season, even though it was two episodes shorter. I love how all different sexualities, gender expressions, body types, and pretty much all possible human differences are just accepted as normal throughout the show. Plus apparently I like New Zealand humor.

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Ethel Cain's album Preacher's Daughter! Dark, Southern gothic trans story, set to incredible music.

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For an album this year it's been Joy Oladokun's "Proof of Life" (and more recently "Proof of Life (Deluxe)" linked below)

https://joyoladokun.lnk.to/pol-dlx

Her voice is incredible, her lyricism is somehow better than her voice, and her live shows are fantastic.

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Dec 15, 2023Liked by Parker Molloy

Citizen Sleeper really, REALLY hit the right vibe for me this year. It came out last year but I had a lot of downtime Jan-April, as I was on medical leave and then recovering from an appendectomy. I read all of Murderbot (more than once) and got deep into Citizen Sleeper, and the ennui and pessimistic optimism that both franchises share worked just right for me.

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Dec 15, 2023Liked by Parker Molloy

I loved the children's book "Something, Someday" written by Amanda Gorman (the presidential inauguration poet) and illustrated by the always-wonderful Christian Robinson. Even though it's a children's book, the message that we can change the world--no matter how many people tell us it's a lost cause--will resonate with adults, teens, and everyone.

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Dec 17, 2023Liked by Parker Molloy

My album of the year is Lankum’s False Lankum. Grim Irish folk music that draws on drone metal to create something I think even non-folkies would enjoy. Stunning work.

My favorite new book is Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; it’s about movies and youth politics and friendship in Mexico City in the 70s. So good.

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Dec 16, 2023Liked by Parker Molloy

Baldur’s Gate 3 is my favorite game ever. I’ve been playing coop with my best friend and we’re on our second playthrough.

This is also the year I caught up on Critical Role and it’s been such a relaxing thing to watch in dark times.

Alan Wake 2 was great. I hope they bought David Lynch a coffee though.

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This is so fun! I +1’d things I’m so glad to see others enjoyed too!

The most joyful modern fantasy book I read this year was The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58912891

And the most exciting and fun book (for a Janeite historical fiction lover) was The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61181023

I am stupid proud of the literary tourist’s fan guide I wrote for publisher Herb Lester and Associates: Douglas Adams’ London. It is an actual map for walking in London, with gorgeous art, factual trivia, and comes packaged with a Babel Fish postcard. It’s a Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy fan’s dream come true: Adamsian places to visit collected and described all in an easy-to-carry format: https://www.herblester.com/products/douglas-adams-london

Lastly, this year I fell deeply in love with the Libby Library App that lets me read all kinds of things absolutely free with my library card: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/libby-by-overdrive/id1076402606

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Mark Guarino’s “Country & Midwestern” introduced me to lots of wonderful music and musical history—and dramatically enhanced my streaming music playlists.

countryandmidwestern.com

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Dec 16, 2023·edited Dec 16, 2023Liked by Parker Molloy

If there's one thing I'm grateful for this year, it's that I saw Muna perform live (before a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage took me out but that's a long story and the good news is that I recovered). I can't stress enough how you should see them live if you haven't already—they are the absolute apex predators of pop right now and their live show absolutely whips.

Want to say that DOPPELGANGER, and BOTTOMS UP AND THE DEVIL LAUGHS and the Fern Brady memoir STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER were book I really enjoyed. WESTERN LANE was great too! Holly Humberstone is very good. I liked the new Speedy Ortiz and Sufjan albums. I probably liked all the same television and boygenius albums that y'all liked.

Want to add that Parker is herself rather consistently one of the great things I read every week and there should be more people like her, okay, bye bye.

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Dec 16, 2023Liked by Parker Molloy

Two albums I loved this year are Sufjan Stevens Javelin and Jason Isbell Weathervanes.

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Dec 15, 2023Liked by Parker Molloy

My favorite album of the year was the new billy woods - maps. He’s an unbelievable lyricist and writer and it’s truly wild how prolific he is without sacrificing any quality

http://billywoods.bandcamp.com/album/maps

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Dec 15, 2023Liked by Parker Molloy

Texan by accident, here. I'm almost ashamed of this pedestrian and first-world item: new-to-me "variable speed" air conditioning. It's highly efficient, but moreover, won't overshoot set temperature. Half the electric bill and end of family thermostat battles!

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Not new but Arcane. Blue-eyed Samurai was incredible as was Scavenger's Reign (although in different ways). The Murderbot series is new to me but I've read straight through all of them without taking a break to read something else.

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Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Came out in 2014, but I've been putting off reading it. It is really helpful to read an academically rigorous and compelling narrative that explains why people who came of age in 1945-75 were uniquely positioned to accrue wealth due to organized labor, state intervention in the economy, and a steeply progressive system of taxation. We could have all of those things now, but boomers decided to kick out the ladder after they climbed it by becoming Reagan Republicans. This book put a fire in my belly, and any folx who are struggling to accrue savings (especially folx born after 1980) should read this book.

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The TV show that I cannot recommend highly enough is I'M A VIRGO. It's a brilliant combination of strident leftist social commentary (on Amazon Prime, no less) and a goofy take on superheroes. It came out in the summer during the WGA strike, so creator Boots Riley (SORRY TO BOTHER YOU) couldn't help promote it, so now it's a hidden gem to be discovered!

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I've been thinking about the Rudy episode of the latest season of Bob's Burgers since it aired. It was such a departure from the usual formula of the show by shunting the Belchers to the background but it worked so well and told a really touching story about family and divorce. This latest season of the show has been putting out some bangers, honestly.

For books this year, I started reading more of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, "Mort" and "Guards, Guards" to be specific. There's nothing I can say that hasn't been said about the series before. Smart, funny and relevant. Also a cozy, easy read to round out the year would be the "low stakes fantasy" novel "Legends & Lattes." It's cute, queer and is all about the love of coffee and community.

Finally, I've been really into crossword puzzles lately, doing the daily ones at The Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker and the weeklies at AVCX. They've been a fun way to pass the time when I have nothing to do that actually allows me to use my brain instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media. One of my goals for next year is to try constructing my own, just for fun!

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I've been watching streamers and YouTubers play Vault Hunters, a Minecraft modpack, for over a year and finally started playing myself. It sort of turns Minecraft into a looter-shooter and the team behind it has been steadily improving the game since v3 released.

I think The Record from boygenius might be the album I listened to most from 2023, though I think the band I listened to most remains CHVRCHES.

And in books, I think Cassiel's Servant by Jacqueline Carey was the 2023 release I was most excited for. And in anime, "Skip and Loafer" or "The Ice Guy and His Cool Female Colleague" were the two shows that flew under the radar but I kept thinking about how much I enjoyed them and the vibes they gave off well after each finished up for the season.

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I cannot sufficiently express the value of Schuyler Bailar's book _He/She/They: How We Talk About Gender And Why It Matters_. I'm giving it as gifts and starting a book study.

He's the clearest, most accessible voice explaining gender and what is inside the minds of children and adults who identify as trans. He also makes a really good case why cisgender people, i.e., most of us, should think seriously about why we identify as the gender we do.

In these times in which trans people have their lives at stake with legislation throughout the country, this is an important read. The fact that it's also easy to read is a big bonus.

https://www.pinkmantaray.com/he-she-they

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I don't watch a lot of TV, but I loved "Mo" on Netflix. It stars Palestinian-American comedian Mo Amer, and I don't know how closely it hews to his real life story, but it's very funny, and also tragic at times. The series revolves around him and his family's adventures and misadventures living in Houston. It's the best on-screen representation I've seen of Arabs/Muslims in the U.S. I believe there will be a second season.

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In terms of media, my favorite movies this year were Across the Spider-Verse and the underrated Thai film Hunger (both on Netflix). I really wish more people knew about the latter, especially since The Menu got so much coverage.

I read a lot of comics, but the ones that stand out from this year are Don’t Spit in the Wind, 20th Century Men, and Rare Flavours. I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention that I picked them all up at Howling Pages, my favorite Chicago comic shop. :)

And, of course, The Present Age is one of my favorite things! I read your newsletter as soon as it lands in my inbox, I love it. Thank you for all the work you do! I started a newsletter myself this year and I was partly inspired to do so because of you. Have a great holiday season!

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In 2023, I finished serializing, editing, and then publishing a queer, cozy slice-of-life portal fantasy novel about civics, divinity, Judaism, chemistry/alchemy, and... well, more civics. It's available as ebook/Kindle Unlimited and paperback, and I'm incredibly happy with the book (and the quality of the paperback) even if it overall flopped because I'm bad at marketing/self promotion.

https://mybook.to/QuillAndStill

I also got back into Roguebook (a DreamQuest (ancestor of Slay the Spire) descendant). That game is just so fricken *gorgeous* and stylish.

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Of the several post-climate-change books out recently, my favorite is _The Great Transition_ by Nick Fuller Googins. Gives a great picture of what the US could be like during and after the climate crisis. Hopeful and upbeat despite the premise.

Also loving a webcomic, _Sister Claire_ (https://www.sisterclaire.com/comic). It's been around awhile, but I only discovered it this year. It takes place on a world menaced by "shards", monsters who can spring up whenever someone with magical ability dies badly. What makes this webcomic special are its ruminations on pain, good and evil and the gray area in between, reconciliation and restorative justice, not just in the comic but in the textual "missing moments". Also, all the main characters are LGBTQ+.

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I have to put in a word for singer-songwriter Peter Case's March 2023 album, "Doctor Moan." Peter, a longtime solo artist who was a founding member of '70s power-pop bands the Nerves and the Plimsouls, is a fine musician and lyricist who just keeps getting better. Before Covid, this piano-intensive record was planned as part of a two-album release with "The Midnight Broadcast," recorded mostly live in an old seafaring church in New England. Then the lockdowns intruded. "The Midnight Broadcast," which recreates the vibe of jive-talking AM radio DJs in the Sixties, was released by itself during the lockdown. Meanwhile, Peter, already a solid piano player, honed his chops sitting in with the house band at the Coltrane Church in San Francisco. This studio album was the result. Highlights include the opening track, "Have You Ever Been in Trouble," the remarkable "Downtown Nowhere's Blues," and the one guitar-based track on the album, "Wandering Days," evoking Peter's experiences as a teenaged street singer. Peter and I became friends during the filming of "Troubadour Blues," my documentary about traveling folksingers like him, Mary Gauthier, Chris Smither and a dozen more. He's remained a vital songwriter with a journalist's sensibility, one of my favorites.

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In terms of books, Babel by R.F. Kuang is amazing - I've not read anywhere near as much as I should have this year - YT video essays and general anxiety at the state of the world tended to get in the way :/

In terms of music, "Symptoms of Survival" by Dying Wish and "Take Me Back To Eden" by Sleep Token I've been listening to on repeat for months. Shameless plug, my band Oiche Fuar released our debut album this year, and they're all ear worms (https://open.spotify.com/album/1YixptRUWODRzelqjSh0jJ?si=pD2D9iwtTYKSDMxEDgRDfg).

Movies-wise, I think Barbie was probably the one that hit me the most. Loved it. Also recently rewatched It's A Wonderful Life and it still makes me cry with joy.

In terms of games I've loved Tears of the Kingdom, Baldur's Gate 3 and Forager.

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As anyone who follows me here knows, I’ve been in awe of Taylor Swift since I “discovered” her two years ago, and aside from the new albums from the Stones and Jason Isbell, she’s pretty much all I’ve been listening to. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone dominate a year so thoroughly and so deservedly.

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I discovered noah kahan and it was almost a religious experience for me. I saw sone good movies but my favorite movie of the year was mutant mayhem. It was so fun to experience at the theater.

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My goal for 2023 was to read 30 books, and the 30th book I read was And Then She Fell by Alicia Elliott, which absolutely blew me away. I'm glad it was the last one and that I hit my goal early because it's the kind of book that takes a while to process and digest.

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Taylor Swift Eras tour has been such a joy to follow and see (in the theater). Taylor’s music speaks to and for so many people, her concert has excellent representation among the dancers and backup singers. When the camera moves to the audience you can see how those lucky enough to see her live are so moved. In my little town’s theater I sat in the back row, enjoying the concert but also enjoying the rows of women of all ages living in that moment, singing and dancing along. Taylor did that. She has my highest respect for the gift she gives us all.

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My Best of 2023

Album: Continue as Guest, The New Pornographers.

Movie: The Marvels

Books: The Locked Tomb series, Tamsyn Muir

Game: Baldur’s Gate 3

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The Bear, tv series. Both seasons. Sheer brilliance. Passion, trauma, commitment, family, love and food!

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My favorite books that came out this year were:

- Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

- Biography of X by Catherine Lacey

- Brainwyrms by Alison Rumfitt

For video games, I've started to and continued to play Final Fantasy XIV, the best game I've played in a long, long time.

I didn't watch too many films this year, but I enjoyed Talk to Me and am looking forward to watching Zone of Interest and American Fiction.

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FWIW Parker, I enjoyed your work this year.

That said, I've also enjoyed that as the year has moved forward, it seems like you're taking better care of yourself - and I love to see that too. Far too few in our business do that.

As far as a tangible item? There was a new Dragonlance series of books this year - the third one comes out next year. And since I began with the original series 30+ years ago, it was enjoyable to check back in with the world of Krynn, and see some old friends.

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I somewhat recently read Loveless by Alice Oseman for the first time, and found it a very endearing and engaging book from start to finish. It’s about a college girl who seems to find it impossible to feel romantic or sexual feelings for anyone, which results in her later realizing that she’s asexual and aromantic. The novel is very sweet overall, and I’ve personally found it extremely relatable too. One of my favorite books.

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I cannot stop thinking about The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz. Set in the distant future, this novel follows the team tasked with creating an earth-like environment for the galactic super-rich. Hilarious, thrilling, and thought provoking in equal measure, by the end you will believe a cat could fall in love with a train 🐱❤️🚂

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It hasn’t been out for very long, but I’ve been obsessed with the game In Stars and Time. It’s a story-rich fantasy turn-based RPG about someone trapped in a time loop and it took me ~30 hours to complete the main story.

It’s hard to say what’s good about it without getting into spoiler territory, but one thing I love about the world is the diversity of it and how it comes up naturally in conversation.

Two of the party members and some NPCs are from the countries other than the one where the story takes place and they talk about it when it’s relevant, while also being well-rounded characters with other traits. The player character uses both he and they pronouns. In the country where the game is set, someone changing their name and body is not only accepted, it’s celebrated. One character talks about being aromantic and asexual in the context of how that interacts with their faith. The world feels vibrant and accepting. It’s wonderful.

And that’s just world building stuff. The main plot is a heart-wrenching rollercoaster that has plenty to say as well.

https://www.instarsandtime.com

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Hey Parker. Thanks for everything you do. As far as media consumption goes I recently discovered (albeit late) First Aid Kit. That's been pretty much my favorite score this year. And really any album will do. And TV series I've been mainlining the animated Star Wars: Clone Wars. They really fill out the prequels and make them make sense. Just give Dave Filoni the entire franchise and be done with it already. Have a happy and fun holidays!

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One of my favorite books was "The Cost of Free Land: Jews, Lakota, and an American Inheritance" by Rebecca Clarren. I learned so much about Jewish history, Native American history, and where they intersect. She was a guest on my podcast a few weeks ago:

https://heathracela.substack.com/p/113-journalist-rebecca-clarren-on

My favorite new podcast of the year is Abolition, Liberation, Solidarity from Here4TheKids, hosted by Saira Rao. It just launched, but the second episode is VITAL listening for these times:

https://here4thekids.substack.com/p/2-writer-amanda-gelender-on-anti

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Dec 15, 2023·edited Dec 15, 2023

For video games, I really enjoyed playing Dave the Diver, and I played Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil Village this year and really enjoyed both! Oh and Remnant 2!

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Not new this year, but new to me, Dear Genius the Letters of Ursula Nordstrom. She was director of children’s books for Harper Collins from 1940-1973. She was a queer woman who changed the world of books for young people. This piece in WAPO led me to her: https://www.washingtonpost.com/books/2023/08/04/ursula-nordstrom-young-readers/. Reading her letters was a delight. She was funny, fierce, and a powerful voice for children, poc, and art.

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I really enjoyed the novel "The Late Americans" by Brandon Taylor.

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I loved Simon Pegg and Minnie Driver's latest film "Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose". It's a delightfully talk-y little British film on Amazon Prime based on a true story about a parapsychologist and his assistant, who went to the Isle of Man to investigate reports of a talking mongoose in the late 1930s. Neil Gaiman and Christopher Lloyd (of Back to the Future fame) are also in it. It's the perfect mix of goofy black comedy and heartfelt philosophical musings about grief; the performances are amazing and the cinematography is gorgeous; and nowhere near enough people are talking about it.

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We put out our own little Substack tracking school boards in the state of Arizona. While it is specific to AZ, the things happening in these meetings are happening all over the US. We're a small nonprofit focused on the separation of religion and government. https://secularaz.substack.com/

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"Chain Gang All Stars: A Novel" by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. A rare instance of me reading a book in the year it was released! This novel is fantastic. You primarily follow two superstar participants in a relatively new prison program, wherein convicts serving life sentences can opt into a gladiator like deathmatch league. Win for three years and you gain your freedom. Participants are broken into teams, and each week they're paired with a new opponent. This book reminded me of the Hunger Games but darker, and more rooted in the reality of the modern American prison system. Instead of imagining a dystopian world decades removed from a major and violent regime change, this novel creates a near-future reality that feels like a natural evolution of American culture and capitalism today. It's gripping, it's thought-provoking and Adjei-Brenyah's writing is incredible. One of my favorite novels from the last few years.

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I have played and replayed Alan Wake 2 and I simply can not stop thinking about it. I don't even want to say too much for fear of spoiling it, but it does have a 15 minute section that made me so incredibly giddy and delighted, it was a genuine joy to experience in real-time with no idea it was coming.

As for books, I really enjoyed Zoe Baker's Means and Ends: The Revolutionary Practice of Anarchism in Europe and the United States. That mouthful of a title says it all, I'll be straight up with you, this is a dry academic book and it reads like one, but god damn did I still find it interesting and tore through it in just a few days.

As for fiction, I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, and my two favorite books this year were A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon and Translation State by Ann Leckie. Both are standalone, but take place in the same universe as other books they've written.

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By far my favorite book that I've read this year was Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. It's the first time an author I was already a fan of won the pulitzer so maybe it just made me feel smart.

If you're into audiobooks my favorite was The Stand. Ok, not exactly a new book, but the audiobook was fantastic. I've never really gotten into Stephen King before now. I'm listening to 11-22-63 at the moment (also by King) and it's also fantastic (so far).

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My favorite new to me thing this year was being introduced to the music of S.G Goodman. Saw her opening for Jason Isbell this summer and got her 2020 and 2022 albums, as well as her prior album as a member of Savage Radley. Bless her, she's just fantastic.

Nothing TV-wise for this sci-fi/fantasy nerd came anywhere close to 2022's Andor and Severance. My favorite thing in the space was certainly Star Trek Strange New Worlds season 2, especially the musical episode, Subspace Rhapsody. Silo and Fall Of The House Of Usher were other highlights.

Saw some super fun live shows, the aforementioned Isbell/Goodman concert, Black Violin, and the Old Gods of Appalachia podcast's live show.

Favorite new game was a card-based trick taking game, Sea of Strife.

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