My Top 13 Albums of 2017

If my top 13 albums of 2017 were donuts, they’d have everything from rainbow sprinkles to lab-grade PCP.

These were albums that played like my personal soundtrack for the past year. That’s it. We got a horseshit president. I had a death in the family. I started a new job. I roadtripped across New Mexico, twice. I camped in the north woods of Wisconsin and got sniffed by a bear. I drank whiskey gingers in the humid summer shade on the shores of Lake Michigan near my apartment. I rode the CTA to work, to home, and back again, and back again, and back again. I wrote, a lot. I walked in the rain. Each of these things had beat and a rhythm, or a mind-numbing drone. And sometimes, it all blended together.

The only criteria I’ve used for this list is that the album was released within the past calendar year. The rest is music. And why 13? Because it comes after 12 and before 14. Listen while you read.

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Full Nerd: 2017 in Books

I’ve almost always kept a running list of the books I read, but this year I decided to go Full Nerd.

I used Google Sheets to log each book I’ve read since October 2016—66 books in total, spread over 384 days.

I tracked titles, authors, author genders, copyright and publish dates, genres, page counts, format, dates started and ended, days between books. Starting at this new data year, I’ll also begin tracking author race, to hold myself accountable to hearing equal voice.

Accountability is one of the main reasons I began tracking this data. For example, based on the names on my bookshelf, it was clear I wasn’t reading enough books by women. And the data don’t lie. It was only through conscious intention this past year that I read the women I did; Rebecca Solnit, Jane Goodall, Janna Levin, Hannah Arendt, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In most cases, their work was also the most urgent and profound. My goal is to keep building up this percentage. Hearing, listening, and understanding more.

I also used a five-star ranking system for the books I read. I usually thinking rankings are bullshit, so I didn’t put much thought into the rationale. If the book affected me or prompted me to think differently, it got more stars. This helped me identify what were my “favorite” books from the past year, and which ones sucked.

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Taos, New Mexico

Taos is a small town of about 5,700 people in the high desert of northern New Mexico. It’s home to artists, ranchers, naturalists, vagrants and the oldest inhabited indigenous community in the U.S.—the Taos Pueblo, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, a National Historic Landmark and thousand-year-old residence of the Tiwa-speaking Puebloan people.

Not many people have heard of Taos—including many in the surrounding region—but it’s probably better that way. No major highways run near it (driving through a maze of winding roads it’s about four hours south of Denver and two-and-a-halfish hours north of Albuquerque), it has no major economic influence, it’s about 7,000 feet above sea level and it’s surrounded by expansive mountain ranges, including the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the 13,000-foot Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico. It’s a miniature somewhere in the middle of a massive and mysterious nowhere.

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