A year of idleness and full-time entertainment consumption has put me in the ideal spot to provide my unwarranted recommendations to you, ranging from all categories across the board. Recommendations are not necessarily limited to anything published in 2020, merely something I have watched/read/listened to this year.
First off; books.
While finishing the last book of my 24-reading goal it’s quite fitting that this latest addition to the challenge is also the one I provide as recommendation. Fresh in mind fresh in heart aye? I’ve chosen this first and foremost because we all can use a travel book in these times to lose ourselves in, especially with such a friendly and erudite guide. Patrick Leigh Fermor writes about his journey on foot from Hoek of Holland to Constantinople in a surprisingly educating and highly entertaining manner. The first of the trilogy: A Time of Gifts spansfrom the start all the way to the middle Danube. It is worthy to note that he travels in 1933/3, with what Germany was going through at that time it is incredible to hear the voices of both sides during his travels. Second, he wrote this book 30 years after he travelled so it also provides a lot of reflection as occurs in such retelling. Now it is by no means a comparison to a historical travel book such as Geert Mak’s In Europe. It is much more a story of an intelligent but compassionate 18-year-old that decides to talk a long walk and meet the most amiable characters on the way. The element that instantly will amaze any reader is the hospitality of those he meets on the way. As Patrick was at that time a student with little funds it is astonishing to see how his reliance on strangers was almost unavoidable due to the heavy insistences of the offers. If you won’t read it for the travel, do read it for Fermor’s internal rambling on art, nature, history, and politics. His 5-page spanning reflection of Brueghel the Elder’s work is a good example. Without giving away too many spoilers, if you, regretfully, have put away your wanderlust somewhere on a dusty shelf than do read this amazing travelogue to take a sip of all things absent.
The second book recommendation is News from Nowhere by William Morris. With our souls as impoverished as our future plans, I was happy to find a genre that seemed obvious that it must exist, but has always escaped my attention. Everyone is well aware of all the famous dystopian books out there, but in a recent podcast I found a whole genre of utopian novels that describe the world as it should be. It instantly peaked my interest, because, who doesn’t want to find out what constitutes a utopia. The News from Nowhere tells the story of a man waking up from roughly the 1860s somewhere in the future where government vanished, and people compete only in who can enjoy work the most. It is a refreshing confrontation to read how work was transformed into what we understand art to be right now. Escape 2020(1) for a while and travel up along a Thames free of preposterous villas, where all longing goes to helping in the summer harvest. Beware to those with allergies to socialism.
The World At Large – Adam Mehaffey
How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy – Jenny Odell
Dune – Frank Herbert
Second up; music.
Being stuck indoors for a lengthy time does provide the opportunity to have the speakers blaring every waking and napping moment. Exploration of new musicians and genre included. And the first album I want to recommend is a classical masterpiece. Problem I always had before with classical music is that it sounds jittery, jumpy, and would get on my nerves easily. Play any great concerto of the old fathers and an untrained ear will be running for the door, me included. But still, it felt like I was missing out a little from a world ready to be discovered. Luckily the stage was ready for the taken by, fittingly an Icelandic, pianist. Víkingur Ólafsson has published several great works, but the one I want to share is his Johann Sebastian Bach album. He completely unpacked the complex music into pop-song-sized pieces that make Bach seem like such an approachable character. For a rookie in classical this album really grew on me, and even though it still feels like I’m only scrapping the bottom of the barrel in terms of what is out there, it did give a pleasant peek of a sausage made so deliciously. Notably the 5th song on the album Organ Sonata No. 4, 2. Adante is very soothing
To throw the ship’s wheel in an opposite direction the second album I want to recommend is that of On the Other Side by Blanco White. Blanco is an English musician, but Spanish trained, produces music that is roughly to be categorised as folk/indie/instrumental. Throughout his songs you can hear the Spanish guitar influences but taken down a notch to a level that feels gentle and breathy. Most of his songs feel like a deep conversation with but at the same time a goodbye to an old friend. On the Other Side and Samara are by far my favourite songs of the album and also properly ranked so in my Spotify Wrapped.
Portrait – Yann Tiersen
The Koln Concert – Keith Jarrett
Third category; Podcasts
The Unmade Podcast with Tim & Brady is a podcast about podcasts ideas. Every episode covers 3-4 ideas for podcasts which they briefly cover and provide examples of potential episodes. It is a fantastic light-hearted podcast with two hosts that each have their own extremely contagious laughter. It is a good thing we are wearing masks this year because it allows me to grin like an idiot in public transport without judgement. Highly recommend.
Tech Won’t Save Us is a podcast that critically reflects on how society interacts with technology. From the issues with gig economy, to technology supply chains, capitalism, and urban cities. No stone is left unturned. If you are interested in that sort of thing be sure to listen because it is one of the best in its kind.
Do Go On – More Australians telling cool stories
The Anthropocene Reviewed – Basic things in life reviewed by John Green
Last category; visual entertainment.
On matter of films I sadly have nothing that really stood out to recommend to you that you most likely have not seen already. Although I did pick up a new choosing movies habit that deals well with the option-overload we are used to with all the streaming services these days. Rather than flicking to all genres on Netflix, Prima, Ziggo, etc, I rather watch older movies from the directors I love (Nolan, Villeneuve), or choose movies based on their composers (Johannson, Zimmer, Goransson).
Now when it comes to other visual creative content, I have lots to recommend! First off, one of my favourite creators; Like Stories of Old. Who does video essays of movies and the philosophy behind them. He did a series on how stories reflect reality which is one I can highly recommend. However, the best of this year is his hour long analysis of war in film and our intrinsic demands for that genre. He perfectly explains our odd obsession of seeing other sacrificing everything for a nationalistic cause.
My second Youtuber I can, but highly advise to add as your subpscriotions is Exurb1a. He does quirky videos where he examines the human condition through storytelling. If you love philosophy and sci-fi than you will fall in love in a heartbeat. The video I recommend is less philosophical and more reflective on how we understand remembrance. His videos are always hard to describe so why not just trust me for 27 minutes of your time and have a watch.
The last, but as entertaining as others, is inside the score. On this channel the creator goes over specific classical (including movie soundtracks) pieces, genres, and composers and explains in layman’s terms what makes it special. A recent one on the soundtrack of Tenet is a great example that really broadens your understanding of soundtracks how complimentary they are to movies. In addition it shows you what to really listen for when watching your next movie. But also his classical analyses are amazing to dive into. As a complete rookie when it comes to classical music it is helpful how he breaks everything down and with every discovery you’ll be like; ow how did I not notice that! My favourite of this year’s videos has to be the one on Why Listen to Schubert?
Kurzegesagt – The Egg (narrated by John Green)
Stray Bob – And his series on walking across India
GeoWizard – With his attempt to walk across Wales in a straight line
That’s it for this year, be sure to like, subscribe, and smash that bell button, so you might see the next one.