Best Comeback Into My Life: L.L. Bean. For awhile, the rugged clothing giant of my grad school years seems to lose its way, to move outside of fashion. Or maybe I did. But Bean is back. I'm in love with striped shirts, Bean boots, pullovers, and other stuff that will do me no good in this hot, Southern winter. But last January, I was all Bean.
Best Book: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. In which a screenwriter unleashes everything he has learned on a mega- first novel thriller that transcends, expands, and blows away all conventions of the genre. If you are one who disparages the exciting book, fine, but I still challenge you to find a more interesting, complex, conflicted narrator this year or beyond who knows when to give away truth as "spoilers" in a more intriguing way. And the book uses 9/11 in a way you'd never think of.
Best Tech: the rise of Siri and her competing counterparts. This was the year when we began to build actual, tentative relationships with Artificial Intelligence. I've seen and read enough to know that this could go badly wrong, but for now, our various devices never felt more like reliable companions.
Best Artist Of The Year: Ryan Adams. Hey, it is a personal list, right? So this is the year I finally got to see him in concert ( at Jazzfest) in the kind of whirlwind hits and favs show that we dream of from so many artists. And coupled with that, his reimagining of Taylor Swift's 1989, which some will claim gave her cred she didn't need, but which will make even more agree that our emotional lives are better seen through the Adams lense
Best Personal Trend: The FitBit. It's got me walking, it's got me wanting to walk, it's got me forcing myself to walk, it's got me feeling proud about walking, it's got me keeping track of my walking, it's got me sharing my walking, it's got me planning my walking. A friend of mine said it would be gone in six months. Well, he was wrong. Instead, I am wearing continual motivation on my wrist. And I don't care if the NSA knows it.
Best Financial News: the price of gasoline. Gas is cheaper than pre-Obama levels, and it was often used as a doomsday measure of his presidency. Instead, where I live, it hovers right now at $1.65/gallon, which allows for an easy and generous fill-up.
Best Local Food Trend: where I live, the national food trends may be a year or ten away, but locally, I simply enjoy the fact that so many entrepreneurs are opening new places that can expand our food horizons in the sometimes-provincial city. How nice to have increasing options to take out of town guests and have them say, "Wow, that was really good."
Best Beer Trend: many of the people I know have shaken off the relentless pursuit of the latest, greatest craft beer and have returned to the normalcy of drinking beer as a combination of taste and lower price, with price sometimes carrying the day. Some even acknowledge that those special beers can make your stomach burn when you don't want it to, like late at night.
Best Movie: I gotta say, it's Mad Max: Fury Road. I thought Spotlight was fantastic--powerful, well-acted, socially-relevant, Oscar-worthy. But for me, the great movie always needs something of the swashbuckle, the journey, the world that never was, and this reboot of the Mad Max franchise with new actors and themes was as rich and satisfying as anything I saw, probably more so. I have yet to see the new edition of Star Wars, but it never captured me mythically like the post-apocalyptic Road Warrior. And that an action film is the feminist movie of the year is just icing.
Best Hope For The Future Of Mankind: that Springsteen is back out on the road in early 2016. If you don't understand hope, then I will tell you: I have seen the future of hope and his name is Bruce Springsteen. Don't ignore him while he is here for us.