Favorite Books, Films, and Television of 2021

Favorite Books (and Plays) 2021

 The Shadow King: Ekphrastic terror and haunting music

The Vanishing Half

The House of Breath

Moby Dick

Klara and the Sun: It’s no Never Let Me Go, but Ishiguro makes an interesting attempt to imagine the mind of a non-human

Macbeth, Othello, and The Merchant of Venice: I’m slowly reading through all of the Shakespeare plays that I missed during my first four decades. These three are the last of the unforgivable omissions, with Macbeth’s wintry, witchy poetry my favorite.

Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life: A great companion to . . .


Favorite Films 2021

. . . My Octopus Teacher

Another Round: Mads Mikkelsen might be, next to my husband, the most beautiful man in the world. I’ve longed to see him dance on film, given his dance background. I finally got my wish in Another Round’s last moments, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

After Life/The Truth: One of my favorite Japanese films, After Life by Koreeda Hirokazu, was released by Criterion a few months ago. I rewatched it and then viewed Koreeda’s The Truth, a slight film that nevertheless benefits from being seen in tandem with his masterpiece. Both examine memories, the passage of time, and how we come to know ourselves through the reflection of art.


Favorite Television 2021

  • Move to Heaven: This beautiful Korean drama helped me through the period immediately following my father’s death. I watched it twice through. You couldn’t pay me to watch Squid Game—Move to Heaven is the Korean show that’s most worth your time.
  • Giri/Haji: That rooftop dance scene took my breath away. But then, the ending broke the spell. In it, the series’ most annoying character, spoiled teenager Taki, tells her father that his affair is over. Why is she even in that scene? Shut up and let the grown-ups speak.
  • Violet Evergarden: This anime series cleverly plays on the Japanese cultural tradition of eroticizing female writers. I approve.
  • Euphoria, “Trouble Don’t Last Always”: If Colman Domingo could have been my sponsor, I would have joined NA.
  • Kingdom: This well-executed drama—Game of Thrones set in 17th-century Korea—should not be confused with the upcoming new season of The Kingdom, Lars von Trier’s single enjoyable work. I’m looking forward to new material from both Kingdoms next year.
  • Katla: I watched this Icelandic mystery-drama-horror series after reading a typically batshit Slavoj Zizek essay about it. It ends on a very upsetting note, but it’s stayed with me.
  • Bridgerton: I don’t know if it’s good, but it’s fun, and the actors are hot.
  • David Duchovny’s cameo in The Chair: The rest of the show is an ageist mess, but damn, he’s underrated as a comic actor, if not as a novelist.