Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro—Okay so this was definitely not written this year (1989 actually) but I read it this year, so I’m counting it. And, don’t think just because you’ve seen the movie you know this book. I liked the movie as I’m a fan of Emma Thompson it was well-made. But, it does not hold a light to the book. This book was the best example of unreliable narrator I have ever read. Also, what the movie fails to capture is a very hopeful, look-to-the-future life view that I found very meaningful.
Runner up: Bury your Dead by Louise Penny—not written this year either…but you know. This is one in a Canadian mystery series that are some of my favorite books ever. I’m usually not huge on mystery, but these are interesting, gritty, very character driven and beautifully written.
Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay—I know this is a trendy choice, but a good one. Colplay’s last few albums, especially, have been so well crafted—not merely a list of songs, but a collected work that should be listened to from beginning to end—not unlike the Beatles’ Abbey Road. Also, I appreciate the musicality and the originality—they manage to sound like Colplay, while continuing to create very originally-styled pieces.
My favorite older singles I heard and liked this year: Shine by Black Gold, a cover of This Woman’s Work sung by Greg Laswell, and Breathe in, Breathe Out by Mat Kearney
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II—I think someone should recognize this as something beyond a piece of pop culture. This and several other of the Potter films are, I think, good cinema on a number of levels. I think it is a good adaptation of a book, and that there were some really nice stylistic choices. I also thought that there was a lot of excellent acting, by the main ensemble, but also by those in smaller roles—including Warkwick Davis’ portrayal of the Goblin, Griphook—face makeup notwithstanding, and Helena Bonham Carter playing Hermione playing Bellatrix Lestrange.
Jane Eyre—this is a favorite story anyway, but I particularly liked this version (especially compared to the 2006 Masterpiece edition).
Thor—Okay, I know this is one more superhero show, but I thought they dealt with the fantasy elements of this particular story well, and I thought Kenneth Brannaugh’s directing gave it a classical, Shakespearean feel.
The Help—again, trendy but good, and very close to the book.
So, although I actually did enjoy some American TV this year, my favorites are all, embarrassingly, British:
Downton Abbey—very well done, and fascinating to watch.
Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch—a great modern adaptation of the character. Loved their interpretation of Moriarty.
Doc Martin—This year was series 4, I think. Probably the best thing about this show is the variety of quirky, realistic, and consistent characters.