Well, well, well … what a year 2016 has been! It seems that we lost an inordinate amount of influential people, we certainly endured a surreal (Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Year”) election season, stories of violence and heartbreak around the world lead every news cycle, and no doubt, people have encountered their own personal joys and sorrows the past months that made the year memorable, if nothing else. But all this said, it is the time for a little bit of celebrating and reflection and unpacking a present or two. Thus, I give you my 2016 edition of “Unpack the Stocking.” This year, I thought I’d share some Top Fives (kinda sorta) across the board. Here goes:
My Top 5 Work-Related Books of 2016
- Effective Data Visualization: The Right Chart for the Right Data, by Stephanie Evergreen This book has been an absolute go-to data viz bible for me over the past months. Combined with Stephanie’s blog, online tutorials, and data academy, I have learned a gazillion cool ways to present data in the most effective way. Terrific!
- Data Visualisation: A Handbook for Data Driven Design, by Andy Kirk Another wonderful resource that sits handily by my side on my desk, right next to Stephanie’s book. Andy provides a thorough blend of theory and practice, making this book a must-have for anyone serious about doing data vis. (I say “vis” for Andy, cuz he’s British.)
- The Best American Infographics, 2015 Yes, it’s the collection of greats from last year, but I got it early this year, so it counts. Like any art, one’s skills in visual communication are improved simply by looking at examples of exemplary work. Whenever I’m stuck for ideas about how to construct an infographic, I pull this book off my shelf and look thru the pages for a bit. I get inspired and then I get to work.
- Dear Data: A Friendship in 52 Weeks of Postcards, by Georgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec Anyone and everyone working with data should read this book! For one thing, the story of the project between these two outstanding data artists is good fun, but more, it offers terrific insight into how good visuals begin with a lot of thought, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of pen and paper! Telling a story with data is about so much more than a programming language. These two women will remind – or perhaps teach – readers this lesson.
- The Truthful Art: Data, Charts, and Maps for Communication, by Alberto Cairo This is Alberto’s latest beautiful contribution to the field. If you’ve yet to read his book, The Functional Art, grab that one, too. Alberto presents data communication from the perspective of a journalist. As this is how I often think of my own role, i.e. telling the success stories of the UMCCTS, I find his books so incredibly helpful.
My Top 5 Just-for-Fun Favorite Books that I Read in 2016 (not necessarily published this year)
- The Shepherd’s Life, by James Rebanks I absolutely loved this book! It’s a beautiful memoir, history lesson, social justice/environmental study of a world many likely believe doesn’t even exist anymore. But it does and James is a marvel at telling its story.
- The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown This book had been on my “to read” list for awhile and when I found a copy at a used bookstore, I snatched it up. What a treat! It’s the best sports/history book that I have read besides Laura Hillebrand’s remarkable, Seabiscuit. These stories remind the reader of why the people of this time in America’s history were, very much, the “Greatest Generation.”
- X, by Sue Grafton I will put aside just about anything that I’m reading to read the latest Kinsey Milhone mystery by Sue Grafton. X found its way onto my shelf this year and I read it over a rainy weekend. I can’t bear the thought that we only have “Y” and “Z” left from in this wonderful series that I’ve been reading for 20-odd years.
- Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger “The 99%” is a phrase often used to describe the non-wealthy of the United States, but it could also be used to describe the the non-military-serving Americans. Yes, less than 1% of Americans actively serve in a branch of the Service right now and perhaps this explains a great deal about our society and its relationship and/or understanding of all that the men and women who do join up endure – both while serving and more, when they return to civilian life. Sebastian Junger has both written books and produced documentary films on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in this short book, closes a chapter on this work. It’s an important read.
- Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson This book had been on my bookshelf, unread, for years and I honestly had no idea that such a remarkable treasure was just sitting there, waiting for me to notice it. An amazingly beautiful work of fiction. It now lives on my bedside table where I can simply pick it up any morning or evening and take in a passage that will stay with me for days. A beautiful, beautiful book.
My Top 5 Helpful Websites/Sources of 2016
- Click on any link in “My Top 5 Work-Related Books of 2016” and you’ll get to a whole other layer of amazing resources. This is perhaps one of the greatest gifts of the interwebs, i.e. it allows for so much supplemental material for books, articles, etc. Each of the authors of the books that I mentioned has a website or blog or set of online tutorials that I’ve relied upon throughout the year.
My Top 6 Binge-Watched Television Programs of 2016 (6, not 5)
- Happy Valley (Netflix) “Our Catherine,” as the Brits say, Catherine Cawood is a former detective, now sergeant, in West Yorkshire. And that’s just the beginning of her story. Two seasons to date. Oh please, let there be a third.
- Scott & Bailey (Amazon) Like “Happy Valley,” this is an offering from the acclaimed British screenwriter, Sally Wainwright. Imagine Cagney & Lacey redone in a much more sophisticated and superior way and you’ve got this show. The abbreviated 5th and final season came out this year. I miss these characters already.
- The Fall (Amazon) Gillian Anderson is an amazingly complex character in this dark, suspenseful, chase to catch a serial killer. Another great series that wrapped up in 2016. I loved it.
- Janet King (Acorn) The Australian actress, Marta Dusseldorp, was my favorite new person to come across in 2016. It’s not a coincidence that she stars in not only Janet King, but in the two picks that follow this one, too. This well-written legal drama follows the lead character, Senior Crown Prosecuter Janet King, and her colleagues through their work fighting crime and corruption, while balancing all kinds of ethical dilemmas of their own. The third season is under production now.
- Jack Irish (Acorn) Guy Pearce has been a favorite actor of mine ever since he starred in, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. His portrayal of character, Jack Irish, is no exception to his talent. Former attorney, now kind of down on his luck, he makes his way solving mysteries and getting himself into and out of all sorts of jams along the way. Great writing, terrific characters, and a good story to follow. Two mini-series and one full-length season are available.
- A Place to Call Home (Acorn) My third favorite find from Australian TV this year is this lovely melodrama that follows the wealthy Bligh family and surrounding characters, most notably nurse Sarah Adams (Dusseldorp) in the small town of Inverness, north of Sydney, in the years following WWII. It’s just one of those, “Sit back and watch” kind of shows. Pure entertainment.
My Top Musical Moments of 2016
Music is such a big part of my life, of course I count musical moments as some of the things I rely upon most to help me get through any year.
- FreshGrass at Mass MoCA offered up 3 straight days of unmatched joy as I got to see favorites Rosanne Cash, Glen Hansard, Aoife O’Donovan, Old Crow Medicine Show, Alison Brown, Sierra Hull, Ruthie Foster and so many more … all in one venue. Holy smokes! It’s gotta be one of the best live music festivals for Americana music lovers going. And it’s at Mass MoCA. Can’t be beat!
- Seeing Patty Griffin at the Lowell Music Festival this past summer was a dream come true. I’ve loved her music for a long time, but had never had the chance to see her perform live. She’s an amazing singer-songwriter and a fantastic performer. I was not disappointed.
- I have a long, personal history with the singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter. Her summer concert, also part of the Lowell Music Festival series, was one more chapter in the story. Additionally, I discovered the wonderful, Rose Cousins, that evening, as she opened for MCC. I love her music now, too.
- Last, but hardly least – in fact, this is more than likely my favorite favorite experience/event/everything of 2016 – in October, I attended a songwriting retreat in Georgetown, ME, hosted by an amazing singer-songwriter and even better person, Catie Curtis. “Catie at the Cove” found me camping under the stars (and rain), making some very special new friends, and most of all, helping me to tap into a source of creativity within me that I’ve long wanted to find. Catie and her co-lead, Jenna Lindbo, provided the perfect space for encouragement and growth and fun that I will long remember. And I can’t wait to go again! Something to look forward to in 2017.
And … I also enjoyed some wonderful weekends with old friends, reconnected with some very dear folks from my growing-up days, said goodbye to two very important people in my life, one being my dad, and felt a sense of unease and anxiety that I’ve not experienced in a long time (if ever – it’s a global thing, I think). I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary with my best friend, Lynn. I got a hug from my friend, Amy Dickinson, when she was on the panel of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! when it broadcast from Providence, RI. I co-wrote with my colleague, Lisa Palmer, was published in the book, Translating Expertise: The Librarians’ Role in Translational Research (I’m sure it’ll hit the bestseller list next year). I learned some new stuff, got better at a couple of things that I’ve been doing for awhile, and am actively looking for some new challenges for the coming year (volunteering? new art class? trampoline fitness?). So I look back and see that 2016 wasn’t the best nor the worst of times, but a balance for me. I hope yours was, too.
Thanks for another year of following along with my blog. I wish everyone all the best for 2017!