2009 media picks

Here are some of my favorite books, albums, films, and online media from 2009:

Favorite book of 2009


Warning: journalism and language nerds only…

The Associated Press Stylebook 2009. Definitive. Up to date. Accessible. And always on my desk. I enjoyed perusing this title not only for work-related purposes, but because it reads like an almanac, as well.

Honorable mentions — books not published in 2009 that I discovered this year:

  • In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan (2007). The author’s motto for healthy eating: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Pollan argues we’re better off eating whole foods (“eat food” — as opposed to packaged, food-like substances) in moderate quantities (“not too much”) consisting mostly of fruits and vegetables (“mostly plants”). Some critics say Pollan over-states claims that processed foods are responsible for increased rates of diseases of civilization, like cancer and diabetes. But I found Pollan’s analysis of American food culture, as well as what he calls “nutritionism” — health claims made my food manufacturers — to be eye-opening.
  • Lush Life, by Richard Price (2008) — a detail-rich, atmospheric crime novel about New York City. A helpful antidote to withdrawal from “The Wire.”
  • A Simple Plan, by Scott Smith (1993) — An absolutely top-notch thriller. Well-paced. Harrowing. Note that I haven’t yet seen the movie, but I’d like to.
  • The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, by John le Carre (1963). A cold war spy thriller from the incomparable le Carre.
  • El Diego: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Footballer, by Diego Maradona (2005) — There’s only one Diego. And this autobiography, while not what I would call full of gravitas, sheds light on Maradona’s personality, and most readers will come away with a more sympathetic understanding of a player who has always courted controversy.

Favorite album of 2009


Hold Time, by M. Ward (2009). Folksy, lyrical, lush. A fantastic album. (Thanks to Austin for the tip.)

Favorite film of 2009


There can be only one: “Avatar” (2009), in 3D. Believe the hype.

This film is imperfect — it’s too long, it’s sappy at times, and the dialogue is often stilted. But it is a moviegoing experience on an immense scale. As the New York Times‘s Manohla Dargis wrote, writer/director Jim Cameron “hasn’t changed cinema, but with blue people and pink blooms he has confirmed its wonder.”

Honorable mentions — films not released in 2009 that I discovered this year:

  • Bladerunner” (1982) — I am absolutely ashamed to say that I had never seen this amazing film until just recently. It should be required viewing for anyone living in the Thai capital, as Bangkok is often compared — appropriately, but in a cool way! — to the post-pocalyptic, dystopian Los Angeles cityscape depicted in this film.
  • Sunshine” (2007) — a sci-fi gem from Danny Boyle, who directed “Trainspotting” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”
  • The Wrestler” (2008) — Mickey Rourke is excellent, but for me, Marisa Tomei steals the show.
  • Standard Operating Procedure” (2008)– Errol Morris’s look at Abu Ghraib.

Favorite TV series (ongoing)


Again, there can be only one: “30 Rock.” As my friend B puts it simply: Tina Fey is a genius. So is Baldwin. And Morgan. And Krakowski. And — perhaps most of all — Jack McBrayer, aka NBC page Kenneth Parcell. (By the way, the reason Kenneth’s southern accent sounds so legit? He’s from Macon, GA.)

Best new Thailand-related Web site of 2009

CNNGo/BangkokCNNGo launched a few months back, and it’s been serving up some reliably good Bangkok-related travel and lifestyle content.

Honorable mention
The Thai Report — as I mentioned when it debuted, The Thai Report contains links to the biggest news stories from the Kingdom. And I like the simple, Drudge Report-esque design.

Favorite podcast of 2009 (ongoing)

Jordan, Jesse, Go! — Join Jesse Thorn — he of The Sound of Young America fame — and Jordan Morris on Jordan, Jesse, Go! It’s a lighthearted podcast about…well, whatever Jordan and Jesse feel like discussing. Frequent topics include TV, films, food, embarrassing and “momentous” experiences, and life in L.A. (Again, thanks to Austin for the pointer.)

Favorite posts of 2009

And finally, a little self-promotion. (After all, what are blogs for?) Here’s a list — some editor’s picks, if you will — of my favorite posts from 2009:

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