Pop Culture Free Time 2020: The Best Everything
For the past two months, I’ve been covering my favorite off-the-clock pop culture in our new Pop Culture Free Time series. But since it’s the end of the year–actually the new year as I write this–I’m going wrap everything up for the year. So here’s my Pop Culture Free Time 2020. It’s my favorite of everything I read, watched, listened to, and otherwise interacted with in the worst year. More will be coming in the new year, which I hope is better for all of us.
Pop Culture Free Time 2020: The Best Books
I had to delay starting this for about a half hour. That was so I could finish reading my 175th book of the year, completing my reading challenge. Over the course of the year, I read almost 50k pages. That’s as many as 5000 tens!
As expected when you read that much, you suffer through some real stinkers. (No comment.) However, I also read some really good books (looking at you The Only Good Indians, which I reviewed here). Here, I’m just going to talk about books that were brand-new to me and to me talking about them on this site.
First of all, my favorite book of 2020 was probably Dean Koontz’s Devoted. I’ve long believed that, for my money, the greatest thing our dumb species ever did was befriend another one. Koontz’s book blends both the magic of that and a thriller. It focuses on young Woody Bookman, a boy who hasn’t ever spoken, but whose mind is as sharp as anyone’s. Ever since his dad died, Woody has suspected that there was more to it than an accident. At the same time, Kipp, a very good boy who can communicate telepathically, hears Woody’s thoughts. As Kipp’s owner has just passed away, there’s no time like the present for Kipp to come help.
Other books I really enjoyed this year include Alex Finlay’s Every Last Fear and Teen Killers Club by Lily Sparks. The Finlay book, which is about a young man trying to solve his family’s murders, won’t actually be available until March 2021. However, you can get Teen Killers Club now. It’s about–what else? Murder. A teen girl is (maybe) wrongfully convicted of her friend’s murder. Then she gets the opportunity to go to summer camp for young killers. As I wrote on Goodreads, “If it weren’t for the homicidal tendencies, then these would be really sweet kids. The logic probably falls apart if you examine it too closely, but it’s such a cracking, quick read that you won’t have the time.”
My Favorite Movies Of 2020
Despite the pandemic, I still saw a lot of movies in 2020. I also wrote about a lot of movies for the site. Of all the movies I wrote about this year, my favorite was probably The Wolf of Snow Hollow (reviewed here). While not a traditional werewolf movie, it’s still an outstanding film. I wasn’t familiar with Jim Cummings’s work before I saw it, but I quickly caught up. Thunder Road, his debut, has no wolves, but it’s as funny and as moving as Cummings’s follow-up. His work reminds me a lot of the work that Jody Hill and Danny McBride and David Gordon Green do together, and I mean that as a high compliment.
The Kid Detective, image via Sony Pictures Releasing
As for movies I didn’t write about, I really liked The Kid Detective. When I first saw the poster, I was like, “Is this like, grown-up Encyclopedia Brown?” and it was. It follows Adam Brody as Abe Applebaum, who as a kid, was a popular amateur PI. However, his failure to find a missing local girl tarnishes his reputation well into adulthood. Now he’s grown-up and washed-up, but when a teen asks him to find out who murdered her boyfriend, he finally has the opportunity to make things right.
And of course, as the Senior Taylor Swift Stan at Comic Years, I really loved Miss Americana. It is obviously a slickly produced look at someone who rigidly controls her public image. At the same time, you can see that image shift and crackle as she overcomes the fear of taking a stand. (The famously non-political Swift made headlines when she started making political statements in 2018.) Her dad and the rest of her business team want her to keep neutral so she doesn’t alienate anyone. But as she talks about reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, she mentions stalking and gestures toward herself, almost desperately. This is a woman who’s had so many stalkers that you can make listicles about them. Her sincerity here is easy to buy.
The Best Things I Heard
On that note, as I mentioned in my last Pop Culture Free Time for December 2020, I’ve been busy listening to Taylor’s most recent effort, Evermore. I’m still making my way through it. It’s been a challenge for me because I love her first album of 2020, Folklore, so much. I’ve just connected with it in a way I haven’t with Evermore yet. There’s “epiphany,” for instance, which really moved me since my grandfather was also a veteran of the Pacific Theater. (Her grandfather’s experience in the horrors of Guadalcanal inspired the first verse.) One of the first adult realizations I had about his service was that there was so much he couldn’t bring himself to tell me, so the line “And some things you just can’t speak about” hits me square in the gut. Also, my sister is a nurse, so the second verse also hits me pretty hard.
But my favorite song? That would either be “cardigan” or “mirrorball.”
Overall, though, I’m just glad the world’s picking up on what a great songwriter she is. There’s a woman in the Taylor Tiny Desk Concert video who sings along to “All Too Well” (THE GREATEST TAYLOR SONG) with her eyes closed. As I told our Emily, I’m not that gal in actuality, but spiritually, I very much am.
Finally, besides Taylor, I basically listened to like, my murder podcasts and “WAP” on repeat. Also very spiritual.
Now tell me what your favorite pop culture of the year was, either here in the comments or on our social media.
featured image via Amazon Publishing
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at email@example.com.