Looking Back at 2016

We can’t know how people will look back on 2016 decades from now, but it has certainly felt tough and filled with uncertainty at this moment. The Olympics were certainly a high point, but times have often been troubled, with the migrant crisis, the conflict in Syria, and multiple terrorist attacks. The British public’s decision to leave the EU, and Donald Trump winning the US presidential election, show that people are not happy with the status quo and want change of some description; now we have to wait to find out if that change will be for the better or worse. Personally, I’m very concerned about having a US president who doesn’t believe in climate change.

So looking back, how has this year been for me?

Writing this post has actually been quite therapeutic. There have been times where I’ve felt disappointed with myself this year. I made 18 New Year’s resolutions: out of those, I’ve definitely completed six – with a seventh pending – and only sort-of completed another two. I haven’t done nearly as much writing as I had hoped, and there have also been some difficult moments in an emotional sense.

But 2016 has still taught me a lot about myself and how I think, and I believe I can apply that self-awareness to achieve more in the future. Frequently this year, I’ve focussed too much on things that haven’t played out as I’d hoped. But as I look back on the positives, I remember just how many there are.

I may only have completed 50% of my resolutions at the most, but I actually completed two of them twice over: I produced two audiobooks, and I travelled somewhere new twice – Belfast and the Philippines, both of which were amazing journeys in their own ways. I’ve witnessed talks by some great people: Buzz Aldrin, Brian Cox, Saba Douglas-Hamilton, Martin-Hughes-Games and Iolo Williams. I’ve been working on a family tree: it’s still a work in progress, but it’s given me some very interesting insights. I’ve still kept up this blog, and completed my Harry Potter re-reading project for it – on a bigger scale than intended, as I hadn’t originally planned to review all the Harry Potter films as well. Thanks to an invitation from Rachel Wagner, I’ve been taking part in podcasts on YouTube, which has made me want to try making videos of my own once I decide on a subject.

I still have a wonderful family and brilliant friends which I am very thankful for. My family recently adopted another dog: a labrador named Aero, who is now enjoying a comfortable retirement after a long, respectable career as a Canine Partner. Despite being considerably older than our golden retriever Finlay, he still has a great deal of energy and willingness to play, as well as being very affectionate!

I am also on the verge of completing my project to watch 53 great films that I’d never seen before. (Thanks to a mix-up with Sky Planner, I’ve only watched half of The Sting and have to wait until New Year’s Eve to see the second half.) Here are my favourites out of those!

15. Mulholland Drive (2002)

14. Psycho (1960)

13. Double Indemnity (1944)

12. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

11. Brazil (1985)

10. The Third Man (1949)

09. Song of the Sea (2014)

08. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

07. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

06. Good Will Hunting (1997)

05. Strangers on a Train (1951)

04. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

03. Life is Beautiful (1997)

02. Gone with the Wind (1939)

01. Before Sunrise (1995)

And here are the top 10 films I saw in the cinema this year:

10. Pete’s Dragon
I came close to crying at this lovely Disney film – and just coming close to making me cry is something few films can do.

09. Dad’s Army
I don’t expect this film will appear on many people’s Top 10s, given that it only has 31% on Rotten Tomatoes. But contrary to my expectations, it was respectful to the original show and made me laugh a lot, as well as the rest of the audience in my cinema.

08. Moana
This film boasts a great story and characters, beautiful animation, and some of Disney’s best songs in recent years.

07. The Revenant
Leonardo diCaprio definitely earned that long-awaited Oscar, with his challenging performance in this long, harsh, absorbing film.

06. Love & Friendship
This Jane Austen adaptation is wonderfully witty, and very funny even for modern audiences.

05. Kubo and the Two Strings
I loved both the heartfelt adventure story and the unique, creative animation in this film.

04. Zootropolis
Another winner from Disney, delivering excellent characters, good laughs, and a relevant moral without bashing the audience over the head.

03. Captain America: Civil War
Showing Batman v Superman how it’s done, this film is exciting, well-edited, makes you care about the conflicts of its characters, and features one of the best and most indulgent superhero fight scenes ever.

02. The Hateful Eight
This Quentin Tarantino-directed film is perfectly constructed, with all the tension, violence and brilliant character interactions that is typical of his work.

01. Sully
Although I technically gave The Hateful Eight a higher rating, Sully is my favourite for the year as I felt more of a connection to it: it stars my favourite actor, Tom Hanks, and is based around a subject I’m very interested in. It recreates the Miracle of the Hudson in excellent detail, while taking a compelling look into the mind of the reluctant hero Sullenberger, perfectly portrayed by Hanks.

And now, my favourite books that I either read or listened to this year:

10. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, JK Rowling & John Tiffany (book)
Yes, it has its flaws, it’s just a screenplay, and I still prefer to think of the Deathly Hallows epilogue as the “true” ending – but it was still a worthwhile read and a pleasure to revisit the characters I’ve loved for so long.

09. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (audiobook)
The third of the Cormoran Strike books is the best one yet, featuring an intriguing mystery, and new developments in the relationship between Strike and his assistant Robin.

08. My Man Jeeves by PG Wodehouse (book)
I tried out the first of the Jeeves & Wooster books this year, and found it an absolute riot.

07. Breaking the Chains of Gravity by Amy Shira Teitel (audiobook)
I discovered Amy Shira Teitel’s YouTube videos on space history this year, and quickly looked up the book she had written. It tells the lesser known story of rocketry and the dream of spaceflight before the formation of NASA in 1958, so is definitely worth reading even if you’re already a spaceflight buff.

06. A History of the World by Andrew Marr (audiobook)
This audiobook was a long one but worth it, covering world history in a diverse series of compelling individual stories. It may not be able to cover everything, but it does a good job of painting the big picture with the little details that it chooses to explore.

05. Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard (book)
A brilliant thriller with a detailed, well-written, unpredictable mystery at its heart.

04. Into the Black by Rowland White (audiobook)
This book tells the story of the Space Shuttle – from its conception, to its first flight in 1981 – and the people who played a part in it. Being most familiar with the earlier days of manned spaceflight, a lot of this book’s contents were also new to me, and I found it very interesting and well-presented.

03. The Clifton Chronicles (Books 1-3) by Jeffrey Archer (books)
This year, I’ve read the first three books in The Clifton Chronicles: Only Time Will Tell, The Sins of the Father and Best Kept Secret. Jeffrey Archer is one of my favourite authors, and his story of the Clifton family is highly engaging, relatively easy reading that I’ve been devouring so far.

02. Fear the Sky by Stephen Moss (audiobook)
This alien invasion story is very detailed and very clever, both from the perspective of the aliens’ strategy and the humans’ plans – and use of new science – to thwart them. The second installment, Fear the Survivors, is just as good; but the third, Fear the Future, is unfortunately let down by too much filler and meandering.

01. The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell (book)
This consists of three books – My Family and Other Animals; Birds, Beasts and Relatives; and The Garden of the Gods – in which Gerald Durrell recalls his childhood, when he and his family moved to the Greek island of Corfu. His stories describe the antics of his slightly dysfunctional family and their acquaintances on the island, and his own explorations of Corfu’s wildlife, which would often lead to trouble as he gradually filled the family home with his pets. Very detailed as a travel memoir and a nature book, and also extremely funny, this is highly recommended.

In closing, while I’m still figuring out the details, I’m hoping that I can take some forward steps and get some more achievements under my belt in 2017 – especially as I’m reaching the dreaded milestone of 30 next year.

About R.J. Southworth

Hi there. I've been blogging since January 2014, and I like to talk about all sorts of things: book reviews, film reviews, writing, science, history, or sometimes just sharing miscellaneous thoughts. Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope you find something that interests you!
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