2017 started off with some big changes for me personally, besides turning 30. I moved into a new house; I got a new, more satisfying job; and I started driving again after six years of relying on public transport. Overall, I find I’m a lot happier than I was last year. I also crossed a couple of items off my bucket list, by visiting Rome for the first time, and by seeing my favourite singer, Celine Dion, live in concert.
With regards to my sixteen New Year’s resolutions, I fully completed eight and partially completed two. Here are some of the things I’ve done connected with those goals:
- I signed up for a triathlon – giving me a reason to start running and thus get more exercise overall – and completed it. My high-school self, who hated P.E., would never have believed it.
- I’ve developed my cooking skills, and am eating more vegetarian meals each week. Plus I achieved my goal of hosting Christmas dinner for my family!
- I completed the 50 Things To Draw sketch book:
- I’ve started making my own YouTube videos. That’s certainly been fun, especially the videos on my top 10 favourite films which I had originally intended as articles for the blog. I’m currently trying to decide what to make videos on next.
- I made some progress on a non-fiction writing project, which I aim to complete before this coming year is out.
- I recorded another audiobook, though it hasn’t been published yet.
- I finally worked up the nerve to try a buzzcut – and I love it!
Plus I’ve still been keeping up this blog, which has been going for nearly four years now: I especially enjoyed doing my series of Titanic Month reviews back in April. I’m thinking of making some changes for 2018, specifically dividing the factual content I sometimes write about from everything else.
I completed a total of 49 books, both fiction and non-fiction. Here are my favourites, though there’s been so many great ones that it was hard to pick:
10. Asperger’s on the Inside by Michelle Vines
I read a few different books on Asperger Syndrome and autism this year. Michelle Vines’s book is notable for both its engaging and humorous style, and for its breadth of content: it tells her life story, but this is interspersed with chapters on how AS affects specific things in everyday life, such as her sense of humour.
09. Bring Back the King by Helen Pilcher
This is a fascinating book on whether it is possible to revive extinct animals, from dinosaurs to passenger pigeons; it goes into the scientific techniques involved and the inevitable obstacles (both practical and ethical), not pulling any punches when it comes to the human impact on the natural world but still managing to make you giggle a lot of the time.
08. Ulysses by James Joyce
I can’t pretend to have fully grasped this famously incomprehensible classic, but I very much enjoyed what I did understand, as well as the variety of styles that Joyce employs and the different subjects that the book ruminates upon. Certainly a reading experience like no other.
07. Under the Dome by Stephen King
I loved this situational story – what if a small town were sealed in an inpenetrable dome – for its massive cast of different characters, the intriguing and less expected directions taken by the plot, and the themes regarding human nature and significance which are explored.
06. Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas
This is the book that Donald Trump really needs to read. It goes into detail of how each degree of increase in the global temperature will affect the environment, and how much trouble we and the rest of the world will be in as a result. A worrying but necessary read.
05. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
A wonderfully charming book, with some very funny moments. The main character is a young girl who is neither infuriatingly bratty nor nauseatingly sweet; she is entirely human, extremely likeable, and successfully matures as the story progresses while still remaining the same in many ways.
04. The Red Rising trilogy (Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star) by Pierce Brown
Set in the far future when humanity has colonised the Solar System, this series tells the story of one young man’s quest to bring down his unjust society. While there are some familiar tropes, there are unexpected twists as well, plus great characters and action. The whole thing is so compelling that having finished Red Rising, I was desperate to start the next installment as soon as I could. Plus it has a fully satisfying conclusion which mostly lives up to everything that’s been built up, unlike some other more disappointing trilogies I’ve read. It feels inevitable that this will be made into a film franchise someday.
03. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
I loved reading this deserved classic for the characters’ fascinating journeys, Tolstoy’s skill for depicting the complex human psyche, and the detailed historical backdrop.
02. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
A lot of this book is just pure fun, with its compelling quest inside a video game world and constant pop culture references. At the same time, however, it raises interesting questions about the nature and value of reality, and depicts a future dystopia which is all too easy to apply to our own world. Here’s hoping the film adaptation which comes out next year lives up to it.
01. NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman
This is an utterly fantastic book, going into detail about the history of the study of autism and Asperger’s on a range of levels: how it was originally diagnosed and perceived, how societal attitudes have gradually changed, and how autistic people have impacted the world in such areas as computing and fandoms. With numerous case studies to describe, the book paints a detailed picture of autism and the diversity of the autistic spectrum, in highly readable prose. Plus it achieves perhaps the best thing that a non-fiction book can, and left me wanting to do more research into the topics covered on my own.
There were a few disappointments on TV this year: Series 10 of Doctor Who fell short of typical standards, and Series 4 of Sherlock was a ridiculous mess. (So yeah, not the best year for Steven Moffat.) But there was plenty of shows that I personally enjoyed as well:
- Series 2 of The Crown (Netflix) and Series 2 of Victoria (ITV) were both just as engaging as their first seasons.
- Series 4 of Agents of SHIELD (E4) started out so-so, making me wonder if it would be best not to have a fifth series. I soon changed my mind, however, when the second half of the season took the story in some brilliant directions, involving an evil android and a virtual alternate world where HYDRA was in charge.
- Yes, Series 7 of Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic) was heavily flawed, with impossibly fast movements between locations, protagonists surviving situations which would have annihilated them in previous seasons, and some character deteriorations (I was especially disappointed with how Littlefinger ended up, considering how savvy he used to be). But it was still entertaining, and it was great to see how the overall story moved forward, with so many important characters finally getting to meet face-to-face.
- Three new Marvel series aired on Netflix: Iron Fist, The Defenders and The Punisher. By far the best was The Punisher, with brutal action, an excellent story, and an amazing performance by Jon Bernthal as the title character.
- Series 10 of Robot Wars (BBC) had a new format which meant each individual robot was guaranteed at least two battles, plus some almighty shocks – who’d have thought Nuts 2 could beat Carbide fair and square?
- Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes (BBC) was a reality show, featuring former astronaut Chris Hadfield, in which twelve contestants took part in various astronaut training tasks, from underwater exercises to docking simulations, in the hopes of winning a reference for the next European Space Agency astronaut recruitment. Apparently reality TV can be smart and inspiring! (Though I do still have a soft spot for I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.)
- Blue Planet 2 (BBC) proved that no matter how much of the natural world has already been covered by documentaries, there’s always something new to explore – with modern camera work and other technologies making the content extra spectacular, and each episode taking time to highlight important environmental issues as well.
I didn’t see quite as many really great films at the cinema as I did last year – though based on other bloggers who have considered 2017 a great year for films overall, there’s some I need to catch up on. Here is my top five (while honorary mentions go to Beauty and the Beast, Logan, The Lego Batman Movie, and War for the Planet of the Apes).
05. Paddington 2
If you enjoyed the first Paddington movie, you’re in safe hands with the sequel. It takes the general positive themes and characters that made the first movie work, while making sure to introduce fresh elements rather than just rehashing what’s already been done. Hugh Grant is especially good as the villain, giving an idea of what he might have been like if he’d gotten to play Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Christopher Nolan does it again with this war film, bringing the Dunkirk evacuation to life with an intense atmosphere and an uncoventional structure.
03. Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman fully deserves its popular status as the only good DC Extended Universe film – though it’s not merely good, but great.
02. Thor: Ragnarok
Narrowly beating Wonder Woman as my favourite superhero film of 2017, Thor: Ragnarok has great performances and a surprisingly comedic atmosphere that somehow works very well.
01. Your Name
Technical issues at my cinema screening aside, this was a beautiful film, both aesthetically and in terms of its heart-wrenching, perfectly crafted story.
After another rough year for the world at large, I hope that you all have a safe and happy 2018.