Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

The best of my year

ACCORDING TO A recent survey, the average American has $175 of unredeemed gift cards tucked away somewhere—a sum likely to increase at Christmas. But don’t worry, I can help you spend that money, with my 2022 Abby (Andy Butcher’s Best of the Year) Award recommendations.

Here are 10 highlights from my year’s reading, listening, watching, thinking and living.

Christian Book of the Year: Pastor Brian Zahnd offers a loving but stinging rebuke to parts of the American church in Postcards from Babylon: The Church in American Exile. In it, he identifies its greatest failing to be allowing itself to be seduced by materialism, militarism and individualism. An uncomfortable but important read.

General Book of the Year: Honest, insightful self-deprecating, Elton John’s Me autobiography (released in late 2019) is by turn amusing and affecting. A fascinating self-portrait of one of popular music’s most iconic figures, it’s also a masterclass in ghostwriting. Collaborator Alexis Petridis seems to have caught the manner seen in interviews through the years. Worth pairing with the Disney+ recording of the singer’s farewell U.S. concert at Dodgers Stadium.

Series of the Year: Jeremy Allen White stars in the FX series The Bear as Carmy Bezatto, a one-time darling young chef who returns to Chicago to try to save his late brother’s rundown café. Great acting and editing in a gritty but redemptive drama with a bit of a potty mouth.

Movie of the Year: That we only just discovered this 2014 gem reveals how much our finger isn’t on the film world pulse. Jon Favreau wrote and starred in Chef, the adventures of a one-time elite cook trying a comeback with a food truck (how quaint!); slight plot-wise but rich in character and mouthwatering style.

Documentary of the Year: When actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought a struggling Welsh soccer club, many wondered how serious they were about restoring the fortunes of not just of the team, but its community. FX’s Welcome to Wrexham shows the two to be men of conviction. An inspiring and insightful fly-on-the-wall chronicle of their progress.

Podcast of the Year: People go in search of long-lost loves, people they want to apologize to for past wrongs and answers to questions that still torment them years later. Their confessions and discoveries in Heavyweight are moving and thought-provoking. Jonathan Goldstein hosts with just the right blend of heartfelt empathy and humor.

Album of the Year: Best known as the bass player for the admirable War on Drugs, Dave Hartley and his long-running side project, Nightlands, deliver some delicious, dreamy, ethereal pop on Moonshine. Calling it great background music is a compliment, not a slight: it doesn’t demand center stage, but it sure adds to the scenery.

App of the Year: Be Real is kind of an unsocial media experience for friends: a random nudge each day to post a picture of just what you’re doing and just what you look like there and then—no filters, no posing, no sweating over just the right caption. A fun glimpse into the mundane, the everyday, the ordinary—the real.

Thought of the Year: Spoken by a therapist who was leading a Zoom conference on the challenges facing those in recovery from addiction: “You can drive 100 miles, but you’re still only two feet from the ditch.” A helpful caution for anyone who thinks they’ve “got things under control.”

Person of the Year: Long-time Abby followers will not be surprised to learn of a repeat winner here. Therapist and bestie Marcia Butcher continues to amaze and delight me with her cheerfulness, kindness, compassion, creativity and commitment to living and loving God’s way. What a joy to be able to accompany her.

And how about you? Any suggestions from your year on how I might spend any gift cards and add to my reading, listening, viewing and reflecting list?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: