Recommendations for ⓶0️⃣🥈❹

Some content for a new year...

In this last post of 2023, I thought it would be fun to share my favorite content I discovered this year. Not everything here was created or released this past year. But to qualify for the list, it had to be something I only started consuming in these trailing 12 months.

Below that, I also feature some other recommendations from Z-Axis subscribers. There’s great stuff there (most of which I’d never heard of!), so check it out.

If you loved something this year (a book, a movie, an article, a board game, a particular cup of coffee), I’d love to hear your recommendations too! And if you have any thoughts or suggestions for Z-Axis in 2024, please let me know those as well.

My favorite books read in 2023:

  • The Silent Companions, Laura Purcell - This novel, written by British author Laura Purcell, is my undiscovered gem of the year. It’s suspenseful, unsettling, beautifully written, and full of twists and turns. It’s one of those books that I wish I could read anew without knowing what was to come.

  • White Noise, Don DeLillo - This classic is, at its core, a comedy. It takes a while to realize that. But once you do, it’s quite hilarious. DeLillo is one of the greatest writers I know of at the sentence level. (I’m currently reading his book Libra and very much enjoying it too).

  • The Idea Factory, Jon Gertner - This history of Bell Labs is fascinating both because it’s very well researched and well written, but also because it sheds light on just how much of modern life can be traced back to the scientific work done at the research hub.

  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Iain Reid - I flew through this book. Brilliant writing, and an ending that left me unsettled to say the least. It warrants discussion (so if you’ve read it, let me know; I need to talk to someone about it).

  • The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas - After years of being intimidated by this 1,200 page behemoth, I finally took several people’s advice and read the classic. It was as good as they all claimed. A true page turner and one of the best plotted books I’ve ever read.

  • They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Hanif Abdurraqib - A collection of amazing essays, each about a different musical artist (from Prince to the Weeknd to Carly Rae Jepsen). Just hearing Abdurraqib narrate his own words made me appreciate entire genres of music I’d never listened to before. So this is one to consume as an audiobook.

  • Nothing to See Here, Kevin Wilson - A book about two kids that spontaneously combust once in a while. It’s very funny and a very enjoyable read.

  • The Sundial, Shirley Jackson - I’m a huge Shirley Jackson fan, and I’ve already written about this book in another Z-Axis article. But I need to recommend it one more time. The novel deserves to be read and discussed so much more than it is.

    • When I was halfway through watching the Apple TV+ show Severance (in 2022, so I can’t officially recommend it here…), I turned to my wife and said, “I think this show has every single thing I like in a show.” This year, I said the same thing to her about The Sundial (just replace “show” with “book”). I wonder what I’ll say that about in 2024…

Musical artists I discovered in 2023 and highly recommend:

  • Caroline Polachek - Once one half of the great band, Chairlift, she’s now gone on to create some amazing original music. Her latest album, Desire, I Want To Turn Into You, is strange and fun and unlike anything I’ve heard before.

  • Izzy Bizu - Pop+Soul+Jazz. It’s impossible to listen to her music and not feel good.

  • Sunflower Bean - Psychedelic pop, I guess? Their song “Moment in the Sun” was a top track in my Spotify Wrapped.

  • Morrissey - Formerly the lead singer of The Smiths. I stumbled across his song “The First of the Gang to Die” and it has quickly become a favorite.

  • Moonbeau - Retro synth-pop at its best. Check out “Like the Night“.

Now some recommendations from other Z-Axis subscribers:

  • Aaron Weinstein - “Books: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. It’s an older series, but it’s genuinely fantastic. Hysterical, warm, and genuine. It’s deeply humanistic. Movies: I would say Oppenheimer, but that’s a little cliché. Still, it’s a brilliant movie, and has an insightful commentary on morality and responsibility. I think we all have something to learn from the way it presents technology and ethics.”

  • Sam Ward - “Movies: Anatomy of a Fall, Perfect Days, The Boy and the Heron, Beau is Afraid, Poor Things, Brian and Charles, Birth / Rebirth, Thanksgiving, Talk to Me, and Infinity Pool. Shows: Jury Duty, How to with John Wilson, Beef, and Succession. Albums: Overmono - Good Lies, Hammock - Love in the Void, Andy Shauf - Norm, Sufjan Stevens - Javelin, Session Victim - Low Key, Low Pressure, Terr - Consciousness as a State of Matter, Sofia Kourtesis - Madres

  • Gem - “I really enjoyed ‘Tetris’ the biographical thriller film (on Apple+) based on true events around the race to license and patent the video game Tetris. Probably because I am Henk! For all your relentlessly tenacious founders and community friends I think they might enjoy! Plus as a Welshie the lead is the amazing Welsh actor Taron Egerton! 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿”

  • Shankar Vedantam - “The Paradox of Pleasure and The Path To Enough from Hidden Brain. These episodes changed the way I think about many things. They helped me understand there is a connection between everyday, innocuous behaviors and the tragic stories we've all heard about the mental health crisis, the opioid epidemic and the power of addiction.”

  • Sara Lerner - “Books: Real Estate, The Cost of Living, and Things I Don’t Want To Know - a memoir trilogy by Deborah Levy; The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka; and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Movies: The Pigeon Tunnel.”

  • Roee Farjoun - “The Mediocre Man by José Ingenieros, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig (reading it the second time after a bikepacking trip in Patagonia is something else), and The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years, Novel by Chinghiz Aitmatov.“

Thank you to everyone who sent in a recommendation!

Wishing you all happy holidays and a great end of the year. See you in 2024. Thanks as always for reading 🙏