The year is almost over, so it’s time to send my list of favourites for the year: books, magazines, movies, TV and apps. I’m sure I’ve missed much, so let me know what you liked, and if I get enough, I‘ll send out a readers list!
Mission: Impossible – Fallout The movie is essentially a world-famous 56-year old actor (Tom Cruise) doing his own stunts that include jumping across buildings, jumping off planes and crashing helicopters. And lots of scenes of him running. There is a plot somewhere, and the supporting actors are good with a fun scene of Superman Henry Clavill “reloading” his fists in a fight. Action movies as they should be.
Black Panther With so many superhero movies out this year (Avengers 3, Venom, Antman 2, Deadpool 2, Aquaman, Incredibles 2), it is hard for one to stand out, but Black Panther has to be the best. It also happens to be the top grossing superhero movie ever in the US – making more money than any of the Avenger movies. What makes it stand out is the villain, Michael B Jordan’s Killmonger. You feel his pain and anger and almost root for him.[SPOILER] I was actually sad when he died. Of course, the visuals of Wakanda, the plot and action scenes were good too. And what made it better than “Avengers Infinity War” was that the villain in that movie, Thanos, was essentially a lumbering CGI blob. Plus, when half the Avengers die, but you know they’ll return, you feel short-changed. Oh and I have to give a shout-out to the scene of baby Jack Jack fighting a raccoon!
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse I was almost tempted to say this was the best superhero movie of the year. It has absolutely amazing and original visuals for an animated movie mixing ultra-realistic scenes with comic book graphics. It was a great story of a Cuban-American boy becoming Spiderman, and then meeting spider-people from parallel universes including a female one, a porky pig one (Spider Ham) and crime noir one!
Searching Super original thriller about a father looking for his missing 16yr old daughter. The unique angle is that the film is shown entirely through screens like the laptop of the daughter, Skype, CCTV cameras, I-Phone screens etc. You wouldn’t think it would work, but it does! It’s got a nice twist too.
BlacKKKlansman Very funny though chilling at times movie based on the true story of African American police officer who infiltrates the white supremacist group, the KKK. He does this by impersonating a KKK wannabe on the phone and uses his Jewish colleague as his surrogate for in-person meetings. It’s so nutty it had to be true.
The Death Of Stalin Comedy and satire of the Soviet Union which revolves around Ministers attempting to grab power after Stalin’s death. Captures well the insecurity, passing the buck and incompetence that often pervades large bureaucracies in government or even in large companies
The Meg Everyone is allowed a guilty pleasure and this is mine. Who can’t love a move that pits British action hero Jason Statham against a giant shark.
Killing Eve A desk-based agent (Sandra Oh) has to go the hunt for a young (bored) female assassin. But their lives become entangled more that it should, and the true puppet masters are not who you expect. Both a thriller and dark comedy. Well worth watching.
Bodyguard A smash hit that was even referenced by the British PM, Theresa May. It’s a heart pulsating thriller revolving around an ex-army bodyguard to the Home Secretary who gets drawn into dealing with terrorist attacks and the like. But it deals with those topics in a much more complex way than many TV shows do. Lots of surprises and with some clichés like he suffers from inner demons.
Seven Seconds A Caucasian cop accidently kills an African American boy, but then his boss covers it up. The family tries to pursue justice, the cop feels guilty, the boss spirals out of control. Intense, great acting and moody. Loved it.
Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife – what makes Ali Wong so funny is the dissonance between her appearance pregnant Asian-American and the expletive-laden jokes coming out of her mouth. Of course, every joke is very very funny.
Dave Chappelle: Equanimity – Chappelle is the master of skewering political correctness. He talks race, transgender issues and politics.
APPS and WEB
Geoguessr.com Just discovered this. Open the site, it randomly lands somewhere in the world, you view the area through Google Street View, you can then move around and you have to guess where you are. You get points based on how close you were to the correct location. Fantastic game and great to play with the family.
Darebee.com Excellent ad-free non-profit resource for exercise and fitness. Has great simple workplans like the one at the bottom of the email for how to work different muscle groups.
Tired of Pasted Text Messing Up Your Formatting? Try This Simple, but has changed my life !
Inside.com People often ask me how I find some much good stuff to read. Well, this site has helped me lots. The people behind it curate content for different topics, like venture capital or bitcoin, and send it out in regular newsletters.
Sonarworks True-Fi I’m experimenting with this and it looks promising. It optimises your particular brand of ear/headphones. It has a huge selection of brands and models, so I’m sure you’d fine your earphones. And with my airpods, it certainly has made a difference given music more of a “surround sound” feel. It connects to Spotify or other music streaming apps.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
If you like Christopher Nolan movies such as “Inception” and “Memento” or Tom Cruises “Live.Die.Repeat”, then you’ll love this book. Stunningly original. Aiden has to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle at a celebration in a country house. But there’s a twist. He enters into other people’s bodies over the course of the day and through them has to find the murderer. If he can’t solve it, he starts the day again. A real thriller with some great turns of phrases like “News travels fast in Blackheath [the country house]…Boredom’s very flat ground”, “Their manners are a mask, you’d do well to remember that”, and “Working within the confines of Jonathan Derby’s intellect is like stirring croutons into a thick soup”
Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
A collection of seven short stories. Really a study on solitude through the prism of men’s relationships with women. He writes in a very efficient way, adds twists to each plot and provides ambiguity – perfect easy but meaty reads.
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
This book actually came out a few years ago and won the Booker prize. It has a crazy plot-line. The protagonist, an African-American, wants to re-instate slavery to his hometown. By the end of the book, you can see where he was coming from. And along the way, the story is funny, very insightful and silly. The writing style is also great – with its own rhythm.
Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I struggled with new releases this year, so again I’d highlight an older book. Clay Jannon gets a job in a 24hr book store in San Francisco. He soon discovers there’s only handful of clients, who take out obscure books from odd parts of the shop. Clay discovers there’s a pattern to this all and embarks on a journey to understand what it is. The book mixes Silicon Valley culture with a hint of Da Vinci Code-style problem solving. Fun.
Capitalism Without Capital by Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake.
Probably the most original book on economics I’ve read in years. It argues that many economies are becoming dominated by intangible assets such as the brands, platforms and networks. The way to understand their value and impact on society are fundamentally different to conventional economics which implicitly assumes all assets behave like tangible ones (factories and shops).
Skin In the Game by Nassim Taleb..
As usual, Taleb punctures conventional wisdom with some clever ideas on trusting those that have skin the game rather “intellectuals” or “politicians” who won’t suffer the consequences of their decisions. Also, his rehabilitation of the value of religion is noteworthy.
Longevity Diet by Valter Longo.
My favourite book on health. A very logical approach to determine the secret of long life by using methods from cellular science to centenarian studies (Eg Okinawan society ). I blogged on this too.
Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday.The book is framed as an exposition of how conspiracies unfold, but the book is really the rip-roaring account of Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel vendetta against Gawker through using the wrestler Hulk Hogan’s sex tape scandal!
GRAPHIC NOVELS and MAGAZINES
Back To the Future by Irina Wening
Photography book that features pictures of the same person in identical poses as a child and as an adult! (See picture at the top). Awesome!
I always struggle with philosophy and so a graphic novel/comic on the journey of Betrand Russell trying to understand truth is much easier to consume.
I love magazines. This year I discovered this one. It comes out every two months and features essays, interviews, comics and poetry on a range of topics. The latest has an essay on an $800 freshwater aquarium, an interview with the director of bad taste, John Waters and poetry on Martin Luther King
An absolutely beautiful magazine/journal for travellers. Each edition focuses on one country and reveals aspects of the country you didn’t know. Countries it has featured include England, Japan, India and New Zealand.
Probably the best magazine on movies. Each edition features essays, comics and stories about movies starting with a letter of the alphabet. I got “H” and its stuff on “La Haine”, “Heat” (see picture below) and “Hulk”