Best of 2015 – Top Five-ish (books, films, TV, shows, meals, and moments)

Now that I’m firmly in 2016, I can finalise my “Best of 2015” list—and I’m glad I waited, because there were some wonderful last-minute additions! Here are some of my favourite books, films, TV shows, shows, meals, and moments from 2015:

Books

Since I only read 37 “funfunfun” (i.e. non-academic/work-related) books this year, it wasn’t too difficult to choose my top five. I’m particularly glad I did my three reading challenges, because I wouldn’t have discovered some of these otherwise! I’ve included the “overall” reason I’ve picked these books, but do please click on the titles to read the full “review”. These are listed alphabetically, because I’m indecisive enough as is. ;)

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

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Overall: Although this is a pretty short book, I loved every moment of it, and found myself quite sad to see it end. That being said, the particularities of the ending… Well, I shan’t say anymore, except that I adored it to bits. If you’re a fan of the general feel and pace found in Jane Austen’s novels, you should check out this gem.

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

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Overall: This novel is exactly why I participate in and host alphabet reading challenges, which encourage me to go beyond my current reading circle and discover new writers and books. And what an amazing discovery—highly recommended for children and grown-ups alike.


Queen of Spades and Other Short Stories by Alexander Pushkin

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Overall thoughts: I read “The Queen of Spades” about a decade ago, and though I enjoyed it back then, I definitely appreciated it a lot more this time round. Pushkin’s writing has such a wonderful economy and clarity, and his pacing and characters are just spot on. Of the four short stories, my favourite was “The Captain’s Daughter”, which is just so well-told, and made me want more more more. I think Pushkin had intended it to be a longer work, but alas, it is now up to fanfiction writers… (Now there’s an idea!)


Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy

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Overall: Resurrection has cemented the truth that my heart does indeed belong to the nineteenth century. I had the pleasure of reading this while on a four-night retreat tucked away in Bohemian Czech Republic, during which I took in the sun and basically read, wrote, ate, and slept—and it was glorious. If you’re at all into long, heavy novels of the later nineteenth century, go read Resurrection.


A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

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Overall: Wow, what a book. I loved almost everything about it: the characters, the portrayals of two different societies and worlds, the beautifully rich Japanese culture, the story-telling, the prose, and goodness me, the characters and cultures! Yes, I’m repeating myself, but no, I don’t care because the novel was amazing, and if you’re at all interested in a pretty accessible and absolutely stunning piece of literary fiction, then look no further.


Honourable mentions: An Equal Music by Vikram Seth, On the Good Life (a Penguin collection) by Cicero, and Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell.


Films

This was a pretty tough one, since I’ve been going to the pictures practically every week—and sometimes several times per week. The perks (dangers?) of working in film studies! With the exception of final title, all these were either produced in or has a UK release of 2015. I’ve tried to sum up in one short sentence why I’ve chosen these, else we’ll be here till 2017! Again, these are listed alphabetically.

Brooklyn (dir. John Crowley)

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Tugged at all my expat and Isle of Ireland heartstrings.


Carol (dir. Todd Haynes)

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Cinematic perfection.


Room (dir. Lenny Abrahamson)

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An extraordinary tale, extraordinarily told.


Selma (dir. Ava DuVernay)

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Heartbreaking and hopeful, all at the same time.


X + Y (dir. Morgan Matthews)

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Had me bawling at the end of a 14.5-hour flight, and still teary while I boarded my connecting 8-hour flight.


Honourable mentions: Inside Out (dir. Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen), The Lady in the Van (dir. Nicholas Hytner), Macbeth (dir. Justin Kurzel)


TV shows

I watched way too many shows in 2015—and I have no regrets, because I’ve also managed to complete several scarves and other knitted goods in the process! This was super duper difficult to narrow down (which is why there are as many honourable mentions as the list itself). Alphabetically arranged, for the same reasons as above. ;)

Castle

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I’m pleasantly surprised that even in Season 8, this show has remained amazing, with excellent character development and stories.


iZombie

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My friend Maria recommended this one, and I wasn’t sure at first…and then.


Madam Secretary

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There’s enough political intrigue to keep the drama going, but what keeps drawing me back are the wonderful characters.


Nashville

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Again, this one’s Maria’s fault–she gave me the first three seasons, and after a bingefest earlier this year, I was ready to pack my bags, move to Nashville, and try my hand at some serious singer-songwriting.


Sense8

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This show had me watching watching–no knitting, no nibbling. Quite a feat, since I can be rather restless when it comes to TV!


Honourable mentions: The Flash, Grey’s Anatomy, Marvel’s Daredevil, Suits, UnREAL.


Shows

I didn’t get to see quite as many shows as I’d liked in 2015, but that’s because I’m greedy and want to see them all, all the time! Some of these were simulcasts I caught at the cinema—gotta love them! Ordered by date.

  • Love’s Labour’s Lost and “Love’s Labour’s Won” (Much Ado About Nothing) by Shakespeare (The Royal Shakespeare Company, dir. Christopher Luscombe) (simulcast, March)
  • The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart (Opera North, dir. Jo Davies) (live @ Belfast’s Grand Opera House, March)
  • As You Like It by Shakespeare (Shakespeare’s Globe, dir. Blanche McIntyre) (live @ the Globe, May)
  • Don Giovanni by Mozart (live @ Estates Theatre, Prague, July)
  • The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky (The Royal Ballet) (simulcast, December)

Honourable mention: Mozart’s Requiem on the anniversary of his death in St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna (December).


Meals

I’ve had my fair share of wonderful dining experiences in 2015, and decided to list the most memorable ones—these aren’t only based on the food and/or service, but also my company (or book).

  • Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London (May): Thanks, mum and dad!
  • Restaurant Coda, Prague (July): Adored the Czech degustation, and was very happy with the excellent service (might have to do a proper blog post about this one!)
  • Erlebniswelt SteinReich, Dresden (August): Great food and service–and I got some nice writing done, too!
  • Sepia Restaurant, Sydney (September): 9-course degustation with wine, and my friend Anika, one of my favourite dining partners.
  • Silvio Nickol, Vienna (December): 10 courses, 6 hours, and much contentment.

Honourable mention: India Gate, Belfast (December)


Moments

And finally, here are some of my favourite moments from the past year.

  • Reading the markers’ comments on the final essays of my second-year Renaissance students, and discovering that my wee ones had absorbed all the poetic techniques I’d taught them throughout the term. (May)
  • Paying my respects to J. S. Bach in Leipzig, which was then followed by visiting Handel’s birthplace in Halle, Saale. (July)
  • Spending four glorious days soaking up the sun and heat, reading Tolstoy and writing a Regency Love novel, while tucked away in Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. (August)
  • Discovering our amazing fans had put Regency Love onto Wikipedia. (September)
  • Mistressing the Ceremony out of Yang Yang and Ben’s wedding in Shanghainese, Mandarin, and English—and with my Sailormoon props. (October)
  • Visiting Herr Mozart’s grave on the anniversary of his death, and, while wrapped up in my gloves, hat, and scarf, listening to the second movement of his Oboe Concerto. (December)
  • Being surrounded by the love and warmth of strangers-turned-friends in Belfast and Northern Ireland over the Christmas season, which made this wee Australian expat very grateful indeedy. (December)
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Rolling around in front of the fire with my friend’s dog on Christmas at said friend’s family home.

Onto an even more amazing and super jam-packed 2016! :D

3 thoughts on “Best of 2015 – Top Five-ish (books, films, TV, shows, meals, and moments)

  1. I’m hoping to read Cranford sometime soon. I love Gaskell’s novels.
    I’m totally jealous of the shows you got to watch! I love Marriage of Figaro and really anything Mozart.
    I hope you have just as an amazing year in 2016!

    • Thanks, Lois! I’d love to know what you think of Cranford when you get around to it! :D

      And yeeeeeeees, Mozart! I find I don’t get into 19thC opera in the same way as I do with Mozart, so it’s a real privilege to be able to catch as many performances of his music as possible (and at reasonable prices, too–one thing I love about living in Europe after growing up in Australia!).

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