The Best Music of My 2015

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

Thus, I’ll keep my writing to a minimum.

I listened to ~500 new albums and ~5000 new songs this year.

This means that I wasn’t paying enough attention to most of the music. But to make this list, a song had to catch my attention and keep my thumb on the replay button. Some of the best songs did for me what I imagine powerful drugs do for other people.
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The Best Books of My 2015

I read about 125 books this year, and these are the ones that come to mind when I think of the word “best”. They are very different, and you won’t like all of them, but they all do something well.

To quote my book-review post from last year:

I’ve sorted this list into a series of “bests”: a Best Graphic Novel for people who like those, a Best Book About Selling Stuff for people who like those, and so on. Whoever you are, I’d probably recommend many of these books to you. And some of them are free!

For a list of every book I remember reading, check out my Goodreads account.

 

Best List of All the Books

These are in alphabetical order, save for the first four, which I liked most of all.

  1. Sapiens
  2. The Neapolitan Quartet (series, all four books)
  3. The Book of Disquiet
  4. Negima! Magister Negi Magi
  5. A Civil Action
  6. Azumanga Daioh
  7. Behind the Beautiful Forevers
  8. Digger (free!)
  9. Great (free!)
  10. Gone Girl
  11. Parable of the Sower
  12. Strangers Drowning
  13. Strong Female Protagonist (free!)
  14. The Road to Wigan Pier (free!)
  15. The Vision of the Anointed
  16. The Yale Book of Quotations
  17. Them: Adventures with Extremists
  18. We Learn Nothing

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The Five Best Clickhole Articles of All Time

As I write this post, on February 13th, 2015, clickbait parody site Clickhole is the funniest thing in the world. They leapfrogged The Onion, their sister site, by starting off without 20 years of historical baggage. They produce absurd sketch videos and insane listicles with equal fluency.

I don’t know how long this period will last, because the media Clickhole mocks may not be around for long, and all good ideas inevitably lose steam. But I’d like to honor the art form of the Fake Buzzfeed Article while I can, in the most appropriate possible format — an arbitrary list. No commentary should be necessary.

 

The Five Best Clickhole Articles Of All Time

  1. Are You A Big Jazz Boy, Or A Little Jazz Boy?
  2. George R. R. Martin: “When I Started Writing Game Of Thrones, I Didn’t Know What Horses Looked Like”
  3. They Said He’d Never Walk Again. But Who Were They, And Why Were They Saying Stuff About Him?
  4. 10 Kicks You Should Know About Before You Watch The World Cup
  5. Which One Of My Garbage Sons Are You?

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The Best Books of My 2014

What is the point of writing a “best books of the year” list?

If you are Amazon or the New York Times — and if you are, how are you reading this, you enormous corporation? — you write the list because you expect that people will buy books from you, or at least listen to you, no matter what you recommend.

I do not expect either of those things to happen. At best, the person reading this might decide to look up a single free story on the internet, or check out a single book from the library.

Thus, I’ve sorted this list into a series of “bests”: a Best Graphic Novel for people who like those, a Best Book About Selling Stuff for people who like those, and so on. Whoever you are, I’d probably recommend many of these books to you. And some of them are free, including my #1 for the whole year!

If you’d like to see a list of every book I remember reading, check out my Goodreads account.

 

The Best Books of My 2014

Best List Of All The Books

Not in any particular order, save for #1.

  1. Worm (this year’s favorite) (free!)
  2. Love Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death (free!)
  3. Stories of Your Life (some of the stories are free online)
  4. Complications
  5. A Path Appears
  6. Making Minds Less Well-Educated Than Our Own
  7. Poking a Dead Frog
  8. One More Thing
  9. The Motivation Hacker
  10. Mission in a Bottle
  11. Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got
  12. Ogilvy on Advertising
  13. Building Stories
  14. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
  15. The Charisma Myth
  16. Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead 

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The Human Spirit

My fifth post for the humanist blog Applied Sentience is now live:

http://appliedsentience.com/2014/09/26/death-isnt-the-end-how-humanists-can-think-about-the-afterlife/

Here, I talk about one of my favorite subjects — the seemingly miraculous way that a bunch of individual human beings built the world we live in over the course of a few thousand years.

The secret of our success: Even if people don’t always understand one another, our intentions are similar enough that we manage to create laptops and buildings and pencils.

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The Adventures of Captain Maturity and Puberty Boy

Captain Maturity was down for the count.

As always, he’d gone in carefully, scanning the area for traps. But his caution hadn’t helped him resist the Doom Ray.

Doctor Dubious, Captain Maturity’s arch-nemesis, planted a foot on the hero’s chest and snickered his sinister snicker.

“This was too easy. Is that all you’ve got, Captain?”

Captain Maturity groaned. He couldn’t move, and his mouth refused to form words. He could only hope that his young sidekick wouldn’t rush in like a fool—

“Stop right there, Doctor Dubious!”

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Sky Lanterns and the World of Tomorrow

I just started writing for Applied Sentience, a blog curated by the humanist chaplaincies of various American colleges. This post first appeared over there.

Whether or not you like me, the other folks at Applied Sentience write really great stuff about physics, ethics, religious policy, and many other notable topics. Check them out!

* * * * *

Humanist communities need more wonder.

This isn’t the fault of the humanist communities. Most religious communities also need more wonder. Most people need more wonder.

(The words “awe” and “transcendence” could stand in for “wonder” – I’m referring to that whole category of emotions.)

Whether it comes from the high note of a gospel hymn or the highest rocket in a fireworks display, wonder might just be the single best emotion. Mix wonder with affection, and you get love. Seek out wonder in your daily life, and you might avoid the hedonic treadmill that so often exhausts the pursuers of happiness. As far as I know, wonder never gets boring.

I don’t come by the feeling of wonder easily. And when I do, it’s hard to tell whether the things that give me that feeling will also work for other people.

(For example, most people don’t see dubstep as a quasi-religious experience.)

But last November, I stumbled onto something I think could become a wonder-inducing ritual for humanists around the world. The ritual is cheap, safe, beautiful, and equally accessible to one person or a gathering of thousands.

I could reveal it now, but this essay will make more sense if I tell you a story first.

Read the rest here!