Good Things

Certain movies, songs, and books have given shape to my life and work. Others have given me some of my happiest moments. I’ve tried to gather all the best stuff on one page.

Books

I record all the books I read on Goodreads. Ten of my favorites:

  1. Worm, Wildbow*
  2. The Book of Disquiet, Fernando Pessoa
  3. Oblivion, David Foster Wallace
  4. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, Lydia Davis
  5. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Eliezer Yudkowsky*
  6. The Dark Forest, Liu Cixin
  7. Getting Things Done, David Allen
  8. The Neapolitan Quartet, Elena Ferrante
  9. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  10. Black Lamb and Gray Falcon, Rebecca West

* = Free to read online

I’ve reviewed many books on Goodreads. I’ve also written about the best books I read in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Movies // TV

I’ve rated every movie or TV series I remember watching on IMDB.

Top five for each:

Movies

  1. Life in a Day
  2. The Act of Killing
  3. The Incredibles
  4. Hereditary
  5. Kung Fu Hustle

Television

  1. Avatar: The Last Airbender // The Legend of Korra
  2. The Good Place
  3. Kaguya-Sama: Love is War
  4. Adventure Time
  5. Taskmaster

Anime // Manga

A surprising percentage of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life were created by Japanese artists. Everything here is in the top ~10% of everything I’ve ever watched or read.

Anime and manga can be hard to get into, so I’ve tried to arrange the following lists by a combination of accessibility (can you understand this without knowledge of other works in the genre, or Japanese culture more generally?) and quality (is it so good that understanding the context doesn’t matter?).

But don’t pay too much attention to the rankings. Just click on some titles and read or watch whatever story sounds interesting. (Or, if it’s a comedy, search it on YouTube and see if you like the sample scenes.)

A few notes before you start:

  • Many of the shows are available on a streaming platform. If not, just look up “TITLE Gogoanime”.
  • My favorite platform for browsing manga is Mangadex.
  • Anime can be a bit slow, and often has a lot of still shots that amplify that feeling. Don’t be afraid to speed things up; I use Video Speed Controller for this.
  • If you want a personalized recommendation, or more details on anything here, ask me!

Anime (Comedy)

  1. Kaguya-Sama: Love is War (absurdist romcom; the best manga ever written and one of the best anime ever made; endlessly inventive)
  2. Nichijou (sketch comedy, brilliant animation, here’s a sample)
  3. Daily Lives of High School Boys (Nichijou with boys and realism, here’s a sample)
  4. Letterkenny (this is Canadian, but it counts as anime, here’s a sample, skip the third episode)
  5. The Tatami Galaxy (college life, bleak but amusing, incredible script)
  6. Azumanga Daioh (cute, character-driven, great faces, here’s a sample, here’s another sample)
  7. Tonari No Seki-Kun (very short episodes, perfect if you want a small bite)
  8. Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei (absolute chaos, how do you even make something like this?)

Anime (Drama)

  1. Violet Evergarden (fiction has made me cry six times; two of them were Violet Evergarden)
  2. March Comes In Like a Lion (chess, depression, hope)
  3. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! (the best depiction of artsy high school students in any medium?)
  4. Ping Pong the Animation (ping pong, animation)
  5. Toradora! (adorable, great for couples, here’s a good summary)
  6. Bloom Into You (lesbians, power dynamics, tragically unfinished)
  7. Odd Taxi (gritty urban mystery)
  8. Aggretsuko (millennials, death metal, Fenneko)
  9. K-On! (girls with guitars)
  10. Welcome to the NHK (realistic portrayal of social anxiety, well-made but very dark)
  11. Bamboo Blade (girls with wooden swords)
  12. My Teen Romantic Comedy Snafu (love triangle, extremely slow burn)

Anime (Action / Adventure / Fantasy, <50 episodes)

  1. Kino’s Journey (original > remake; postmodern road trip)
  2. Vinland Saga (Vikings, revenge)
  3. Mob Psycho 100 (psychic warfare, beautiful fight scenes)
  4. Made in Abyss (cute kids go cliff-diving into Hell)
  5. Beastars (an R-rated version of Zootopia set in a high school drama club)
  6. Dr. Stone (rebuilding civilization after the apocalypse)
  7. Ranking of Kings (fairytale with twists for days)
  8. Cowboy Bebop (Firefly before Firefly)
  9. Re: Creators (existential metafiction with explosions)
  10. Black Lagoon (tropical gangsters, try the English dub)
  11. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (magical girls; not much plot, but every fight is a masterpiece)
  12. One Punch Man (superhero action comedy)
  13. Baki (over-the-top martial arts spectacle)

Anime (Action / Adventure / Fantasy, >50 episodes)

  1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (if there’s a consensus “best anime of all time,” this is it)
  2. Hunter x Hunter (genre-defying hero’s journey, wildly unpredictable)
  3. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (cult favorite, hard to explain; skip to season 3 if you don’t like season 1)
  4. Attack on Titan (Medieval steampunk eldritch horror)
  5. Naruto (the Harry Potter of anime — many literary flaws, but it still just works)

Anime (Movies)

These are more accessible than TV series, so I’ve made them their own category.

  1. The works of Hayao Miyazaki
    1. Spirited Away
    2. Princess Mononoke
    3. Anything else
  2. Your Name
  3. Summer Wars
  4. A Silent Voice

Manga (Comedy)

  1. Kaguya-Sama: Love is War
  2. Azumanga Daioh (manga > anime, buy the whole thing in one volume)
  3. Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-San (the perfect middle school romance)

Manga (Drama)

  1. Buddha (a literary masterpiece, among the best graphic novels ever)
  2. Blue Period (learning to paint, learning to live; manga > anime)
  3. March Comes In Like a Lion
  4. Otoyomegatari (a gorgeous travelogue through 19th-century Asia)
  5. Space Brothers (a love letter to astronauts, engineers, and scientists)
  6. Bakuman (a love letter to commercial artists and editors)
  7. Nickelodeon (magical-realist flash fiction, can be read in one sitting)
  8. Silver Spoon (farming!)
  9. I Had That Same Dream Again (concerns the meaning of life; can be read in one sitting)
  10. Spirit Circle (two lives tangled up in history; almost made me cry)
  11. Golden Kamuy (hunting for gold and fighting bears in the Japanese tundra)
  12. Yugami-kun ni wa Tomodachi ga Ina (neurodivergent romance)
  13. Kakukaku Shikajika (remembering a beloved teacher; definitely made me cry)
  14. Beck (rock and roll)

Manga (Action / Adventure / Fantasy)

  1. Dr. Stone (anime > manga, but the manga is complete and the anime will take many years to finish)
  2. Eyeshield 21 (the best sports manga, not close)
  3. Vinland Saga (anime > manga, both excellent)
  4. Beastars (manga = anime, but the manga is finished and the anime might not)
  5. Death Note (supernatural detective story)
  6. Assassination Classroom (learning to kill, learning to live)
  7. One Punch Man (manga > anime)
  8. Naruto (manga = anime)

Manga (Child Gangsters, yes, this is a genre)

  1. Angel Densetsu (fast-paced comedy, wonderful ending)
  2. Kyou Kara Ore Wa (the manga equivalent of a meandering 19th-century novel)
  3. Holyland (the only work on this list that cares about realistic martial arts)
  4. Tokyo Revengers (emotional catharsis through punching)

Music

I listen mostly to electronic dance music, but also everything else.

Songs

Not my top 30, but 30 of my top 300.

  1. Just One Second, London Elektricity
  2. Ghost Love Score, Nightwish
  3. Come Together, Camo & Krooked
  4. Landsailor, Vienna Teng
  5. 13 Angels On My Broken Windowsill (Fractal remix), BT
  6. Only Now, Seven Lions
  7. Time Adventure, Rebecca Sugar
  8. Almost Human, High Contrast
  9. Without You, Danny L. Harle
  10. 9x Outta 10, DJ Quik & Kurupt
  11. Teenage Birdsong, Four Tet
  12. How Could You, Maduk
  13. Without You, Danny L. Harle
  14. Urge For Going, Joni Mitchell
  15. July Flame, Laura Veirs
  16. Blinded by the Lights, The Streets
  17. Still With Me (Seven Lions Remix), Tritonal
  18. Popcorn, Hot Butter
  19. Long Summer (ShockOne Remix), Ekko & Sidetrack
  20. Someone Great, LCD Soundsystem
  21. Never Say Die, CHVRCHES
  22. LSD, Ghastly
  23. Hitz, Chase & Status
  24. Here With You, Lost Frequencies
  25. You and Me (Flume Remix), Disclosure
  26. Protest Song, Broken Social Scene
  27. Balling, Vibe Chemistry
  28. Without, Funtcase
  29. Pessimist, Koven
  30. Can’t Keep Me Down, Murdock & Shystie

Artists

A few favorites, in alphabetical order:

Adam Ant, Amon Tobin, Angel Haze, Aphex Twin, araabMUZIK, Arcade Fire, Bjork, Broken Social Scene, Burial, Camo & Crooked, Chase & Status, CHVRCHES, Citay, Das Racist, Danny L. Harle, Dead Sara, Depeche Mode, Disclosure, Esperanza Spalding, Florence and the Machine, Four Tet, Fox Stevenson, Fred V & Grafix, Garbage, GHASTLY, Gorillaz, Japandroids, Jlin, Joni Mitchell, Jurassic 5, Kathryn Calder, Kero Kero Bonito, Koven, Kurt Vile, Lizzo, Loadstar, London Elektricity, Lorde, Maduk, Manic Street Preachers, Melt-Banana, Merchandise, Metrik, Mitski, Moby, Neko Case, Nero, Netsky, Nightwish, Noisia, Outkast, Pendulum, Phantogram, Public Enemy, Radiohead, Robyn, Roni Size, Royalston, Run the Jewels, Seven Lions, ShockOne, Skrillex, Sleater-Kinney, Sleigh Bells, Sophie, Special Request, Starkey, Tech N9ne, The Avalanches, The Chemical Brothers, The Chills, The Decemberists, The Flashbulb, The Lonely Island, The New Pornographers, The Stone Roses, The Streets, Thursday, Trentemoller, TV on the Radio, Venetian Snares, Vienna Teng, Wiley, Wilkinson, Yo La Tengo

Albums

A Long Way to Fall, Ulrich Schnauss

Black Noise, Pantha Du Prince

Blackwater Park, Opeth

Blueberry Boat, The Fiery Furnaces

Body Talk, Robyn

Book of Dogma, The Black Dog

Boy in Da Corner, Dizzee Rascal

Bright and Vivid, Kathryn Calder

Dig Your Own Hole, The Chemical Brothers

Endtroducing, DJ Shadow

Funeral, Arcade Fire

Hug of Thunder, Broken Social Scene

I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, Yo La Tengo

Immersion, Pendulum

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Public Enemy

Kid A, Radiohead

Laurel Hell, Mitski

New Forms, Roni Size & Reprazent

No Devolución, Thursday

No More Idols, Chase & Status

One Beat, Sleater-Kinney

Selected Ambient Works 85-92, Aphex Twin

Silent Alarm, Bloc Party

Since I Left You, The Avalanches

Syncopated City, London Elektricity

The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses

The Woods, Sleater-Kinney

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco

Drops

Songs that are good overall and also have ten seconds of explosive perfection.

  1. Billboard, S-Type
  2. Turn It Around, Sub Focus (ft. Kele)
  3. More Than You, Koven
  4. No Turning Back, SPL
  5. Led Astray (Culprate remix), Friction
  6. I Need You (T-Mass Remix), Ramses B
  7. Let You Go, Chase & Status (ft. M. Ali)
  8. Mediums, The Upbeats
  9. Jah No Partial, Major Lazer (ft. Flux Pavillion)
  10. Relapse, ShockOne (ft. Sam Nafie)
  11. Heartbeat (Calyx & Teebee Remix), Wilkinson (ft. P Money & Arlissa)
  12. Clockworks, Canblaster

Comics

  1. Subnormality
  2. XKCD
  3. Kiwis by Beat (especially Minus and Great) (complete)
  4. Calvin and Hobbes (complete)
  5. Transdimensional Brain Chip (complete)
  6. SMBC
  7. Hark! A Vagrant
  8. Digger (complete)
  9. Strong Female Protagonist

Transdimensional Brain Chip is much better than it looks.

Subnormality is hard to get into, but it’s worth the effort once you’re through the early comics. Here are a few of my favorites, all of which can be enjoyed without reading the rest:

The Real World

Laser Tag: My favorite thing to do in physical space. I hope it becomes a professional sport once we live in a post-scarcity society.

Frisbee: My second-favorite thing to do in physical space.

Food: Hot chocolate from Spain, sourdough from San Francisco, sushi from anywhere, protein bars from everywhere.