Good Stories List (January 2019)

I’ve been enjoying books, film, animation, poetry, and comics with equal delight this year, and there’s a lot of good storytelling out there to appreciate. This month I’ll post a list of some favorites, along with a few sentences about why they moved me.

Perhaps you’ll find something new to check out? 

Books

Elevation by Stephen King. Somewhere between a short story and a novella, Elevation is a fantastic single-sitting read. There are some lovely deep themes hidden within the narrative, but I won’t write about them here, because I want you to experience it for yourself. But if you see me IRL, let’s talk about it! What do you think the story was really about? I have a theory.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi because it was exciting like Dune but more accessible. A thrilling, deep, and believable story with dialog that made me laugh out loud. Profanity delivered with joyful style can become poetry, and Scalzi’s got the gift! I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series: The Consuming Fire.

Television and Film

Bandersnatch (Netflix) because I loved “Choose your own Adventure” books as a kid, and this movie brings that sensibility to the screen. I adored the way the filmmakers make us (the audience) feel creepily responsible for what’s happening on the screen. Bonus points for 80s nostalgia and for the clever tech wizardry that made the film move forward seamlessly even when you were offered a choice point.

Bumblebee (Film) for so many reasons! The writing was excellent, the story had strong emotional stakes, characters were believable and interesting, and the fight scenes were surprisingly scary. As a casual fan of the franchise, and someone who drove a small yellow beetle as a teenager, I felt like this story was written specifically for me. Bonus points for a relatable antagonist well-portrayed by John Cena. In a world of inscrutable cardboard villains, what a relief to see a “bad guy” with a motive that isn’t merely “he’s evil.” The talented writer behind Bumblebee, Christina Hodson, is also writing Birds of Prey, so I’ll check that out for sure, even though I’m not a Harley Quinn fan. I have a hunch that I’ll enjoy everything her pen touches.

King of the Hill (Hulu) I’m very late to this party, as King of the Hill went off the air in 2010. I’d burned through most of the cartoons I enjoy, and I was looking for something to put on in the background while I worked, and to my delight the show completely won me over. Hank Hill is old-fashioned, stuffy, and the very opposite of “woke,” yet he represents a set of classic (and positive) American values that challenge me to look beyond stereotypes. King of the Hill is deeper than it looks, big-hearted, and a type of comfort food that I didn’t even realize I was missing.

The Orville (Hulu) because it’s like Star Trek the Next Generation with the stuffiness removed. So many sci-fi shows are grounded in external events, where all that matters is the next alien attack or crisis. The Orville tells stories that involve these external threats, but the stories are firmly grounded in the emotional lives of the crew on board. And it’s really funny! The second season is only getting started, but P and I finish each episode and look at one another as if to say, “Damn. That was REALLY good!” Seth McFarlane is at the top of his game as a television writer, and it’s a pleasure to be along for the ride. Season one began as a more traditional sitcom, always going for the big laugh, but it morphed into the kind of show that makes you think and hurts your heart in the best of ways.

Comics

Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons and Dragons by Patrick Rothfuss & Jim Zub. Isn’t it fun when two things you love come crashing together? In this four-part comic book series, Rick and Morty explore the joys and dangers of adventuring, D&D style. Rick’s alignment is Chaotic Awesome, obviously! This is a fun little comic series, not as philosophical or raunchy as the TV version, but highly entertaining.

As I look through this list, I can see that I’ve been drawn toward stories with a strong emotional resonance. Not saccharine tales where everyone is virtuous, but honest stories about struggle, failure, and supporting one another through difficult times. Fun and comedy can take the sting out of a story, but I want the sting too, if you know what I mean.

So that’s what I’ve been enjoying lately. How about you? I’ll leave comments open for a bit in case you’d like to drop in a suggestion for us. 🙂