Year in Review: 2020

*Sylvie, sipping through a backyard quarantine concert by a friend and SLSO musician*

Year 20 of my annual cultural-recap tradition was quite something.

Thus far my family’s had good fortune amid the global pandemic, so we’re spending most of our time feeling grateful, yet exhausted, then grateful, yet exhausted.

With lots of time at home, there was some enjoyable culture to take in. Here’s a look at some highlights:


  1. The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches & Meditations, Toni Morrison
  2. Uncanny Valley: A Memoir, Anna Wiener
  3. Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, George Packer
  4. Having and Being Had: Eula Biss
  5. My Parents: An Introduction, Aleksandar Hemon
  6. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, Cathy Park Hong
  7. Weather, Jenny Offill
  8. Promised Land, Barack Obama
  9. Then the Fish Swallowed Him, Amir Ahmadi Arian
  10. Jack, Marilyn Robinson
  11. My Life in France, Julia Child
  12. Severance, Ling Ma
  13. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson
  14. Luster, Raven Leilani
  15. Intimations, Zadie Smith
  16. Monocle: How to Make a Nation
  17. The Passion Economy, Adam Davidson
  18. These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson, Martha Ackmann
  19. Wine Simple, Aldo Sohm
  20. Normal People, Sally Rooney
  21. The Lying Lives of Adults, Elena Ferrante
  22. Girl, Edna O’Brien
  23. Lurking: How a Person Became a User, Joanne McNeil
  24. How to Be a Family, Dan Kois
  25. Mies van der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and the Fight Over a Modernist Masterpiece, Alex Beam
  26. The Secret Lives of Color, Kassia St. Clair
  27. No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram, Sarah Frier
  28. Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest, Hanif Abdurraqub
  29. How to Write One Song, Jeff Tweedy
  30. How Architecture Works, Witold Rybczynski
  31. Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State, Barton Gellman
  32. To Start a War, Robert Draper
  33. The Spy Masters: How the CIA Directors Shape History and the Future, Chris Whipple
  34. Agent Running in the Field, John le Carré
  35. The Monocle Guide to Better Living
  36. Hell and Other Destinations, Madeline Albright
  37. The Ride of a Lifetime, Robert Iger
  38. Bitter Brew, William Knoedelseder


  1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (exquisite, perfect)
  2. Parasite
  3. Booksmart
  4. Marriage Story
  5. Little Women
  6. Uncut Gems
  7. 1917
  8. Meyerowitz Stories: New & Collected
  9. The Irishman
  10. The Trip to Greece
  11. Palm Springs
  12. Rams
  13. Knives Out
  14. The Other Guys
  15. Maggie’s Plan
  16. Shoplifters
  17. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  18. The Price of Everything
  19. Ford v. Ferrari
  20. Despicable Me

TV Shows

  1. Better Call Saul, Seasons 4 and 5
  2. Atlanta, Seasons 1 and 2
  3. Schitt’s Creek, All Seasons
  4. Never Have I Ever
  5. Call My Agent, Season 1
  6. Roadkill
  7. Devs
  8. Great British Bake-Off, Season 6 and 8
  9. Ted Lasso

Visual Art
I can’t recall a year when I saw less art — whether here in St. Louis or in cities we didn’t travel to. With that unfortunate reality, I’m especially grateful to have been able to see the fantastic exhibition “Terry Adkins: Resounding” at the Pulitzer this summer.

Favorite new discoveries: The Modern House Podcast, Distributed, with Matt Mullenweg, Siegel+Gale Says, and Simplicity Talks. Valuable mood-improver for 2020: Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.

My Spotify’s a shared-with-kids mess, and for loads of weekly hours I stream jazz and classical music that I don’t make a note of to be recalled. That said, I did especially enjoy new records from Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers, Adrianne Lenker, Jeff Tweedy, Lomelda, Bob Dylan, Run the Jewels, and Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist. I’m grateful to have been turned on to the music of Big Thief, Harold Budd (via the e-newsletter Flow State), Eleanor Bindman, and Haley Heynderickx, whose “Oom Sha La La” always brightened our family’s quarantine, with the kids screaming and jumping along to the swelling refrain, “I need to start a garden!” Here’s to what’s to come.

Stephen Schenkenberg @schenkenberg