Year in Review: 2023

Continuing a 23-year tradition of rounding up cultural highlights from the past 12 months, here’s a recap for 2023:

15 Books I Especially Loved This Year

An Additional Batch I Enjoyed

(That first hard-to-ID book is “Pentagram: Living By Design," which I had to scramble to procure before it sold out. The brown one in the middle column is “Scaling People”, a terrific book about team- and company-building. The full list of what I read in 2023 is here.)

Especially grateful for “Succession” (a perfect close), “Patriot” (committed to its singular vision), “Reservation Dogs” (often profound and goofy within the same shot), and “Slow Horses.” Enjoyed “Jury Duty,” “Fleishman Is in Trouble," and “Vienna Blood.” “The Diplomat” was fun in parts.

Each year it’s a fresh bummer to have seen so few new movies, considering how many my wife and I used to see pre-kids. In terms of what I saw: I loved every minute of “Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb,” and also really liked “The Banshees of Inisherein” and “A Quiet Passion.” Two good docs: “Beckham,” “Navalny.” “The Killer” was well-made, but I wondered why I was spending time on that subject. Enjoyed rewatching “Tár” and “After Yang” and “Karate Kid” (Leo screening). Couldn’t get excited about “Mission: Impossible,” except for that last extended escape-the-train scene. Wish I liked more: “Asteroid City." “Air" was entertaining, but didn’t quite seem like a full movie.

Enjoyed new albums from Joanna Sternberg, Youth Lagoon, boygenius, Mitski, Killer Mike, and Veeze (a discovery for me).

New-to-me this year: “Heavyweight” (so late to this; now cancelled : / ), “The CITY Voice,” “After Hours,” “The Power of Teamwork” (it was fun to have pitched this to Adobe; congrats to my former colleagues on S2) and “Dissect”’s deep dive into Radiohead’s “In Rainbows.”

Articles & Essays
A few highlights from The New Yorker: “Words Fail," by Rachel Aviv; “The Fugitive Princesses of Dubai," by Heidi Blake; “The Greatest Showman," by Alex Ross. A few standouts from The Atlantic, which gets better every year: “We’re Already in the Metaverse," by Megan Garber; “The Moral Case Against Equity Language," by George Packer; “The Resilience Gap," by Jill Filipvic; and “Black Success, White Backlash” by Elijah Anderson.

Visual Art
Not a lot of museum-going this year (or travel, which often leads to it). But it’s always such a pleasure to see my wife Tamara open a show at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. Pictured: Opening night at “Faye HeavyShield: Confluences," with our kids vying for the spotlight.

A Song That Struck Me
In many of these year-end posts I include an especially memorable songwriter discovery (Weyes Blood, Haley Heynderickx). This year in his Substack newsletter, Jeff Tweedy mentioned that the band keeps a Spotify playlist where they share music they’ve been enjoying. While streaming that mix in the background, a song called “Life According to Raechel” by Madison Cunningham stopped me cold. Many repeat listens that day, and days after. Here’s a solo version to share with you, followed by one with an ensemble:

Happy New Year, and best wishes for an enjoyable 2024.

Stephen Schenkenberg @schenkenberg