16 books, 16 albums & 16 places for twenty-sixteen

preamble | books | albums | places

2016 doesn’t seem like a year that I, or many people, will look back on very fondly. When you group things together so arbitrarily as having occurred in the same year (as I am wont to do), things get lumped together that shouldn’t, like our impending nuclear war with the Warriors blowing a 3-1 lead in the finals to the Cavs. 2016 was confusing, but the great things about it should be remembered.

And what was great about 2016 is idiosyncratic. We each experienced 2016 our own way. What I would like to present to you are some dozen things I experienced for the very first time in 2016, a series of suggestions of things for you to experience in these waning days of American democracy, and, if possible, beyond.

As usual, I try to make these things as resourceful as possible. With a book or album, I believe it is the material itself that is going to convince you to pay attention to it, not what I have to say about it, and so I have tried to make that material accessible to you from wherever you are right now. For books, when possible, I have linked to excerpts and occasionally its full-text. For albums, I’ve linked to each album on Spotify and embedded a video of a song off the album. This year I made the Places section into a perhaps-a-bit-self-indulgent photoessay, which includes descriptions of my experiences, links and photos intended to convince you to go to each place yourself. Uncredited photos taken by yours truly.

Please enjoy.

16 books for 2016



Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma (2016)

Jansma is 2-for-2 at writing near-perfect novels.



The Way Through Doors by Jesse Ball (2009)

Gateway book via gateway story. I read every Jesse Ball book this year. This one blew me away in its inventiveness and its humanity. But really, you should read anything he’s written that you can find.



The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing (1946)

I’m no expert on this, but I’d wager that this is up there among the greatest noir novels ever written.



Amerika by Franz Kafka (1927)

Kafka maybe at his most accessible, and his most comical.



Outsider in the White House by Bernie Sanders (2015)

If only.



Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)

“This is required reading.” -Toni Morrison



Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire (1968)

This is required reading.



The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O’Connor (1960)

Capital S, capital G Southern Gothic.



The Curfew by Jesse Ball (2011)

The second best Jesse Ball book I read this year.



Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer (2003)

The best short story collection I read this year. Our Lady of Peace (linked above) was particularly poignant for me.



Bobcat and other stories by Rebecca Lee (2012)

The second best short story collection I read this year.



Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski (1982)

Bildungsroman Bukowski. Pretty fantastic stuff.



But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman (2016)

This was already covered in the intro to my updated list of all-time favorite albums. But I will say that it made reading the simulation hypothesis explanation for ‘misremembering’ that Sinbad was in a movie called Shazaam more real to me.



Take It or Leave It by Raymond Federman (1976)

Metafiction, wonderfully crafted.



Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters (2016)

An alternate history where the South won the Civil War.



Remainder by Tom McCarthy (2007)

Maddening and horrifying. Four stars.

NOTE: This year I challenged myself to read 55 books. I met and, according to Goodreads, exceeded that goal by 1 book (there were a couple of rereads in there as well). I think my list reflects my preoccupation with completing my challenge. I’m not saying that all of these books aren’t worth your time, just that if I hadn’t taken this challenge that this list would look different (i.e. I put off reading several time-consuming books out of worry that they would keep me from reaching my goal). I’ve sworn off challenges for 2017, and think my 17 books for 2017 list will reflect that.


16 albums for 2016



RAM by Paul & Linda McCartney (1971)

2016 was the year I discovered solo/post-Beatles McCartney. Fantastic stuff. RAM would probably have made this list had I started a little later.



Run the Jewels 3 by Run the Jewels (2016)

Supposed to be released next year, but RTJ put it out a few weeks early and it turned out to be A Christmas F*cking Miracle. As you will see, RTJ’s previous releases got me exploring solo El-P and Killer Mike work this year. However, though it’s only been around three days, this one is decidedly their best work. At the moment, you can download it for free here.

(not on the new album but the gyst of the new album)



Fear Fun by Father John Misty (2012)



Light Upon the Lake by Whitney (2016)



Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett (2015)



I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead by El-P (2007)



Return to the Moon by EL VY (2015)



A Man Alive by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down (2016)



Human Performance by Parquet Courts (2016)



The Psychedelic Swamp by Dr. Dog (2016)



R.A.P. Music by Killer Mike (2012)



Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest (2016)



“Awaken, My Love!” by Childish Gambino (2016)



We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic by Foxygen (2013)



McCartney by Paul McCartney (1970)



The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas by Courtney Barnett (2013)

NOTE: 2016 was also a year of music projects for me. At the beginning of the year, I transferred about 1,000 songs I had backed up but hadn’t really listened to for five years onto my computer, listened to them all, and made two mixes (oldies and moldies) out of them. In August, I decided it was about time to update my list of all-time favorite albums, which took a couple months of my time. On top of that, I finally got a subscription to Spotify and started making mixes over there as well. All to say I spent much of the year dealing with albums I was already extremely familiar with, and another chunk of it using a music discovery tool that focused on individual songs, not full albums.


16 places for 2016 (a sort of photoessay)



Torchy’s Tacos

Told you.

This is a photo from Torchy’ses [sic] grand opening back in February, where they gave away free tacos. In case it’s not clear, there is a line wrapped around the building of people waiting in the snow for free tacos. Through the magic of Twitter, Kelly won us two skip the line passes, which allowed us to avoid all of this, be seated immediately at the bar, eat free tacos, and drink free drinks. It was the most like royalty I have ever felt. For that experience, and the thirty or so experiences we’ve had there since, Torchy’s tops this list.



Yak & Yeti Restaurant & Brewpub

Perhaps the primary motivating force behind our considering a move to Arvada. We’ve gone for the lunch buffet a couple of times, and it is some of the best Indian/Nepalese/Tibetan food I have ever had. They make some of the tastiest beer in the Greater Denver Area as well, including their ridiculous Chai Milk Stout.


img_1439  fullsizerender_2     fullsizerender_3

Denver Botanic Gardens

Think these pictures speak for themselves, but this next one doesn’t.


At the Botanic Gardens, they have this setup where there is a giant succulent inside of a large ceramic pot that you can spin and, hanging above it, a kaleidoscope. When you spin the pot around and look through the kaleidoscope this, for an instant, is what you see. I put the lens of my camera phone to the eye of the kaleidoscope, and this is the photo it captured.







We went to both of these places for the first (and only) times when my folks visited back in November and because of this are inseparable in my mind. Both were sort of serendipitous experiences. Coperta was like our third choice for dinner that night, and Royal I’d never heard of before we happened by it while exploring the Berkeley neighborhood. Both were candidates for the single best meal I ate this year – Coperta with its orecchiette, Royal with its multiple varieties of poutine and framed pictures of “royalty” on the wall. And both are places I need to revisit.



Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen



Hi Rise

Bagels, baby!

I’d give the slight edge to Rosenberg’s in terms of quality and atmosphere, but (in the grand scheme of our simulated existence) these two places are basically the same. Points to Hi Rise though for being able to see this mural out their window.



fullsizerender   img_1302

South Table Mesa, Golden, CO

Great for drink-hiking and posing as giants.


img_1324  fullsizerender_1

Coors Field

I went to three Rockies games during the 2016 season. Don’t think they won any of them. Still, attending a baseball game is infinitely more enjoyable than watching one on TV.

This experience pairs best with a stop at Ian’s Pizza by the Slice  across the street from the ballpark before the game.




New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, CO

Another serendipitous experience. Kelly and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary in Fort Collins during the weekend New Belgium just so happened to be throwing their 25th anniversary party. When we got there, two spots immediately freed up at the bar and we got a flight of beers made specifically for the party. Afterwards we took advantage of a free photobooth and this photo was created.




Banded Oak Brewing Co.

Best new neighborhood brewery, seen here getting a paint job by two of my favorite local artists, #TheWorstCrew, Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios. High ABV and barrel-aged beers, all delicious.



New Image Brewing Co.

Checked this place out on our most recent daytrip to Arvada. It had a great vibe and a beer menu that demanded we order a flight (and that did not disappoint). They also have a promising food and cocktail (!) menu that I look forward to exploring in the future. Overall it has the feel of, if it were in my neighborhood, it’d be my go-to place.



Beryl’s Beer Co.

We first encountered Beryl’s minutes after Sunday evening trivia had begun. We were competitive, but could never make up those opening questions we missed. We also came during Sunday evening trivia the second time we went to Beryl’s. That time we sat out trivia (or anyway the turning in our answers part of trivia) and opted instead to play foosball and somehow lose the ball down one of the legs of the table.



Jessup Farm Barrel House, Fort Collins, CO

More delicious barrel-aged beers, this time in the middle of an “artisan village“, conceptually brilliant but for some reason in the middle of the suburbanest part of Fort Collins.



Melita’s Greek Cafe & Market

Gyros and Greekfast six blocks from my apartment. Plus more photo ops for me to look like a giant.




Zeps Epiq Sandwiches

Been going to Zeps since its OG days as Quiznos Grill. It’s the Quiznos guys giving artisan sandwiches a go in this spot five blocks from my apartment, and, in my opinion, it’s been very successful. Unfortunately, pretty much every time we’ve gone it’s been empty. Hopefully its name change will get them more customers?? Also, I know this may sound silly, but they have a really good soda fountain.


Thanks for reading, and if we still have internet by the end of 2017, I’ll see you then.


some number of albums for all-time

About six years ago I gave myself this thing to do. I challenged myself to create a list of my favorite albums. To make the list, I listened to all of my favorite albums, ranking them as I went, and then I did that again. Then I used the average ranking to create a final list, which I published on the internet and has since been seen by seven or eight people.

And here, six years later, so very near to the end of the Obama administration, I’ve given myself another thing to do. It’s similar to the other time, but the albums are, to an extent, different.

Somewhere in the eight weeks I was working on this, I read Chuck Klosterman’s newest, But What If We’re Wrong? That book got me thinking about a lot of things, like that one day, when we are all robots, my little list could contribute to the cyborg canon of greatest albums of all-time. I want the robots to have a genuine understanding of my musical taste as we entered humanity’s end of days.

College was, perhaps too late, very good to me musically. I’m not afraid to admit (although they might be reading, but this life may also be a simulation and I, and they, and music, might not actually exist) that most of the music I acquired between 2004 and 2006 was due to a fault (“fault”) in my college dorm’s network setup that allowed me to browse and download to my computer any song that anyone else in my dorm had in their iTunes library. Many albums on this list are a direct result of this, and most of the others are incidental results of this.

Last time around, without much competition, it turned out that Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was my all-time favorite album. Back then I called it “…about as perfect as perfect gets. It is forty straight minutes of music that gets inside you, music that you feel even more than it is music that speaks to, and for, you.” That holds up. That album is inside me always.

In many of my favorite albums, for glimmers at least, I am able to imagine that I have become the lead singer. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is the album where I can imagine it best, and enjoy it the most. Decidedly so. Six years ago and today and, probably (and sorry to harp on this), until the end of humanity.

I also like to treat my lists as resources. This go-round, I not only discovered how easy is it to embed Spotify albums into WordPress posts, but also that every album on my list is also on Spotify. So if you have Spotify, you can listen to any album on this list right here, right now. If you don’t have Spotify and you’re reading this, I would recommend that you go ahead and get Spotify.

One last note on counting down vs. counting up: I start with #1 because if you get bored somewhere along my list, at least you got through the best part. Plus you already know what #1 is. But what’s #2? What number does this list even go to?

So if there’s nothing else, I’ll go ahead now with my list,

Some Number of Albums for All-Time (End of Days Edition)

(1) [1]


In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel (1998)

(2010 rank: 1)


(2) [2.5]


More Songs About Buildings and Food by Talking Heads (1978)

(2010 rank: 20)

Talking Heads are unquestionably my favorite band, as evidenced by each of their first five albums (and one side project) appearing on my list, as well as the manner in which I dance in my apartment. The real question is, which is my go-to Talking Heads album? It used to be 77, but for thirties me, I think More Songs has, just barely, overtaken it. Found A Job is an all-timer: If your work isn’t what you love, then something isn’t right.


(3) [2.5]


77 by Talking Heads (1977)

(2010 rank: 4)

Say something once, why say it again?


(4) [4]


Alligator by The National (2005)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(5) [5]


The Lonesome Crowded West by Modest Mouse (1997)

(2010 rank: 2)


(6) [6]


Alopecia by Why? (2008)

(2010 rank: 8)


(7) [7]


Fashion Nugget by Cake (1996)

(2010 rank: 5)


(8) [8]


There’s Nothing Wrong With Love by Built to Spill (1994)

(2010 rank: 9)


(9) [9]


Robbers & Cowards by Cold War Kids (2006)

(2010 rank: 3)


(10) [11]

alien lanes

Alien Lanes by Guided by Voices (1995)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(11) [11.5]


Doolittle by Pixies (1989)

(2010 rank: 16)


(12) [11.5]


Kill the Moonlight by Spoon (2002)

(2010 rank: 6)


(13) [12]


High Violet by The National (2010)

(2010 rank: 55)


(14) [14]


We All Belong by Dr. Dog (2007)

(2010 rank: 7)


(15) [15]


I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty (2015)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(16) [16]


Chutes Too Narrow by The Shins (2003)

(2010 rank: 10)


(17) [17.5]


Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco (2002)

(2010 rank: 23)


(18) [19.5]

st vincent

St. Vincent by St. Vincent (2014)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(19) [19.5]


Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement (1994)

(2010 rank: 18)


(20) [19.5]


The Suburbs by Arcade Fire (2010)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(21) [20]


Fear of Music by Talking Heads (1979)

(2010 rank: 47)


(22) [22]


Sound of Silver by LCD Soundystem (2007)

(2010 rank: 14)


(23) [24.5]


Paul’s Boutique by Beastie Boys (1989)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(24) [24.5]


Gimme Fiction by Spoon (2005)

(2010 rank: 26)


(25) [24.5]


Funeral by Arcade Fire (2004)

(2010 rank: 24)


(26) [25.5]


Elephant Eyelash by Why? (2005)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(27) [27]


Graceland by Paul Simon (1986)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(28) [27.5]


Reflektor by Arcade Fire (2013)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(29) [29.5]


Lonerism by Tame Impala (2012)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(30) [30]


Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend (2008)

(2010 rank: 31)


(31) [30.5]


OK Computer by Radiohead (1997)

(2010 rank: 27)


(32) [31.5]

tune yards whokill

W H O K I L L by tUnE-yArDs (2011)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(33) [33.5]


LCD Soundsystem by LCD Soundsystem (2005)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(34) [35]


Oh, Inverted World by The Shins (2001)

(2010 rank: 29)


(35) [35]


Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga by Spoon (2007)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(36) [35]


Speaking in Tongues by Talking Heads (1983)

(2010 rank: 40)


(37) [36.5]


Fate by Dr. Dog (2008)

(2010 rank: 39)


(38) [37.5]


This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About by Modest Mouse (1996)

(2010 rank: 34)


(39) [40.5]


This is Happening by LCD Soundsystem (2010)

(2010 rank: 35)


(40) [42.5]


Ode to Sunshine by Delta Spirit (2008)

(2010 rank: 28)


(41) [42.5]


American Beauty by Grateful Dead (1970)

(2010 rank: 46)


(42) [42.5]


Days by Real Estate (2011)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(43) [42.5]


Easy Beat by Dr. Dog (2005)

(2010 rank: 64)


(44) [43.5]


Currents by Tame Impala (2015)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(45) [43.5]


The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips (1999)

(2010 rank: 30)

It was only during my most recent listen of this album that I made the connection between The Soft Bulletin and the lyrics “the softest bullet ever shot” from The Spark That Bled. Ah well.


(46) [45]


Remain in Light by Talking Heads (1981)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(47) [46.5]


Michael by Les Sins (2014)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(48) [46.5]


Mellow Gold by Beck (1994)

(2010 rank: 62)


(49) [48]


Aha Shake Heartbreak by Kings of Leon (2004)

(2010 rank: 32)


(50) [50.5]

salad days

Salad Days by Mac DeMarco (2014)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(51) [52]


Shame, Shame by Dr. Dog (2010)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(52) [52.5]


Building Nothing Out of Something by Modest Mouse (2000)

(2010 rank: 45)


(53) [52.5]

north hills

North Hills by Dawes (2009)

(2010 rank: 12)

North Hills and Ode to Sunshine were both kind of right place, right time albums. The couple of years that followed college was the lowest period of my life. North Hills in particular, which is hands down the saddest album on this list, overly spoke for me. I related to it too much. I don’t relate to it in that way anymore, and it has that taint of the memory of the days when I did (and maybe that’s why Dawes has moved away from it as well), but it is still a damn fine album. When My Time Comes is better than most songs.


(54) [53.5]


Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys (1966)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(55) [55.5]


Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan (1965)

(2010 rank: 36)


(56) [56]


On Avery Island by Neutral Milk Hotel (1996)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(57) [57.5]


Your Favorite Weapon by Brand New (2001)

(2010 rank: n/a)

Not sure why this didn’t make the 2010 list. Think I was taking a break from it back then (See also: North Hills note). Quintessential representation of the emo high school version of myself that is still in there somewhere (See also: North Hills note).


(58) [57.5]

black moon spell

Black Moon Spell by King Tuff (2014)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(59) [58]


Tom Tom Club by Tom Tom Club (1981)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(60) [60]


Black Messiah by D’Angelo and the Vanguard (2014)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(61) [62]


Everything All the Time by Band of Horses (2006)

(2010 rank: 22)


(62) [63.5]


Youth & Young Manhood by Kings of Leon (2003)

(2010 rank: 19)

2010 note: “NOTE: R.I.P. Kings of Leon, 2003-2004. Never forget.”


(63) [64]


Trying to Never Catch Up by What Made Milwaukee Famous (2004)

(2010 rank: 11)


(64) [65]


Odelay by Beck (1996)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(65) [66]


Cape Dory by Tennis (2011)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(66) [66]


Where You Been by Dinosaur Jr. (1993)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(67) [66]


Make the Clocks Move by Kevin Devine (2003)

(2010 rank: 21)


(68) [68]


Yuck by Yuck (2011)

(2010 rank: n/a)


(69) [68.5]


Let it Be by The Beatles (1970)

(2010 rank: 33)


(70) [69.5]


August & Everything After by Counting Crows (1993)

(2010 rank: 53)

NOTE: I am not embarrassed to include these last three albums at the very bottom of my way too long list.


(71) [71]


…is a Real Boy by Say Anything (2004)

(2010 rank: 50)


(72) [73.5]


The Stage Names by Okkervil River (2007)

(2010 rank: 13)


Have fun, cyborgs.

25 books, 25 albums, 10 breweries, 10 places to eat & 10 other places for 2015

preamble | books | albums | breweries | eats | other places

2015 was a year.  It was a nervous and risky, an angry and anxious, a confident, wonderful year.

In January, we sold the bookmobile.  In February, we flew out to Denver and found an apartment.  In March, we resigned from our jobs, donated most of our stuff to Goodwill, and drove the cats in our one remaining vehicle to our new home in Capitol Hill.  Nine months later, I can safely say that moving to Denver was the best decision we’ve (and I’ve) ever made.

Kelly got a badass librarian job.  I’ve settled into a service year with AmeriCorps, where I’m getting to try out two things I’ve always wanted to try: teaching math and coaching basketball.  I wrote one two-page short story and four notebooks’ worth of lesson plans.  We explored Denver inside-out, and, largely by virtue of moving four blocks away from The Denver Public Library, I read a lot of books, and I listened to a lot of music.

I experienced a lot of new things this year.  I’m here not so much to share some (eightyish) of those experiences with you, but to recommend that you experience all of these things for yourself.

Perhaps by now you know how I do this.  My books and albums lists are built from books and albums I first experienced in 2015, indiscriminate of release date.  I’ll occasionally, for one reason or another, elaborate on one of my choices.  I also try to include a sample of what to expect from each book, album, and place.  The books have links to excerpts (or individual stories from short story collections) and if not, to the book’s Goodreads page.  Each album has an embedded video of a song off the album.  The breweries, places to eat, and other places all include website links and (if applicable) photo links, which are often articles on/reviews of the place itself.  Uncredited photos were taken by Kelly or myself.

Please enjoy my list of way too many things, 25 books, 25 albums, 10 breweries, 10 places to eat, and 10 other places for 2015, and then go enjoy those things for yourself.

25 books for 2015

(NOTE: publication date is for original version)


zenos conscience

Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Calvino (1923)


exercises in style

Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau (1947)

This book ought to be a Rhetoric & Composition course.

An unnamed narrator boards a very full bus and notices a man with a neck like a giraffe and a hat that has a plaited cord on it instead of a ribbon.  This man accuses the man next to him of purposefully stepping on his toes every time people get on and off the bus, and then flees to a seat which has just become available.  Two hours later, the narrator sees this man again, this time with a different man who is giving him advice about the placement of a button on his coat.

That’s the entire story.  But Queneau tells it ninety-nine different, delirium-inducing ways.


what we talk about

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver (1981)



Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World by Haruki Murakami (1985)

Gateway book.  The first of six Murakami books I read this year (currently reading:  The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle), and the best.



Bark by Lorrie Moore (2014)


folded leaf

The Folded Leaf by William Maxwell (1945)

I want to turn this novel into a movie.


my documents

My Documents by Alejandro Zambra (2015)


tooth imprints

Tooth Imprints on a Corn Dog by Mark Leyner (1995)

My inclusion of novels from Mark Leyner, Richard Brautigan, and Robert Coover are largely due to the excerpts of their work included in the fantastic anthology, Postmodern American Fiction, which I still haven’t finished.



Orientation and Other Stories by Daniel Orozco (2011)


dance dance dance  wild sheep chase

Dance Dance Dance (The Rat #4) (1988) & A Wild Sheep Chase (The Rat #3) (1982) by Haruki Murkami

(Honorable Mention: Norwegian Wood [1987])

Told you.


at swim two birds

At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien (1939)

A story with a narrator who lies in bed all day writing a novel with a protagonist who lies in bed all day writing a novel where the characters take turns writing a story about inflicting harm upon their author.


go set a watchman

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (2015*)

This novel complicates Atticus and Scout in important ways, and complements To Kill a Mockingbird nicely.  I can’t help but wonder if the south might be a little different now if this novel had been published sixty years ago.



As She Climbed Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem (1997)


tetherballs of bougainville

The Tetherballs of Bougainville by Mark Leyner (1997)



Speak by Louisa Hall (2015)


continental drift

Continental Drift by Russell Banks (1985)


bagombo snuff box

Bagombo Snuff Box: Unpublished Short Fiction by Kurt Vonnegut (1999)



The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover (1968)

Fantasy baseball, circa 1968.  Incredibly tragic.



An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey by Richard Brautigan (1994)

Idiosyncratic journaling as coping mechanism.  Also incredibly tragic.



The Sportswriter by Richard Ford (1986)



Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra (2011)


jimmy corrigan

Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware (2000)



City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis by Keith Gessen & Stephen Squibb (ed.) (2015)

Essays about American cities, since the recession.



Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine



25 albums for 2015


i love you honeybear

I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty (2015)

When I was young, I dreamt of a passionate obligation to a roommate.

My year in music began with Father John Misty’s Bored in the USA, and it didn’t get better from there (though Tame Impala came close).  I Love You, Honeybear was also, due to the quality and magnitude of the Central Library’s music collection, one of few albums I actually purchased this year.



Currents by Tame Impala (2015)


black messiah

Black Messiah by D’Angelo and The Vanguard (2014)



Alvvays by Alvvays (2014)


multi love

Multi-Love by Unknown Mortal Orchestra (2015)



Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes (2015)


content nausea

Content Nausea by Parkay Quarts (2014)



Isles by Wild Belle (2013)



Michael by Les Sins (2015)



Was Dead by King Tuff (2008)

(Honorable Mention: King Tuff [2012])



Innerspeaker by Tame Impala (2010)



See Mystery Lights by YACHT (2009)


foil deer

Foil Deer by Speedy Ortiz (2015)



Little Neon Limelight by Houndmouth (2015)


girls in peacetime

Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance by Belle & Sebastian (2015)



Ritual in Repeat by Tennis (2014)



Run the Jewels by Run the Jewels (2013)

This album was going to make the list anyway, but Killer Mike’s six-part conversation with Bernie, which you should definitely watch if you haven’t, took Run the Jewels to another level for me.



Illmatic by Nas (1994)



Bigfoot by Cayucas (2013)


village green

The Kinks are The Village Green Preservation Society (1968)


AviBuffalo_20PT ALT PACKAGE 1 UP

Avi Buffalo by Avi Buffalo (2010)


feelin good

Feelin’ Good by Nightmares on Wax (2013)


ABT040 TOPS LP-Jacket 11183 v2

Picture You Staring by TOPS (2014)



Amygdala by DJ Koze (2013)



Eat Pray Thug by Heems (2015)

#25 could have been any number of albums.  John Grant’s Pale Green Ghosts deserves an honorable mention.  I also enjoyed this year’s new releases from Modest Mouse, Wilco, and TV on the Radio.  But I think I enjoyed them because I enjoy the bands, not because the albums outrank any of their previous material.  If I’m going to listen to a Modest Mouse album, Strangers to Ourselves would be like my eighth choice.  Eat Pray Thug is a unique, and important, and tragic album.  I find myself listening to it less often than the others, because I gravitate more towards the other artists, but in two years it’ll probably be the only one of those four albums I listen to anymore.


10 breweries for 2015



Ratio Beerworks



Our Mutual Friend Brewing Company



Baere Brewing Company


co brew


CO-Brew is a homebrewing supply store.  They also do homebrewing events in-store, including demonstrations and brewing parties.  They also brew their own beer, and, because of everything else they’re known for, it might be one of Denver’s best kept secrets that CO-Brew makes some of the best beer in the city.  They also make that beer available for $1 for a four-ounce taster.



Mockery Brewing Co


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Tivoli Brewing Co.



Fiction Beer Company


great divide

Great Divide Brewing Co



LowDown Brewery + Kitchen


twisted pine

Twisted Pine Brewing Co.


10 places to eat for 2015



Biju’s Little Curry Shop

The best and only little curry shop in town.


cheeky monk

Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Cafe

Belgian beers and bangers and mash.


work and class

Work & Class

Meat, family-style.



Sassafras American Eatery

Cajun-style brunch and Bloody Marys.


vesper lounge

Vesper Lounge*

Vesper comes with an asterisk.  Sure, they make the best chicken pita I’ve ever eaten, and their Sunday Cheeseburger Special – $10 for a draft and burger with your choice of cheese – is one of the best deals in town.  But Vesper seems to pride itself in being a dive bar.  It’s like the entire wait staff has conspired together to refuse to give you water, yet they are always sure to ask if I want a shot for the road.


moes bbq

Moe’s Original Bar B Cue

Pictured above is what I eat every time we go to Moe’s: a ‘Bama-style pulled pork sandwich, with two quality sides.




I’ve only been once, on our recent trip to Boulder, but their tacos are some of the best I’ve ever had, not just in Colorado, but anywhere.




#1 in quantity of meals eaten at/from a place, but I’ve also never had a sub from Subculture I didn’t like, and I’ve tried a lot of different subs.


dos santos

Dos Santos

More tacos.  The presentation is nice.  The taste is even better.



Avanti Food & Beverage (A Collective Eatery)

Great concept and a great space.  A food hall with seven different restaurants to choose from, as well as a full bar with a reliable taplist.

Preview of 10 places to eat for 2016:

(1) Torchy’s Tacos


10 other places for 2015

(NOTE: all photos in this section were taken by Kelly or yours truly.)


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The Denver Public Library

I imagine paradise as The Denver Public Library.


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Denver Art Museum

Our introduction to the Denver Art Museum was an exceptional one.  Kelly has a friend whose mom is a docent there, and commonly gives guided tours to high schoolers.  She used her membership to get us in for free, and then proceeded to take us on a four-hour guided tour of the museum.  My favorite was the Sandy Skoglund set piece (above left), which has since been removed.  Kelly particularly enjoyed it because she somehow got me to pose for this photo:




The Big Wonderful

The sign says it all.  A seasonal outdoor market in RiNo with live music, food trucks, craft vendors, and a “Wonderful Hour” where it’s buy-one-get-a-mystery-beer.  It’s a place where, every time I go, I think, ‘You know what’d be perfect here? A bookmobile.’


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Railyard Arts District (Santa Fe, NM)

I could write an entire essay on our Thanksgiving trip to Santa Fe, but I’ll limit myself to a few words on my favorite area of Santa Fe.  The Railyard Arts District is home to Second Street Brewery, Violet Crown Cinema (didn’t see a movie there but they have a good taplist), a year-round farmers market, and the Last Friday Art Walk, where on the final Friday evening of each month the art galleries and museums are open to the public.


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River North Art District (RiNo)

The murals are fantastic, but RiNo is also home to my two favorite breweries, two of my top three places to eat, AND The Big Wonderful.  Just an all around great neighborhood.


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Denver Flea

The location of the Flea, an occasional weekend pop-up market, varies, but it is always a good time.  The first one we went to was in a parking garage on Blake St., and the one pictured above was at the Sculpture Park and Performing Arts Complex.

(The Flea would, ahem, also be a great place for a bookmobile.)



Clyfford Still Museum

Great art in a great space.


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Denver Art SocietyArt District on Santa Fe

Santa Fe is also alive with murals and has a First Friday Art Walk, but if I had to pick one place on Santa Fe to visit, it’d be Denver Art Society.



Civic Center Park

Seems like there’s always something going on at the Civic Center, from Civic Center Eats to music and fireworks on the Fourth of July to markets on Cinco de Mayo and Earth Day.  It’s a great space, and I’m glad to see it utilized so, well, civically.



The Source

The Source is a great indoor market that also houses a brewery (Crooked Stave) and two places to eat (Acorn and Comida) that didn’t quite make the lists.  Go make an afternoon for yourself here sometime.


Thanks for reading, and remember to vote for Bernie in 2016.

25 books, 25 albums & 10 places to eat for 2014

I’m back for another roundup of books, albums, and eats that I would highly recommend you experience for yourselves.  Per usual, these lists are of things that I personally experienced for the first time in twenty-fourteen, and not strictly books, albums, and places to eat that debuted this year.

Please enjoy.

books | albums | eats

25 books for 2014


st lucy's home

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (2006)


safety of objects

The Safety of Objects by A.M. Homes (1990)



Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison (2001)



The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker (1988)



10:04 by Ben Lerner (2014)


elect mr robinson

Elect Mr. Robinson For a Better World by Donald Antrim (1993)


wise blood

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor (1952)


rachel papers

The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis (1993)



Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky (2010)



Birds of America by Lorrie Moore (1998) *


rise and fall of great powers

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman (2014)



Lucinella by Lore Segal (1976)



The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon (1988)


vampires of the lemon grove

Vampires in the Lemon Grove and Other Stories by Karen Russell (2013)


one more thing

One More Thing: Stories and More Stories by B.J. Novak (2014)


who will run the frog hospital

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore (1994)



Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (2014)


cant and wont

Can’t and Won’t (stories) by Lydia Davis (2014)


countdown city worldoftrouble_final

Countdown City (2013) & World of Trouble (2014) by Ben Winters


dud avocado

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy (1958)


your fathers where are they

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers (2014)


third policeman

The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien (1967)


magic christian

The Magic Christian by Terry Southern (1959)


dept of speculation

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (2014)

25 albums for 2014, with audiovisuals

NOTE: 2014 was my second year as co-proprietor and curator of my own donation-dependent traveling library.  We had several hundred albums donated to us this year, and I (at least cursorily) listened to most of them.  So while I did do my fair share of music exploration independent of that, several of the items on this list are a direct result of the kindness of my community.


st vincent

St. Vincent by St. Vincent (2014)

* In an interview with Salon, Annie Clark explicitly stated that she read Birds of America while creating this album, and phrases like “birth in reverse” and “bring me your loves” were lifted directly from those stories.  Learning this (not to mention seeing St. Vincent live twice this year) enriched this album for me, as well as my reading of Birds of America.  Both, obviously, are highly recommended.


salad days

Salad Days by Mac Demarco (2014)



Here Come the Warm Jets by Brian Eno (1973)


black moon spell

Black Moon Spell by King Tuff (2014)



Sunbathing Animal by Parquet Courts (2014)



Marry Me by St. Vincent (2007)



Taking Tiger Mountain by Brian Eno (1974)


they want my soul

They Want My Soul by Spoon (2014)


tom petty and the heartbreakers

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (1976)



Nikki Nack by Tune-Yards (2014)


held in splendor

Held in Splendor by Quilt (2014)


hit vibes

Hit Vibes by Saint Pepsi (2013)



Shotgun Willie by Willie Nelson (1973)



We the Common by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down (2013)


real estate atlas

Atlas by Real Estate (2014)



The Milk-Eyed Mender by Joanna Newsom (2004)



3 Feet High and Rising  by De La Soul (1989)



The Unseen by Quasimoto (2000)



The Private Press by DJ Shadow (2002)



Run the Jewels 2 by Run the Jewels (2014)



Logos by Atlas Sound (2009)


meters rejuvenation

Rejuvenation by The Meters (1974)


mumps etc

Mumps, etc. by WHY? (2012)


rising down

Rising Down by The Roots (2008)


red headed stranger

Red Headed Stranger by Willie Nelson (1975)

10 places to eat for 2014




My love for the guys behind The Bird House (and H-Town StrEATs) is nothing new, but Bird House gets the number one spot due to the sheer volume of fried chicken I’ve eaten since they opened.  “Fried chicken & badass sides” indeed.  Where else are you going to get shrimp and grits balls?




I implore you to leave Cuchara in a worse mood than when you walked in.  Great food, vibrant atmosphere, incomparable art, and (at least both times I’ve gone) roving live music.


urban eats


I recently celebrated my (twenty-ninth) birthday at Urban Eats on the second day of their soft opening.  It was probably the single best dining experience I have ever had in my life.  And while that experience will be difficult to replicate, I fully intend for Urban Eats to become one of my go-to places to eat around town.




pita bites


Everything I’ve ever had from Pita Bites has been amazing, but the chicken shawarma and grape leaves lead the pack.  And the husband and wife who run it are two of the nicer fellow truckers I’ve encountered.




Go for the pizza and Friday night flights.


wokker tx ranger


ninfas on navigation


local foods




Thanks for reading.  2015’s lists should look a little different, so make sure to come on back.  Hell, I may even write something else between now and then.


twenty albums, twenty books, ten trucks & ten restaurants for 2012

Albums / Books / Trucks / Restaurants

20 Albums for 2012:



Be the Void by Dr. Dog (2012)


alien lanes

Alien Lanes by Guided by Voices (1995)


channel orange

Channel Orange by Frank Ocean (2012)


Love This Giant by David Byrne & St. Vincent (2012)



Swing Lo Magellan by Dirty Projectors (2012)


key lime pie

Key Lime Pie by Camper Van Beethoven (1989)


young and old

Young & Old by Tennis (2012)


A Thing Called Divine Fits by Divine Fits (2012)


Lonerism by Tame Impala (2012)



Gemini by Wild Nothing (2010)


Underneath the Pine by Toro y Moi (2011)


nehru jackets

Nehru Jackets by Himanshu (2012)



The Three EPs by The Beta Band (1999)


Radlands by Mystery Jets (2012)



Reign of Terror by Sleigh Bells (2012)



Awe Naturale by THEESatisfaction (2012)

NOTE: THEESatisfaction also released a free EP called THEESatisfaction Loves Anita Baker, which is also very good, and which introduced me to Anita Baker.  I picked up her album Rapture from the library, and made a remixed version of her original “Sweet Love” with THEESatisfaction’s “Cabin Fever Sweet Love”.  I’m quite proud of it, and you can download it here.



Boys & Girls by Alabama Shakes (2012)



Portamento by The Drums (2011)


Keep it Like a Secret by Built to Spill (1999)


Tom Tom Club (1981)

20 Books for 2012:


White Teeth by Zadie Smith (a gateway book if there ever was one, see below)


The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen


Cathedral by Raymond Carver


Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney


Zeitoun by Dave Eggers


The Floating Opera & The End of the Road by John Barth


A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace


Post Office by Charles Bukowski


Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor


Short Cuts by Raymond Carver (previously)


Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan


NW by Zadie Smith


Goodbye, Columbus & Five Short Stories by Philip Roth


Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max


The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith


Fun Home by Alison Bechdel


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie


Fear of Music by Jonathan Lethem


The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon


Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman

NOTE:  This list was originally written for the HCPL blog on 12/5/2012.  The links in the covers and the titles will direct you to each book’s record in HCPL’s catalog, from which you can reserve any of the above titles.  While all of the titles are currently available from HCPL, I still consider it a basically authentic list.  However, in the last few weeks, I did read DFW’s Girl With Curious Hair (which, incidentally, is not in HCPL’s system), as well as his posthumous essay collection, Both Flesh and Not (which is), both of which would have made the list had I made it today.

10 Trucks for 2012:


The Rice Box


Stick It


Bare Bowls

NOTE:  As co-founder of an aspiring food truck (slinging food for thought) myself, it has been important for us to acquaint ourselves with the food truck community.  A lot of that has been simply acquainting food truck food with our bellies for the past ten months straight, sort of feeling out behind the scenes who we want to work with, and where, all the while enjoying some of the best food in Houston.  The folks who run these first three trucks have not only embraced our project wholeheartedly and welcomed us into the community, but they also make some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.  The following seven aren’t too shabby either.  Actually, as a general rule, if you see a food truck in Houston, you should probably stop and try their food.




Bernie’s Burger Bus


Eatsie Boys


Pi Pizza Truck




Koagie Hots


Good Dog Hot Dogs

10 Restaurants for 2012:






BRC Gastropub


Nabi (RIP)


Pollo Campero


Torchy’s Tacos


La Fendee Mediterranean Grill


La Guadalupana


Santa Fe Flats


Les Givral’s Kahve

Thanks for reading, and here’s to 2013.  Cheers.

twenty-five albums & two novels for 2011.

I am not much of a diarist.  So far as I can tell, the two real purposes I maintain this blog are (1) to recommend music (and this is the primary reason I have come to perform maintenance on it today) and (2) to, well, maintain a sort of portfolio of writings that I have personally deemed worthy of self-publication (if you are here for the cat videos, you’ve come to the wrong place).  However, the period of time that has occurred since my last writing (where I aptly made my leaving town mixtape available), has been momentous.

At the end of June, I quit my (part-time) job and packed up and left Austin (which, as far as I can tell, is the greatest city in the history of civilization) for my hometown, and, still having yet to defeat that (library) job market, I moved in with my parents.  I was pretty much living the American dream.

In late July, I had an interview with Harris County Public Library (my third for this particular library system) at the branch library at which I (or whoever got hired) would work.  And i remember leaving that interview with the distinct feeling that that job, and that library, belonged to me, and that I belonged to them.  Three days later (barring a failed background check and/or drug screening), it was so.  I found an apartment across the street from the library in early August and started work a few days later.  It is the best job I have ever had.  And I save so much money on gas.

I was unemployed for forty-six days.  I am one of the lucky ones.

In October, my girlfriend of a year and a half returned, voluntarily, from her adventures abroad and – again, voluntarily – moved in with me – here, uprooted, in Greater Houston.  I am one of the lucky ones.  In Late November, I proposed to her.  Since then, things have been pretty much as awesome as before, just with a 10,000% increase in how frequently one or both of us is asked, “So, when’s the wedding?”, and an increasing amount of comfort using the word fiance.

Here is another reason I consider myself lucky:  I am capable of discernment.  I take particular pride in my musical discernment – that is, my ability to tell good music from not good music.  One of my Professors in library school often mentioned the quote, “Never apologize for your reading taste.”  I have ambivalent feelings about this quote.  On the one (let’s call it my right) hand, the librarian in me thinks, yeah, I mean, these people’s horrible reading taste is what keeps public libraries extant, but on the other hand (call it Lefty), the discerning part of me thinks, can’t people just read good books?  And if we shouldn’t discriminate reading taste, should we also not discriminate tastes in music and movies?  And, well, how is that even possible?

We should all be so lucky as to be discerning, and maybe we all are.  Maybe I have just discovered the primary difference between an E student and a S student.

All of that to say, I have discerned two year-end lists for your perusal, (1) twenty-five albums and (2) two novels for 2011.  Per usual, the lists are comprised of albums/novels which I listened to/read during the year – these albums/novels were not necessarily released this year.  I personally think it’s more telling.  I’m not trying to make a time capsule for 2011; I’m trying to make a time capsule for my 2011.  (Maybe I am a diarist.)

Twenty-Five Albums for 2011:


Nothing is Wrong by Dawes (2011)


Hot Sauce Committee Part Two by Beastie Boys (2011)


Disintegration by The Cure (1989)


…Endtroducing by DJ Shadow (1996)


Maximum Balloon (2010)


The Queen is Dead by The Smiths (1986)


Odyssey & Oracle by The Zombies (1968)


Gloss Drop by Battles (2011)


Nine Types of Light by TV on the Radio (2011)


Astro Coast by Surfer Blood (2010)


The King of Limbs by Radiohead (2011)


Relax by Das Racist (2011)


BiRd-BrAiNs by Tune-Yards (2009)


I Am Very Far by Okkervil River (2011)


The 1975 CBS Demo Session by Talking Heads (1975)


Cults (2011)


Unknown Mortal Orchestra (2011)


Check Your Head by Beastie Boys (1992)


Kaputt by Destroyer (2011)


Cape Dory by Tennis (2011)


w h o k i l l by Tune-Yards (2011)


Days by Real Estate (2011)


Yuck (2011)


Elephant Eyelash by WHY? (2005)


Treats by Sleigh Bells (2010)

Treats is an album unlike anything I have ever heard before.  Listen to it.  And while you’re at it, listen to all of these.

Two Novels for 2011:


The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (2010)


The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace (1987)

NOTE: I also read Infinite Jest, Consider the Lobster, and 3/4 of Oblivion.  All of them are well worth your time and patience.  But The Broom of the System, hands down, is my favorite of the four.

As always, I welcome counter-lists and -suggestions.  Thanks for your time.  Keep it real.  Et cetera.


P.S. Happy twentieth birthday to my brother, Anthony.

Seven albums for February, with audiovisuals.


Kaputt by Destroyer (2011)


The King of Limbs by Radiohead (2011)


Zonoscope by Cut Copy (2011)


Tha Carter III by Lil Wayne (2008)

Part two, with slight overlap:


Elephant Eyelash by WHY? (2005)


Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by Wu-Tang Clan (1993)


Eyes of Veritas by Gilbere Forte (2011)

You can pick up the Eyes of Veritas mixtape right here.

Cheers, February 2011, and thanks.