My Favorite Things (and not things) this Year

Thomas Rademacher
7 min readDec 27, 2023

Before I share my favorite things this year, I want to share a piece of one of my favorite things ever, which is John Hodgman’s speech at a literary event two weeks after 9/11. The whole speech is about the role of storytelling after a tragic event. I’ve thought about it a lot this year, the last few years really, these times of constant tragedy, about why I seek the kinds of art and connection I do, what power it can possibly have against such awfulness to make a pretty thing, to love a silly thing.

So if art cannot contain or describe this event, and if for now the suffering is too keen to be alleviated by parable… if stories are for the moment not as critically needed, as courage, as medicine, as blood … they can at least revert to this social function. As time goes on, this will all pass away into memory, into a story with a beginning and a middle and finally an end. And that transition from the real into fable will bring its own kind of comfort and pain. Now, though, we may gather and distract one another, take comfort in our proximity, and know that we are, at this moment, safe. — John Hodgman

And so, thank you all for 2023, for when or how you gathered, for when we’ve offered comfort, for the work you do or will do for all those who are not, at this moment, safe, that we may all some day share at least that.

My 2023 Favorites:

Gay Poems for Red States: Carver is a brilliant and warm poet. This collection absolutely buzzes with talent and love and resistance.

The Kung Fu Zombie Saga: — This three hour long play about zombies who know kung fu (but really about lots of other things) is probably my favorite piece of art of any kind that I experienced this year. There’s bits of writing in there that have set up shop in my brain.

The incoming St. Paul City Council

Progressive Politics: Minnesota was a national model this year in the good that can come from electing a whole bunch of progressive candidates. A whole bunch of new faces (nearly all women of color) did incredible organizing and legislative work to make that happen, building on the work of so many women who’ve been fighting for that foundation for years and years. Local elections in Minneapolis and St. Paul this year showed how organized people could beat organized money.

Liminal Spaces: This is a term being tossed around more often these days, sometimes used just to describe things that are spooky. I use it here to describe places that are transitional, between here and there. There is a feeling of being in one of these nowhere spaces that feels, to me, like a hug. My favorite examples: Amtrak. Airports. The doctor’s office after the nurse leaves and before the doctor comes in. A hotel room the night before the conference starts.

Scavenger’s Reign: (Max) — The best thing on television that no one is watching. The weirdest thing on television that I can remember. Sci-Fi with incredible world building in a complex eco-system.

Lil Yachty: Full confession: I listen to like one new album a year. I listened to this one because Questlove said I should, and damn. It’s a beautiful work of art.

When We Become Ours — Edited by Shannon Gibney and Nicole Chung

When We Become Ours: What the cover tells you: This is a collection of short stories involving interracial adoptees. What I tell you: Each one of the stories in this book is fantastic. The talent collected here is staggering. What it means: There are two great reasons why every home and classroom should have copies of this book.

Our Flag Means Death: (Max) — A beautiful “What If Pirates, but no toxic masculinity or homophobia” that has become a hyperfixation of my son, so we can watch together and talk about it all the time.

Vyvanse and Sertraline — A goddamn love story

Vyvanse: Getting diagnosed and treated for ADHD has felt a little like switching off of hard mode. And, you know, life is more than hard enough that it’s nice to not have to fight my brain quite so hard all the time. I could write about 3,000 more words than this about what it’s meant to understand the way my brain works and what that’s meant for my mental and physical health, my creativity, my relationships, and my ability to, like, do life.

Normal Gossip: On this podcast, people send in gossipy stories from their lives (or from a friend of their friend) which are then recounted by the host and a guest. I don’t know what else to say. That either appeals to you or it doesn’t. It appeals to me greatly and I love it (and the musical interludes are so good). While we’re here, you should probably listen to Who Shat on the Floor at my Wedding, a podcast where a couple and totally-untrained investigator try to determine who… well… you get it. The mystery is fun, but the hosts are hilarious.

Cocaine Bear: (Prime) — The first R-rated movie my son saw in a theater. The whole family was exhausted from laughing after. It is perfectly what it is.

How to Bird — Rasha Hamid

How To Bird: This is a children’s book about birding and it makes me happy just thinking about it.

I am a Ludite (and So Can You): A comic history of the Ludite movement. I wish the whole internet was like this.

People Who Resist and Create and are Joyful and Compassionate: I’ve made lots more room this year for people (see My Job/Hybrid Working), for new and old friends, and to seek out people in this world living lives and doing projects that make the world better in some way, who make me think about new things or in new ways, who resist the brutal and bloody and imagine a world that is different.

Spotify BOOKS: In a list already full of books, here are more books. Did you know that if you have a Spotify Premium account you have access to like a bazillion audiobooks? Most recently, I finished (while doing a puzzle) The Little Book of Aliens by Adam Frank, an Astrophysicist who explains everything science knows and doesn’t about life from other planets. Now listening to Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Godzilla & Godzilla Raids Again: The two original Godzilla novellas published in 1955, translated into English for the first time this year. They are delightful and smart and in addition to art are artifact, an experience to hold and read and share. Plus, I love the cover so much.

Tour de France Unchained: (Netflix) — I like to watch sports, but am usually rooting for everyone to have fun and get home safe. This series on the Tour from two years ago introduced me to the personalities, strategies, and storylines of cycling and made this year’s tour a blast to watch.

Raw Dog — Jamie Loftus

Raw Dog: One of my favorite brains in the country (Jamie Loftus) travels the country talking about the history and regionality of hot dog preparation. I can tell you it’s exactly as great as it sounds, but you’d have to hear it the way I hear it in my head.

My Job/Hybrid Working: When I left the classroom in 2022, there was a lot of grieving for the students I would no longer get to work with, for the badge of ‘TEACHER’ that I wore proudly and exhaustedly, for the work, for never (except sometimes) questioning if I was doing something important with my life and time and energy. That grief is still there, but I also really love my new job and my new work. I love working with people on their projects and their voices, and I love the people I work with and where we work and what we do. I feel incredibly grateful, incredibly lucky, to make books. I also love having more time in life outside of work, time working from home, more energy when the day is done to be a full person to my family and friends. All these things should be possible and common for teachers, and I’m not giving up helping that happen.

Ahsoka: (Disney+) — I was a big fan of Clone Wars and Rebels, a bigger fan of the Ahsoka solo book (and audiobook), and a bigger bigger fan of the character of Thrawn since I read the Heir to the Empire trilogy like 15 years ago. Of all the Star Wars things in the last five years that would have made my head explode with joy when I was a kid, this may be the most head-explodingest.

Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind — Molly McGhee

Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind: Sometimes I read a book and just stop to think about how 26 letters and 14 forms of punctuation can be used to build whole new incredible things. This is one of those.



Thomas Rademacher

Author of ‘It Won’t Be Easy.’ and ‘Raising Ollie’ 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. @mrtomrad on everything.