Eileen Sperry: Circe by Madeline Miller. Stunning prose, amazing storytelling, and Nursing Clio approved!
Laura Ansley: Long time readers will know I can never pick just one book. For fiction, I loved Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (host of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast) and City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. The nonfiction book I can’t stop thinking about is Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe, an incredible account of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Cara Delay: I second Laura when it comes to Say Nothing. Stunning. Also, Jenny M. Luke’s Delivered by Midwives: African American Midwifery in the Twentieth-Century South is one that I’ve already read several times and assigned to my students, who loved it.
Sarah Swedberg: Miriam Toews’s Women Talking which was serious but also often funny. I read Bel Kaufman’s 1965 Up the Down Staircase for the first time ever and realized that our country has failed our children for a long time.
Lauren Thompson: I really loved Pachinko by Min Jin Lee as well as Katherine Howe’s The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs. Both are well-told family stories. Also this is the year that I’ve gotten into the contemporary romance genre — I had read a few here and there over the years, but right now, they are exactly what my brain needs right now amidst an extremely busy professional and personal season in my life. Check out Samantha Young’s Dublin Street series for a UK-based set of stories about a group of friends and family who have all kinds of romantic entanglements! (I think Laura got me into Samantha Young!)
Lizzie Reis: Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner made me laugh out loud quite a bit. For something more serious, In Pain: A Bioethicists’s Personal Struggle with Opioids by Travis Rieder was harrowing; after a motorcycle accident, Rieder had several surgeries to rebuild his foot and got addicted to prescribed meds in the process. He talks about his own struggles but also the larger opioid crisis. Worth reading!
Sarah Handley-Cousins: Like Lauren, I love a good romance novel, and certainly read many of them this year. I also read The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs this year and really enjoyed it. But you know a book stuck with you when you’re explaining it to your family over dinner — which is exactly what I did at a Thanksgiving week gathering, discussing Jonathan Metzl’s Dying of Whiteness to my mom and brother. It was a thought-provoking, important, and readable book that I will definitely be revisiting.
Jacki Antonovich: I did something this year that I’ve never done before. I cried after reading a book. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai is a book centered on the AIDS epidemic in 1980s Chicago. I was not prepared for the emotional wallop in this book. It’s an amazing and important read.
Averill Earls: My favorite Dessert Book Club picks from this year: Yangsze Choo’s The Night Tiger is entrancing, and I learned a lot about Singapore history and folklore; and Katherine Howe’s The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs, for many of the same reasons Lauren and Sarah cite, but also because I was working on my pre-tenure 3rd year review portfolio this year, and I felt Connie’s pain. But my favorite book of the year was probably the conclusion of Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy, The Winter of the Witch. Each book in the trilogy is spellbinding, and the finish was no disappointment. Highly recommend for fans of Spinning Silver.
Evan Sullivan: Without a doubt Sarah Handley-Cousins’s Bodies in Blue. It is a really great look at the complexities of Civil War disability. I have also been reading more sensory histories lately, and one of my favorites has been Aimee Boutin’s City of Noise: Sound and Nineteenth-Century Paris.
Lara Freidenfelds: My favorite this year was Wendy Kline’s Coming Home: How Midwives Changed Birth. When a historian really loves her topic, and has the writing chops to fully honor and elucidate her sources, magic can happen.
Carrie Adkins: First of all, I have to agree about Sarah Handley-Cousins’s Bodies in Blue — it’s thought-provoking and beautifully written and basically everything anyone could possibly want from a work of history. I’d also recommend Represent: The Woman’s Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World, by June Diane Raphael and Kate Black. It’s full of helpful advice, and it’s truly inspirational, and we need more women to run!
Bridget: I’ve really enjoyed Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code by Ruha Benjamin, and Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography, by Katrina Karkazis and Rebecca Jordan-Young. On the nonacademic side, I also loved Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstör, which is a gothic horror novel set in a knock-off IKEA, and printed to resemble an IKEA catalog.
Cassandra Berman: I’m finishing my dissertation, so fiction is sadly on hold. Luckily, Nora Doyle’s Maternal Bodies: Redefining Motherhood in Early America is beautifully written and a much-needed addition to the field of women’s and gender history.
Favorite Album or Song
Eileen: The Highwomen.
Sarah H-C: Yes, Eileen, yes! The Highwomen made me think, cry, and sing really loud in the car with my daughters. Amazing album.
Emily Contois: We saw Kesha perform in April on a whim and were completely blown away. I was slow to discover the wonderfulness of Rainbow, but ended up listening to it all summer as I revised my book manuscript. Lauren and I both have been (unapologetically! unironically!) writing well to The Best of Enya too.
Cara: Has to be Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts.”
Jacki: Lizzo all day, everyday, 24/7.
Averill: WHAT THEY SAID.
Evan: The Hippo Campus album Bambi.
Sarah S: Hayley Kiyoko’s This Side of Paradise.
Carrie: Just stop whatever you’re doing and listen to the soundtrack of the musical Six, which is a delightful new take on the wives of Henry VIII.
Favorite TV Show, Movie, or Live Performance
Cassia Roth: I saw Ariana Grande in Atlanta in August. Full of teenagers ignoring their moms. It was amazing. Plus she donated part of the profits to Planned Parenthood of Georgia.
Emily: Like Cassia, I went to a concert full of teens for the first time in a long while — Billie Eilish — and found it an ear-splitting but wholly joyful experience to be surrounded by young fans screaming at the top of their lungs and singing along to every. Single. Song.
Eileen: The Good Place, especially the Paradise Lost shout-out in the season 3 finale.
Laura: Yep, The Good Place remains the show I am most excited to see each week. I hope that after it ends soon, I’ll find something to replace the Eleanor-and-Chidi-shaped hole in my heart. I also adored Derry Girls, Fleabag, and Schitt’s Creek this year.
Cara: I finally binge-watched Schitt’s Creek, and I’m still laughing.
Lizzie: Schitt’s Creek cracks me up too. Once I figured out that Johnny and David are father and son in real life, I can’t stop watching their interactions. So funny!
Sarah S: Tales of the City. The episodes were uneven, but I loved this multi-generational and non-assimilationist queer story. My favorite episodes were “The Price of Oil” and “Rainbow Warriors.”
Lauren: Derry Girls and the new Nancy Drew on the WB!
Sarah H-C: What, no mention of Game of Thrones?! I loved watching each episode, then reading every conceivable fan theory, recap, and critique. I’ll really miss that. I also had to say goodbye to Poldark this year, which leaves me bereft of Aidan Turner’s magnificent curls. (At least there’s still Outlander.) I also discovered Schitt’s Creek this year, and I can’t believe I didn’t watch it until now — what an absolute delight.
Averill: Carnival Row, in which Orlando Bloom finally returns to the Victorian-era heartthrob that he was born to play. Season 2 of Derry Girls was brilliant. I am currently loving The Baby Yoda Show. Movies? There have been so, so many good movies this year. Avengers: Endgame, of course. I sobbed in the theater for half the movie. I saw Yesterday twice, loved it more the second time. Long Shot, though, was maybe my favorite movie? Certainly the “soundtrack” became the soundtrack of my summer. They didn’t sell it as an actual album on iTunes, so I just bought every song individually, and listened to them on repeat every day that I was writing. Now that is my writing soundtrack. My partner, consequently, hates these songs.
Evan: Game of Thrones, Superstore, Letterkenny, and The Crown.
Lara: It’s not like Hamilton needs another rave review, but I finally got to see it when I was in London with my husband celebrating our 20th anniversary, and it is a masterwork! Miranda is a genius. He incorporated the entire history of the genre (Modern Major General, anyone?) and laid down its future. As a historian, what struck me was that his message — that we all own the American Dream as long as we’re willing to work for it, no matter the color of our skin or the time of our arrival, and that we can all claim the founding fathers as our ancestors — was mainstream, even tilting conservative, in the recent past.
Carrie: Like others, for TV, I’ve been obsessed with The Good Place, Schitt’s Creek, Fleabag, and Derry Girls. I’ve seen fewer movies than usual this year, but a few I’ve enjoyed are Us, Rocketman, Blinded by the Light, and Knives Out.
Bridget: I’m loving Barry, not only because Bill Hader is one of my favorite on-screen people, but also because of the way it confronts issues of violence and trauma. Additionally, the audience response to the ways in which Barry and Sally confront their pasts is fascinating to me. In December, I saw The Inheritance on Broadway, which re-imagines E.M. Forster’s Howards End to confront the legacy of the AIDS epidemic in contemporary culture, and asks what we owe the past. I’ve never been to a live performance where people audibly reacted–laughing, gasping, and crying audibly–together. It was wonderful.
Cassandra: Fleabag and Queer Eye both provided welcome, and often surprisingly touching, breaks, though in very different ways!
Eileen: I really loved Patient Zero, a podcast by New Hampshire Public Radio about Lyme disease.
Laura: I’m proud to say that I got a bunch of the NC team into You’re Wrong About…, a show where two journalists talk about past events (often of the moral panic variety) which were really, really misunderstood in the media and by the public at the time. From gangs to Monica Lewinsky, “crack babies” to “going postal,” this pod will help you break down misconceptions you didn’t even know you hold about the recent past.
Lauren: Ghosts in the Burbs by writer Liz Sower. If you love spooky ghosts and small-town life observations, this is for you. She’s actually just stopped creating new episodes so she can focus on her book in progress, but start at Episode 1 and listen to it ALL.
Cassia: Try out the new podcast The Women. By women, about women. Long-form interviews that explore all aspects of a woman’s life–professional, personal.
Sarah H-C: Thanks to Laura, I also became obsessed with You’re Wrong About… I also adore Radiolab’s Dolly Parton’s America, which is heartwarming and thoughtful. I’m a longtime fan of You Must Remember This, and host Karina Longworth’s new series on Song of the South is a must-listen.
Jacki: Yes, Laura got me hooked on You’re Wrong About. I love every episode, but the weirdest thing is that you’ll find yourself hooked on episodes that potentially sound boring, but are, in fact, fascinating. “Yes, tell me more about the Enron scandal!” or “OMG, I never thought learning the intricacies of O-ring production in relation to the Challenger disaster would be so riveting!”
Averill: If you’re new to the NC Best Of list, I have to chime in and say DIG: A HISTORY PODCAST, of course; my favorite episode to write was the second of TWO on syphilis, which I have since made all my World History students listen to. My favorite to listen to was Marissa’s episode on the Moravians… which I also made all my students listen to this semester!
Evan: I just started listening to Death Panel Podcast, a socialist podcast about disability, eugenics, and politics.
Carrie: I am ALSO one of the people Laura hooked on You’re Wrong About. It is without a doubt my favorite podcast of the year.
Bridget: I’m loving Unwell, which is a gothic/horror/supernatural/weird fiction story set in a rural Ohio town with a dark past. For all it’s creepiness, it’s funny and earnest, and features a refreshingly diverse cast of characters. Additionally, my colleague at Pitt, Jeff Aziz, has a podcast called Remains to be Seen, which covers a wonderfully wide array of topics around medicine, anatomy, evolution, and culture that I’m loving. On the extremely non-academic side, I also love 372 Pages We’ll Never Get Back, which is a self-described “book club where we read books we’re probably not going to like.” It’s subversive and funny, and has a great community of fans. Additionally, I’ve got a lot of insight into genre and style from it that has actually informed some of my classes.
Cassandra: Also within the not-at-all-academic realm, Forever 35 — a podcast hosted by two friends about “self-care” in its many forms — is consistently enjoyable, and a good reminder that the seemingly frivolous can sometimes help us get through stressful times (i.e., dissertating!).
Eileen: Any and all of @BlairBraverman’s tweets about her sled dogs.
Lauren: It was an interesting experience to go viral with this one. Is this what it’s like to be Jacki? 🙂
1/Good morning! I am compelled to write my first ever tweet thread because @CokieRoberts on @NPR this morning stated that she could not find abortion ads in 19thc newspapers and therefore historians are just playing at pro-choice politics.
— Dr. Lauren MacIvor Thompson (@lmacthompson1) June 5, 2019
Jacki: LOL. That is also my favorite tweet of the year.
Bridget: At the risk of being a downer here, I was shocked by the response to this tweet sent out by the US Army in May asking for comments on how readers’ service impacted them. The responses were, by and large, brutally honest, discussing issues of long-term trauma, physical health problems, and issues with returning to civilian life after deployment, among many, many other topics. The thread which, to my shock, has not been deleted, is both a heartbreaking and an eye-opening view about the realities of war and the effects it can have on multiple generations.
Cassia: I just ran a half marathon in 1:38.01, which was pretty awesome. I gave my students extra credit if they came out and cheered for me (and took pictures to prove it). One did. I also was in a dance recital to Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings.”
Emily: I often share photos of what I eat on Instagram, but as I taught Food Media this fall semester, I got to do so with my students using #foodxmedia. As teachers, we don’t always connect with our students outside of the classroom, so it was hugely special to share these photos of what we were eating, thinking, and feeling.
Sarah S: Two things stand out: 1) I reconnected with a friend from SUNY Plattsburgh Class of 1992 and our friend and mentor Patty Bentley (librarian extraordinaire and a model for the educator I have become). 2) I participated in a slam poetry event for our local Pride. I was the oldest person performing by at least 20 years but it was a beautiful moment of community and connection.
Sarah H-C: I recently started horseback riding again after decades away, and over the summer, I was absolutely thrilled to have the chance to show for the first time in my life. In my second show, I won both my classes. I was so proud! I also have been traveling a lot this fall semester to give talks about my book, and it’s been a delight.
Jacki: My favorite experience of 2019 hands down was appearing onstage at the Philly Improv Study Hall. Drexel University’s Professor Michael Yudell invites academics onstage to talk about their work and then the improv actors, well, act it out. It was hilarious and I enjoyed telling Philly all about Pickles the Bear.
Averill: Three things, two academic and one not. Two summer conferences were just wonderful: my first ever Reacting to the Past conference (with Sarah and Jacki), and the first ever Queer History Conference in San Francisco. But the one not job-related thing was going to see Harry Potter & the Cursed Child on Broadway. I went in April with one of my oldest friends as birthday gifts to ourselves, a whirlwind one-night in NYC. I LOVED IT SO MUCH I WANTED TO DIE. And so when Sarah H-C and I were in NYC for the RTTP conference … I MADE HER GO WITH ME AGAIN. And it’s coming to Toronto in Fall 2020 and I CANNOT WAIT. It’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done, will ever do. I don’t think my owl is coming, but at least I have this consolation prize.
Evan: With the help of UAlbany history department and the Disability History Association (join it) I got to travel to Manchester, UK to present my work. Alex and I extended the trip and enjoyed our first time in the UK.
Lara: Submitting my manuscript back in June, and receiving a box of bound books this week. The designers at Oxford University Press made a gorgeous and evocative cover, and it was extremely satisfying to see it in person. It’s been a long time coming — when my second child, now 12, was a preschooler, I was already working on it, and one week at preschool his class was writing books. At the end of the week he told me that his book was all finished. “Mine is stapled. Is your book stapled yet, Mommy?” Almost a decade later, yes, my book is finally stapled!
Carrie: Finally seeing Hamilton live!
Bridget: Is it super nerdy to say “every day”? I got offered my dream job the day after graduation, and since August, I’ve been teaching in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh, and leading their gender and science initiative. I have marvelous, dedicated, curious, funny students who have already taught me more than I could ever teach them, and I also get to develop interdisciplinary courses for students who are really eager to integrate feminist theories and priciples with science, medicine, and emerging technology. I miss Boston heartily, but I’m honestly having more fun than seems dignified.
Cassandra: This year my family and I moved from New Delhi, India back to the U.S. I’ve really enjoyed reflecting on my time abroad, while also introducing my daughter to some quintessentially American experiences — making s’mores outside, trick-or-treating, navigating health insurance, and waiting in the check-out line at the grocery store (kidding on the last few).
New Year’s Resolutions:
Cassia: I’m going Mr. Rogers. When I come home, I’m going to hang up my coat, take off my shoes and put them away and put on my inside shoes. I’m NOT going to throw everything on the ground and then never pick it up.
Laura: In 2019, I got engaged and started a new job, both of which were huge and awesome life events. My goal in 2020 is to just relax (as much as one can in a presidential election year when you’re also trying to plan a wedding).
Emily: In 2020, I’ll publish my first book. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m hopeful. I’m kinda terrified. So I suppose my resolution is to take a deep breath and trust my astrology-loving mother-in-law, who predicts that this coming year is going to be big and good.
Lauren: This year, I would really, REALLY like to get my academic career sorted out. This involves, depending on what happens, either fully accepting where I am now, “leaning in,” and kinda being done with it, or moving on elsewhere. I would also like to finish a draft of the book this year — which I promised to do last year, but after an emotionally and professionally exhausting set of semesters and several years of upheaval, I needed to take a step back. Emily, can your mother-in-law look my horoscope? TIA 🙂 [EC: YES! 🙂 I myself believe in good vibes, and I’m sending them all your way!]
Sarah H-C: My goal is to squirrel away as much money as I can … I want to buy a horse!
Jacki: Breathe more, sleep more, appreciate more, laugh more. Be kind. Be confident. Eat good food. That’s it.
Averill: See Liz elected, or move to Canada.
Evan: I want to be more present with and appreciative of the seemingly smaller things in life. And I hope to have PhD after my name by the end of 2020.
Lara: I procrastinate by reading way too much news, which is not good for my mood. My resolution is to make better use of the Freedom app to kick myself off the New York Times, Washington Post, and Facebook.
Carrie: Like pretty much everyone else, I think, I’d really like to have something that feels like a happier, more balanced life. So I’m not trying to get more done or lose weight or give up chocolate — I just want to relax more, eat delicious food, read great books, spend more time with the people I love, and generally feel like a more well-rounded human.
Bridget: I worked four jobs during grad school, and have been conferencing most of this semester, so I’m really looking forward to finding out what a reasonable sleep-schedule looks and feels like. I’m also excited about exploring Pittsburgh more, too!
Cassandra: I am resolving to deliver two things this year: my dissertation, and a new baby!