Nursing Clio Presents its Ninth Annual Best of List!
R.E.: In Whose Ruins: Power, Possession, and the Landscapes of American Empire by Alicia Puglionesi. I picked this up at a Barnes & Noble in June simply because the cover looked cool, and my wife and I read it together over the course of the summer. It’s a book about many things, but primarily the surprisingly hard-to-shake mythologies of an ancient non-Indigenous white civilization that shaped the American landscape, and the way those mythologies intertwined with extractive capitalist industry in the history of the U.S. I’m not doing justice to the complexity of the research and the beauty of Puglionesi’s writing, but I recommend the book to just about anyone with an interest in U.S. history.
Averill: Top three, in no order: Annalee Newitz, The Terraformers; Rebecca Roanhorse, Fevered Star, and John Scalzi, The Kaiju Preservation Society. My students and I also loved and learned a lot from Laurie Marhoefer’s Racism and the Making of Gay Rights. Of course I got on the Fourth Wing train (though where Iron Flame disappointed me in character development, it pulled me back in with a cliffhanger ending!). And I discovered new-to-me author Olivia Dade, and I’ve really been enjoying her rom-coms.
Eileen: I’m nearly a decade late on this, but I read Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy this year, and loved it. I’ve been on an eco-horror kick, and these three novels really delivered.
Kristin: This year, I read more novels from Africa and the African diaspora to dive more deeply into the continent’s rich literature. Two books that stood out were Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions and Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing.
Lizzie: Three people I know published intersex memoirs this year, and they’re all worth reading: Nobody Needs to Know: A Memoir, by Pidgeon Pagonis; Inverse Cowgirl: A Memoir, by Alicia Roth Wiegel; and Not Uncommon, Just Unheard Of, by Esther Leidolf. And if you want to watch a CBS Sunday Morning Show segment about Pidgeon’s book, you’ll see me on there!
Cassandra: I loved Big Girl by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, a coming-of-age novel set in Harlem in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s about bodies and belonging and loss and gentrification and hunger of all sorts, and it’s simply beautiful.
Anna: I went on a books-in-translation reading kick this year and highly recommend two books by Japanese authors: first, the wonderfully weird Scattered All Over the Earth by Yoko Tawada, an environmental dystopia which somehow manages to be both upbeat and terrifying at the same time. Meiko Kawakami’s All the Lovers in the Night follows isolated thirty-something Fuyuko, whose colorless existence is punctuated by her own bizarre and seemingly inexplicable behavior. The shocking reveal in the middle begs the question: how much do we shape our lives, and how much do our lives shape us?
Sarah: I read a lot of horror this fall, and The September House by Carissa Orlando quickly escalated from a book I happened to grab for book club to my favorite read of the year. It’s a creative, darkly funny, compellingly readable novel about the toxic results of learning to cope too well. As for histories, I took my friend Jen Barclay’s advice and read Susan Burch and Hannah Joyner’s Unspeakable: The Story of Junius Wilson. I binged it in one day, it’s that beautifully written and carefully crafted.
Minji: I read this book for review but I really liked Eunjung Kim’s Curative Violence. It changed my perceptions in understanding “cure” as someone who does medical humanities. I seldom read any books for fun so next year’s resolution is to regain the beauty of fun reading!
Favorite album or song:
R.E.: The Music of Red Dead Redemption: The Housebuilding EP by David Ferguson and Matt Sweeney, and I’m not taking criticism on this.
Averill: “This Wish” from the new Disney princess-y movie. It’s an ear worm that played in my head for days after I saw the movie. And I’m not ashamed that the reprisal version later in the film, which has a little of that collective energy to resist oppression, made me tear up.
Sarah: Like Eileen, I was hooked by Weathervanes. When I heard Isbell perform “Cast Iron Skillet” live this August, I got choked up at how his powerful lyrics can capture the cruelty and family destruction wrought by modern politics. I also started listening to a lot of Taylor Swift’s back catalog with my kids this summer on roadtrips, and while I was already a fan, I went full Swiftie. The vault tracks on 1989: Taylor’s Version are immaculate.
Kristin: Favorite album this year was Joy Oladokum’s Proof of Life. Gorgeous voice, catchy but deep lyrics, and beautiful album cover.
Cassandra: I watched the Disney live-action movie Descendants with my daughter this year, and I can’t get enough of Kristin Chenoweth singing “Evil Like Me.” I really (REALLY) dislike children’s movies as a rule, but this song inspires me!
Anna: I’ve been listening to Francisca Valenzuela’s addictive album Adentro on repeat since it came out earlier this year. I especially recommend the title song “Adentro” and “Déjalo Ir,” both of which highlight Valenzuela’s gorgeous vocals.
Minji: I am not strictly Asian American, but I can feel the similar pain from this song from Sundial “The American Dream” as someone constantly questioning where I belong to.
Favorite TV show, movie, or live performance:
R.E.: The Walking Dead. Our Christmas tree this year has a tiny Carl Grimes as a tree topper.
Vicki: My faulty memory means only recent viewings come to mind! I really enjoyed Errol Morris’ documentary Wormwood, about the mysterious death of a government scientist during the Cold War. As for films, I was charmed by Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers, which was the kind of heartwarming film that I’m a sucker for.
Averill: My partner and I really enjoyed Andor; he went so far as to say it’s the best of all the Star Wars shows, but Grogu will forever have my heart. I’m boycotting Netflix at the moment because I’m mad about their big brother IP address tracking for Netflix account use, but The Fall of the House of Usher was excellent and the newest season of Big Mouth had me in stitches (per the usual). The new and final season of The Great on Hulu was probably my favorite show of the year. For movies, Barbie and Bottoms stand out to me as the most entertaining/ridiculous/memorable.
Eileen: The Bear, hands down. “Fishes” might be one of the best (and definitely the most intense) TV episodes I’ve ever watched.
Kristin: My husband got me into the shonen anime One Piece in summer 2022, and last month we finally caught up to the most current episodes! (As of writing, the show is 1,088 episodes and counting.) I also watched the final season of Derry Girls, which had me crying because I’m so sad to see it go.
Lizzie: I also thought The Bear was brilliant. I also like Slow Horses, and I’m looking forward to being done with grading so I can start this next season.
Cassandra: I just saw the 1985 musical Quilters live at 1st Stage outside Washington, D.C. It’s about the everyday lives of pioneer women in late-19th century Texas and New Mexico, told through the quilts they made, and I was completely blown away. The musical is based on The Quilters: Women and Domestic Art by Norma Bradley Allen and Patricia J. Cooper, an oral history with photos that is now, sadly, out of print. As a historian, I was (true to form) a little skeptical of the musical, but I was moved to tears on several occasions, and so inspired by how the women were allowed to simply speak for themselves, delving into topics including sexuality, loss, and the desperate need for abortifacients. (I am also apparently really into pioneer music, something I had not known about myself!) Its creators, Barbara Damashek and Molly Newman, both received several Tony nominations when it premiered, and the vibrant, diverse 1st Stage cast was superb.
Sarah: My husband and I really loved The Gilded Age. I dragged my feet on it, a little worried it would annoy me, but it’s visually stunning and the storylines aren’t afraid to critique the lives of late-19th-century one-percenters. I am endlessly delighted by Only Murders in the Building, and found the acting and vocal performances in this year’s season honestly jaw-dropping. A real highlight for me was taking my daughters to the film version of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. Maybe it’s corny, but I have to admit I was deeply moved that my girls had a summer of unabashed girlhood in the twin joys of Barbie and the Eras Tour.
Minji: I loved the Fall of the House of Usher! I did not know it was based on Poe’s novel but after finishing it all, I recognized it!
Vicki: When I was traveling this summer, I wanted a quick history podcast that covered the places we were visiting. I found The Tides of History by Patrick Wyman, which was informative and also engagingly produced.
Kristin: I most enjoyed Discarded by Gloria Riviera, in conjunction with Lemonada Media. The podcast takes listeners through the Black history of Louisiana’s so-called “Cancer Alley” and the environmental devastation plastic industries have wrought there. Riviera does a great job of letting the interviewees’ voices tell the story of their courage and activism while weaving in context where needed.
Lizzie: The funniest podcast I’ve listened to is called Say More with Dr? Sheila, starring Amy Poehler. She plays an untrained couples therapist (hence the question mark after “Dr.?” I laugh out loud listening to this, and (full disclosure), my daughter works at Audacy, and they announce her name at the end of each episode.
Cassandra: The Retrievals, by the producers of Serial, was horrifying. It explores the gross mistreatment of women seeking care at Yale’s fertility clinic, the nurse on whom this mistreatment was pegged, and the consistent denial of women’s very real pain.
Anna: I got sucked into the hilarious figure skating Ice Tea podcast this year – no serious commentary here, but if you crave some silliness and tea with your competitive figure skating, this is the podcast for you! Note: this podcast includes mature content (mainly strong language) so steer clear if that’s not your thing.
Sarah: This year, one podcast took over most of my listening: Knowledge Fight, a podcast that analyzes Alex Jones and Infowars. Dan and Jordan are former comedians turned Jones experts – to the point where Dan was invited to assist the legal team of the Sandy Hook parents in their lawsuit against Jones in Texas. They are hilarious, but also offer sharp deconstruction of Jones’s brand of damaging bullshit.
Favorite board, video, or online game:
R.E.: My official position on Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding is that it is a unique masterpiece that I can’t actually recommend to anyone. It’s that weird. It’s art. I love it.
Vicki: Wingspan, always and forever. I just received the Oceania expansion pack for the holidays.
Kristin: I’ve really loved playing Here to Slay, where each player gathers a group of cute cartoon animals of different fighting classes to defeat enemies. It’s hard not to enjoy slaying a basilisk as a fox ranger while your friends sabotage you.
Averill: My friends and I just started the Ticket to Ride Legacy game, and it’s DELIGHTFUL. Most recently I’ve been playing a lot of Forest Shuffle, Clank Catacombs, and Ark Nova.
Eileen: I am not a gamer, but I got hooked on GeoGuessr, an app game this year. You get dropped somewhere in the world in Google Street View, and have to explore around until you can figure out where you are. Simple, addicting.
Cassandra: Games still stress me out and I cannot be bothered to learn any rules. But my family did attend our first elementary school Bingo fundraiser, and it was beyond wonderful! We even won a single ziplining pass for an adult, a confusing (but maybe welcome?) prize.
Gianna: Baldur’s Gate 3 has taken over my life (in a good way… I think). It recently won the Game of the Year Award, and it makes sense why. The game is beautiful in design with interesting characters and a truly staggering amount of gameplay. BG3 is based on Dungeons and Dragons 5e, and the flexibility of play that system allows is apparent. Want to play a sorcerer who accidentally turns your party into cats and dogs mid-fight because of wild magic? What about getting an icepick lobotomy by a wannabe bard to get a really cool glass eye that lets you see invisible things? Or, how about just having your party wear funky hats and play out-of-tune music at the worst times? I’ve done all this and more in my current playthrough. There’s always something new to discover or hijinks to fall into. It’s amazing.
The unexpected little thing that brought you the most joy:
R.E.: In early November, a Trader Joe’s opened up just a few blocks from our apartment. If you live in New York City and shop on a budget, you know what a big deal this is.
Vicki: So many! There are two different pods of deer that occasionally show up in our yard and lay down. They’re adorable. I also love any and all moments of indulging your intellectual curiosity, whether that’s through travel or simply going down a rabbit hole online.
Eileen: I learned how to play pickleball. It’s ridiculous, and I love it. I have a whole new cohort of octogenarian gym buddies.
Lizzie: I’m not one of Eileen’s octogenarian friends, lol, but I also love pickleball and play outdoors everyday when the temperature is above 40 degrees and less than 90 degrees. And occasionally my friends will convince me to play when the weather is outside these restrictions!
Kristin: In July, one of my cohort members successfully defended his brilliant dissertation on water policy and environmental engineering. In our program, a group of grad students traditionally bakes a cake based on the defender’s dissertation, to be presented after the defense and shared with all the attendees. He wanted cupcakes, so another cohort member and I delivered! We used tootsie rolls as sewer outlets funneling chocolate crap into a river, with Sour Patch Kids getting more and more ill the further down the cupcakes go.
Cassandra: These chili cornichons from Aldi are delicious. I am also delighted that my three-year-old stills says “gubblebump” instead of bubblegum.
Anna: I ended up traveling a lot for work this year and enjoyed finding unexpected treasures like the amazing Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, which contains the largest collection of Dalí’s works outside Spain. The collection was amassed almost entirely by a single couple, A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse, who founded the museum in 1971 when their Dalí collection outgrew their house.
Sarah: Last fall, I took my new hobby of painting to a new level by taking my first art class in watercolor painting. I’m still not very good at it and haven’t had time to paint much this year, but I find it immensely rewarding. One other little thing was the free moka pot I got from my Buy Nothing Group, which makes passable espresso. It’s a nice little perk to make a homemade latte in the afternoon – really elevates a day of emails and Zoom meetings!
Minji: Sorry that I did not reveal this but I am getting married on January 6th. My partner is in South Korea and I am in New Jersey, so I have so many concerns and doubts of how things would go (but anyway I am happy that my family is happy for my wedding as none of their daughters is married) but it is nice to hear people’s best wishes for something personal (not academic)
The charity or philanthropic organization you’re supporting this year:
Averill: ACLU and Planned Parenthood, of course. I’ve been donating a lot to the Trevor Project. Now that I’m living in a new city, I plan to support my local relief programs for the unhoused. I’m also a Patreon supporter of Nursing Clio and the Exploreress Podcast.
Eileen: Also a repeat, but I’m working to support local labor organizing in our community (our local labor coalition point of pride is that we’re the most unionized county in the most unionized state in the US!). If you want to support some of the newest national movements, you can support Starbucks Workers United and The Amazon Labor Union by buying merch and donating to their funds.
Kristin: In the age of dramatized 24-hour news, this year I’m supporting independent media outlets that have become so crucial to how we access local investigative news (and that also support union efforts in the area). Where I live in Baltimore, that’s outlets like Baltimore Beat and The Baltimore Brew. Check out and support your own local independent media networks so they can continue to cover the issues and perspectives that truly matter to readers.
Lizzie: I always support Talia’s Voice: Projects for Patient Safety. Their mission is “to change the culture in medical settings, improve care, and save lives by getting healthcare providers to listen to each patient, stand up for them, and take appropriate action on their behalf.” And like Averill, Planned Parenthood, The Trevor Project and Nursing Clio.
Cassandra: Oh my goodness, thanks to all of you I just updated my payment details on Patreon. I am a Nursing Clio supporter once again! Also, I always support local public radio, public schools, and the Greater DC Diaper Bank.
Sarah: For a long time, I was mad at my alma mater Wells College for their 2004 decision to go coed and swore I would never donate. But this year I got over myself and started giving when I can, because even though it’s no longer a women’s college, I love the darn place with my whole heart and want it to continue to thrive for future generations.
Minji: One student that I taught last year passed away and my university built a fund memorizing her so this year I made a small donation. She was such a bright student and introduced me to fun shows, so I was so sad to hear the tragic news. But now I am happy that I got to know her.