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As the year winds down, we’re taking stock of the books, films, foods, fashion, and exercises (if lying down is an exercise) that helped to improve and define 2018. Think of this list not as a scientific survey, but rather as an assessment of the gifts scattered from this year’s proverbial stockings. So cue “Apes**t” —and the rest of our playlist of Barack Obama’s favorite songs of 2018—grab a CBD pen and an Alison Roman cookie, and let’s dive in.
Michelle Obama’s Becoming
The best-selling book of 2018, written by the most-admired woman in America, is refreshing in its optimism, comforting in its candor, and inspiring in its moral clarity.
The fanny pack renaissance
When was the last time you went out wearing a fanny pack? It’s liberating.
Fanny packs are currently fueling one-quarter of the growth in the US fashion accessory market, but lest you feel like a fashion victim, Jessanne Collins is here to tell you that a “bum bag” was found on the body of a 5,000-year old iceman: “There is perhaps no better reminder that the particular moment we inhabit is but a blip in the epic sweep of human history than the fanny pack.”
Drawing as the new note-taking
Inspired by the book Stick Figures: Drawing as a Human Practice, Anne Quito made the case that we should consider taking up drawing as more of a problem-solving tool than an art; more as a process than a performance. “Think of it as a way of observing the world and learning, something that can be done anytime, like taking notes, jotting down a thought, or sending a text.”
For example, see Anne’s recent doodles of the chairs she coveted during a visit to the Danish Design Museum. “Drawing each one makes you retrace (and appreciate) the sculptural and engineering elements in each chair,” she says. And it’s a lot cheaper than trying to own them all.
Cannabidiol, the cannabis-derived compound popularly known as CBD, has exploded into the mainstream via tinctures, lattes, vape pens, muscle rubs, and more. The wellness community’s enthusiastic embrace of CBD is now worthy of satire:
But clinical studies have shown it can help prevent seizures in sufferers of childhood epilepsy and fight inflammation. And now that US federal agencies are getting on board, it’s likely even more stateside consumers will have access to the good stuff in 2019.
Jonathan Kauffman’s culinary history, Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat, takes a “know it when you see it” topic and traces it back to its roots with affection and aplomb, says Quartz’s Annaliese Griffin: “It’s full of fascinating tidbits about American food culture. And makes you legit hungry for a vegetarian black bean burger.”
Those Alison Roman cookies
These cookies made their debut in Alison Roman’s 2017 cookbook Dining In, but achieved peak virality in 2018. The chocolate chunk-studded shortbread cookies are chilled as dough logs before they are sliced and baked, making them a bit like the next-gen World Peace Cookie. Yes, their Instagram fame was a bit much, and yes, you will have to buy salted butter and Demerara sugar for the recipe. But don’t make the same mistake I did by resisting their allure for months—just go ahead and bake them.
So many soundtracks
Quartz entertainment writer Adam Epstein called 2017 a down year for film scores, but 2018—which Kendrick Lamar kicked off with Black Panther’s pan-African anthems—has been particularly strong. A Star Is Born had plenty of ballads and bangers, while First Man featured a cameo from the theremin, an electronic instrument that uses proximity sensors to create ghostly wails, which Adam describes as the “unlikeliest star” of the film. (The movie actually stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, and it turns out the astronaut himself was a fan of the theremin). It was a beautiful year for movie music, and Adam made you a handy playlist.
Chilled (out) wines
We took our wine lightly at Quartzy this year. My personal fave was Post-Flirtation, the perfectly chillable Zinfandel-Carignan from California winemaker Martha Stoumen. Annaliese Griffin was all about canned wines—particularly Ramona, a grapefruit-wine spritzer which she calls “canned wine 2.0.” And Rosie Spinks would not abide side-eye regarding her proclivity to drop a few ice cubes in her glass last summer.
A new way to listen to the Beastie Boys
The audio version of the Beastie Boys Book, which is read by a rotating cast that includes Rosie Perez, Snoop Dogg, Kim Gordon, Bobby Cannavale, and Bette Midler, is like being invited to the coolest party in New York City, roving through the decades and boroughs with the Beasties. The band’s history has some bittersweet moments, to be sure. The introduction, read by Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) is a loving eulogy for Adam Yauch (MCA), who died of cancer in 2012. But the book is also laugh-out-loud hilarious and delightfully off-the-wall at times—and rather unexpectedly, something of an endorsement for raising children in New York City.
If 2017 was the year of squatting at Quartzy, 2018 was the year of just lying down, ideally in the grass. Rosie Spinks points out that unlike many wellness trends, “earthing” or “grounding” is not expensive, elitist, or time-intensive. And though claims about the practice’s health benefits are far from proven, it does just feel good. “Grounding ourselves physically is something that is not only good for our bodies but also for our minds, as a counterbalance to our screen-dominated lives,” she writes.