26 Recommends

As 2018 draws to a close, it’s time for the last round of recommendations for the year. And it’s a bumper crop.

My recommendation for a seasonal soundtrack is the new album by Jacob Collier entitled Djesse, Vol. 1. The title track is my favourite.

– Ezri Carlebach

My recommendation is for Hamilton, showing at the Victoria Palace Theatre. Most things that are hyped to the hilt have no chance of living up to it, but Hamilton does. And although the music and movement and storytelling is brilliant, it’s the quality of the lyrics that should be catnip to any 26er.

– Martin Lee

My friend Elisabeth Witchel works for Committee to Protect Journalists and recommended this article. I think it’s a powerful read: “We decided that instead of watching the funeral of journalism, we would do something. When we produce many lights, even small lights, we can illuminate a whole nation”, Maria Ressa of Rappler, one of the incredible people featured here.

– Sue Wilcox

Favourite books of 2018:

The Cost of Living, Deborah Levy

Midwinter Break, Bernard MacLaverty

The Rule of the Land, walking Ireland’s border, Garrett Carr

Calypso, David Sedaris

Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri

Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman

The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey


Clasp, Doireann Ní Ghríofa

What the Living Do, Marie Howe

And My Heart Crumples Like a Coke Can, Ali Whitelock

Pact, Jessamine O’Connor

The River, Jane Clarke

How to Be a Poet, Jo Bell & Jane Commane

– Therese Kieran

I was completely transfixed by Sarah Moss’s Bodies of Light, the story of sisters Ally and May Moberley growing up in a vividly drawn Victorian-era Manchester. Beautifully constructed and written with such a keen eye for detail; the sequel, Signs for Lost Children, is top of my Twixtmas reading pile.

Playful, darkly comic and an absolute page-turner, I adored Kate Atkinson’s Transcription. In 1940, Juliet Armstrong is recruited into an obscure department of MI5 tasked with uncovering British Fascist sympathisers. Is she to remain shackled to her typewriter? Or to become a spy? And who or what should she believe?

– Bridget Waters

Making an Elephant, Graham Swift

Packed with essays, interviews, poems and memoirs, much of this is a meditation on writing – the motivations and challenges, the barriers and moments when the light gets in. The title essay is a touching memoir of his father.

– Ed Prichard

Springsteen on Broadway on Netflix

The two and a half hour show commemorates the Boss’s wildly successful residency at the Walter Kerr theatre in New York, that began October 2017 and ended earlier this month. A ticket for Springsteen’s final performance on Saturday, December 12th was rumoured to cost around $42,000 so the Netflix show is a steal. Springsteen knows how to play the crowds. He calls himself a magician. “Standing before you is a man who has become wildly and absurdly successful writing about something of which he has had absolutely no personal experience. I made it all up. That’s how good I am.” Don’t miss it.


I have just started listening to writer Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast series Revisionist History  headlined as “a journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood.” Gladwell takes a fresh look at something from the past – an event, a person, an idea, even a song – and asks whether it was understood correctly the first time around. I chose to listen to the episode called The One Song the King Couldn’t Sing  for my first foray into the series. Gladwell looks at one song Elvis could not get right and why. The British Canadian author argues that Elvis and other talented performers fumble repeatedly over certain songs, the ones that matter the most to them. Those songs are all the better for the fumbling, the mistakes revealing the performer’s vulnerability and humanity.

In Bhutan they say contemplating death five times a day brings happiness. I have downloaded the app WeCroak onto my phone  Five times a day I receive a text: Remember you are going to die. With that morbid but weirdly uplifting reminder – in that it puts EVERYTHING in perspective and makes me live in the moment – comes a lovely philosophical quote about life and its natural conclusion. Two goodies: “You’ll never know everything about anything, especially something you have loved.”, Julia Child and “Don’t live in a way that makes you feel dead”, Zadie Smith.

– Elena Bowes

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