Another year, another sprint to the finish line. Amiright?
As we tentatively returned to our “new normal” lives this year, the content we consumed ended up reflecting what we needed out of it. For some, that meant books that fed our escapism or media that broke up the monotony of our daily lives with something fresh and different. For others, it meant content that satisfied a craving for knowledge or taught us something new.
That’s the beauty of art. There is a book, podcast, movie, or show out there for us no matter what we’re looking for. Something that every person on this planet can connect with, learn from, and feel at home in.
So if you’re looking for something in 2023, maybe you’ll find it in our team’s recommendations. Here’s the content that we connected with in 2022 …
Elisa Doucette is the Owner and Managing Editor of Craft Your Content. She also works on all client strategy, writing coaching, and program creation.
In 2022, with a lot of cool projects I’ve been working on (or been invited to work on, which has been equally exciting!), I’ve been focusing my reading on nonfiction and “writing about writing” books. Along with my continued quest to learn everything ever by watching British panel shows and quiz programs.
I’ve missed my nightly dives into fiction and stories though, so I’m looking forward to pulling that back into my life and existence in 2023.
As the founder of an agency called Craft Your Content, I was very interested in this title when it came out at the beginning of the year. And it didn’t disappoint.
While I was happy to see some of my own beliefs about craft reinforced in Salesses’ writing (love this quote, for example: “to take craft out of some imaginary vacuum (as if meaning in fiction is separate from meaning in life) and return it to its cultural and historical context.” [Emphasis added by me.]
For me, craft has never been about the conceited expectations imposed by literary critics, teachers, and editors. In my experience, these folks have some of the worst takes on “good writing craft,” as they are based on what should be rather than what could be.
That said, the book will give anyone with any level of privilege multiple moments of pause and reckoning. Particularly those of us in positions of influence on what gets published and how writing craft can be learned and adapted. It was so impactful, it set me on a path to completely rehauling our premiere course, Become a Master Writer, so many of the dangerous concepts of craft and workshopping could be reviewed and revised (or cut altogether.)
This is a book you’ll want to buy in print if you can, as the writing exercises and prompts at the end are worth way more than the price of the paperback. Or load the Kindle book onto a computer so you can copy and paste and write to your crafty heart’s content.
I love learning about historical figures through their own words and ideas, and this collection of “notebooks” from da Vinci is no exception. Imagine getting to crawl into the brain of one of the world’s most prolific geniuses, an absolute master of his craft(s)!
The beauty of this book is that it doesn’t just give you his insights and journal entries. Through H. Anna Suh’s brilliant editing work, it pulls them together into a timeline that is aligned with some of his greatest accomplishments. It’s honestly a mind warp to better understand the things that someone like Leonardo da Vinci is thinking about and working through as he creates some of history’s best-known masterpieces and modern thought models.
Again, you’ll want to get this in print if possible, with da Vinci’s own diagrams, drawings, personal notes, and more included. Sure, they show up on some Kindles, but it just isn’t the same!
Honorable Mentions: Everybody Writes, 2nd Edition by Ann Handley (this BARELY dropped down here, go buy this book NOW!), Archetypes podcast from Meghan Markle, This Way Up dramedy series from Aisling Bea, Your Story Matters: Find Your Voice, Sharpen Your Skills, Tell Your Story by Nikesh Shukla
Erika Rasso is the Director of Development & Production at Craft Your Content. She also works on various design and marketing projects.
This year started very slow where reading was concerned, but then I picked up the first book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR) series in July and was done reading the (rather page-hefty) five book series by September. The ACOTAR series takes place in the fictional realm of Prythian, where High Fae, lower faeries, and humans live in a strained peace. Human Feyre, the main character of the series, is swept into a Beauty and the Beast-esque adventure in book one, but all is not what it seems. The series evolves into an epic romance with an even more epic war, and explores trauma, abuse, and acceptance. Plus, it has some nice spicy moments for those who are interested in that ;). My favorites of the series are Book 2, A Court of Mist and Fury, and Book 5, A Court of Silver Flames. Sarah J. Maas isn’t done with the series either! So, more to look forward to.
While I’m not on TikTok, I can see why the social media app is obsessed with the series. It’s great and serves as a fantastical escape from our current earthly woes.
After signing up for AMC A-List, I figured I may as well get my money’s worth and see whatever was playing on a random, rainy Friday afternoon. The Menu, while it looked a little serious, had a great cast (Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult) and touted itself as a horror/thriller. I didn’t know much more about the film but thought “why not!” Dear reader, I have not been so thoroughly delighted by a film in quite a while, and as the credits rolled, I realized why. Produced by Adam McKay & Will Ferrell, of Succession, Don’t Look Up, and Anchorman fame. The Menu is about a group of upperclass diners at an exclusive, remote restaurant who discover the celebrity chef owner intends to kill them all before the night is out. I’d describe it more as a dark comedy with elements of a thriller and incredible satire. One line has me still laughing as I remember it.
What started as a throwaway Friday matinee quickly became my #1 movie of this year. Catch it in theaters if you still can!
Sarah Ramsey is a Content Editor at Craft Your Content. She also works on various sales materials and internal documentation for clients.
I love stories that are so grounded in their time and place that they wouldn’t have been the same story had they been set in any other where or when. To me, there’s something more difficult in grounding a non-sci-fi or fantasy story in the middle ground between historical and contemporary. There were two stories that aced the assignment this year. Daniel Cabot Puts Down Roots by Cat Sebastian is a romance, yes, but it also feels like a window to early-70s New York City. It’s not nostalgic, exactly, but it is charming and visceral and a great love story.
Derry Girls, set in Northern Ireland in the late 90s, is your classic story of five high school friends growing up. It’s also a poignant look at the Troubles, or the conflict centered around the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom instead of the Republic of Ireland. The way series creator and writer Lisa McGee weaves the sense of time and place into ageless teenage hijinks (I dare you to sit through an episode without laughing out loud) is brilliant.
Chris Angelis is a Senior Content Editor at Craft Your Content. He also writes regularly for the CYC site.
Each year, we are one year older—can you hear that reverberating “duh” echoing around? However, beyond this not-so-life-changing discovery, here’s another one: We might be one calendar year older, but we might feel that two, five, or more years have passed. In other words, there can be a lot of meaning and reflection packed in a given year that propel us forward in terms of maturity, appreciation, or life experiences in general.
2022 was such a year for me, at least in literary terms. I’ve read important books, I’ve discovered thought-provoking scholars, and overall I feel as if 2022 contained “many reading years.”
As a result, choosing my two favorite picks for 2022 feels exceedingly difficult. I decided to opt for ambiguity and weirdness—“there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in,” sang Leonard Cohen—and go with two novels that are quite out of the ordinary.
Perhaps you have heard people referring to certain songs as “a musicians’ song,” indicating that they contain a lot of artistic value and are overall interesting from a composer’s point of view. Well, Bae Suah’s Untold Night and Day is the novel literary-fiction authors want to write.
That is not to say readers cannot become enthralled by its ingenuity and authenticity; quite the contrary. Relatively short and flowing effortlessly, the novel is an experience before anything else. You can finish it in a single afternoon, and my suggestion would be to do so. This is the kind of book that needs you to find a cozy place, shut the world outside, and immerse yourself in a literary experience unlike any other.
On the surface, the story sounds fairly simple (insider’s tip: the best literary fiction features the simplest plot).
28-year-old Ayami, after her final day working the box office at a small theater in Seoul, spends the summer night walking around the Korean metropolis with her former boss. Their discussions revolve around a missing friend, love, life itself, and as night becomes day, new challenges arrive. Most importantly, Ayami sees that the walls between past, present, and future—between reality and dreams—begin to collapse.
As I said, Untold Night and Day is first and foremost a literary experience. There is a perfectly readable story there, but what lies beneath the surface matters far more. There is a riot of meaning in the novel, waiting for the reader to discover it: intricate symbolism, ingenious writing style, and intelligent metaphors pertaining to the process of literary creation as well as the human experience.
Oh my, where do I begin with this unexpected gem? Perhaps with a warning: This is an absurdly violent book—”absurdly” is the operative word, as you’ll soon see. Like, say, American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis, Popular Hits of the Showa Era contains explicit descriptions of violence. And, as in Ellis’s misunderstood masterpiece, there is an ocean of meaning hiding beneath the turbulent surface.
The plot description of the novel perhaps reveals where the violence comes from: The repetitive existence of a group of young men—characterized by little more than drinking and singing karaoke—is broken when one of them, for no reason, kills a woman in her late thirties. Her friends, all women of the same age, absurdly all named Midori, decide to avenge the murder.
Murakami’s books contain “entertaining psychopaths,” as another reviewer has put it. The entertainment value is certainly there; the novel is not without humor. Despite the violence, Popular Hits of the Showa Era is a surprisingly easy-flowing and even funny novel. The brilliance of Murakami lies in the way he turns his readers into accomplices. By acknowledging the absurdly humorous side of the grotesque, you participate in its darkness, too.
Ultimately, Murakami’s novel is about the immense alienation of modern urban life, the inability of people to approach each other, and the painful lack of empathy. In the novel, Tokyo becomes the archetypal Western metropolis—imposing, hedonistic, yet absurdly empty—where appearance matters more than substance and where it is easier to hurt people than to care for them.
Joaquin Roman is a Senior Copy Editor at Craft Your Content.
I tend to look for reading material that’s informative and educational rather than entertaining and fluffy. And one of the topics I tend to home in on is the necessity to get a good education. Who needs it, why get it, should I get it? Will it help me, or will it help society? So many questions.
That’s where my first selection comes in. The book is a detailed examination of the value of education. The author, Bryan Caplan, spends a lot of time going back and forth between the value of a good education versus learning a useful skill. The book is packed with information, his views, and numerous charts to prove his point of view. There’s plenty of information, enough for anyone to judge for themselves which is more valuable: education or a valuable skill.
Regarding my second selection: These days, one has to wonder why there is so much controversy and conversation regarding the condition of African Americans past and present. I decided to read a Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, where he narrates the treatment and horror of Black Slaves in different situations. Horrible incidents that we must never forget and which prompted him to prove his worth regardless of his circumstances.
Caplan argues that much of what we learn is “signaling,” or showing our worth by how much education we have. In other words, those who have spent the time to learn subjects like calculus, classical literature, foreign languages show that they have preexisting traits that employers want: intelligence, conscientiousness, and conformity.
But in the real world, individuals who have spent years studying subjects they will never use (except maybe to teach) will end up satisfying their own intellectual needs yet will not provide a greater value to society than those who learn a useful trade such as carpentry or mechanics.
Caplan is not against education, but he makes it clear that education is not the only way to succeed and be fruitful in life for oneself or society. He proves his point with tons of charts, which I found a bit distracting: He is long-winded, but he makes the point.
When you need a bathroom fixed, who do you call, a PhD or a plumber? I tend to agree.
Douglass was born a slave in Talbot County, Maryland, around the year 1818 and died in 1895. In his narrative, Douglass details some of his life growing up and his view of the treatment of slaves by overseers and masters, mostly cruel encounters, yet sometimes encounters where he would see himself as a free man someday.
He details how slaves were brutally beaten into submission and sometimes killed at the whim of an overseer. Early in life, he was fortunate to have a mistress who started teaching him to read. Douglass learned early that learning to read would be his ticket to a better life, even to freedom, for he knew, and his masters knew that once the black man learned to read, there would be no stopping him.
Douglass recalls, “From my earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace.”
By the year 1838 Douglass would become a free man. His life would eventually take him from poor boy wanting to be free to various successes in life, including teacher of other slaves, abolitionist, first black U.S. marshal and in 1881 to U.S. Minister to Haiti, a high government position.
Allie Crawford is a Content Editor at Craft Your Content.
I found 1Q84 at a secondhand bookstore and grabbed it because I had loved the one book (The Windup Bird Chronicles) that I had previously read by Haruki Murakami. The writing is gripping, conversational, and stays with me long after the book is finished. The story of IQ84 follows two (and then three) characters as they navigate regular life that now seems to be taking place in an alternate reality.
This alternate reality is just different enough that the main characters want to return “home.” The story follows their journey back to their original reality while also navigating regular life occurrences and the other worldly events happening in their present state.
I had been reading the rather large, hardcover book with small-ish print and was tired of holding it, so transitioned ¾ of the way through to audiobook. Both versions were fantastic.
I will be reading (or listening) to more of Haruki Murakami’s work in 2023!
House of the Dragon … fantastic! You don’t have to be a Game of Thrones fan to enjoy the 10-episode series (more to come). I don’t know what was better—the storyline, the acting, the cinematography, the custom design … it was all amazingly detailed.
If you enjoy family drama, gossip, dragons, and sexual tension, then this show is for you.
I don’t want to spoil the show if you haven’t watched it yet, so I won’t say more.
Julia Hess is a Content Editor at Craft Your Content.
I started 2022 differently than any year before it—with a newborn baby. As a new mom not getting much sleep, I found it hard to have the mental space to engage with much of anything beyond rewatching The Office.
Once sleep became “a thing” again in my life, I wanted to read or watch things that were new and exciting and inspiring.
And then, I remembered the existence of audiobooks and my beloved Libby app.
I’ve finished nine audiobooks so far this year. These are my top picks!
I hadn’t listened to a work of fiction for a long time, and I’m so glad I started with this one. The novel starts with a murder. The narrator is convinced that animals are behind it. As the story unravels, there are more murders and more strange happenings with animals. If you’re looking for a mystery story told from the perspective of a strange narrator who is obsessed with astrology (and, you guessed it, animals), this is your book.
I first listened to Rodsky’s Fair Play to get some ideas on how to organize my life a little more, especially with a baby in the mix. She explains the concept of “unicorn space” and the significance it needs to play in the lives of very busy people. Her second book, Find Your Unicorn Space, expands more on this concept and provides concrete takeaways on making that space in your life. What struck me most was how she said that it’s important to foster creativity in order to “stay interesting to others and stay interested in things.” Rodsky’s work inspired me to really consider what makes me feel like me outside of being a parent and a partner. This book is perfect if you’re looking for that extra kick in the pants to start pursuing a passion project today.
Nick Bouchard is a Content Editor at Craft Your Content.
I’ve been working my way through classics this year and just started my dive into Discworld with The Colour of Magic. It doesn’t matter that it’s not where you’re supposed to start—there’s a whole chart dedicated to this—I found it to be the perfect introduction to the world. Between a wizard who only knows one spell, a “four-eyed” tourist, and a chest with a hundred feet, what’s not to love?
Whether you’re a die-hard fantasy fan or a lover of satire, you have to give this entry from Sir Terry Pratchett a read whether you plan to go through all the Discworld novels or not.
With over a dozen classics out of the way, I wanted a breath of fresh air for the end of the year. So when one of my favorite authors gave this story away for free during the first few weeks of the holiday season, I snatched it up.
What followed was a riveting tale of the Organization, which delivers presents to families in need — ranging from toys for the kids to babysitters for single parents. And it’s all kicked off by a murder and a burning desire for revenge.
It doesn’t sound like it should work, but it totally does. And if you’re looking for something festive that’s way off the beaten path, this is a great pick.
Sena Gürdoğan is a Copy Editor at Craft Your Content.
As I look back on this year, I can’t seem to recall many new books that really grabbed my attention. I think it’s because I feel something that is the opposite of what is called the fear of missing out, or “fomo.” I have consumed so much subpar content in the form of podcasts, video essays that at some point, I became convinced I wasn’t missing anything out.
What may sound like a boomer mentality to some, was actually just a fear of wasting my precious time on poor quality content. So I played it safe, didn’t take much risks, and revisited an old favorite writer, Don DeLillo, with his book The Silence.
As a fan of existential dread and feelings of impending doom, The Silence by Don DeLillo was just the book for me! This chilling novel explores the impact of technology on our lives and the ways in which it both connects and isolates us. Also, though the book was written before the pandemic, it is still incredibly relevant. There’s even a line in the book that says “Nobody blamed the Chinese.” Yes, I was shocked by the connotations of this sentence in my mind, and I started laughing uncontrollably.
One of the things that I particularly enjoyed about The Silence is the way that DeLillo captures the confusion and disorientation that many of us feel in the modern world. The characters in the book struggle to make sense of their surroundings and their place in the world, and this sense of confusion is palpable throughout the story.
DeLillo’s writing style in The Silence is notable for its elegance and ability to evoke emotions in the reader. The book explores themes that may linger in the reader’s mind after finishing it. While some of the themes may provoke a sense of unease, the writing is engaging and clever enough to balance this with moments of absurdity. It’s worth noting that the book’s themes may cause some readers to reflect on the fate of humanity. Overall, The Silence offers an enjoyable and thought-provoking reading experience.
One thing I loved this year for sure was Crimes of the Future. It is a wild ride of a movie by David Cronenberg. In this film, infections are a thing of the past, so the people aren’t worried at all about germs or bodily fluids.
At the center of the film is the concept of Accelerated Evolution Syndrome, a condition that causes abnormal growth and development in the human body. Some people even develop the ability to digest plastic, which is just one of the many unexpected twists in this film. And as someone who still gets emotional when thinking about plastic-eating fungus, this was very moving for me.
But as one character points out, this abnormal growth can also be seen as a metaphor for the dangers of unchecked progress and the need for organization. Without it, the growth becomes little more than “designer cancer.”
In the subtext of the film, we see that our approaches to conservatism and progressivism are put to a test. Can evolution be good or bad? I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this question (there is an answer though, just not an easy one) but it definitely adds another layer to the film.
Overall, Crimes of the Future is a movie that is “juicy with meaning,” if I may quote from the movie. And Cronenberg’s playful approach to self-referentialism only adds to the fun.
Danielle Thompson is a Graphic Designer at Craft Your Content.
It’s always a goal to read more as the year begins, and then … life happens? That must be it. Or maybe I was distracted by the seemingly never-ending seasons of Love Is Blind on Netflix. Either way, it hasn’t been the biggest year of books for me, but a few certainly stood out. (And one show as well!)
Kiley Reid’s debut novel revolves around a young Black woman who is accused of kidnapping while she’s out with the child she babysits. The story unfolds around this incident as well as the grander mood of her life at this time. She’s meandering, lost, trying to figure it all out, and DANG did it ever feel relevant. This one had me hooked from page one; I felt like I was 12 again and reading Harry Potter under the covers. I found the narration refreshing and remarkably relatable.
Of all the gazillion Netflix shows I mindlessly binge, the miniseries Maid was a standout for me this year. It was something more. It follows a single mother and her daughter escaping an abusive relationship and working as a maid to make ends meet. As it turns out, it was filmed in my hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, and the surrounding area, which made it an extra enjoyable watch for me. Though it was fun to pick out all the locations I knew, the “fun” pretty much ends there, and it becomes a frustratingly heart-wrenching, yet beautifully shot and well-acted series.
Amy Gagnon is a Project Manager at Craft Your Content.
In the year 2022, I wanted to read all the books and show my kids that it was good to take time to read. While that didn’t always happen for myself, I read a ton of young children’s novels and picture books! I was able to sneak in a few novels for myself. What I did realize this year was that I truly enjoy podcasts. Something that I could listen to with ease and get lost in on errands. I’ve tried many through this last year, but there were a couple that stuck with me throughout the year.
I actually knew of Matt’s work through his children’s novels The Truth Pixie and A Boy Called Christmas. While Haig has written many fiction novels for adults I heard that The Midnight Library wasn’t one to be missed.
It focuses on a woman named Nora who has fallen into a deep depression and commits suicide. While that doesn’t sound like a humdinger of a novel, you get to read about Nora going to the Midnight Library and see her try the lives that could be.
Are they alternate universes? Are they a figment of her consciousness? You have to figure it out while you flip through one life after another with Nora. It was an enjoyable novel that really made you wonder what happens to us when we enter that other realm of the universe and what your own Midnight Library would hold.
I devoured this podcast series when I first heard it. I love true crime documentaries, podcasts, and books. While I was listening to a podcast about crimes of the centuries, this podcast was advertised. I’m so glad I decided to check it out.
This is a series that is hosted by actress and writer Daisy Eagan. She delves into the world of the strange and unexplained in this world. She dabbles in almost every subject area of this theme. Want to hear some ghost stories? Unsolved true crime? Alien stories? People hiding in walls? She covers it all with facts, banter, and a sense of humor that makes the most macabre seem tantalizing.
There are a lot of podcasts out there that fall into this category, but I think Daisy stands out from the rest for her relatable way she approaches all these subjects. It’s easy to listen to and will give you at least one chuckle in your day.
Have you read/listened to/watched any of our recommendations already? If so, how did you connect to it?
If we haven’t mentioned one of your favorites, check out our previous lists from 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016 to see if we mentioned it there! Or, head on over to Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to share your recommendations with our team and future readers.
Until next time, hope you get everything you need out of this holiday season.
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Erika Rasso graduated from the University of Central Florida with a B.A. in English and marketing and the University of California, Los Angeles with an MFA in Screenwriting. She has worked as a writing consultant, an editor for literary and academic journals, and as an assistant to film and TV producers. In her free time, Erika enjoys playing games and writing screenplays (though mostly she just watches WAY too many shows on Netflix). She is the Director of Production for Craft Your Content.