2017 was a strange, potent year and I can’t say I’ll miss it. I traveled (to France, Florida, Salem, and Iceland), got engaged to my partner Gregg (of Golden Gardens and Goodnight Cairo), left a full-time job in marketing writing to do freelance journalism, and battled mental health demons with chamomile tea and podcasts. I strengthened friendships, interviewed and collaborated with those that inspire me, and sold an article to The New York Times (stay tuned!). I rescued a mouse named Marshmallow, met Gregg’s parents, and started planning a wedding — something I thought I’d never experience. I watched six seasons of The Vampire Diaries in a month.
Looking back has never really been my thing. I enjoy conjuring up past moments in a sensory way, like opening an old perfume whose notes have been overtaken by memory: 1997’s heady summer scent, air thick with anticipation; 2007’s weightlessness, a constantly fluttering butterfly wing. 2017 is a partial eclipse. There’s sun there, but also a lot of darkness. I’m not sure I’m ready to wear it yet, even as an exercise in nostalgia.
Below, however, some favorites…
The People In The Trees — Like Burial Rites, this was a book I devoured on a trip when hundreds of beautiful fascinating things were competing for my attention. It’s a tale of science, discovery, colonialism, and ethics through two unreliable narrators and I cannot sing its praises highly enough.
The Good People — Hannah Kent’s first book, Burial Rites, floored me when I read it several years ago. A “speculative biography” of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman executed in Iceland, Burial Rites called to me even as I was on vacation — I stole glances in the bath, went to bed early. The Good People is another tale of a woman history swallowed, this time in 1820s rural Ireland.
The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America — It’s about murder but also architecture.
Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction — What started as a collection of pipes and other paraphernalia turned into a full-fledged opium addiction. A brilliant memoir covering the history of opium, the way collecting intersects with obsession, and the eventual fate of its author.
Rebecca — I’m a little late to this one, which you probably already know is a dark, delicious book.
TANIS — Though I enjoy the Public Radio Alliance and Minnow Beats Whale’s other podcasts, The Black Tapes and Rabbits, it’s TANIS that truly has my heart. Like I mentioned in March’s Aural Fixation, “it is so very up my weird and incredibly specific alleys that I almost can’t believe it exists outside my head.” TANIS is everything you ever stayed up all night Googling, in fictionalized serial form.
The No Sleep Podcast — My second podcast of choice is No Sleep, born of a subreddit devoted to creepypasta but now a beautiful horror beast all its own. I love its almost-bottomless pit of terrifying tales: No Sleep is on Season 10, so there is A LOT to listen to.
Social media got very difficult for me in 2017. As someone raised on the Internet — I played MUDs in 1997, and lived on LiveJournal a decade later — I always found it more freeing than the “real world,” where my social anxiety and the limited people I was exposed to in schools and neighborhoods made it difficult to express anything that resembled a true self. Online was where I found my confidantes and soulmates, those who liked the things I liked and felt the ways I felt. It was where I discovered music, books, and visual art. And now it feels like a place more unwelcoming and chaotic than the “real world” ever was, though I’m left with no substitute. I spent much of 2017 as a freelance writer, with no separation between professional and private life and a constant need to be filled up with information as if it were nourishment; it was draining and exhaustion and bitterness and anxiety started to seep into every moment, every visit to Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. I’m currently working on some life changes that will help me navigate the online world better in 2018 but I’m still mourning a place that’s changed so fundamentally, it no longer feels like my home.
Blood And Milk bath bomb by Witch Baby Soaps — A blood orange and coconut bath bomb I’ve bought too many times to count.
Bottomless Bath Overflow Drain Cover by SlipX Solutions — Speaking of baths, you know that traitorous metal thing below the faucet meant to keep baths from overflowing? The one that sucks out your precious water until you’re in a sad three-inch lukewarm puddle? They make products to cover it up now.
A City On Fire perfume by Imaginary Authors — Maika gifted me a sample of this and it’s my most-worn scent of 2017, because apparently I like to smell like a burning building. Cade oil, spikenard, cardamom, clearwood, dark berries, labdanum & burnt match.
Premium Gold Snail Cream by GOODAL — 2017 was the year I started putting snail mucus on my face. I have combo skin and this keeps me moisturized but not too greasy at half the price of my previous favorite, Dior’s Hydra Life Creme.
Altar Houseline at Altar PDX — Created by Altar co-owner Cassie Ridgway, the houseline is full of wardrobe essentials I rarely take off. (Good news for gross people like me who hate showers and changing clothes: the fabrics are so breathable you can get several wears in before your cats start side-eyeing you.) I have hips wide enough that many of the dark fashion brands offer a giant sizing problem but you won’t find trouble here. The silky cupro tunic dress, jumpsuit, and megumi modal longsleeve dress are my favorites.
Agent Provocateur — Stock up on designer bras for $35-50 during their frequent sales and then spend the rest of the year telling friends, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t go out tonight because I’m handwashing all my Agent Provocateur.”
Agnieszka Osipa — Powerful, enthralling designs I admired from afar until 2017 — I’m currently commissioning a headdress and belt from Agnieszka to wear for my wedding and I’m over-the-moon excited about it.