Favorite Novel of the Year – Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

Nothing goes together like grief and taxidermy. This book is seriously one of the easiest to recommend. It is fun and funny, sad and sweet, and written with so much skill and care. I don’t know how Kristen does it, but the way that every single detail is laid out, at no point does anything feel extraneous, disorienting, or mysterious. I know exactly where people are in a scene, what everyone is feeling, the wood grain of tables and countertops. Just writing about it has me wanting to reread it.

Runner up – Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl by Jeannie Vanasco

Game of the Year – Control

Control has different reference points for everyone. The X-Files and Twin Peaks are some big ones. Maybe even a bit of The Thing. One of the big ones is The SCP Foundation, a creepypasta community that grew into an online collaboration of stories revolving around a secret government agency studying strange occurrences and objects hidden in the everyday.

That’s what Control is as a whole. It’s about the strange in the mundane—a rubber duck that teleports, a refrigerator that you cannot look away from (please don’t look away!)—and I fell in love with it over the course of a month. The narrative is one of the most fun things I have ever experienced. The world-building is incredible. I’m not one to enjoy the glossaries and journal entries in games, but I paused the game to take in every new document, recording, and video that I found in the Oldest House.

And even in the strangeness of it, of Jesse gaining greater telekinetic powers, clearing fungi, entering a motel that runs entirely on dream logic, the game spoke to some simple things—starting a new job, the mundanity of bureaucracy burdened by management, family and its traumas. The Oldest House is not somewhere I’d want to end up, but it’s somewhere I’d never want to leave.

Runners up – Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Pokémon Sword & Shield, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

Favorite Movie That Wasn’t Parasite – The Farewell

I really hope that The Farewell is just the beginning. I haven’t experienced another piece of art or media that addresses the hopes and loves and tensions of being an Asian-American quite like The Farewell. It all felt so spot on in how it spoke to that sense of being in between, the push and pull of where you are and where your family came from, the nuance of being Asian without spending every second just pointing at yourself and going “See me? I’m an Asian? Remember?”

I never knew either of my grandmothers. My grandmother on my mom’s side passed away when my mom was young. My grandmother on my dad’s side passed away when I was a baby. I’m told that I take after my father’s mother a lot in my mannerisms and my food tastes. During the holidays last year, my dad found some old VHS tapes from my grandfather’s 60th birthday. He was continually offered drinks, and my grandmother was offered the same right by him. She was red in the face, absolutely drunk after just a couple shots. Being a lightweight is also something I’d like to think I share with her.

I cried at the end of The Farewell because I like to think that my grandmother would have provided me with guidance and advice, loved me unconditionally, even if we wouldn’t have been able to understand each other with our words.

Runners up – The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Midsommar, Booksmart

Favorite Movie That Didn’t Come Out This Year – Sweet Bean

There aren’t really any surprises in this movie. What you think happens will happen. But director Naomi Kawase does it all with so much confidence. It is sweet and simple in its beauty and humanity. It looks at these burdens that we carry, the way that we weigh ourselves down with guilt and regret and an inability to forgive ourselves for things that have happened that we can’t change. I love the way that Kawase brings her documentary background to this film with the shots of trees and beans and hands working. And good grief, I could go for some dorayaki immediately.

Runners up – Moonstruck, Minding the Gap, Shoplifters

Major/Minor Lesson of the Year – “You can’t change people, only how you react.”

This is one of those annoying things that people have told me in some variation all my life, but I guess this was the year I took it to heart. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be thoughtful of others and improve yourself. It does mean that, a lot of the time, overthinking and lingering on the actions of others doesn’t help anyone involved, especially yourself.

Though I don’t blame you if you still find it annoying, and as much as I can say it, I’m not good at it myself. I suppose it’s still good to keep in mind.

Runners up – “Mind your business” / “Clean your house before you leave for a trip” / “Disinfect your phone regularly”

Personal Style Change of the Year – Figuring out my hair?

As I am writing this, there is a “post a picture of yourself from the beginning of the year and one from the end of the year” thing on Twitter, and I simply refuse because really the main change I made is literally what Jim Halpert did over the course of The Office. Brushing my hair back and showing off some forehead is all I did, and I am mad at both the simplicity of the change and the fact that John Krasinski’s hair person was right all along. Really, I have John Cho, Steven Yeun, and Joshua Dela Cruz to thank, a trio of Handsome Asian Men with Their Hair Brushed Out of Their Faces.

Runner up – Getting better physical and chemical exfoliants, air drying my face, working out regularly?

Best Clothing Purchase – Shearling-Lined Denim Jacket

Sometimes, you desire something and build it up so much in your head that you think it will completely change your life once you have it, but then you actually get it and you realize how useless it was to put so much faith in objects. Well, it’ll always be like that. This jacket is no different. It’s not going to solve any of my problems or character flaws, but it is warm, aesthetically pleasing, and nice to wear. The problem: I now want a similar jacket but in a dark tan corduroy.

Runners up – White sneakers, LL Bean boots that fit, a couple new wool sweaters from Muji

Favorite New Hobby – Photography

Photography is something I’ve always wanted to get into but never had the gumption to really start. It helps that I’m an adult with money to spend and that I have the support, encouragement, and knowledge of one of the loveliest and most patient people on this earth. It has been a really fun adventure so far, from purchasing an old 35mm off of Etsy to getting my first roll developed. I’m still in the beginning stages, but I like that there isn’t really a right or wrong to it, that it’s all unexpected. I also want to say that there is something to taking photos that is helping to bring me closer to my father, who has always been the family photographer.

Runner up – Baking bread

Favorite Album – “Basking in the Glow” by oso oso

This album makes me think of driving down the coast with my brother, the windows open, the sun on the horizon, stereo turned all the way up. This album is what I wanted to listen to as a teen but thought I’d be judged for. It’s emo/pop-punk/indie pop. It’s fun and mature in how it speaks to heartache, messing up so bad and leaning right into it but then finding your way out somehow, finding a way to care. Because damn it feels good to sing:

All I need is four walls to make it my own hell

Hell yeah

So what?

Runners up – “Two Hands” by Big Thief, “Emily Alone” by Florist, “MAGDALENE” by FKA twigs

Greatest Minor Annoyance – Paint chips and a peeling desk chair

I have lived in this apartment for over a year now, and every single day, I still find bits of white paint chips on the floor because the management company used the cheapest paint they could find. The seat of my desk chair also started peeling over the summer. The cumulative result is finding white and black pieces all over my apartment. I vacuum at least twice a week, and still, black and white pieces everywhere! It’s maddening!

Runners up – My studio apartment having only two (2) plugs in its entire living area, FedEx as an entity

Alvin is an associate fiction editor here at LF | BT. He also might be the coolest person I know (effortlessly so), possibly the nicest and definitely has the best hair. He doesn’t live in Toronto, but I like to think he’d make a great Raptors fan. Let us know when you’re ready.


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Alvin’s Top Ten 
Things of the year

by Alvin Park