Earlier this month I asked you to send along your highly specific personal best-of list for 2023. I requested lists not limited to the usual categories like “best movie” or “best book” but that included, say, the best walk you took, or the best idea you had, or the best change you made to your routine. As I considered my own year, compiling my favorite cultural artifacts and foods and experiences, anything I found I was enjoying became a candidate for the list. Take George Winston’s 1982 album “December.” I listened to it for the first time in decades on Thursday, in honor of the winter solstice, and, I thought, “Is this the best nostalgic relistening experience I had this year?” Why not? The beauty of the personal best-of list is its categories are endless, its inventory selected by a jury of one.
More highlights: The best original demo that made me reconsider a song I thought I knew: “Sailing,” by Christopher Cross, recorded in 1979 and released this year. The best scone I had was the maple pear scone from a new bakery in my neighborhood. The best run I took was on the Heritage Trail between Harriman and Goshen, N.Y. I loved Jerrod Carmichael’s performance in the film “Poor Things” and the book “The Best Minds” by Jonathan Rosen and the story “The Fugitive Princesses of Dubai” by Heidi Blake in The New Yorker. David Adjmi’s play “Stereophonic.” Bill Callahan and Will Oldham’s cover of Air Supply’s “Lost in Love.”
Thank you to all the readers who indulged my request for your personal 2023 best-of lists. I wish I could publish them all; consider this my best-of list of your best-of lists. Take a look at this selection from the submissions, add the interesting stuff to your queue or agenda or diary. Next week: your best advice of the year.
The best stuff you did
The best 24-hour layover, Erika Del Villar, from Seattle, reported, is in Seoul, where she availed herself of the free layover tours from Incheon International Airport.
Pay your friends to mend your clothes, recommends Sam Schultz, from Boston. (Presumably these friends are handy with a needle and thread.)
Described by one reader as “the best transformative experience” and another as “the best midlife crisis”: walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Carol Brand, from Boulder, Colo., was advised in preparation for the journey, “If you pack it, you have to carry it,” wisdom she’s extended to her life, as a lesson in nonattachment.
The best thing Kathy Gray, in Cosby, Tenn., gave and received this year came from bringing meals to her local firehouse. “They were so grateful and welcoming, and always thrilled to see my car pull up,” she wrote.
The best thing Amy Hopper Swan, from Little Rock, Ark., did to improve her marriage was buy her husband his own separate laundry hamper. And, after a trip to Germany, Michelle Wagner, of Jamestown, R.I., decided to adopt a new bedding schema: she bought individual twin blankets and duvets for herself and her husband. “Life changing,” she reports.
Your best in culture
While most submissions were delightfully idiosyncratic, there were some common themes. Readers were mad for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour (the live show, the film, the fandom experience), as well as Beyoncé’s Renaissance and Depeche Mode’s “Memento Mori.” You loved the TV shows “Slow Horses,” “Lessons in Chemistry,” “The Bear,” “Ted Lasso,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Reservation Dogs.” The film that received the most love was “Past Lives.” You loved reading “The Covenant of Water” by Abraham Verghese, and listening to the Meryl Streep audiobook of Ann Patchett’s “Tom Lake.”
Best depiction of mental health in art: The album “Stick Season,” by Noah Kahan — Hannah Levinger, Strafford, Vt.
Best book: “‘Hello Beautiful,’ by Ann Napolitano, for articulating grief in a way I needed to heal after losing my dad and uncle to Covid in 2020.” — Lisa Miller, West Hempstead, N.Y.
Best movie I’ve been meaning to watch for years that I finally watched: Wong Kar-wai’s “In the Mood for Love.” “It was as emotionally stirring and aesthetically stunning as I hoped it would be.” — Jennifer Suzukawa-Tseng, New York, N.Y.
Best book title: “Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come,” by Jessica Pan — Lynn Walker, Los Gatos, Calif.
Best late-night reading: “Diana Nyad’s Swimming Brought Her Glory, Fame, and An Adversary Dedicated to Exposing Her Lies” by Dave McKenna, in Defector. “I stayed up well past my bedtime hanging on the details of this story of someone who I now recognize as a uniquely American figure.” — Sean Nielsen, Tampa, Fla.
Best rediscovered 1970s musical: “I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road” — Marilyn Flores, San Francisco
Your best changes to routines
Anna Sibul in Bend, Ore.,’s favorite new habit is taking three deep breaths and then spending one silent minute appreciating her surroundings.
Jennifer Sutherland, in Southlake, Tex., started smearing sunscreen on the back of her hands each morning after applying it to her face. “Wish I’d thought of that 30 years ago!” she writes.
Each week this year, Rebecca Jamieson of Madison, Wis., wrote something that happened that she was grateful for on a slip of paper and put it into a jar.
Lisa Ortega-Pol of San Juan, P.R., swapped the brisk walks she was always finding excuses not to take for 30-minute dance parties at home. “By changing it to dance, I can do it anywhere in or around the house and bust my favorite ’80s moves,” she reports.
Even more bests
Best way a pediatrician described my extra-loud infant: “Animated.” — Hannah Brandon, Minneapolis
Best train: Amtrak’s Vermonter — Denny Partridge, New York, N.Y.
Best thing I learned to do: “Saying ‘I love you’ without hesitation.” — Roberto Olivero, Portland, Ore.
Best day: “July 17. I had a great date!” — Roy Kohavi, New Haven, Conn.
Favorite moment: “Holding my mother’s hand as she took her last breath at age 103.” — Deanna Lindenbaum, Gridley, Ill.
Readers critique our critics’ best-of lists.
The books that readers told the Book Review they loved this year.
Last year’s favorites from readers of The Morning.
If you’re in the mood for melancholy music from another era, I recommend a spin through George Winston’s catalog of what Ben Ratliff called “utterly grainless, seasonal tone poems.” Not the highest praise, but still deeply evocative for this listener. Winston died this year at 74.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
Just how formulaic are Hallmark and Lifetime holiday movies? The Upshot (over)analyzed 424 of them to find just how many feature high-powered women moving from the big city to a small town.
Vin Diesel’s former assistant accused him of sexual assault in a lawsuit.
“I’m a fan”: Mariah Carey, the queen of Christmas, met President Biden at the White House, Jezebel reports. He played her song.
Kim Kardashian filled her bathtub with brown liquid meant to be Christmas chocolate. The internet had its mind in the drain, The Cut reports.
Shari Redstone rules a vast media kingdom, including Paramount Pictures. Read why she’s considering a sale.
Amazon Studios reached a deal to create television shows and movie based on the popular tabletop game Warhammer 40,000. Actor Henry Cavill will executive produce and appear in the show.
Directors Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach got married after 12 years together, People reports.
Celine Dion’s sister shared that the singer, who was diagnosed with stiff-person syndrome, no longer has control of her muscles, Vulture reports.
A dress belonging to Princess Diana sold for $1.15 million at auction.
Antonio Negri was an Italian philosopher whose writing and activism calling for a new workers’ revolution landed him in prison and made him an intellectual celebrity. He died at 90.
THE LATEST NEWS
The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution calling for more civilian aid for Gaza. The U.S., which vetoed previous measures calling for a cease-fire, abstained from the vote.
The Supreme Court declined to quickly decide whether Donald Trump is immune from prosecution over Jan. 6. A federal appeals court will hear the case first.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the state’s legislative maps, which heavily favor Republicans, are unconstitutional. It ordered new maps drawn before the 2024 election.
A jury convicted two Colorado paramedics of criminally negligent homicide in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, an unarmed Black man.
Apple, trying to catch up in the race to build powerful artificial intelligence systems, is negotiating with news organizations to train A.I. using their articles.
🎬 “Ferrari” (Monday): This film from “Heat” director Michael Mann zooms in on Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver), a former racer and automaker, in the summer of 1957, when both his business and his marriage (to Penélope Cruz) are faltering. Mann first got hold of the script in the 1990s and held onto the idea until he felt he could get the budget he needed, he told The Guardian. The turning point: the popularity of Netflix’s “Drive to Survive.”
🎬 “The Color Purple” (Monday): The story of Celie Harris is well loved. Alice Walker’s 1982 novel won her a Pulitzer and was later made into a movie by Steven Spielberg, then into a Broadway musical. This latest adaptation is, as The Times’s Alissa Wilkinson put it in her review, “a movie-musical based on a musical based on a movie based on a book.” The cast is impressive, with “American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino portraying Celie.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Buttery Breakfast Casserole
If you’re looking for something special to serve on Christmas morning (or New Year’s Day if you’re the type to plan ahead), the toasted croissants in this buttery breakfast casserole make it the star of its golden-topped realm. As with all breakfast casseroles, you can assemble it the day before, then just pop it in the oven an hour or so before you want to serve it. While it’s baking, you can take a shower (or not), mix up some bloody Marys (or not), and know that something savory, filling and festive will soon be yours, and ready to share.
In the garden: Whether you want cut flowers or a striking vertical display, annual vines can transform your garden in a single season.
College football: Investors and sports fans are snapping up short-terms rentals, destabilizing the housing markets of college towns.
What you get for $575,000: A 1913 Craftsman bungalow in Salt Lake City; a Victorian in Des Moines; or a Dutch Colonial Revival house in Peabody, Mass.
The hunt: Two first-time buyers hoped to move from Harlem to Brooklyn. Would $500,000 be enough for a two-bedroom? Play our game.
Travel in 2023: It was an ‘annus horribilis,’ with disasters, upheavals and unparalleled weather events devastating destinations across the globe.
Cuffing season? Making it through the holidays can put pressures on newer relationships.
Northern lights: An Arctic influencer gets through months of darkness with starlit hikes and treks in the snow. See the videos.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
Last-minute gifts from the grocery store
If you are in need of a gift by Monday, we are sorry to say, it’s probably too late to order something online. And the shelves at your (likely very crowded) nearest big-box store are probably picked over. But procrastinators, rejoice: There are plenty of Wirecutter picks available at your local supermarket that would make great gifts. And because every gift should be memorable, we included expert advice for how to make them feel extra special — so nobody suspects you found them on aisle two. —Rose Lorre
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers, N.F.L.: In a season when many N.F.L. teams have occupied a nebulous middle ground — about half the league is within one game of .500 — these two stand out. The Ravens are electric under quarterback Lamar Jackson, whose ability to both hurl the ball downfield and break off big runs is the best the sport has seen since Michael Vick. The 49ers, meanwhile, are the most complete team in the league. Quarterback Brock Purdy, who earned the ignominious nickname “Mr. Irrelevant” when he was picked dead last in the 2022 draft, is now a front-runner for the M.V.P. award. Don’t be surprised if these two meet again in the Super Bowl. Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
For more: With three games remaining for, the 2023 playoff field is remarkably open. Here’s a look at where each team stands.
NOW TIME TO PLAY
Here is today’s Spelling Bee. Yesterday’s pangram was jouncing.
Take the news quiz to see how well you followed this week’s headlines.
Thanks for spending part of your weekend with The Times. — Melissa