32 Fantastical Books for the Savvy Pop Culture Fan

You know winter is coming. You don’t blink around statues. You’re a true believer.

When it comes to escapism, you’re an expert. To help you discover your next out-of-this-world read, we rounded up books based off the biggest movie and television adaptations featured at 2018 San Diego Comic-Con, the annual comics-turned-everything convention where fans collide with artists, actors, authors, and more.

From the stories to read before they hit the screen to the backstories of your favorite heroes and villains, these are the books to keep you entertained and in the know.

That’s Not How It Happened in the Book…
Impress (or irritate) your friends and family with details about what Hollywood changed from each of these beloved stories.

Good Omens Deadly Class It Nightflyers
The Expanse The Jungle Book A Discovery of Witches The Man in the High Castle

Between a Castle Rock and a Hard Place
Unleash the horrors of Castle Rock, a fictional town where Stephen King set many of his most chilling tales, before the adaptation premieres on Hulu.

The Dead Zone Cujo Needful Things Different Seasons

Over My Walking Dead Body
Too far gone? Return to better days of the apocalypse with the original comics and the prequel novels about notorious villain The Governor.

The Walking Dead Rise of the Governor The Road to Woodbury The Fall of the Governor

Just What the Doctor Who Ordered
Before the 13th Doctor steps into her T.A.R.D.I.S., travel all of space and time with these Time Lord novels, including one from iconic sci-fi legend Douglas Adams.

Shada Only Human The Stone Rose Touched by an Angel

The Nature of the Fantastic Beasts
Ready to meet young Dumbledore? Prepare yourself for The Crimes of Grindelwald by replacing your Muggle books with a magical tale or two.

Fantastic Beasts Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No, It’s…
Have no fear—all the superheroes are here. Save the world again and again with these genetically enhanced (or just really athletic) humans and aliens.

Aquaman Wonder Woman Venom Shazam
Supergirl Spider-Man Cloak and Dagger Iron Fist
By Hayley, July 18, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog


Nothing goes together quite as nicely as music and crime. Any bloody scene begs for a soundtrack. And while all books line up perfectly with some playlist, there are some a little more tailor-made than others. So if you prefer your literary murders with operatic accompaniment, here are 7 indie horror, mystery, and crime novels for the music lovers among us.



This Grady Hendrix horror novel from Quirk Books is the story of Kris Pulaski. Although a current manager of a Best Western, she served as former guitarist for the ’90s band Dürt Würk. Kris discovers that lead singer Terry didn’t just break up the promising band for a solo career. He sold all of their souls. Literally. What follows is a heavy metal power ballad of a road novel with equal parts horror and rock. Hendrix is an indie horror legend, and We Sold Our Soulsis one of his best.




Although The Shantyman, the stories’ unifying San Francisco music venue, is fictional, the horror is real enough. On the book’s back cover, Crystal Lake Publishing warns us: “We all know the old cliché: Sex, drugs and rock and roll. Now, add demons, other dimensions, monsters, revenge, human sacrifice, and a dash of the truly inexplicable.” Detailing the strange and wonderful history of The Shantyman, Welcome to the Show’s musical references range from jazz club to rock club, with plenty in between. You’ll especially want to check out offerings from Kelli Owen (“Open Mic Night”), Matt Serafini (“Beat On the Past”), and the closer from Mary SanGiovanni (“We Sang in Darkness”).




From Henery Press, Alexia Gordon’s mystery series, beginning with Murder in G Major, centers around African American classical musician Gethsemane Brown. Gethsemane, in addition to being an expert violinist, is Sherlock smart and funny as hell. The cozy mysteries satisfy lovers of BBC-style whodunits as well as classical music lovers. My personal favorite has been Killing in C Sharp, where Gethsemane has to fight off a vengeful ghost. Did I mention there are supernatural elements? Yeah. These books have a lot to offer.




Beginning with Written in Dead Wax, Andrew Cartmel’s series from Titan books follows a record collector with knack for tracking down rare vinyl. Luckily for the readers, he also has a way of stumbling into some fast-paced murder mysteries. Cartmel brings his experience writing for Midsomer Murders to the page, and it shows. The music is spilling off the page along with the blood and the coffee. There are cats. So many reasons to pick up this series. My favorite: The Run-Out Groove.




From Akashic Books, hip hop expert Nelson George presents his parallel history of hip hop within a gritty AF Noir York City. Along the way he name drops Kanye and Jay-Z and Russell Simmons and others. The story is one of D Hunter’s search for the person who stabbed a well-respected music critic. Like good hip hop, there is social commentary and a blurring of the lines between great storytelling and all-to-real happenings. The Plot Against Hip Hop reads almost like Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, but in the world of rap music. Brilliant prose, vast conspiracy, (at times) borderline trippy narrative. If you love crime fiction and you love hip hop, this book is a must read.




Edited by David James Keaton, this Down & Out Books anthology lives at the intersection of rock music and crime fiction. It features some of the heaviest hitters in the game: Reed Farrel Coleman, Gabino Iglesias, Cate Holahan, Alison Gaylin, and J. David Osborne. On the dirty, drunken streets of this book, there is all the gender-bending, rule-breaking, hard-rocking poetic pain that was Lou Reed. For me, Cate Holahan’s “Pale Blue Eyes” takes what I can only assume would be, in this case, a grimy booze-soaked blue ribbon dotted with blood.




Leza Cantoral, expert anthology editor (who also did the fantastic Walk Hand In Hand Into Extinction: Stories Inspired By True Detective), curated this collection from Clash Books. Although these stories are not all exclusively crime fiction, there is more than enough to be found. Although there are some male writers involved (Gabino Iglesias shows up again), this anthology is all about female empowerment. Laura Diaz de Arce, Ashley Inguanta, Tiffany Scandal, and Monique Quintana all bring A game to this haunting volume of raw emotion.

By , November 


Female superheroes are where it’s at. Just ask Wonder Woman (but we don’t speak of the Justice League movie). I’m glad film studios are finally realizing people want to see movies starring female heroes. I’ve been waiting for this adaptation since they announced it in, what, 2014? Carol Danvers is kickass in every way you can be. Smart, strong, powerful, and hilarious – she’s a kick ass, smart ass badass. Whether she’s beating baddies from outer space or palling around with the rest of the Avengers, she’s always got a zinger up her sleeve. She is tied with Wonder Woman for my favourite superhero and I cannot wait for the movie. To help hold me—I mean you—over until the movie, here are 20 Captain Marvel quotes!

Captain Marvel Quote

“My name is Carol Danvers. Ever since I was a little kid, I didn’t fit in. See, I always wanted to fly.”
—Captain Marvel Primer Pages (2017)

“Even with my back against the wall—I don’t give up!”
Ms. Marvel Vol 1 #17

“You don’t have to thank me. I absorbed you. We’re practically related.”
Captain Marvel Vol 7 #8

Captain Marvel Quote

“I don’t need a power-up to kick your ass, slimeball. I got some moves”
Captain Marvel Vol 8 #14

“This isn’t a question of what I’m not. This is a question of who I could be.”
Giant-Size Ms. Marvel Vol 1 #1

“I couldn’t tell them the truth…it wasn’t that we couldn’t go back…it was that I don’t know if I wanted to.”
Mighty Captain Marvel Vol 1 #9

“Yeah, laugh it up, Mr. Potato Head. Let’s see, which tiny appendage should I rip off first?”
—Ms. Marvel Vol 2 #17

Captain Marvel badass quote

“I’m sorry…sorry I’m a badass.”
—Captain Marvel Vol 7 #16

“These are not the droids you’re looking for. …It was worth a shot.”
Captain Marvel #1

“Don’t you ‘lady’ me, son. I’m an avenger.”
Avenging Spider-Man 9

Captain Marvel Quote Lucky Hat

“Preeeetty sure nothing bad can happen when I’m wearing my lucky hat.”
Captain Marvel #9

“But being the best you can be…That’s doable. That’s possible for anybody if they put their mind to it.”
—Ms. Marvel Vol 2 #50

“Now if you’ll excuse me…I need to go punch a dinosaur.”
Captain Marvel #9

“No one steals my flerken cat!”
Captain Marvel Vol 8 #2

“Have you ever seen a little girl run so fast she falls down? There’s an instant, a fraction of a second before the world catches hold of her again…A moment when she’s outrun every doubt and fear she’s ever had about herself and she flies. In that moment, every little girl flies.”
Captain Marvel Vol 8 #1

“Make the coffee and I might let you live.”
Captain Marvel Book 2: Stay Fly (#7-11)

“Fear is not a choice. What you do with it is.”
Captain Marvel #10

Captain Marvel Quote let's rewrite some history

“Let’s rewrite some history, shall we?”
Captain Marvel #2

“You wanna be excellent? Really excellent at what you do? Then be excellent every day, in every part of your life. That’s how the great ones do it.”
Avengers (2018) #11

“Well…First there was nothing, then there was everything…Then the good lord saw fit to bring me into the world to kick the asses of those who need it most. So get ready ’cause this day or the next, it’s coming.”
Avengers Vol 5 #19

And a bonus from the movie trailer:
“I’m not going to fight your war. I’m going to end it.”

By , January 

8 Novels That Accurately Portray the Modern Workplace

There are plenty of books written about vacations and set in dazzling time periods or places, but what about novels that speak to who we are and where we are today? This list of titles, set amidst offices, jobs, and predicaments that feel familiar to most of us, are another type of enjoyable read: You can get completely engrossed in the fantasy of “I wish I could say that to my boss,” or “I wish I had that job,” while also looking inward and considering what it means to truly be satisfied by the thing you do every day.

The cover of the book The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada

Lauren Weisberger
Let’s kick it off with the book that inspired the film that inspired an undying love for Meryl Streep in a whole new generation. Whether or not you have seen the film, the novel is worth a visit. It’s able to capture main character Andy’s voice in a way the movie just couldn’t do. We’ve all experienced demanding bosses, making Weisberger’s book relatable while adding the extra ingredient of high-fashion fantasy. The Devil Wears Prada will make you consider whether you have to put up with workplace insanity just because you know other people envy the position you’re in. What is the cost of a “dream” job? It’s a fun read that offers inspirational, what-do-I-want-from-life thinking without beating you over the head with it.


The cover of the book The AssistantsThe Assistants
Camille Perri
Student loans are a sore subject for most people. An unspoken understanding lives amongst most young worker-bees in the form of: “I’m busy trying to pay rent while also working off this insane level of debt.” Perri’s debut novel The Assistantsbrings that stress out into the open when her main character, Tina, is presented with a serious moral conundrum that could lead to a debt-free existence. Perri’s book is astute, clever, and (most importantly) timely: It captures the narrative of today’s millennial woman as few other books have yet to do. The next time you are faced with a paycheck panic attack, take a few deep breaths and pick up this title for an edgy read that will bring a little crime caper to your day.


The cover of the book A Lady's Guide to Selling OutA Lady’s Guide to Selling Out
Sally Franson
Be warned by the title: Casey, the main character of Franson’s book, is not always the most likeable of gals. However, it makes sense when you consider her primary struggle, namely losing herself in a high-paying, but emotionally unfulfilling job. Casey is flawed, and Franson’s book is best read as satire for a generation many see as too social media obsessed. But the all-too-real moral question the novel raises is why it’s on this list: If success means tossing your integrity and passions aside, is it worth it?


The cover of the book Sophia of Silicon ValleySophia of Silicon Valley
Anna Yen
In a time when the phrase “boys will be boys” is no longer tolerated, Yen’s novel — inspired by her own experiences in the largely male-dominated tech industry — is an interesting read. Although the book was just released this spring, the story comprises Yen’s experience coming up in the mid-90s, creating a fascinating opportunity for review and perspective for today’s readers: How would Sophia react to certain comments if they were said now rather than then? That said, where Yen’s character Sophia may fall short in some respects, her drive and unique job experiences still make her a fresh voice to add to your list of reads.


The cover of the book SociableSociable
Rebecca Harrington
Sometimes capturing the realism of a situation can mean the character isn’t altogether loveable. Enter Harrington’s satire, Sociable, which explores the contrast between journalism and easy headlines, as an over-the-top romp about the extreme hazards of social media. It places a lighthearted gloss over real issues of toxic digital usage, and the pressure to navigate job success at a time when “follows” can dictate hireability. Harrington isn’t afraid to lean into the vanity of her protagonist Elinor, and show a painful reality through a humorous lens.


The cover of the book Do This For MeDo This For Me
Eliza Kennedy
Raney Moore, the leading lady of Kennedy’s latest novel, is kind of a badass. She does everything in a spectacularly dramatic fashion. She loves hard, she hates hard, she exacts revenge hard. But at the root of this hilarious beach read is a successful woman, wife, and mother, who realizes she needs to take stock of her own life and actions, giving the story a poignancy perfectly served up with a side of revenge fantasy.


The cover of the book I Don't Know How She Does ItI Don’t Know How She Does It
Allison Pearson
This novel isn’t entirely about workplace dynamics, but more about the balance between office and home. Being a mother is truly its own challenging job, and Pearson’s comical, honest take on a woman trying to put 100 percent into every facet of her life offers a hilarious but on-point look at the fact that it’s impossible to do it all and still feel like a human being. You may find yourself laughing and crying simultaneously, but Pearson’s narrative at least makes it feel cathartic.


The cover of the book AttachmentsAttachments
Rainbow Rowell
Before she wrote Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell debuted with this charming workplace rom-com. Rowell’s voice is perfect for capturing the heartwarming and awkward, and Attachments is no exception. Lincoln is hired to monitor work emails, and finds himself falling for one of the employees through her writing. It’s a problem. If you’ve ever worried about someone learning too much about you before a first date through social media, this story has that beat. Set in the late 90s, this isn’t exactly present-day, but the issues of privacy and interoffice relationships still feel relevant, and Rowell’s writing pulls you in no matter the era.

8 of the Most Legendary Con Artists in Fiction and Real Life

Photo by Graeme Worsfold on Unsplash

Con man, grifter, hustler, swindler – whatever you want to call them, we’re fascinated by literary ne’er-do-wells and their oft-complex schemes and shenanigans. Whether they be stories of the escapades of real-life con men, or the imagined flimflammery – and occasionally darker doings – of any number of fictional schemers, the story of a good swindle is always an entertaining one. Nothing is ever quite what it seems and the twists come fast and often. Here are a few of our favorites.

The cover of the book Catch Me If You CanCatch Me If You Can
Frank Abagnale, Jr. with Stan Redding
This now classic memoir recounts the shenanigans, cons, and escapes of one of the most notorious con men of all time – Frank W. Abagnale. Abagnale successfully masqueraded as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, and a sociology professor, along with cashing $2.5 million in forged checks, all before the age of twenty-one. You’ve likely never read a memoir quite like this one.


The cover of the book The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, Ripley's GameThe Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, Ripley’s Game
Patricia Highsmith
Originally created in 1955, Tom Ripley quickly became the template for the more macabre literary con men. Charming, agreeable, and seemingly benign, Tom Ripley was also utterly amoral, manipulative, and murderously ruthless. Patricia Highsmith was one of the finest thriller writers of the twentieth century and The Talented Mr. Ripley is one of her best.


The cover of the book Chasing PhilChasing Phil
David Howard
This seemingly over-the-top true crime tale follows a pair of fresh-faced FBI agents on the hunt for one of the world’s most wanted con men. It begins in 1977 with the FBI’s first undercover wire-wearing missions and sees agents J.J. Wedick and Jack Brennan traveling the globe from Cleveland to Frankfurt to the Bahamas, infiltrating the jet setting swindler extraordinaire Phil Kitzer. This one is larger-than-life and nearly impossible to put down.


The cover of the book FingersmithFingersmith
Sarah Waters
Taking cues from Oliver Twist, and with precisely the sort of dark twist you’d expect from Sarah Waters, Fingersmith is an engrossing puzzle box of a story. It centers on Sue Trinder, an orphan since infancy, who is caught up in the world of Gentleman – a charming con man and petty thief known as a “fingersmith.” She is quickly pulled into a scheme to seduce a wealthy woman, but in Dickensian fashion, discovers nothing is quite what it seems.


The cover of the book The Good ThiefThe Good Thief
Hannah Tinti
Twelve-year-old Ren grew up in Saint Anthony’s Orphanage for boys. He’s missing his left hand and has spent his young life puzzling over the mystery of how – and when – this happened. When a young man claiming to be Ren’s long-lost brother appears, and with a compelling story for how Ren lost his hand, Ren is swept up in a world of hard-scrabble adventure, of con men and petty thieves, and perhaps a chance to discover his past. The Good Thief is a haunting, sometimes whimsical, and darkly fantastical novel.


The cover of the book The Man in the Rockefeller SuitThe Man in the Rockefeller Suit
Mark Seal
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit digs deep into the life of Clark Rockefeller, a wealthy member of the famous American family, who vanished after kidnapping his daughter. The problem? Clark Rockefeller did not exist. The Man in the Rockefeller Suit is actually the story of Christian Gerhartsreiter, a con man with myriad identities who posed as Rockefeller for twelve years, fooling virtually everyone, including his wife.


The cover of the book The HeistThe Heist
Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
The first novel in Janet Evanovich’s Fox and O’Hare series centers on FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare. She’s dedicated, disciplined, and has made a name for herself tracking down the world’s most wanted criminals. Now, she set on her sights on international con man Nicolas Fox. But just when she has him in her grasp, Fox pulls off his greatest con – convincing the FBI to not only give him a job, but to partner him up with O’Hare. The Heist is filled with just the sort of action and humor Evanovich fans have come to love, and it’s the perfect way to while away an afternoon or two.


The cover of the book Matchstick MenMatchstick Men
Eric Garcia
Roy and Frankie are long-time partners and two of the best grifters in the game, they know each other like brothers, and have perfected the art of the con. Unfortunately, fate, and a bit of Roy’s past, is about to throw a wrench in their latest score. The teenage daughter Roy didn’t know he had has shown up and wants to get to know her father – and the family business. Like any great con, Matchstick Men is not what you think it is and unfolds like a literary shell game, guaranteed to keep those pages turning.


I have started rereading the Harry Potter books to help me get to sleep at night, since I know them well enough that I don’t feel like I’m missing anything when I fall asleep halfway through a chapter and need to find my place again. As a result, I have come across a number of tiny mysteries that were (gasp!) never addressed by Pottermore and I thought they were just, well, nice and comforting in light of the various larger inconsistencies in The Crimes of Grindelwald. I anticipate that I will find more of these as I move forward through the series. For the record, I will be leaving out anything about the mechanics of time travel via Time Turner because that just hurts my brain, and any thoughts about the mechanics of Hagrid’s conception because there are some things that really ought to stay mysteries.


Some people who are better at math than me figured out that, given the price of the materials (unicorn hair, phoenix tail feather, etc.) that go into each wand, Ollivander probably sells them at a loss. Even so, wands are among the most pricey of school supplies. However, since wizards get worse results when using someone else’s wand, it does not seem to me to be the best area to economize when buying school supplies for your eleven-year-old. I understand why Ron ended up with Charlie’s old wand given how many Weasley children there are, but Neville, who presumably had at least some money left to him by his parents, also used his father’s old wand for the first five books and that didn’t always go well for him. The poor kid already had the cards stacked against him, why not get him his own wand?



In the very first book, Dumbledore tells Hagrid and McGonagall that he has a scar on his left knee that is a perfect map of the London Underground and that scars can be useful—how so, Albus? Do you think he’s just going to strip in the middle of a chase scene in the Underground in the next Fantastic Beasts movie? Maybe that’s when he decides to switch to velvet robes instead of those smart suits.



I asked a while back on Twitter why Quirrell’s students thought the turban smelled like it was stuffed with garlic when it was actually stuffed with Voldemort’s face. One suggestion was that it was just the stench of evil. It’s hard to brush teeth on the back of your head, someone else said.



Does Professor McGonagall just order, say, a bunch of umbrella birds to be turned into umbrellas? What happens to them after class? Do they just hang out as umbrellas until the next time they’re needed? You don’t have to feed or clean up after umbrellas. (I know, let it go. It’s magic.)



We know that Nick and his fellow ghosts miss being able to taste food, even though they no longer have to eat. Nick obviously couldn’t have taken the potion that was used on the Petrified students. Was the Mandrake Draught just sprayed in his general direction?

I hope I’ve given you a few things to wonder about today.

By , December 

50 Wonderful Things From 2018

The Afro-Latino Brooklynite Miles Morales is one of many characters who don the mask in the 2018 film Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.
Sony Pictures

Standard caveats (really standard — same as last year!): I don’t watch everything. I am behind on many things. That’s just the way the world is. So if something you loved isn’t here, it is not a rebuke.

And: These are cultural — mostly pop-cultural — things. These are not the best things in the world. Like yours, my actual list of wonderful things from the year, if I wrote it in a journal instead of for work, would be a list of people and moments spent with them, of days when it was unexpectedly sunny and of times when things suddenly felt better. But whatever journey you’re on at any given moment, you can always use more good things. So here we go.

1. Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lively performance of “A Cover Is Not the Book,” a preposterously catchy dance-hall number in Mary Poppins Returns.

2. Miles Morales’ father talking to him through his door in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseThe film is full of visually inventive sequences, but this emotional scene between father and son might be its most important moment.

3. “Must the duck be here?” Yorgos Lanthimos’ royal court comedy-drama The Favourite isn’t as fussy as it could have turned out, and it runs on the performances of Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. Its absurdity is carefully apportioned, including when Harley (Nicholas Hoult), exasperated by a companion’s feathered pal, wonders whether the room could be smaller by a couple of webbed feet.

4. The climactic moment of Steve McQueen’s Widows. It’s been hard to explain this difficult and thoughtful but also exhilarating heist film to audiences. But as it reaches its end and concludes as it must, Viola Davis stands in for many women who have simply had enough.

5. The gold shades of If Beale Street Could Talk. Barry Jenkins’ entire film is a series of lush images, beginning with the breathtaking opening shots, in which Tish’s (KiKi Layne) coat and Fonny’s (Stephan James) shirt and the canopy of leaves in their neighborhood are all the same autumn gold.

6. Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant’s final scene in Can You Ever Forgive Me? McCarthy, as a curmudgeonly forger, and Grant, as her lonely accomplice and only real friend, meet up at the end of Marielle Heller’s film after a long estrangement. And while the scene is deeply felt, it doesn’t betray the story’s fundamental sense of isolation.

7. Carla Gugino’s performance in Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House. The series was uneven and overlong, but one part that was riveting throughout was Gugino’s work as Olivia Crain, a mother slowly feeling her grip on reality slide.

8. The blues of Wildlife. Directed by Paul Dano and written by Dano and Zoe Kazan, the family drama Wildlife showcased great work from Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ed Oxenbould. But it also stands out as a stunning example of color in visual storytelling. Watch the film when you can, and watch for where the blue is, where the neutrals are, and where unexpected colors are. It’s a fully thought-out color story in a way that’s immensely satisfying.

9. “Shallow.” For all the fuss that came and went over Bradley Cooper’s reimagining of the oft-told show-business tragedy A Star Is Born, the moment that stuck — for good reason — was Lady Gaga and Cooper performing the song “Shallow,” which Gaga wrote with her collaborators. In that moment, it’s utterly believable that Ally and Jackson are falling in love and finding that love in art, despite the fact that the literal telling of the tale, in which she warbles a bit of it in a parking lot and he completes a full arrangement with which she sings along flawlessly, doesn’t make the least bit of sense.

10. Blake Lively’s various looks in A Simple Favor. A tonally playful film, Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor is funny and tense and over-the-top all at once. One of its signatures is Blake Lively’s gorgeous menswear-inspired wardrobe, which plays against Anna Kendrick’s almost cartoonish femininity. Everyone in the film looks great, and the film looks great, and it continues Feig’s history of working very effectively with actresses to showcase notes they haven’t quite hit before.

11. The Good Place: The PodcastBehind-the-scenes podcasts are difficult. They can easily collapse into a bunch of people talking about how great it is to work together which, without more, isn’t much. The Good Place: The Podcast, however, hosted by actor Marc Evan Jackson, makes the formula work. They interview not only actors and writers, but also folks who work in areas like effects, set design, props, music and stunts. Taken together, the podcast’s run is a great way to learn how TV shows work and how many people put their full hearts into the ones that are good.

12. The opening montage of Forever. The showstarred Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph as a couple whose marriage faced a very unexpected set of circumstances. And while not all of it worked, the opening sequence, showing how a couple can go from blissfully in love to contentedly in love to companionably cohabitating, was efficient and alarmingly plausible.

13. Peter Kavinsky’s selfie. The Netflix adaptation of Jenny Han’s YA romance To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was a hit, not to mention a real boon to lovers of romantic comedy in general. And while its final scene is swoonworthy and its adorable flirtations are many, none stayed with me quite like Peter (Noah Centineo) taking a selfie for Lara Jean (Lana Condor) to use as the background on her phone. Gently and confidently funny (only because you know it’s supposed to be funny), it’s one of the moments that make it believable that Peter is very, very excited about Lara Jean.

14. The wig throw. Look, there are so many things to love about Black Panther. How do we choose? Well, I choose the moment in which Okoye (Danai Gurira) hurls her wig at one of the men attacking her, just long enough for it to distract him. Wigs detached from heads (and sometimes on heads) are inherently funny and that scene is inherently great, so it winds up being one of the film’s OH BOY NO WAY moments that work especially well in a crowded theater.

15. The end of Avengers: Infinity War. If you haven’t yet seen the penultimate installment in this set of Avengers films, just move right along. Skip this one. Don’t spoil yourself. Okay, if you’re still here, I assume you know that there were heavy losses at the end of the film (most of which, sure, will be undone in the next). Peter Parker (Tom Holland), in particular, was allowed to show fear as he began to vanish, and that fear and panic made his (come on, surely temporary) loss all the more emotional.

16. “Oh no, he died.” The comedy Game Night is much, much better than it sounds like it would be, thanks in part to the cast. Jason Bateman, Kyle Chandler, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury … everybody is good. But there is no performance in the film better than Rachel McAdams as Annie, a deadly serious competitor on game night with her friends who becomes a surprised participant in what film-lovers know as One Crazy Night. You can already know going into it that you will hear her say “Oh no, he died!” at one point and it will be one of the best line-readings of the year. It will still make you laugh. I can still watch it now and still laugh. Putting this together, I just did.

17. The scene where Kayla’s dad comes clean about his fears. There has been a ton of praise, all earned and all deserved, for Elsie Fisher’s performance as young Kayla in Bo Burnham’s stunning Eighth Grade. But the film also relies on Josh Hamilton as Kayla’s father. In one scene, the focus briefly shifts to him as he tries to explain how much he loves her and how much he loves being her father. There isn’t a false note. It’s a beautiful scene.

18. The Rumble In The Restroom. Little bits of the fight scene in which Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill and Liang Yang bounce each other off walls and sinks and mirrors started to circulate well before the release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout. But in the end, the whole thing was as claustrophobic, exciting, stylish and sort of funny as you could have possibly hoped.

19. Cate Blanchett’s suits in Ocean’s 8. If you saw the film, then you know.

20. The singing lineup. As depressing as it was to see Fox cancel the fantastic comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, that’s how much fun it was to see NBC pick it right back up again for a sixth season that will start just after the new year. Where would we be without Jake Peralta having the guys in a police lineup sing “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys?

21. Tully‘s montage. It was a good year for montages, actually, and like the one in Forever, the one in Tully that showed the drudgery and monotony of caring for an infant gave us something that only a sequence like that can do. It compressed time — faster and faster, in fact — to tell a story about a lot of moments, none of which are memorable.

22. Sandra Oh in Killing Eve. All the performances in the BBC America series are terrific. But Sandra Oh, who has been one of our most indispensable actresses for many years, played the obsessed spy with an intensity and vulnerability that helped Jodie Comer’s somewhat broader portrayal of the assassin Villanelle remain grounded.

23. A Quiet Place‘s final shot. The entire film is almost unbearably tense, since one key to survival is to stay silent even as danger mounts, passes or arrives. It becomes difficult to imagine what could be a satisfying conclusion — what could feel fair and consistent with the story and not, at some level, just nihilistic and awful. It’s very smart that the story ends where it does — which I wouldn’t dare to give away.

24. John Mulaney and the horse in the hospital. Mulaney’s special Kid Gorgeous has long sections devoted to stranger-danger training and Saturday Night Live. But the peak is an extended simile in which he compares politics to having a horse loose in a hospital. Even if nothing else in the special worked, it would be an astounding document just for that.

25. The last line of Barry. The comedy-drama Barry stars Bill Hader as a hit man trying to go straight, in part by taking acting classes. While it sounds like the setup for black comedy only, the first season builds to a final sequence in which the entire point of the story and the entire meaning of the character’s experience up to this point come into focus in one jarring moment.

26. A dogfight over some garbage. I wound up having mixed feelings about Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, but a sequence in which two packs of dogs scrap over discarded and rotting food, all the while calmly negotiating over how to proceed, turns into a delightful Looney-Tunes-ish moment.

27. Chris Pine in A Wrinkle in Time. I was candidly baffled by the public ambivalence about Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of the Madeleine L’Engle novel, in part because the relationship between Meg (Storm Reid) and her father, played by Pine, was so moving. He’s just wonderful in it, human and scared, brilliant and lost.

28. New Greg. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is approaching the end of its run. The creators, not surprisingly, decided that it would be a better story if Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) got to close the loop on her relationship with old boyfriend Greg. But when Greg’s original portrayer, Santino Fontana, wasn’t available, they recast with Skylar Astin. But they didn’t pretend it hadn’t happened. Instead, they used the change as a way to play with the idea that when you have changed and someone else has changed in the years since you dated each other, it can feel like the ex is literally a different person. It’s a clever and respectful way to recast a character who was much loved.

29. The sad, exciting, adventurous, devastating portrayal of middle school in the Netflix series Everything Sucks! Rarely has coming of age been so fairly and painfully drawn.

30. Revisiting ER. One of the fun things that happens in the streaming era is that when a series becomes available in a new place, it can be an excuse to talk about it. That’s what happened when all 15 seasons of ER arrived on Hulu in January. It became an opportunity to look back on an influential show, its blind spots and its stars in the making.

31. The Annihilation plants. Alex Garland’s thriller Annihilation features great performances from actresses including Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson and Jennifer Jason Leigh. But it also showcases genuinely beautiful visual effects. That’s not only the case in its purely frightening sequences or its curious finale. It’s true throughout, with the creation of unusual plants and strange sights that signal to the traveling women that they are somewhere they’re unprepared to be.

32. Successful reinventions. When The Great British Bake Off, broadcast in the United States as The Great British Baking Show, moved from the BBC to Channel 4, it lost judge Mary Berry and hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins. Without them, it was almost impossible to imagine it continuing. Nevertheless, while it feels disloyal to say so, those charged with carrying on have actually done a marvelous job. Hosts Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig have a very different but also entertaining dynamic, while judge Prue Leith is just a bit more naughty than Berry was, making her able to play off the eternally self-important Paul Hollywood in a slightly different way.

33. The two episodes of the podcast Reply All about policing. In a way no individual true crime podcast could, these episodes, called “The Crime Machine,” shed light on the development of New York’s crime statistics system and how a tool intended to create more just results became a weapon used against people who are already marginalized.

34. James Acaster’s Repertoire. Acaster, a British comic, released a set of four specials on Netflix in March together under the label Repertoire. They’re brilliantly structured, weird, insightful and profoundly funny.

35. Paige on the platform. The series finale of The Americans was wrenching in different ways than longtime viewers of the spy show might have expected. Maybe the biggest reveal in the entire run, though, happens the last time Paige (Holly Taylor) and her mother Elizabeth (Keri Russell) make eye contact. Perfectly timed to the period music that was always so thoughtfully used to score important scenes, it was more dramatic than any of the Jenningses’ capers.

36. In a world full of woe, there’s nothing that’s grown on me like Billy on the Street. It is an extremely your-mileage-may-vary situation, but in short bursts, I am always cheered by Billy Eichner running around the streets of New York surprising people and asking them questions. All that despite the fact that I would never want it to happen to me.

37. The second season of Netflix’s One Day at a Time was just as good as the first — that’s a very high bar. And the season finale, which featured Rita Moreno wrenching the tears from your very eyeballs, was shamelessly manipulative and very moving and very sweet. It was all you could ask from your favorite family show.

38. The capes of Lando. Not everything about Solo was successful, to say the least. But Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian was such a fine invention that it often seemed like it should have been his movie. I’d have watched a film about just his cape choices.

39. The Tara Westover book Educated, a memoir of Westover’s childhood, is sometimes terrifying, sometimes upsetting, and sometimes even inspiring. While it’s a hard read about a family’s isolation, it’s a riveting family story that makes for great conversations with friends.

40. Focaccia lessons. The Samin Nosrat book Salt Fat Acid Heat led to a four-part Netflix series of the same name. And while it seems weird that the Fat episode is first (making the series feel more like … Fat Salt Acid Heat?), it makes sense that they’d want to lead with the frankly sexy scene in which Nosrat learns to make focaccia with high-end olive oil. It will make you want to bake bread, at the very least.

41. Russell Hornsby in The Hate U Give. Hornsby plays the father of young Starr Carter in the adaptation of Angie Thomas’ hugely successful YA novel. And while Amandla Stenberg and Regina Hall and a lot of other folks are terrific in it, none stands out more than Hornsby, whose complicated portrayal of a dad who wants the best for his daughter gives the story much of its sizable heart.

42. Constance Wu in Crazy Rich AsiansWhen you’ve been watching an actress kill it as long as she has on ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat, seeing Wu have a huge year in a huge film can be so inspiring. Wu got to be glamorous and sparkly and funny in Crazy Rich Asians, and she deserves every magazine cover she got.

43. Mrs. Rogers. The documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is the story of Fred Rogers and his work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. But it also becomes the story of his wife Joanne, who likely knew this complicated man better than anyone, and who provides humanizing insight into the man behind the cardigans.

44. Windows in windows in Searching. Very few stories reliant on technology work very well. Searching, starring John Cho as David, the father of a missing teenager, takes place entirely on screens — mostly on her laptop, as you see the texts and chats and messages and emails and videos he looks through while trying to find her. One of the film’s best qualities is that David isn’t either a tech genius or a dummy who has to learn what an emoji is. He’s somewhere in between, where a lot of parents fear they would be. Cho’s performance and the cleverness of the presentation make the film well worth seeing.

45. Jack-Jack. Hiding inside Incredibles 2 is a sequence in which Jack-Jack, the superhero baby (maybe), gets into a fight in the backyard. Worthy of any classic Saturday morning cartoon, the fight is a fully contained and fully delightful adventure of its own.

46. Mortal danger, by choice. Free Solo is the story of Alex Honnold, who set out to do something he’d dreamed of doing for ages. He wanted to “free solo” climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. “Free solo” means rock-climbing with no ropes, no safety harness, no nothing. Just you, skittering up a flat rock face. And while the climbing sequences are unforgettable (see it on the biggest screen you can; it’s out now), the filmmakers also examine what it is that makes a guy want to do something like this when everyone acknowledges that death is a very real possibility.

47. The other lost teenager. Leave No Trace, directed by Debra Granik, didn’t get as much attention as Eighth Grade did. But it, too, contains a beautiful story of a father and his young teenage daughter. Here, Ben Foster plays a dad who lives in the woods with his daughter, played by Thomasin McKenzie. McKenzie’s quiet portrayal of a girl fiercely loyal to a father she doesn’t entirely understand gives the movie its serene sadness, very much grounded in love.

48. Frederick Wiseman’s Monrovia, Indiana is a documentary that (as is Wiseman’s way) only observes the town of Monrovia and never comments on it with narration or talking heads. This leads to some remarkable sequences, like one in which many of us will see our longest-ever look at a Freemasons’ ceremony.

49. The #Hamildrops. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s series of monthly additions to the Hamilton canon could have seemed like a desperate attempt to keep the brand going as the touring companies travel. But it didn’t. “First Burn,” an earlier draft of Eliza’s angry song aimed at her husband, let listeners glimpse a process that’s often opaque. In some cases, it may even put them in a position to second-guess the composer about what was left in and what was taken out. That’s a vulnerability not everyone wants to display.

50. Dog Twitter. I simply can’t end 2018 without mentioning that, because this was the year I got a dog, it was also the year I discovered Dog Twitter. To all of you who sent me photos of your dogs — in hats, in sweaters, begging, wagging their tails — I thank you. I’m glad we’re all here on Dog Twitter together.