I have always felt deeply connected to storytelling in various forms, namely books, movies, shows, and music. That said, my ability to keep up with these has drastically suffered over the years (thanks, growing up!). 2022 was thankfully the year I found myself emerging from the stress and pandemic-induced fever dream that had been my life since 2018. I’ve been slowly getting back to consuming media on a regular basis, even if it is often mainly for comfort. 

Below is a list of things I watched/read/listened to for the first time in 2022 (though they’re not all new releases):  

Best Overall (Released in 2022)

In other words: A neurodivergent twenty-something’s starter pack for getting better at thinking, discussing, and crying about experiences and feelings. 

  • Book: Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore

It would be remiss of me to talk about why this was my favorite book without sharing the significance of 2022 in particular. Last year was pivotal for me because I finally—after years of suspecting and researching—got my ADHD diagnosis, which has changed my life in more ways than I can summarize in a blog post. 

Lakelore is the most well-written and accurate perspective on ADHD (by a writer who has it) that I have ever read. It felt like someone had simultaneously shoved me outside my comfort zone and pulled me into a warm hug. I’ll leave you with two of my favorite quotes from this book: 

“I want to tell them that sometimes it’s okay, and sometimes it’s exhausting. Sometimes it means trying to change the weather in my own brain and finding it as impossible as moving the clouds in a storm. The weather in my brain may or may not match up with what’s going on, but an atmosphere of something being wrong can permeate everything even if I can’t figure out what it is.”

“My bad days, they’re part of me. And the things I make, those are part of me too. Especially the things I made during bad days, because they remind me that I still made something out of those bad days.”

  • Movie: Everything Everywhere All At Once, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

As I write this, one of my favorite quotes from the show Steven Universe comes to mind, “No one can see the future. I see options and trajectories. Time is like a river that splits into creeks, or pools into lakes, or careens down waterfalls.” Everything Everywhere All At Once tackles this concept but at a much more intense and metaphysical level. The visual effects are absurd and breathtaking, the acting is phenomenal, and the characters are fundamentally relatable. I’m going to do a slightly obnoxious thing and quote myself from WTTN’s list of the 22 best movies of 2022: “Beyond the metaphysics of it all, this is a story about love. It is about people who are still learning how to love themselves and each other, especially when life feels different than they imagined it to be and harder than they want it to be.”

  • Show: Our Flag Means Death, directed by David Jenkins

An upper-class landowner decides to trade his comfortable life for a dangerous one at sea, specifically by becoming a pirate (but a gentle one, don’t worry). What could go wrong? A lot, actually. Our Flag Means Death is a thrilling, emotional, and sometimes stressful ride! This show perfectly captures what people mean when they say “this has heart.” In addition to heart, it has tears, belly laughs, found family, oranges (just trust me), and much more than I can convey here. Please watch it as soon as you can! P.S. The entire cast is fantastic—special shoutout to Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi, a duo I desperately need to see more of.

  • Song: “Tu Jhoom” by Naseebo Lal and Abida Parveen

To use the cliche but apt phrase: This song transports me every single time I listen to it. Where to? I can’t explain it other than telling you that it confronts me with the things that make me happy and sad, while also helping me hit pause on the cacophony of my brain and human existence. “Tu Jhoom” is my favorite Punjabi song and one of Coke Studio Pakistan’s best. I strongly recommend listening to this in its entirety with headphones on! Look up the translation before or after, whichever works best for you. Lastly, as this Livewire piece explains, there are many translations of the word “jhoom” floating around on the internet. The one that resonates most with me is this: “Jhoom” means to “sway with abandon” (thanks, mom!) 

Book Nook

I’m proud to share that I’ve made strides to improve the balance between time spent on books and on shows/movies. This was a great year for fantasy, New Adult, and Young Adult (YA)—I discovered so many gems through Booktok, as well as local libraries and friends. 

Here are the best books I read this year, sorted by genre:

  • Best series or duology: Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo (2015–2016)
    Thank you Booktok for this great recommendation! Though it took some time to get into the book’s worldbuilding, I ended up being enthralled by and invested in the lives of the six teenage protagonists, an unlikely team that builds bonds more intimate and complex than I was expecting. I am now taking recommendations for fan fiction to tide me over until the second season of Shadow and Bone, which is partly based on a trilogy of the same name as well as the Six of Crows duology
  • Best fantasy: Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel (2022)
    This is a well-written and immersive book, especially for a debut! It is a feminist retelling of a character from the epic Ramayana, a renowned epic, especially in South and Southeast Asia. Read my full review here. 

P.S. Much to no one’s surprise (anyone who knows about Goodreads’ lack of diversity), Kaikeyi did not win in either of the categories it was nominated for. Anyway, here’s a huge and enthusiastic round of applause for this up-and-coming author!

  • Best romance: Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (2021)
    The grumpy and sunshine trope, enemies to lovers with actual substance, a cozy B&B, and protagonists with learning disabilities—these combine to form a heartwarming, realistic story that will make you laugh (or smile, at the very least). Talia Hibbert is one of the best romance authors, period, and one of the best BIPOC ones around.
  • Best YA: Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie (2022)

    Ophelia After All is as beautiful and complex as the roses grown by its protagonist. It made #1 on our 50 Best Books of 2022 list! Jocelyn, Vania, and I thought that Ophelia was incredibly lovable. Check out the list to read our full reviews! 
  • Bonus recommendations: I returned to reading graphic novels this year! I haven’t read enough to merit picking a favorite, but here are three that stood out to me: A Blanket of Butterflies by Richard Van Camp (2022), Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier (2016), and Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer (2019).

I do not have a movie section because I did not watch enough new movies this year. I hope to change that in 2023! 

Back to the Drawing Board

I put a blend of animated movies and shows here because they helped me think and comforted me this year. I’ve always loved animation and its ability to showcase beautiful art as well as tougher themes. However, I avoided it for a few years as I, unfortunately, bought into the “animation is just for kids” camp. I understand folks’ reluctance but I’m also tired of this mentality, which not only underestimates kids but also dismisses a powerful and intricate medium. I’m excited that people in my life, and in general, are opening their minds to animation! 

I’ll note that most of these are American, so my intention is to broaden my horizons beyond North America and the west generally.

  • Best movie: Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

I know I’m late to the game but I’m pleased to report that this movie was as wonderful as everyone promised! Told in the classic whimsical style that only Miyazaki can pull off, this is a sweet and realistic story about doing what you love while also dealing with occasional burnout. Growing up, society and my culture taught me the importance of work but not in the healthiest way. I was presented with not only a narrow definition of “success” (a lucrative 9-5 job) but also zero preparation for dealing with stress and burnout. It’s remarkable and unsurprising that a Miyazaki character was a better teacher than the adults around me when I was younger. Thank you, Kiki! 

  • Best show: Arcane (2022–present)

Arcane is based on the game League of Legends, an online multiplayer battle arena game. As I’d never played it, I didn’t know what to expect from the show. Much to my delight, season one of Arcane ended up being a brilliant story. The characters are nuanced and fleshed out, the worldbuilding is so fascinating, and the animation (both 2D and 3D) is intricate and awe-inspiring. I especially appreciate that the themes highlight just how morally gray the characters are—it makes it all the more realistic and interesting to think about what makes them tick. I can’t wait to watch season two!

  • Best TV episode: “Hollow Mind”, an episode from season two of The Owl House (2020–present)

The Owl House follows Luz Noceda, a fantasy-loving teenager who finds herself in the bizarre world of The Boiling Isles. Since its early days, this show has progressed immensely in terms of the characters’ growth, the story, and the animation. All of that culminates in “Hollow Mind,” a roller coaster of an episode. It handles a crucial and intense character arc very profoundly, strongly aided by the art and voice acting. That’s all I can say without giving away important details. Check out The Owl House, especially If you’re a fan of shows like Steven Universe and Gravity Falls and/or fantasy, animation, and complicated characters! 

  • Honorable mentions: Castle in the Sky (1986) and Treasure Planet (2002)

If you haven’t already watched these movies, please change that ASAP! I’m glad I finally got around to doing so because they’re poignant, well-done, and visually stunning. 

Put Your Records On

As an ADHD-er, I have the tendency to hyperfixate on certain things. On the one hand, this helps me be passionate and critically analytical. But on the other, it limits me because branching out takes a lot of effort. So my 2022 goals were as follows: listen to an artist I’d previously underestimated, discover a new artist, listen to more non-English music, and find a new soundtrack favorite. I’m glad I met all these goals, and I feel all the more encouraged to listen to new music at my own pace. Here are songs that stood out to me: 

  • Best feel-good song: “CUFF IT” by Beyoncé
    This hit makes me instantly happy and puts me in the mood to dance!
  • Best sad song: “mirrorball x the archer mash-up by Jordan Deckrow on YouTube (original artist: Taylor Swift)
    These songs are devastatingly relatable on their own, but combined? My whole heart! This mash-up and the individual songs were a huge part of getting me through my ADHD diagnosis and the relief of validation, combined with the grief for everything I’d lost in the prior years before I had access to professional support. 
  • Best song by an independent artist: “Heat” by Archana 

Though I’m a tad biased as I’ve known Archana since university, I promise I’m not exaggerating about how good and dynamic her music is. I love the blend of Indian and Western sounds in this song. Be sure to check out the music video too!

  • Best non-English song: “Pasoori” by Ali Sethi and Shae Gill
    I’ve been trying to learn more languages by listening to songs from all over the world, starting with various parts of Asia. 
  • Best road trip song: I know that technically this isn’t allowed (but I guess I make the rules for this post) but anyway, this one is a tie between “Awitin Mo At, Isasayaw Ko” by VST & Company and “Flamingo” by Kero Kero Bonito. Each time my partner and I went on a road trip this year, we sang along to these uplifting tunes. 
  • Best Spotify find: “When Love’s Around” by ZAYN ft. Syd (who is a member of the band 9The Internet, alongside the talented Steve Lacy)
    I can’t remember which Spotify song radio this song was on, but I’m glad I came across it back in March! It is a bop by two fantastic vocalists who I plan to listen to more.
  • Best song in a movie/show scene: “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac
    Firstly, rest in peace Christine McVie, the keyboardist and one of the talented vocalists of Fleetwood Mac. Secondly, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this song used in a show/movie, but for me, it is undoubtedly the best use of it. I won’t say which show/movie but I’ll tell you that I’ve mentioned it in this post. You’ll just have to give my recommendations a go if you’re so inclined!

What were your 2022 favorites? Please drop your recommendations in the comments below!