I finally got round to finishing the first series of Dollhouse while ironing for tomorrow. Quite apart from […]

I shall barely let the leaves settle on the year before posting my thoughts on the best and worst of (what I experienced of) movies and books, because if I delay I’ll never get it done.

In spite of my feeling that we missed some great films this year (choosing to stay home and work on the house instead of going out), we managed to see 17 this year. Looking back at the last few years, this is a good crop. I also note a pattern: a solid rush in the first half of the year, followed by disinterest through the autumn and winter. My boy suggests this relates to good film releases early in the year for Oscar season; I note a reflection of early summer blockbusters, followed by meaningful movies on DVD.

Books fared less well. 2009 is the first year I haven’t passed the 50-book threshold. This reflects evenings spent working on the Grand Design, and a move to overland commutes: as the trains are often full by the time they reach my stop, I end up sardined in with no space to read.

As we approach our eighth anniversary, my boy and I have been reflecting intermittently on what it is that draws us together. One popular theory is our willingness to (indeed enthusiasm for) take the piss: not just partners, but sparring partners. Another, often revisited, is our uncanny tendency to think and say the same thing at the same time. Last night, watching the rather good Public Enemies, our shared frame of reference and ability to follow random cues was the key: as the film introduced a Chicago villain, my boy leant over and murmured without preamble “Proper fucked”.

Possibly the rest of the audience were curious as to why I found that particular scene so funny, but he was absolutely right. I haven’t a clue what the actor’s name is either, but it was certainly him. And he was, as it turned out.

Fieldwork
Mischa Berlinski

Atlantic Books; 320 pages

What links an anthropologist, a third-generation missionary, and a bored journalist? How much trouble can you get up to in Northern Thailand? Is Star Wars really the Devil's work? Fieldwork explores the unlikely intersection of ex-patriate lives, and questions whether obsession and cultural immersion are all they're cracked up to be.

I’ve been on the bandwagon for the past 3 years, so it seems rude to fall off now: time to look back at my reading and cinematic digestion in 2008. It was a slow year all round – just over 50 books read (I usually clear 60-70), and only 15 movies. I’m not sure what this indicates: possibly that I’ve spent more time planning renovations than reading in an evening, and had more trips to the theatre instead of the movies. Happily, this seems to be exactly what I thought would happen.

I suspect the dip in movie-going also reflects a fairly poor year at the cinema; I’m not left with the feeling that there were a lot of movies I missed out on – although I’ve been more aware this year of saying “I’d like to see that… on DVD”, which is new. But seriously: at £20 a trip for 2 people vs. £3.50 to rent the DVD in 3 months time, there’s an argument for prioritising movies that will capitalise on the big screen. Character-driven integrity holds up just fine at 26″ (yes, our TV is old. Very old).

It took me a long time to read Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors. I picked it up, put it down; read the table of contents, put it down. Eventually I got round to reading the Introduction, and then I was pretty much committed. And when I finally devoured the treasures within, I found I enjoyed them a lot. Much of it was dark, true, but that’s always suited me; much of it was also magical.

So there was no real doubt I would acquire and read Fragile Things.