My top books, movies, and Medium stories from 2023

And some watching/reading resolutions for 2024

Brittany Jezouit
9 min readJan 1, 2024
Poor Things, 2023. Searchlight Pictures.

My top 20 movies of the year

First, my ten favorite movies that came out this year, in order:

  1. Past Lives, directed by Celine Song. Beautiful, and Greta Lee is so lovely in this.
  2. Poor Things, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. A new Frankenstein-world about figuring out how to be a person, one of the most creative films I’ve seen this year or maybe ever.
  3. Barbie, directed by Greta Gerwig. Obviously, this one is making all the lists.
  4. Monster, directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. A puzzle-box movie told from different perspectives, with a new monster every time.
  5. Killers of the Flower Moon, directed by Martin Scorsese. In my top four favorite Scorsese movies.
  6. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, directed by: Joaquim Dos Santos, Justin K. Thompson, Kemp Powers. These movies are reinventing animation and they deserve all the art awards.
  7. May December, directed by Todd Haynes. Natalie Portman sure can monologue into a mirror.
  8. Infinity Pool, directed by Brandon Cronenberg. Mia Goth, unhinged horror-queen, drinking wine and eating fried chicken on the hood of a slow-moving car.
  9. Saltburn, directed by Emerald Fennell. I heard a podcast that said this movie was about “the line between desire and disgust”, manages to be disturbing and fun all at once.
  10. Bottoms, directed by Emma Seligman. Gen Z queer fight club comedy.

And a top ten from all the other movies (not from 2023) that I watched this year:

  1. Tomboy, directed by Céline Sciamma (2011). I watched all of Sciamma’s movies this year and while Petite Maman is my favorite and Portrait of a Lady on Fire is the best one, I’m picking Tomboy for this list because I have thought about it the most. Celine Sciamma is so masterful at gender and childhood and this movie was so, so beautiful.
  2. Girl Picture, directed by Alli Haapasalo (2022). A Finnish film about three high school girls. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Finnish movie before and I thought this one was offbeat and charming as a coming-of-age film.
  3. The Florida Project, directed by Sean Baker (2017). This movie follows around a girl and her mom in a motel in Florida, it is incredibly good.
  4. You Won’t Be Alone, directed by Goran Stolevski (2022). A dark, witchy fantasy-horror about what it means to be a human person. I watched this during Spooktober — 31 scary movies during the month of October — and it was one of my favorites.
  5. Train to Busan, directed by Yeon Sang-ho (2016). Another Spooktober pick, 10/10 zombie movie.
  6. The Lost Daughter, directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal (2021). Complicated and super sad.
  7. The House of Yes, directed by Mark Waters (1997). Parker Posey as a sister obsessed with Jackie O and also her brother. I thought this was going to be a somewhat normal 90s rom-com-adjacent movie and wow no it was not.
  8. The Summit of the Gods ‘Le Sommet des dieux’, directed by Patrick Imbert (2021). An animated story about climbing that feels almost like a horror film.
  9. The Bride of Frankenstein, directed by James Whale (1935). Highly recommend listening to this episode of Ologies on Teratology (MONSTERS) first, which upped my appreciation for this movie.
  10. The Eight Mountains, directed by Felix Van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch (2022). An ambitious friendship and meaning-of-life story with a pretty mountain backdrop, this was so beautiful.

Top 10 books of the year

Here’s what I loved most this year, in no particular order:

  1. Plague of Doves, by Louise Erdrich. Cross-generational stories following unsolved murders in a fictional North Dakota town. While I was reading this in a hostel in Portugal this summer, a guy asked if I “was really into Native American poetry,” which I thought was a weird thing to say.
  2. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume. A kid’s classic about growing up. I read this before seeing the movie and it was a delight. I’m only sad I never read it when I was eleven.
  3. Having and Being Had, by Eula Biss. A memoir, sort of, about capitalism and success and art. I am lucky to work with well-read, thoughtful people who give me good book recommendations. This one was from Cameron Price and I finished it in a day. It reminded me of Trick Mirror or No One is Talking About This, wide-ranging and smart, plus the cover art is excellent.
  4. The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker. A book about how to make every gathering, from company offsites to dinner parties, more meaningful. This book changed the way I think about community and building connections and I still reference it all the time, for work and in my personal life.
  5. Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver. A story of a boy growing up in Appalachia, generally following the cadence of David Copperfield. This was a book club pick that was very divisive and hit some people close to home. I thought it was told with compassion and care, maybe the antidote to Hillbilly Elegy, I loved it.
  6. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin. People could not stop talking about this book and so I picked it up despite my lifelong dislike of video games and I’m so glad I did. Highly recommend the audiobook version, which made me pause and listen in complete stillness while I was folding my laundry.
  7. Lives of Girls and Women, by Alice Munro. An early fictionalized memoir-ish of one woman, from childhood to adulthood. I read this because Greta Gerwig put it on a list of books that influence her art, which makes sense.
  8. The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen. A story about a family, and a mom who wants to get her family together for one last holiday. Jonathan Franzen — I know, I know! I read it before I knew he was such a controversial figure, because I am apparently out of the loop on 2010s literary gossip.
  9. Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution, by R.F. Kuang. Speculative historical fiction-fantasy about students in Oxford who basically use wordplay to make magic silver bars. This one was another coworker recommendation (shoutout to Breana Jones). I listened to it while hiking the Camino this summer and it was the perfect read/listen while being surrounded by different languages. It’s a big story about the British Empire and the Opium Wars but I was more into the way R. F. Kuang talks about language throughout the story.
  10. This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar. A novella about time-traveling rival spies who fall in love and write each other letters. This was the strangest book I read this year, a recommendation from my local bookstore, I adored it.

My 26 favorite Medium stories of the year

Stories I bookmarked or highlighted from 2023 (again, in no particular order).

  1. On Taking Off the Ring by Savala Nolan. So lovely: “It would perhaps be most accurate to call the mark of my wedding band a wrinkle: a line that formed where something was expressed many times — commitment, love, hope.”
  2. Ask vs. guess culture by Jean Hsu. This gave me a whole new framework to navigate the world with. Highly recommend as a work prompt/discussion — Tony Stubblebine shared it and all of the sudden people were sharing stories about their childhood and family dynamics and messaging each other like “I am a guess person and I did an ask thing today!”.
  3. Boy Problems by Jude Ellison S. Doyle. I debated which of Jude’s writing to choose but landed on this one because, when it was published, it went straight to my girl group chat for discussion. It’s smart and complicated and of-the-moment.
  4. Under the Cedar Tree by Caroline Mellor. There’s a ton of great poetry on Medium and I enjoyed this one.
  5. Earworms and Anhedonia by Meredith Rodriguez. Disclosure that I know the author of this one, but it would make my list either way. This story is weird and unexpected and I loved the ending.
  6. The Enrichmond Files by Brian Palmer. In-depth investigative journalism about some corrupt nonprofit happenings in my hometown, from a Peabody Award-winning journalist.
  7. “Nimona” Is the Fairy Tale Film This Era Has Been Waiting For by Gypsy Thornton (she/her). I’ve been getting really into the pop culture-corners of Medium and this is a review about Nimona, but also a brief history of establishment-defying shapeshifting heroines in fairy tales over time.
  8. Please Don’t Harass the Sea Otters by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I just love that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service writes on Medium.
  9. An epilogue to my time working at Twitter by Esther Crawford. Holy moly, this is a wild story, told with clarity and kindness.
  10. It’s a Wet, Hot Zucchini Summer by Emily Kingsley. A funny, authentic look at the ROI of summer gardening.
  11. UX lessons from a poet who invented social media in the 18th century by Slava Polonski, PhD. I am obsessed with this “Temple of Friendship”, where a poet had paintings of all his friends and then reorganized them “to ensure they accurately represented his circle of friends at any given point in time,” aka the 18th-century version of a Myspace top 8.
  12. After Launch: Halfway Through Orbit by Devin Skinner. Devin is collecting tattoos while also collecting stories about tattoo artists — a cool, creative project. I loved this recap of what he’s learned so far, which has a bunch of interesting info about tattoo culture and history.
  13. Choose Your Own Religion: An Interactive Adventure by Michael Puleo. A clever use of anchor links to create a choose-your-own-adventure style quiz to figure out what religion you are. You might be surprised by your results!
  14. I Won the 1968 Boston Marathon. And Ran Many More. After the Bombs, Everything Changed by Amby Burfoot. A beautiful story from the 1968 Boston Marathon winner.
  15. The replacement to MBA programs isn’t what you think it is by Michelle Wiles 🪄📈. Michelle’s writing on branding and marketing is always insightful and more about societal and cultural changes; this one is no exception.
  16. It’s the End of Feminist Media. Again. by Jude Ellison S. Doyle. Okay sorry, I couldn’t actually pick just one from Jude. RIP, Jezebel </3
  17. The Things You Might Learn If You Pay Attention On A Playground by Sophie Lucido Johnson. “Adults are just children who got bigger.” Lovely, meditative writing. Also, my goal for 2024 is to spend a full hour looking at one painting in a museum, which sounds truly impossible.
  18. Why Fish? by Liza Donnelly. I love the way New Yorker visual journalist Liza Donnelly highlights her art on Medium — a way to reflect on current events, or tell a story, or just to reflect on her creative process.
  19. What We Think About When We Think About Red Lobster by Adeline Dimond. This made everyone cry.
  20. Dispatches From My Half-Hearted Search for My Parents by Harris Sockel. Another disclosure that I know the author of this one — but isn’t that part of the fun of Medium’s community, to read stories by real people you know? A delight to read.
  21. Let’s Stop Calling It “Content” by Clive Thompson. Spurred an attempt to rename the content team, to no avail (yet!).
  22. We’re starting to understand more of what causes long COVID brain fog by Tara Haelle. If you know folks who are struggling with long COVID (or are in that boat yourself), this whole publication is full of good info.
  23. Why I’ve Ripped Out Performance Reviews for Over a Decade by Colleen Wheeler McCreary. Helpful for thinking about which work processes and rituals we are doing on autopilot, and how to rethink them.
  24. Pickup Lines for Men Whose Brains are Already Full of Roman Empire Facts by Kyrie Gray. Remember that whole Roman Empire thing? What a weird time.
  25. I was laid off a year ago by Nicole Alexandra Michaelis. Compassionate advice from an ex-Spotify employee.
  26. How Many Hobbits? A Demographic Analysis of Middle Earth by Lyman Stone. A 16-minute read that’s part I of an in-depth analysis mapping Middle Earth. Expect explorations of questions like: “But then we have to ask: what do you mean by people? Middle Earth has elves, dwarves, men, hobbits, orcs… who counts for population purposes?”. It’s a very only-on-Medium kind of story.

Resolutions for 2024

Write this list again, but with a music section. At some point, I stopped listening to music on purpose. Spotify has made me a lazy music listener. My goal for next year is to listen to music with intention — whole albums from start to finish, full discographies of artists, etc. (I have no idea where to start with this, so if you’ve got any good album recommendations, I’d love to hear them!)

Highlight more Medium stories. I forget how useful the highlight feature is on here. It’s such a helpful tool to note standout sentences and keep a catalog of favorite reads. I vow to highlight freely and often.

Finish at least two more director filmographies. I think is this a fun way to watch movies and I would like to tackle a few more, especially for female and minority directors.

Watch half of the movies on this list of Women Directors: The Official Top 250 Narrative Feature Films. See above. I’m currently at 11%!

Read more fun books, more poetry, and more memoirs. More sci-fi, more fantasy, more graphic novels, more life stories. Poetry and memoirs are two categories I’d love to focus more on in my reading goals for next year.

Write more!