The Year-End List

I embrace the year-end list tradition. I chase down the best books, sample as many of the Albums of the Year as possible, and fill my streaming queues with the shows and films that are the consensus favorites. Put a guide to the best gifts in front of me and I’ll click it without hesitation. I find the mix of curation and expertise in these lists irresistable.

Each year, my family creates our own list of favorites. We started the year my son was born and have done it annually since. It’s now an essential part of each December 31st.

The list consists of everything from favorite albums and restaurants to apps and places to go. Each of us answers for ourselves. The debates and surprises are fun, but the best part is looking back at previous years and seeing how things change.

Watching your child’s tastes evolve from Little Bear to The Wire is fascinating, of course, but my own favorites are much more malleable than I would guess. I’m often amazed that I once loved a certain movie or dessert. Other times, I’m reminded to revisit a past favorite I’d forgotten about.

Then there are the restaurants, websites, even hobbies that have since gone away. As some things fade, new topics are added, like favorite apps.

The final questions are the ones I enjoy revisiting the most. The first asks about the least favorite parts of the year. These range widely in significance, from mowing the lawn to stressful jobs or a family member’s diagnosis. It’s good to name things for what they are and be reminded of those difficult seasons later. It can be a wistful experience, certainly, but there's value in reflecting.

The second asks about favorite experiences of the year. I love capturing those singular moments that stood out above all others. It could be a concert or trip, job offer or act of kindness. I always enjoy ending the year with those moments, and those that brought joy to my family, on my mind.

If you have yet to do something similar, I highly recommend starting the tradition. It’s fun solo, with a partner or friends, and definitely with kids. You'll find yourself eagerly awaiting the next opportunity when December arrives again.