Staff Picks Confidential

We take our annual staff picks of favorite books and DVDs pretty seriously. We've been compiling them since 2002, and while it may sound easy, there's a fair amount of angst involved. How do I winnow down the choices? Is something really "staff-pick worthy"? What if I change my mind? (I still feel bad about leaving The Dark Knight off my 2008 DVD list. And what was I thinking selecting Law & Order: UK over Inception in 2010? Clearly, I have a lot of unresolved Christopher Nolan issues.)

So in an effort to assuage my guilt, here's a breakdown of some of the 2014 releases that just missed making my DVD and book lists:


Did I mention my struggle with Christopher Nolan films? Case in point: Interstellar. So much to like: fine acting, thinky themes, raw visual spectacle. I love Nolan's audacity in reaching for the heights of Kubrick and Tarkovsky. But ultimately, the plot made no darn sense.

Guardians of the Galaxy

I'm a geek who loves geeky things, and Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun, breezy popcorn flick. But I'm almost ashamed to say I didn't adore it as much as some of my friends and colleagues. It was a bit too lightweight, carried almost fully by Chris Pratt's charisma the knockout soundtrack (hands-down my favorite album of the year). 

My Real Children

Jo Walton is one of my favorite science fiction and fantasy writers, and My Real Children is a lovely novel about memory, history, and loss viewed through one woman living parallel lives in the 20th century. It reads more like literary fiction than speculative fiction, and just missed making my top three.

The final cut

Ultimately, these staff picks are a snapshot in time; my thoughts might change if asked again in a month or a year. But I'm pretty happy with my selections. I find myself frequently thinking about the characters in Boyhood and True Detective. Meanwhile, Inside Llewyn Davis has stood up to multiple viewings. On the literary side, I've recommended The Free to multiple patrons and On Immunity to every mother of young children I know. And Station Eleven was chosen by several other colleagues as a favorite.

What are your year-end picks and also-rans? We'd love to know.