Every December since 2007 we have posted an annual list of our pop culture faves. The University of Illinois Press Best of 2014 edition is in alphabetical order by staff member’s last name.
Jennifer Barbee, Account Tech I
Favorite Book: Veronica Roth Divergent Trilogy
Favorite CD/LP/Music Download: Aloe Blacc “Lift Your Spirit”
Favorite Film: Frozen; Feels as if this is the only movie I have seen this year!
Favorite TV Show: The Walking Dead and The 100
Favorite Live Performance: Winter Program at Kenwood (I have two kindergartners that were fantastic in this program!)
Website I visit every day: Facebook.com
Angela Burton, Rights & Permissions Manager
Favorite Book: Anthony Doerr – All the Light We Cannot See
Favorite CD/LP/music download: TV on the Radio – Seeds
Favorite Film I Watched This Year: Mud. Director/writer Jeff Nichols has a unique voice, and I’m looking forward to his new film, Midnight Special, in 2015.
Favorite TV Show: Shameless
Favorite live performance: Blind Boys of Alabama, Illinois Blues Festival in Peoria. Incredible performance.
Favorite YouTuber: The hilarious Tim Helbig at his channel TimWillDestroyYou (one of my favorite TH videos: OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL READ ABOUT GOING!!)
Marika Christofides, Assistant Acquisitions Editor
Favorite Book: Caitlin R. Kiernan – The Drowning Girl
Favorite CD/LP/music download: SIA – 1000 Forms of Fear
Favorite Film: Gone Girl
Favorite TV Show: Broad City
Favorite live performance: Homo for the Holidays at Oddfellows in Seattle (this always happens just after this list comes out, but I know it will be just as good this year as it was last year!)
Favorite vegetarian chili slow-cooker recipe: Meatiest Vegetarian Chili From Your Slow Cooker
Favorite podcast: Serial
Alexa Colella, Marketing Manager, Journals
Favorite Book: Not new, but I carry it everywhere, Gaston Bachelard, Poetics of Space. Another I carry around is David Foster Wallace, Life is Water
Favorite Music: Bronze Radio Return, Old Time Speaker
Favorite Film: Night Will Fall (a horrific documentary about Alfred Hitchcock’s documentary on the Holocaust), Days of Future Past was good, too
Favorite TV Show: Agents of Shield
Website I visit every day: sethgodin.typepad.com, design-is-fine.org
Kevin Cunningham, Copywriter and Catalog Coordinator
Favorite Book(s): Ian Morris – When Bad Things Happen to Rich People; Jennifer Michael Hecht – Stay; Carla Emery – The Encyclopedia of Country Living (an amazing book—I feel like I could butcher a pig with no problem now)
Favorite CD/LP/music download: Various 1950s-1960s hits for a friend’s birthday party
Favorite TV Show: Hockey games
Favorite live performance: Also hockey games; though my daughter’s dance interpretations of ABBA songs are growing on me
Favorite C-U pastry: Brownie at Pekara Bakery
Favorite scientific observation: The UIP staff prefers Entenmann’s glazed crullers to chocolate donnettes
Favorite line of marketing copy: “Acid Hype offers the untold tale of LSD’s wild journey from Brylcreem and Ivory soap to incense and peppermints.”
Dawn Durante, Acquisitions Editor
Favorite Books: Michael Agnew—A Perfect Pint’s Beer Guide to the Heartland, Margaret Atwood—MaddAddam (the third book in the MadAddam trilogy)
Favorite CD/LP/music download: Micah McKee and Little Maker’s Patrons of the Saint
Favorite Films: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1, The Lego Movie (because everything is awesome!)
Favorite TV Shows: Last Comic Standing season 8, Playing House, True Detective
Favorite Podcast: Serial hosted by Sarah Koenig
Favorite live performance: Yo-Yo Ma with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago at Christkindlmarket in The Loop
Websites I visit almost every day: Etsy, Lonely Planet
Steve Fast, Publicity Manager
Favorite Book: Jesse Walker – The United States of Paranoia
Favorite CDs: Imelda May – Tribal, Spoon – They Want My Soul
Favorite display of Glam Rock Shoes: David Bowie Is exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art
Favorite TV Shows: Hannibal, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Favorite live performances: The National at the Chicago Theater. Gord Downie and the Sadies at Lincoln Hall, Chicago. Old 97’s at the Castle Theater in Bloomington, IL. King Crimson at the Barrymore Theater in Madison, WI.
Website I visit every day: I visit the Puck Daddy blog for all of my NHL news.
Jennie Holzner, Book Designer
Favorite Book: Chip Kidd: Work 1986–2006, Book One, Chip Kidd
Favorite Book Cover Designer: Chip Kidd. Not only is he a great designer, but he’s funny as heck. Here’s a link to his TED2012 talk, “Designing Books Is No Laughing Matter”
Favorite Films: August: Osage County, St. Vincent
Favorite TV Shows: Orange Is the New Black, The Walking Dead
Favorite Live Performance: Garth Brooks at Allstate Arena, Chicago (very first concert of his world tour)
Websites I Visit Every Day: (besides Facebook?) Designspiration
Bill Regier, Director
Favorite Book: In 2014 I read a lot of Erasmus. I’d gladly recommend books by and about him if you please, but suppose you’d be more pleased by something else. So I recommend another book, a real stunner, brought to my attention by UIP Art Director, Dustin Hubbart. If you see no other novel this year you will thank yourself lavishly if you take a long look at a book called S. S. is a novel in a novel and a book in a box. It is a unique book and a masterpiece of art direction. Inside its slipcase S. looks like a book published in 1947 and apparently long overdue from a high school library. It is, perhaps, a theft. The book is the “inner novel,” named Ship of Theseus, its hero an assassin named S., its heroine a woman of mystery, its ship a ramshackle ocean-going hulk run by a nameless crew. S. sails to different parts of the world killing evil overlords and their agents. Without Ship of Theseus S. would be an empty box. The 472 pages of Ship of Theseus carry a cargo: a map on a napkin, postcards, a decoder wheel, handwritten letters, and photocopies are inserted here and there. They’re loose paper; they fall out. The book’s margins have handwriting in different hands and different inks. These scripts and pieces present the “outer novel,” a series of messages between a man and a woman figuring out the inner novel, its author, and each other. Ask Dustin or me to show you S. I doubt you’ve seen anything like it. If you want to try some Erasmus, let me know.
Favorite CD: Once again, my favorite CD of the years is a Michael Roux recommendation. He thought I might like Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Wanderlust and I liked it a hundred times. She has had several earlier albums but this is the best by far. Try “Until the Stars Collide” and “Wrong Side of the Sun.” Another that got a lot of play is Vienna Teng’s AIMS, from 2013. It is her best in years. The CD can only be ordered from her Web site, though Amazon vends the MP3 version. Both albums are diverse in tone and genres.
Favorite Live Performance: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Nielsen’s Symphony #4 at Krannert. I had never heard this symphony live before and it was wonderful. It led me to play Nielsen symphonies for weeks. Lyle Lovett at the Virginia Theater was #2. I would have liked it even more if I could have seen it. I wore the wrong glasses, only good for reading.
Favorite TV Show: I loved Fargo, was again fascinated by Dancing with the Stars, complained about flaws in The Bridge, grew tired of Big Bang Theory, was glad I stuck with Gotham, welcomed Blackish, agreed with the Emmys about Modern Family, and remain stubbornly loyal to Justified as my favorite series. It wasn’t its best season, but still had terrific characters and amazing moments. The final season starts in January. I already mourn its passing.
Favorite Movie (aka = Film): Christopher Nolan may be my favorite living director (Memento, Inception, The Dark Knight), and despite its several problems, his Interstellar is my choice for the best film of 2014. The soundtrack is too loud, Matthew McConaughy is too often unintelligible, and wormholes in space is only slightly less incredible than magic beans, but the storyline was well paced (important for a long movie), and the bid screen made the most of the big scenery. Poor Casey Affleck got a bum role. For sheer skill in cinematography and sequencing, Birdman was stupendous, worth seeing for that reason if no other. It also happens to have an all-star cast, who live up to their reputations and improve them: Michael Keaton, Ed Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, and Zach Galifianakis. Since much of the movie is about acting, it risked parodying itself; instead, it creates amusement with simple surprises and fabulous camera work.
Favorite 16th-Century Scholar: Erasmus, of course.
Tad Ringo, Senior Editor
Favorite Book: Russell Shorto – The Island at the Center of the World
Favorite CD/LP/music download: Christina Perri – Head or Heart
Favorite Film: Godzilla
Favorite TV Show: The Musketeers (BBC America)
Website I visit every day: Eurobricks (LEGO site)
Michael Roux, Marketing Manager
Favorite Book: Marisha Pessl – Night Film, Donna Tartt – The Goldfinch
Favorite CD: Temples – Sun Structures, favorite song from the album, “The Golden Throne”
Favorite music from 2013 that I discovered too late to make last year’s list: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away, favorite song from the album, “Jubilee Street”
Favorite Sophie Ellis-Bextor song not on her recent album Wanderlust: “Catch You” from the album Trip the Light Fantastic
Favorite Film: Boyhood
Favorite TV Shows: True Detective
Favorite live performance: Ume at House of Blues, New Orleans, LA – Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull at Sangamon Auditorium, Springfield, IL
Website I visit every day: Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish
Sandy Sullivan, Account Tech II
Favorite Book: The Shining
Favorite CD/LP/music download: Kenny Chesney (all of them)
Favorite Film: Heaven is For Real
Favorite TV Show: Revenge
Favorite live performance, theater/music/comedy/etc.: Kenny Chesney (maybe a theme developing here.)
Website I visit every day: IPAY website
Amanda Wicks, Assistant Acquisitions Editor
Favorite Book: History of the Rain – Niall Williams, A Girl if a Half-formed Thing – Eimear McBride
Favorite CD/LP/music download: Leif Vollebekk – North Americana, Jon Batiste & Stay Human – Social Music, Robert Ellis – The Lights from the Chemical Plant, and Beck – Morning Phase
Favorite Film: Birdman
Favorite live performance, theater/music/comedy/etc.: Ryan Adams at Chicago Theatre, Chicago. IL
Website I visit every day: Ask the Past