The Tyranny of Best-Of Lists

We need a refresh

Hi friend!

I hope you are having a great holiday and can relax a bit.

If you find this work valuable and want to help sustain it, please consider upgrading or donating. Your contributions keep How to Live paywall-free and accessible to people of all income levels.

If you prefer to forgo an upgrade but want to support the work and the mission to keep this newsletter unlocked and available to all, please consider a recurring monthly or one-time donation. 

PRE-SALE for “The Little Panic Approach to Supporting Your Anxious Child (and Yourself)” WILL NOW LAUNCH ON JANUARY 3rd.

FOR ONE WEEK ONLY, it will be $30 off the regular price and sold for $149.

Please click here or on the image below to be notified of the pre-sale launch.


When you make things for a living, you spend a fair amount of time battling doubts, internal and external obstacles, and people’s belief in you.

The bumpy uncertainty paving the road to publication or production—whatever entrance into the world your work must pass—is uncomfortable, and the hike can take years; years puckered by loneliness.

When you finally finish your project, you are ragged and exposed, emotionally charged and packed down with hope and craving, knowing what’s ahead is an experience whose outcome your years of work cannot predict or control.

One bad review can derail a career that hasn’t started or end one that’s been gaining strength.

Critics have tremendous power and don’t often understand the gravity a bad review can have on the soul of an artist, at least not until their own work is assessed in the same manner.

The presence of a bad review crushes as much as the absence of your work on year-end roundups and best-of lists.

But let’s be clear: there is no such thing as a “best” anything.

There is only “out of the narrow pool of things I managed to experience this year, here are the ones that most moved or impacted me.”

A best-of-list can be entirely subjective or entirely political. Artists who can afford to often hire publicists to help themselves get on a list. It often feels rigged, and perhaps it is.

Of course, if you DO land on a best-of list, you’ll vibrate with validation, and your core wounds will feel resolved until your next project is upon you, and it all begins again.

So, instead of a best-of list, I am offering A HANDFUL OF MY FAVORITE THINGS from 2023 and A HANDFUL OF MY LEAST FAVORITE THINGS from 2023.

My favorite things delighted, taught, invigorated, and inspired me. 

My least favorite things left me gutted and dissociated.



  1. Watching the movie YOU ARE SO NOT INVITED TO MY BAT MITZVAH, based on my book written under a pseudonym, with my friends and family.

  1. Feeling grown enough to end therapy after 23 years.


  1. Sonia Delaunay

  2. Abortion Trading Cards

  3. This perfect Diptyque Bais candle dupe on Amazon sells for $30, which is $40 less than the original!!

  4. A lightly used copy of the original Peoplemaking by Virginia Satir was left on Dekalb Avenue. It sells on Amazon for $134!

  5. BetterSleep


  1. Inbox Collective (when you have a newsletter, there are things you didn’t know you needed to know, but Dan Oshinsky knows them!)

  2. Jeremy Caplan’s Wonder Tools is for those who can’t stop trying out new tools, apps, and platforms.

  3. Product Hunt is your new rabbit hole if you love being the first to hear about tech products.




  1. Losing Paul La Farge

  2. Losing Rebecca Godfrey

  3. The nearly 400% rise in Antisemitism

  4. The incomprehensible loss of innocent Palestinian lives

  5. The incomprehensible loss of innocent Israeli life

  6. The incomprehensible division between friends, family, and neighbors.

  7. Losing Sinead O Connor

  8. Losing Robert Gottlieb

  9. Losing Tina Turner

  10. Losing Harry Belafonte

  11. The list of deaths is too long, so I’ll stop.


Keep track of everything I love in 2024 so I don’t forget almost everything like I did in 2023.

Got any 2023 favorites? Share them in the comments!

Until next week, I will remain…


(Nope, I'm not a therapist or medical professional, or even a journalist! I'm just a human being who writes about my lifetime struggle of learning how to live.)


Many (but not all) book and product links are affiliates, meaning I get a small commission if you purchase something through one of my links. This money gets cycled back into the newsletter. 

💋 Don't keep How to Live a secret: Share this newsletter with friends.

❤️ New here? Subscribe!

🙋🏻‍♀️ Email me with questions, comments, or topic ideas! [email protected]

🥲 Not in love?

Join the conversation

or to participate.