It’s hard to believe, but 2014 is almost over. This year has gone very fast and a lot has happened in it, both personally and in terms of national and world events. But as the seconds tick down toward 2015 I can’t let the New Year strike without honoring some of the blogs I read this year, and the wonderful, interesting, informative, funny and thought-provoking things they brought to me.
This is the second year in what I hope will be an annual tradition on this site. There are a lot of folks out there doing blog awards, especially this week, but mine are not the usual “nominate 5 other bloggers…” type of thing where the recipient has to do anything to “claim” the award. There are no strings attached here. If you’ve received an award, there’s nothing you have to do. It’s just my way of saying hey, I like your stuff, and thanks.
There are some caveats here: anyone who won an award from me last year is not eligible this time (although many of those blogs I honored last year are still in business, and still excellent reads). Also, it was extremely tough to pick the finalists this year, and there are so many great blogs I read that I would love to have featured, but I only have ten awards. If I follow your blog, I do read it, and as I don’t just follow anybody for any reason, by definition you’ve got something I have enjoyed.
Now, without further ado, here are my blog awards for 2014.
Most Socially Relevant Blog: Summit County Citizens Voice
Don’t let the title of this blog fool you. Although it sounds like a local newspaper (and in fact was started to encourage independent journalism in Summit County, Colorado), the scope of SCCV is truly global. The focus of this blog is the environment and climate change, issues that only grew in importance during 2014, and one-man editor Bob Berwyn sifts through many sources to bring you important news you may have missed. Examples include a report on new regulations on commercial fishing, a grisly post-mortem on the CIA torture report, the effects of climate change on rare insects, or how climate change is causing goats to shrink. In addition to news, Mr. Berwyn is a photographer and posts wonderful and stunning photographs of the natural beauty of Summit County. This blog is absolutely fantastic, and if you want to keep up with latest developments in climate change, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Most Passionate Blog: Padre Steve’s World…Musings of a Passionately Progressive Moderate
For most of these awards, it was extremely difficult to select a winner. This is the one exception. Padre Steve (Steven Dundas) is hands-down the most passionate blogger I encountered in 2014, and possibly ever. The inclusion of that word in the title of his blog is absolutely accurate. A military chaplain and veteran of the Iraq War, Steve blogs about many things, from beer to baseball to movies and military history, but his most heartfelt and thought-provoking articles (like this one about a book he read on the early years of the AIDS crisis) concern religion, ethics and the role of morality in politics and public life. As a Jew I follow a different religious covenant than Steve does, but that doesn’t affect in any way the incredible amount of respect I have for his incisive and uncommonly common-sense approach to religious and moral issues. Steve cares deeply about social justice, and if you do too, you should definitely read his blog.
Quirkiest Blog: Dave’s Corner of the Universe
I have to tell you this was a damn tough award to decide upon, because just about every blog I follow is “quirky” in some sense of the word. Dave is a very odd duck, steeped in popular culture, comic books and movies, and while there are oodles of blogs out there about all of those things, Dave seems to approach his passions with a certain colorful touch that I can’t quite put my finger on. I love his “interviews” with science fiction characters, like Ripley from Alien, or his thoughts on the paranormal, or his quest for the strangest thing in Portland, Oregon. I’m always entertained by Dave’s posts, and often educated and intrigued as well.
Most Fun-But-Controversial Blog: Gabriel Diego Valdez
Another tough category, the term “controversial” is less apposite this year than last year, so part of the consideration for this award was the blog I disagree with the most but which I still like the most, so if that counts as “controversy,” there you go! Gabriel is primarily a movie blogger though he also does music, and while his views on both are sometimes quite different than my own, I’ve never failed to enjoy thoroughly a single one of his articles or find something in it that makes me think. Take for example his defense of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars trailer, or his “impressapointing” views on the new Hobbit film. In my opinion he’s one of the best cinema bloggers out there. He should be writing for the New York Times, but as long as he’s on WordPress, we should all enjoy his great work.
Most Fun Blog: Mike Ladano
Mike Ladano’s blog is just awesome. Mike is a rocker, music reviewer and beer drinker, and represents himself on his blog via a little Star Trek action figure, which should give you a glimpse of his personality. His hard rock and metal reviews are usually spot-on, his “Tales from the Record Store” series is touching and hilarious, and his articles are studded with videos, toys and pop-culture goodness that no one who grew up in the 80s or 90s can resist. This blog is just a lot of fun, and Mike, who’s been a tireless supporter of my own blog, is a great guy to know.
Most Enthusiastic History Blog: GroovyHistorian
The “Groovy Historian” is a fellow with a British accent whose icon is a pith-helmeted academic being chased around a pyramid by an enraged mummy. That should give you some idea of his approach to history, which is light-hearted, pop-culture oriented but also still careful, accurate and methodical. Groovy Historian is also a series of podcasts (and YouTube videos) as well as a blog, but his dedication and enthusiasm to spread some interesting things in history through as many social media angles as possible is commendable. The material covered is pretty eclectic, with some recent posts ranging from Hadrian’s mausoleum to the career of comic book writer Stan Lee. This is surely how history should be!
Most Informative History Blog: ArtLark
ArtLark is one of the best history blogs you will ever find anywhere. This incredibly interesting, visually beautiful and magnificently written blog is a true pleasure in the historical field. Art covers not just historical events and places (like Mesa Verde or the disappearance of Agatha Christie), but also people, especially literary figures (James Joyce, Charles Dickens) and even pop culture icons (Bruce Lee). Every article on this site is jam packed with fascinating info. ArtLark is truly the gold standard in historical blogs, and any history, art or lit buff will find themselves addicted to it instantly.
Best Book Blog: The Books That Time Forgot
There are thousands of book blogs on the Internet, but The Books That Time Forgot is so endearing that it’s hard to not choose it as a favorite. The guy who runs it is a totally ordinary guy with an ordinary life, but he has a passion for old science fiction and adventure novels, the kind you used to be able to get for $1.95 in paperback at the bookstore many years ago. He reads these books and reviews them. Anyone who grew up among this sort of fiction will instantly love his reviews of the John Carter of Mars series, old Niven/Pournelle sci-fi books and the kind of macho Vietnam-revisionist man fiction that was popular in the 80s. This blog is a delight from start to finish and is quite funny, especially when he starts quoting from the cheesy sex scenes that you often see in these books!
Best Wine Blog: Rockin Red Blog
Here’s another category where the competition should have been ferocious, but where in fact the decision was very easy. Michelle Williams’s Rockin Red Blog is everything a wine blog should be: it’s full of great wine reviews, but she also combines it with mouth-watering food writing, catchy music selections (usually with YouTube examples) and a personal touch that makes you feel like you’re sitting down to enjoy a glass of wine with Michelle personally. Michelle approaches her wine reviews thematically and often combines them with other subjects like books or travel, case in point being this one centered around the book “Under the Tuscan Sun.” Rockin Red embodies the reasons why we love wine in the first place and celebrates with great gusto how it enriches our lives.
Best Food Blog: The Caretaker’s Kitchen
The Caretaker’s Kitchen is a quaint little sleeper of a food blog, but one that, like Michelle’s Rockin Red, has a lot of personality and passion. It’s the project of a friend of mine, Jessica, a historian who is also the caretaker of an old Victorian house in Oregon that is now a museum, and her blog entries center around traditional recipes and “comfort food,” some with a historical bent. Take for example a very traditional minestrone soup recipe, or pumpkin harvest cookies. There’s just some great stuff here. I can’t reblog Caretaker’s Kitchen because it’s not on a WordPress.com platform (I think it may be WordPress.org), but suffice it to say, if I could you would see a lot of these recipes here.
Hopefully these awards will help you discover some terrific writing out there in the blogosphere that you may have missed. I look forward to 2015 and all the terrific blogs and articles I will doubtless discover in the new year.