Best books, performances, shows of '23

Hinsdale residents, dignitaries share their recommendations across variety of mediums

This is the time of year when every outlet publishes its “best of” lists. The Hinsdalean wanted to get in on the action, with a local twist.

So here are the favorite books, performances and TV shows as recommended by folks who live and work in our favorite town.

“The best book I read in 2023 is one that actually came out in 2022 — ‘An Immense World’ by Ed Yong. I’m always looking for books — whether fiction or nonfiction — that will transform how I think about the world and this one, a nonfiction investigation into the sense perception of animals, was a revelatory and wonderful reminder that what we take to be the reality all around us is subject to the ways in which we are built to receive it.” — Cristina Henriquez, author

“I am charmed, entertained and besotted with the ‘Thursday Murder Club’ mysteries by Richard Osman. ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ is also, conveniently, the first title in the series. Four residents of a British retirement village near Kent meet every Thursday to keep their minds sharp trying to solve cold cases. Until a shady developer’s henchman is murdered, and the day-drinking quartet find themselves with something more compelling to investigate. Like Louise Penny’s ‘Three Pines’ cozies, these characters are not small town or senior stereotypes. Their interests, their worries and their grief are real. What makes this series shine, however, is that for as respectful and tender as it can be, it can also be cynical and screamingly funny. And, if you’re into audiobooks, Lesley Manville’s narration in absolutely pitch perfect. What I wouldn’t give to listen again for the first time!” – Karen Keefe, executive director, Hinsdale Public Library

“The best show I saw in 2023 was ‘The Who’s Tommy’ at The Goodman Theatre. This show was phenomenal! The show was reconceived by the original Broadway director and writers with all new choreography. The cast was amazing, from the leads to the ensemble. The set, costumes, lighting and video effects were mesmerizing, really making every moment captivating, I even saw it twice! This show is moving to Broadway starting in March of 2024 and I highly recommend making the trip to New York to see it.” — Don Smith, Stage Door Fine Arts co-founder and artistic director

“We watched both seasons of ‘The Patriot’ on Prime Video. ‘The Patriot’ is a drama about an intelligence officer who needs to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear technology but nothing goes as planned. What made me want to keep watching is how the show’s writers infuse dark humor and song writing throughout the series. I appreciate how they show the story from different characters’ vantage points. With each episode, the plan became more convoluted and left you with cliffhangers. We found ourselves needing to start the next episode to find out what happens before we could turn it off for the night.” — Gretchen Pearson Nerad, orchestra teacher, Hinsdale Middle School

“I really enjoyed ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ — the book. I know it’s also a series on Apple TV but I haven’t seen that yet. My book club chose this great story about a strong, smart woman who is quirky but lives life on her own terms. It’s also a love story and a fun peek into the early years of television.” — Ann Pitcher, Pitcher Communications

“I’d recommend the series on Apple TV ‘Lessons in Chemistry.’ I seriously did not think I was going to like this series. Especially since (my wife) Mary said she loved the book so much. I loved the storyline and its creative twists and turns. Loved the style in which it was presented, in a ‘Mad Men’ sort of style. The acting is fantastic and the show has an incredible cast. The characters were quirky, unique and likable. I love this kind of storytelling and highly recommend this series. Can’t wait to hear if there will be a second season.” — Dan Hermann, amateur performer

“The best performance I saw in 2023 was ‘Merry, Merry Chicago!’ ‘Merry, Merry Chicago!’ pairs the brilliance of the world-renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra with the majesty of the architectural gem of Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. In addition to enjoying the brilliance of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I was also fortunate to be entertained by a local madrigal group that performed during intermission. Such incredible talent. It was the perfect way to kick off the holiday season.” — Kathleen Gargano, village manager

“I highly recommend ‘The Last of Us,’ an HBO post-apocalyptic series that explores a terrifying future in which a contagious fungus has turned the infected into raging zombie-like creatures. We follow the journey of a reluctant hero, Joel, as he shepherds his teenaged charge Ellie cross-country on a quest to identify a cure. ‘The Last of Us’ is based on the cult-classic video game universally acclaimed for its compelling, richly drawn characters and their evolving relationships. If you don’t subscribe to HBO, please stop by the Hinsdale Public Library to pick up a copy on DVD.” — Mike Oetting, adult services librarian, Hinsdale Public Library

“ ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes. I saw the movie first, then read the book and read it again. I don’t have the marbles to encapsulate the book or the faithfully rendered movie in a few short sentences, but suffice it to say it’s about growing older and looking back, at love, and relationships, and, well, I suppose at everything. The book’s a challenge, as is the movie, in that it demands total concentration to mine every last nugget, but the effort will be richly rewarded.” — Jack Fredrickson, author

“The thing from 2023 that stuck with me most (from any medium), was Season 2 of the TV series ‘The Bear.’ Much has been said regarding the strength of the writing and the commitment level of the performances. All accurate. The show humanizes the cost of what it means to pursue excellence. And spurred me to truly define that term in my own life. Very honorable mention as well to ‘Palo Alto’ by Mark Harris. A lengthy but rigorous analysis of how the town has played a significant role in shaping our economic, political and cultural history long before the ‘Silicon Valley’ nickname stuck.” — Jimmy McDermott, director, LyArts, The Community House

Author Bio

Author photo

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean