My 41 Favorites of 2020

Allan Chochinov
7 min readDec 26, 2020

This used to be a top-10 list of long-form reads, then a mixture of short-and-medium, then all three, then other media crept in, and then well, here we are. This year is a big grab bag of 41 items, divided into groups, with the customary bonus track. For some of the entries, I’m ditching the “needs to be published in 2020” requirement—for those, it’s more of “I found this in 2020 and wanted to share it.” Hope that’s okay.

Wishing everyone a great 2021 ahead! Let’s get to it.


Okay, let’s get the 4 absolute best end-of-the-world reads out of the way first. These are brutal, but I promise, extraordinary. Pour a major scotch and dig in. (Thanks to the indispensable for introducing me to Umair Haque and likely a few others below.)

1. We Don’t Know How to Warn You Any Harder. America is Dying.

Umair Haque, August 2020

2. America is Having the Mother of All Social Collapses.

Umair Haque, July 2020

3. I Lived Through Collapse. America Is Already There.

Indi Samarajiva, September 2020

4. How Do You Know When Society Is About to Fall Apart?

Ben Ehrenreich, November 2020


5. A race track for one

CBS Sunday Morning, September 2020
So heart-warming. I actually saw this clip live for the first time on TV’s insanely-pun-riddled-but-generally-uplifting morning show.

6. LEGO Lawn Mower Man Kinetic Sculpture

JK Brickworks, October 2017
A brilliant trick in the middle.

7. Rural Grandfather Shows the Building Principle of Ancient Wooden Bridge

阿木爷爷 Grandpa Amu, November 2019
This is a teaser for item #25 below.

8. Drawing On a Leg

@randahaddadin, December 2020
All of Randa Haddadin’s work is beautiful; this piece is from this week.

9. What the World Needs Now

Jennifer Baryn, December 2020
The opposite of doomscrolling. Treat yourself.

10. How to Build a Guitar

The New York Times, Photographs by Christopher Payne, Text by Katherine Cusumano, November 2020
Not something you can do on your own, natch, but another amazing project from the Times team.


11. Christine and the Queens — Tilted (Live at BRITs 2017 Nominations)

Christine and the Queens, January 2017
I just adore this song. And I listened to it a lot this year.

12.“In Journalism, we can be in the heating business or the lighting Business”

Sway Podcast with (the prolific) Kara Swisher, December 2020
This beyond-brilliant framing—go ahead and commit it to memory—is from one of the smartest and most compassionate journalists out there, Nick Kristof on fave Kara Swisher’s show. The whole episode is good, but this quote…

13. Over the Road

99% Invisible, February 2020
Another guaranteed show of the 99PI podcast. I’m not nuts about the mannered delivery of the narrator on this one, but some great insights about the trucking subculture and the impact of technology on its rituals.

NOTE: if you want a truly memorable profile of long-haul trucking, read this most-epic long-form piece in the New Yorker: A Fleet of One: Eighty Thousand Pounds of Dangerous Goods by the remarkable John McPhee

14. How to Get Hired: Paul and Rich on Good Interviewing Practices

Lots of good advice here. And seriously, you gotta arrive with some questions!


15. Star Wars Characters and how they make their coffee: a thread

Violet Wilson, April 2020
This is the link I’m pretty confident you will forward.

16. The 13 Levels of Beatboxing: Easy to Complex

Butterscotch, March 2020
This entire series of “increasing complexity” is so fantastic — such a great construct. Also check out Jacob Collier Plays the Same Song In 18 Increasingly Complex Emotions. (I also want to check out People Doing Things Fast series.)

17. Each Horse Different

1242212027 (Douyin) via @artskillgallery, December 2020

18. Soloing by Mateus Asato

@mateusasato, December 2020
He is just a marvel. Tons more of Mateus’s videos here. Also the pink Strat.

19. The Outline Trilogy by Rachel Cusk

The Outline Trilogy by Rachel Cusk is a rich masterclass in writing, and simply an incredible pleasure. I found myself rereading her sentences not because I had to—neither reading comprehension nor speed is my strength—but because I wanted to. (If I “had three wishes” I would spend all of them in one shot on improving the above.) Her character studies astonish; her vignettes transport you so deeply away from the action — though not a lot happens in these novels unless you count heartily what takes place in the protagonist’s head — that you startle when she returns you back, just a page or two later. I love this writer. (Lots of reviews online; here’s The Guardian’s.) Oh, one other thing: She uses adverbs.

20. Mark Tennant’s “Frozen in Time” Paintings

These paintings remind me a bit of ’80s Eric Fischl, and they are amazing. Follow him on IG at @marktennantart

21. The UX of LEGO Interface Panels

This got a lot of attention. Rightly so.

22. Soda Equation

Paul Ford, 2020
My hero.

23. Lego Chocolate Cake — Lego in Real Life

tomosteen, December 2020
There are so many more like this on tomosteen’s channel. Check it out. Lego Masters Season 2 contestant?

24. Cardistry

@silasbusk, December 2020
Cardistry is pretty big on Instagram, but this one’s special. Lovely move. (I didn’t know if that was the proper term while editing. Then I found this.)


25. Balancing Nails Trick

MT Knives, 2016
If you have 15 nails, give this a try!

26. Draw a Circle With Just 2 Nails and String

Creator unknown, via @artvision, December 2020
Now take just 2 of those nails and draw a perfect circle!

27. Now Become the World Freehand Circle Drawing Champion

gravylookout, 2007
I tried this only once in my life—in front of a roomful of students—and they gasped. I was so pleased with the result that I vowed to never try it again. And I never have.

28. Now YOU Learn to Draw Perfect Circles on a Chalkboard

Mike Shake, February 2020
Nope. Sticking with the W.

29. Learn how to Tie a Double Bow With Ribbon and a Fork

Jak Heath, 2011
A day or two too late?

30. “Wasted Space” Garage Storage Shelves

Jay Bates, 2015
I am sure there are lots of these designs, but damn, Jay’s got 633K subs. So maybe if you have a garage and need some extra storage space, go with this one?

31. SUPER-Pro Ladder Stitch For Mending

@fatos_hobilant_5858, November 2020
This is an unbelievable version. You can view a more rudimentary how-to here.

32. Whole Roasted Cabbage

Lena Abraham, March 2020
I have not made this yet. I am simultaneously fascinated and scared. And for the record, don’t there seem to be a shit-ton of ingredients for a one-note solo here? I counted 24! (Okay, 23 without the cabbage head.)

33. Randall Rudd’s instructions for drawing a single drop of water.

@PavelASamsonov, December 2020
This has been getting a lot of attention lately. Try it on newspaper?

34. Single Plank Simple Dulcimer

Vulpestruments, date unknown
I wanted to build a dulcimer from a kit so badly when I was a teenager. (I know.)—nor the internet—was around in the ‘ ’70s though, and I didn’t realize this could be so simple.


35. How to Learn Full OLL in ONE MONTH (easy)

Cubehead, March 2020
My hobby for the past 28 months has been speedcubing. I have many heroes and heavyweights and personal mentors in the cubing community, but this video makes the memorization of my next 57 algorithms seem almost approachable.

36. What We’ve Learned After Making 167,000 Masks

The Fabric Patch, May 2020
After watching countless YouTube videos and sewing countless masks in March and April, this a pretty awesome wrap-up of collected learnings.

37. How to Get Started with Calligraphy Flourishing

This is not the place I’d recommend entering the hobby of calligraphy, but it’s is a sweet primer on the topic of flourishing. (If you want in on the real thing, David Grimes is where I’d start; he is without parallel!). If you want to dip your toe in a little more casually, I can’t recommend Anne Elser’s classes strongly enough.

38. Fraktur Letter “G”

Lalit Mourya, June 2020
Next for me on my calligraphy journey is “broad nib,” and one of my absolute favorites to learn from is Lalit Mourya.

39. The Cleanest Coin Vanish Ever — The Retention Vanish

Tri Ryuzaki, 2017
I have been working on my retention vanish for years, and recently found this. Really? 10 bucks to the finish line? Are you serious?!?! (Here’s another great retention vanish—very, very clean—from September 2020.)

40. How to Build a Very Slow Movie Player for £120 in 2020

Tom Whitwell, August 2020
The original (credited upfront) plan from the amazing Bryan Boyer is here.