By Karen Valby
Updated December 19, 2010 at 05:10 PM EST
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Image Credit: BBCWhen it comes to feasting on pop culture, one can only eat so much. Choices must be made. Some offerings must be ignored, for the sake of sleep and sanity. I spent years yammering to friends about The Wire, and now Mad Men, but the hold-outs just nod politely and wait for the conversation to circle back to Breaking Bad. And this is probably the worst thing for an Entertainment Weekly writer to admit but I’ve never seen an episode of Lost. (Forgive me, Doc!) At a certain point in a TV show’s or band’s or book’s arc of popularity, those on the outside resign themselves to willful ignorance.

But what a joy it can sometimes be to come late to the party. You know that feeling when you’re talking to a friend and she announces that she’s going to watch, say, the movie You Can Count on Me for the first time? Or that they just stumbled upon the band Mumford & Sons? It’s that tingly feeling of that’s part proprietary and part envious that someone gets to experience that first thrilling slap of discovery.

To that end, I can’t talk about the Best of 2010 lists without derailing the conversation entirely to the best book I read this year: Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, a YA novel set during the Holocaust, which was published in 2006. How I loved brave Liesel, the young German girl in a little town outside of Dachau, and her foster parents, and her neighbors (Rudy!), and the Jewish refugee Max they hide in their basement. I even loved “Death” a little, the wry narrator of this weird, riveting, beautifully written book. I sloppy wept over the ending. And I’m so sad that I’ll never get to read it again for the first time.

There’s a similar feeling of mourning now that I’ve just completed the final installment of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games dystopian trilogy. (Book 1, The Hunger Games, first came out in 2008.) I read all three books in one month, riveted by Katniss Everdeen’s fight to survive the cruel whims of her government. And now it’s over, and all I want to do is talk about it, and those who have been with the series from the beginning are like ‘Well, duh, we told you’ and those who are still in the dark think I’m weird for reading teen sci-fi.

Speaking of sci-fi, my God, how good is the British Doctor Who series?! My brother-in-law sent me Season 4 and I devoured that and then circled back to watch from the beginning. David Tennant is my new nerd crush, and head writer Russell T. Davies created some of the smartest, wittiest, freshest science fiction I’ve ever seen. I haven’t yet made room for Season 5, which premiered this spring with a new good Doctor (Matt Smith, who’s supposed to be very good), but there’s always time.

So tell me, all you fellow Johnny Come Latelies: What is your best, well-trodden discovery of the year? And what are you resolved to give yourselves over to in the New Year. (I’m determined to finally give myself the gift of Breaking Bad and see what all the fuss is about for LCD Soundsystem.)

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