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Culture Notebook

Our Editors' Culture Picks of the Month

The books, movies, music, and podcasts we couldn't stop talking about in August

This is our ideal place to read a book, but we're not picky. (Katya Austin)

The books, movies, music, and podcasts we couldn't stop talking about in August

This month, we loved albums that we discovered before they came out and sci-fi thrillers that we discovered an embarrassingly long time after they came out. It’s all good stuff. Right this way.

What We Read

I just finished reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson, and it’s the best real-talk self-help book I’ve read. It’s funny and filled with insights on what it means to live a good life on your own terms and prioritize what’s important to you.

—Colette Harris, editorial fellow

'The Edge of the World,' a New Book from Outside

A visual adventure to the most extraordinary places on earth.

Feast Your Eyes

Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy has been out since 2014, but I only heard of it recently because the talented illustrator Eric Nyquist (who’s worked with Outside) designed the series’ book covers. Now I’ve finally read the first in the trilogy, Annihilation, and I can’t stop talking about it, to the regret of all my friends. Annihilation is an expedition journal with a heavy dose of sci-fi horror that follows a team of scientists into a mysterious area reclaimed by wilderness. Some of the best parts read like dispatches from a nature writer—just one who’s exploring a deeply unsettling landscape where you have to throw out everything you learned in biology class.

—Erin Berger, associate editor

Ever wonder why every kid at camp makes god’s eyes? This article explains it.

—Aleta Burchyski, copy editor

My old colleagues at Quartz published this complete guide to pretending you saw the total solar eclipse, and it’s hilarious.

—Svati Narula, assistant social media editor

Recently I have been hate reading Bloomberg Businessweek. For a brief period, it was my favorite magazine on earth. Then they turned it into a normal magazine (in search of profits?), and I loved it less and stopped reading. Now I have returned. Because, to be honest, it’s still a great read, and I still get about 75 percent of my stories ideas from it.

—Scott Rosenfield, digital editorial director

What We Listened To

I’m a big fan of the Ezra Klein Show podcast from Vox Media. The interview format is pretty saturated these days, but Klein keeps it fresh with surprising guests—most of whom haven’t appeared on 12 other shows to plug a new project—and engaging conversations on everything from criminal justice reform to workplace procrastination. Every episode makes me feel a little smarter.

—Chris Keyes, editor-in-chief

The Outside Podcast

Our latest episodes. Plus, where to listen and subscribe.

Listen

The Ringer (Bill Simmons’ outfit) just started a new podcast called The Rewatchables. They spend an hour going over the best rewatchable movies of the past few decades, and it’s pretty great, though admittedly bro-y. I didn’t really want to like it, but recently they poked a ton of holes in The Departed, which is near and dear to my heart as someone from Boston. In particular, their attacks on Jack Nicholson, whose performance many praised outside of Boston, were spot-on. It’s perfect to listen to when you’re chopping vegetables for dinner.

—Will Ford, editorial fellow

The War on Drugs’ new album, A Deeper Understanding, was released on August 25, but I couldn’t wait and had been spinning the teaser singles on repeat since the April release of “Thinking of a Place,” an 11-minute opus. On another teaser track, “Holding On,” frontman Adam Granduciel dives in deep with lines like “Is an old memory just another way of saying goodbye?” while maintaining the newly buoyant sound of his band. For an artist who has explored themes of depression and heartbreak, A Deeper Understanding, as the title suggests, represents a new direction and maturity for Granduciel.

—Chris Thompson, visual producer

I just started listening to Rough Translation, the new NPR podcast about how other countries are handling big issues that are also part of the national conversation in the United States. The first episode focuses on the unconventional ways Brazil is implementing affirmative action and talking about race. Of all the ways to step out of the American news cycle for half an hour, this one’s pretty informative, at least.

—Molly Mirhashem, associate editor

The Bandcamp Weekly podcast is my favorite Tuesday ritual. I have it to thank for my current obsession with Sudan Archives, a singer-songwriter I’ve been jammin’ out to all month. Favorite songs: “Wake Up” and “Goldencity.”

—Jenny Earnest, assistant social media editor

Sara Trunzo is a longtime family friend, and I grew up listening to her play Americana tunes in a renovated barn down the street from my house. Which is why I’m stoked on her recently released five-song EP, Thanks Birdie. Sara is as talented a songwriter as she is a musician, and her lyrics, combined with simple guitar riffs, tell vivid stories of her times spent in rural Maine. It’s perfect listening for contemplative road trips.

—Ben Fox, assistant editor

What We Watched and Otherwise Looked At

I liked Al Gore’s new documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel. It inspired me to see that despite all the challenges in the environmental movement these days, Gore is working hard behind the scenes and really getting good things done. Plus, it was cool to see what the climate accord meetings are like in Paris through his eyes.

—Mary Turner, deputy editor

I’ve been keeping up with the intricate cut-paper creations of Rural Pearl, the site of Lawrence, Kansas–based artist Angie Pickman. She’s particularly fond of birds, Midwestern flowers, and landscapes, which become the subjects of eventual silhouettes or layered collages. Her one-minute animated short about a wolf in winter, “The Longest Night,” is also lovely and full of childlike wonder.

—Tasha Zemke, copy editor

Filed To: Media / Books / Movies / Music / Podcasts