The books, movies, music, and podcasts we couldn't stop talking about in October
The weather’s getting cooler, and so are our picks. Moody music and ’90s cannibal horror movies are cool, right?
What We Read
On a recent trip, Outside editor Chris Keyes told me about a book he was reading—SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. I’m about halfway through, and the connection to the outdoors is pretty tenuous, but it’s a fascinating read that engages in everything ambiguous and confusing about Rome. Yes, I’m late to the party—the book came out in 2015—but it’s still worth picking up.
—Scott Rosenfield, digital editorial director
I’m in the middle of reading Too Much and Not in the Mood, a book of essays by Durga Chew-Bose. It’s incredibly predictable that I love it, as I already raved about Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart last month, and the books definitely appeal to the same sort of reader. Chew-Bose’s writing is beautiful and full of lines you’ll want to write down. (In the first essay, “Heart Museum,” her description of sisterhood is so spot-on that I took a photo of an entire page and sent it to my own sister.) The book is short, but it’s one that makes you want to read slowly so it’s not over too soon.
—Molly Mirhashem, associate editor
I’m a quarter through a tech book that just launched this month called The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. It is extremely well-researched and insightful, and oftentimes surprising. I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in the rise of the tech giants—and what it means for us in the future. Here’s one fun fact for free: “Apple’s cash on hand is nearly the GDP of Denmark.”
—Jenny Earnest, assistant social media editor
I finally got around to reading Elif Batuman’s first novel, The Idiot. Critics tend to focus on her love of Russian literature, but it’s her voice that always keeps me reading, no matter what she’s talking about. She has this dry, reserved way of poking fun at the absurdity of certain parts of the elite intellectual world—whether they be famous authors, professors, works of literature, or universities—yet she never stops loving their quirks, magic, and eccentricities. The novel is essentially a love story set during college, but with a lot of delightfully tangential observations along the way.
—Will Ford, editorial fellow
I just read My Absolute Darling, and it blew me away. Gabriel Tallent showcases incredible emotional empathy and nature writing in this novel about a young woman named Turtle, who’s my new favorite character in all of fiction.
—Axie Navas, executive editor
What We Listened To
Two good road-trip albums: Margo Price’s All American Made, for those who like Dolly Parton’s 1980s output, and the new album Echo in the Valley from Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck, who never cease to amaze.
—Jonah Ogles, articles editor
I’m a total sucker for all things food—everything from its nutrition and sourcing to its role as a cultural conduit. In one month on Mother Jones’ Bite podcast, I listened to stories about pumpkin spice protein powder, the effect of Trump’s administration on farmers, and how Napa farms and vineyards have vowed to rebuild and flourish after the fires. Suffice it to say I was never bored.
—Carly Graf, assistant editor
I have a soft spot for sad folk music, and the new album One Go Around from Jeffrey Martin, a Portland-based singer-songwriter, has been on repeat this month. Every track on the album tells a powerful story, and you can’t help but get hooked in by Martin’s deep voice and poetic songwriting. If you ask anyone at the office, I’ve more than likely sent them the Spotify link and forced them to listen to it in full, because it’s just that good.
—Marie Sullivan, associate video producer
Phoebe Bridgers’ debut album Stranger in the Alps came out at the end of September, the same week that the aspens started changing color here in Santa Fe, so of course I immediately latched onto it as my Fall Mood Album. Driving, hiking, running, hammock-testing, wallowing in autumnal sentimentality—if I’m not listening to Phoebe Bridgers, I am thinking about how Phoebe Bridgers would be the perfect soundtrack to this activity. Two favorites: “Georgia” and “Killer,” the latter of which starts with a reference to Jeffrey Dahmer and only gets better from there.
—Erin Berger, associate editor
What We Watched
I went to see Walk with Me, a documentary about the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and his retreat center in France called Plum Village. It was a real antidote to the crazy, noisy lives most of us are living, and very inspiring to see the service they are doing around the world, like teaching meditation in prisons.
I also saw the movie Only the Brave, about the hotshot firefighters who died while fighting the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona. The movie is a compelling portrait of what life is like on the front lines, and especially relevant as the United States experiences more and more gigantic, destructive fires each year. Warning: It’ll rip your heart out at the end. If you want to read more about what happened in Yarnell, check out the story that Kyle Dickman, a former hotshot himself, wrote for us about it.
—Mary Turner, deputy editor
I love a good backcountry horror flick, and Ravenous’ Manifest Destiny cannibal romp through the Sierra Nevada is one of the very best. Bonus points for its old-timey mountaineering montage and bonkers soundtrack.
—Aleta Burchyski, copy editor
Epicly Later’d started ten years ago as a Vice web series that looked behind the tricks and into the lives of professional skateboarders, through the lens of former Thrasher and Vice magazine photo editor/photographer Patrick O’Dell. It’s back as a TV show on Viceland, and it’s still pulling the human element from skateboarders’ histories. From Bam Margera on how the loss of his childhood friend drove him further into alcoholism and how skateboarding is his saving grace, to Heath Kirchart on the Zen of accepting the possibility of failure and injury when trying thought-to-be-impossible tricks, to the spark of childlike play that skateboarding represents for Oscar-winning director Spike Jonze, this show is about people more than anything.
—Chris Thompson, visual producer