The books, movies, music, and podcasts we couldn't stop talking about
For some of Outside’s staffers, March meant exciting new places to explore (Hawaii!) and exciting new gadgets (that we may talk to a little too much). The rest of us injected excitement into our lives by reading some true crime and listening to Neil Young.
What We Read
There’s a bookshop a block from my house where I’m a regular, and on several occasions over past two years I’ve picked up Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis, only to put it back on the shelf due to Everest fatigue and the book’s intimidating 600-page length. A few weeks ago, I finally succumbed—and now I feel guilty for overlooking it for so long. The fact that George Mallory doesn’t really appear for 200 pages is a good indicator that this isn’t your typical mountaineering book. Rather, it’s an incredibly reported snapshot of a generation of young British men who were either annihilated in or traumatized by World War I (the trench warfare descriptions are as gruesome and enthralling as anything I’ve read about that brutal four-year conflict) and the survivors who relentlessly threw themselves at the world’s last major adventure prize in the war’s aftermath.
—Chris Keyes, editor
I absolutely could not put down a recent New Yorker story by Jane Mayer called “The Man Behind the Trump Dossier.” It’s about Christopher Steele, the former British MI6 secret service agent who was hired by a U.S. law firm to look into Trump’s Russia connections. What he finds out is riveting, and even more riveting is how the people he conveyed the information to totally bungled it. And all this was known about by the FBI and other high-government authorities well before the election. It’s like real-life John Le Carré.
—Mary Turner, deputy editor
I’m about halfway through Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which was released last month and is about the Golden State Killer. McNamara is an absolute legend in the true-crime world, and she died in 2016 before finishing her last book. Her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, hired a journalist to help complete it using Michelle’s notes—she’d been working on the book for five years. What comes across most powerfully to me is McNamara’s intense focus on the victims’ lives, something she was known for in her work. Reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark feels like she’s still around, working late to uncover the truth, long after her family’s gone to sleep.
—Abigail Wise, online managing editor
I’ve been reading Mary Pilon’s The Kevin Show, about Olympic and America’s Cup sailor Kevin Hall, who was diagnosed as a young man with bipolar disorder and, later, the “Truman Show” delusion. Like the character in that movie, the person suffering from this psychosis believes they’re being filmed at all times. The book doesn’t sensationalize the condition, though. I was impressed by how deeply and empathetically Pilon describes what Hall was thinking during episodes in which he thought everything he did was being guided by a director. She also points out something I’d never considered, which is that we often hear about how bipolar disorder affects artists and even contributes to their unique work—but we never really talk about athletes who are affected. Pilon’s book pushes the conversation a little further with Hall, who is clearly a brilliant athlete and a fascinating person.
—Erin Berger, senior editor
What We Listened To
Neil Young just put out a soundtrack/collaboration album, and it’s killer. The music on Paradox was featured in the movie of the same name (which I haven’t seen), and parts of it sound like the last soundtrack Young made for Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man (stop what you’re doing now if you haven’t listened to that). The new album also features Willie Nelson and two of his sons and their band, Promise of a Real. If you’re into eerie reverb, listen to “Paradox Passage 2.” If you want classic Young, listen to “Cowgirl Jam.” The new version of Young’s “Peace Trail” is pretty great, too.
—J. Weston Phippen, senior editor
I realize it’s highly unoriginal for me to recommend a This American Life piece, but hear me out. The “Five Women” episode from a few weeks ago, about a group of women who all worked for the same man and experienced various forms of harassment, is one of the most compelling stories I’ve heard in a long time. The format is novel compared to other TAL episodes, and the narrative of these women’s experiences stands out, even among the deluge of #MeToo stories we’ve all become too accustomed to hearing lately. The Longform podcast interviewed producer and reporter Chana Joffe-Walt about creating the piece, and I strongly suggest carving out time to listen to the story and the interview back-to-back.
—Molly Mirhashem, associate editor
Coming from a gear editor, this may sound predictable, but I love Blister’s recently released Gear:30 podcast. Featuring interviews with pro athletes and gear designers, it gives a behind-the-scenes look at the process of designing, building, and testing gear (mostly skis). Sure, it’s techy and nerdy, but if you love gear as much as I do and want to go down the rabbit hole, I highly recommend taking a listen.
—Ben Fox, associate reviews editor
I’m not listening or reading anything interesting. But I’m listening to everything boring (OK, mostly just Reply All and This American Life because I’m pretty basic) on my HomePod, which is an incredible experience. Everything sounds better.
—Scott Rosenfield, digital general manager
What We Watched and Otherwise Experienced
Visit the page for Hawaii Forest and Trail on TripAdvisor and you’ll be bombarded with five-star reviews for tours with a guide named Taj. After the week I spent on the Big Island of Hawaii this month, I, too, must urge you to fly to Kona to hang with this man. I signed up for the Twilight Volcano Adventure, a 12-hour experience guided by Taj in Volcanoes National Park, and learned more than I bargained for. Taj is a lava nerd—as well as a rock nerd, and a plant nerd, and a bird nerd. Hiking with him isn’t exactly fast, because he stops you to point out things you’d never notice otherwise. If you’re lucky and the skies are clear, he might just point out Canopus, the second-brightest star in the sky and one that you can rarely see from the mainland. Oh yeah, and ask to see his iPad. He’s got the craziest lava expedition pics you’ll ever see.
—Jenny Earnest, social media manager
I’ve been watching The Looming Tower. It’s a new Hulu series about the FBI and CIA intelligence turf wars before 9/11. It’s a total political thriller for all of us politics nerds out there.
—Carly Graf, assistant editor
This month I watched Jane, the National Geographic documentary about Jane Goodall, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Jane has always been an idol of mine, but seeing this never-before-seen footage of her left a big imprint on me. May we all move through life with the unwavering passion Jane has. I’m going to move to the jungle to live among the chimpanzees.
—Emily Reed, assistant gear editor