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Culture Notebook

Everything Our Editors Loved in August

The books, movies, podcasts, music, and more that our editors couldn't stop talking about this month

We hope your reading spot is as nice as this one. (Oleh_Slobodeniuk/iStock)

The books, movies, podcasts, music, and more that our editors couldn't stop talking about this month

We rediscovered a lot of older—but still great—books and movies this month as we squeezed in camping trips between dramatic summer storms. (Monsoon season is a real thing in Outside’s home state of New Mexico.) Maybe you missed some of these picks the first time around too. Or maybe you’ll just scoff at us. Either way, we hope this list brings you enjoyment.

What We Read

It took me almost a year to get to it, but once I started reading Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach, I couldn’t stop. Her attentive writing makes you want to go up to random strangers and shout, “READ THIS BOOK.” While this novel doesn’t contain the experimental Pulitzer-winning prose of Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, the way she crafts this story about three interconnected characters in wartime New York is captivating and beautiful.

—Kelsey Lindsey, assistant editor

I haven’t stopped talking about Understories: The Political Life of Forests in Northern New Mexico, by Jake Kosek, since I picked it up. Jakob Schiller, a friend and Outside contributor who grew up in New Mexico, recommended it to me when I first moved here. Kosek writes about the people and land of New Mexico without sentimentality and with a clear-eyed understanding of his role in it all (that is, as a white outsider). He focuses his energy on rigorous reporting and historical research and centers the book on the perspectives of Hispanic and Native New Mexicans, for whom access to land and natural resources matters the most. New Mexico is wild and weird and wears its deep, tumultuous history on its sleeve. Understanding a bit more of that history has enriched every experience I’ve had exploring this state.

—Abbie Barronian, assistant editor

I’m years late to this one, but I finally read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah a few months ago. Then, a few weeks ago, I picked up her 2012 book, Purple Hibiscus, and was sucked in. The narrator is a 15-year-old girl named Kambili who lives in Nigeria. I know both books may be a departure from the Outside norm, but I promise you won’t be disappointed with either choice.

—Madeline Kelty, deputy photography editor

A buddy mailed me a copy of This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff, I suspect because the main character and I shared the hobby of hiking the rural Utah countryside as children, shooting things with a little .22 rifle. Wolff is, of course, a phenomenal storyteller, and this is a quick, fun read.

—J. Weston Phippen, senior editor

Outside praised William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life late last year, so I picked it up and finally tackled it. Actually, I devoured it. His writing is so honest and captivating, even if you don’t know surf lingo or understand wave science. I wanted to be that vagabond toting a surfboard from shore to remoter foreign shore. Finnegan’s description of a translucent wave in the South Pacific still amazes me—and the fact that, after a lifetime surfing around the world, he never once mentioned a shark encounter.

—Tasha Zemke, copy editor

What We Listened To

My all-time favorite artist, Your Smith, dropped a new EP this month, and my life hasn’t been the same since. Bad Habit delivers summer vibes and a dose of post-breakup medicine that your soul didn’t know it needed. Do yourself a favor and go listen to her new EP seven times in a row.

—Emily Reed, assistant reviews editor

I just finished season two of In the Dark. The APM Reports podcast dives into the investigation and trails of Curtis Flowers, who has been tried for murder six times and, to date, never convicted. One of the best parts: Host Madeline Baran and her reporting team show their work, chronicling their painstaking effort to leave no stone unturned in their research. Anyone who is interested in the criminal justice system, journalism, or a good story should listen in.

—Will Gordon, assistant editor

Two years ago, Kristal Reisigner, 29, disappeared from Crestone, Colorado, a small hippie town near Great Sand Dunes National Park. The second season of the podcast Up and Vanished will investigate the missing persons case. I’ve only heard the first episode so far, which premiered August 20, but if this season is anything like the first, a deep dive into the disappearance of Georgia history teacher Tara Grinstead that eventually led to two arrests, I’m sure it’s going to be a binge-worthy series that will have me up listening too late—and may even help move the needle in the investigation.

—Abigail Wise, online managing editor

Have I already talked your ear off about The Wilderness podcast from the awesome guys at Crooked Media? I am a devout Friend of the Pod (not afraid to shout that), and The Wilderness has me fascinated. Each episode concentrates on a different aspect of the history of the Democratic Party and where we can go from here. The political system in America is currently broken, and we all need to take a long hard look at what we can do to help. Yes, I’m a Democrat, but I would be just as compelled to listen to a version on the Republican Party if someone were to take the time to make it.

—M.K.

If you like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Chuck Berry, or Bo Diddley, then you owe Willie Dixon a bit of gratitude. He was one of the most prolific blues songwriters and had a big influence on all those other folks who built their reputations on the blues. The other week I picked up another Dixon album, I Am the Blues, and it has sent me back through a lot of his early stuff, which is mostly songs he wrote that were popularized by other musicians. It’s interesting to listen to the music as its creator imagined.

—J.W.P.

What We Watched and Otherwise Experienced

Being half Asian is a huge part of my identity, largely because I also grew up in a city (Arcadia, California) with a population of over 50 percent Asian-Americans, and I spent two of my formative childhood years in Tokyo, Japan. Naturally, I was over-the-top excited to see Crazy Rich Asians. Asian-ness is not the point of the film, but it was a joy to relate to some of the experiences and traditions highlighted on the screen and to talk to my colleagues about some of my own experiences and family traditions. On the topic of traditions, shall we place a bet? I’ll go first: Crazy Rich Asians will be nominated for Best Picture, Best Original Score, and Best Costumes. It’s easily the best movie I’ve seen all year.

—Jenny Earnest, social media manager

I finally watched that Nike/National Geographic film Breaking2, about the quest to finish under two hours in the marathon. There wasn’t much suspense for me (spoiler: I already knew that none of Nike’s specially groomed runners broke that mythical barrier), but I did gain a new appreciation for Eliud Kipchoge, a runner from Kenya who ran 2:00:25 as part of the project. The guy is a legend.

—Matt Skenazy, senior editor

I saw the band Rainbow Kitten Surprise play at a small outdoor music venue in Santa Fe. They are from Boone, North Carolina, and have a really unique sound. Sam Melo, the lead singer, reminds me of a combo of Beck and Michael Stipe. His voice is capable of doing so much, and he’s mesmerizing to watch dancing around on stage. Check out this video of their song “Fever Pitch.”

—Mary Turner, deputy editor

Like every woman I know, I watched and obsessed over To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before on Netflix. It might be a cheesy romantic comedy designed for teens, but it’s also just a really sweet, well-done movie helmed by the expressive Lana Condor, who I hope to see more of in the future. There’s been a sad absence of good romcoms since the golden era of the early 2000s, but this movie and Crazy Rich Asians prove that the market for a feel-good love story is still there. Oh, and have we talked about Peter Kavinsky? Shall I elaborate my love for him in 2,000 words? No? Okay, just go watch the movie. You’ll understand.

—Abbey Gingras, social media editorial assistant

It ran in 2016, but I only recently watched The Horn on Netflix. It’s a docuseries about the Air Zermatt heli-rescue team in Switzerland. They run 1,600-plus rescues a year on the Matterhorn and surrounding Swiss Alps, mostly ferrying skiers and snowboarders with broken bones and concussions from the ski areas to local hospitals. But every once in a while, they pull a backcountry skier out of a crevasse or evacuate a winter hiker stranded for days in a whiteout. The trauma and injuries these men and women witness are sometimes horrific, but their emotional fortitude is astounding. Though, as CEO Gerold Biner says in one episode, no one comes back from a mission untouched.

—Will Egensteiner, senior editor

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