The books, movies, podcasts, music, and more that our editors couldn't stop talking about
The scariest part of October here at Outside has been anticipating whether we’ll have a good snow forecast this ski season. The second-scariest part was watching Alex Honnold free-solo El Capitan.
What We Read
I just finished Fourth of July Creek, an outstanding novel by Smith Henderson. The story centers on Pete Snow, a social worker for Montana’s Child and Family Services, chronicling his encounters with drug addiction, abuse, and general dysfunction in and around the fictional town Tenmile, somewhere south of Glacier National Park. It’s dark stuff (part of the reason it sat on my bookshelf for a couple years), but the main narrative, following Pete’s looming showdown with a survivalist, Jeremiah Pearl, and his young son living off the grid on timber company lands, is engrossing and portentous. Set against the backdrop of the 1980 Reagan/Carter presidential campaign, the book examines the seeds of the far-right, anti-government sentiments that eventually swept through the rural West (see: Bundy, Ammon) and changed U.S. politics forever.
—Chris Keyes, editor
This month, I read Sheila Heti’s new book, Motherhood, in which the narrator takes a strange journey into her anxieties about whether to have a kid. Heti’s writing stuns me—she’s brutally honest about the ugliest, weirdest tendencies of the anxious and creative mind but writes with an approachable, almost childishly straightforward tone. Reading her feels like watching someone peel off a scab: a little gross, weirdly satisfying, and unnerving when you understand their insides look just like yours.
—Abigail Barronian, assistant editor
Sure, Cadillac Desert came out in the 1980s, but Marc Reisner’s magnum opus about western water rights is as relevant and powerful as ever—especially with talk of critical shortages at Lake Mead by 2020. If you rely on water to survive, you need to read this classic book.
—Axie Navas, digital editorial director
I was so happy to receive Lisa Lundwinski’s Sister Pie: The Recipes and Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit just in time for pie season. Lundwinski, the owner of my favorite bakery in Detroit, shares 75 recipes for pies and other yummy goodies, like granola and buckwheat chocolate chip cookies. As a baking novice, I appreciate the detailed instructions for making different types of pie crust, fancy lattices, and blind baking. Will my cardamom-tahini squash pie turn out as good as Lundwinski’s? Probably not, but it’s always worth a (delicious) try.
—Kelsey Lindsey, assistant editor
What We Listened To
This month, I’ve been listening to The Cut on Tuesdays, a new podcast from New York magazine’s The Cut and Gimlet Media. The show is broadly about “women’s voices,” but if you enjoy reading The Cut, then you have a general idea of what to expect. The first episode was all about women and power—who has it, who doesn't, and what it feels like to be in either position. I’d been eagerly awaiting the release, and it did not disappoint. There are a lot of mediocre podcasts out there, and it’s rare for me to find a new show that I like enough to change up my regular rotation. I’ll definitely be adding this one to the mix.
—Molly Mirhashem, associate editor
This month, I binged through the entire first season of CBC Radio’s podcast Escaping NXIVM in two days. The seven-episode series focuses on a self-help and marketing group connected with a women’s organization named DOS (read: cult), whose members were branded with the initials of NXIVM founder Keith Raniere. The group got media attention after recruiting actresses Kristin Kreuk and Allison Mack. (Mack and Raniere would later face sex-trafficking charges for their affiliation with DOS.) Host Josh Bloch begins the series by interviewing his childhood friend Sarah Edmondson, who left NXIVM after years of involvement. Through Edmondson, listeners begin to understand what drew members to the self-improvement movement and how it all came crashing down.
—Abigail Wise, online managing editor
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying WBUR’s Last Seen, “a podcast that investigates the largest unsolved art heist in history.” If you’re into true crime, take a seat and start bingeing. At least for me, it’s a refreshing break from murder mysteries.
—Jenny Earnest, social media manager
This month in Outside’s Beyond Books Club on Facebook, we decided to listen to the podcast Wild Thing, and I’ve been devouring it. The series follows journalist Laura Krantz as she dives into the complex world of Bigfoot. I don’t typically like podcasts and was only mildly curious about Bigfoot going into the series, so I was surprised by how much I’ve loved it. There’s so much research and history surrounding the lore of Sasquatch, and it’s interesting to learn about it in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s all a joke. We’re only three episodes in, and I can’t wait to see to what the rest of the series looks like.
—Abbey Gingras, social media editorial assistant
Am I allowed to echo Heather Hansman’s fall culture picks here? I want to second her recommendation of Gregory Alan Isakov’s new album, Evening Machines. It’s perfect autumn music—melancholy and melodious—and I’ve been listening to it on repeat for weeks.
—Svati Narula, associate social media editor
What We Watched and Otherwise Experienced
Scary movie season PSA: Does the Dog Die is an invaluable resource for animal lovers who just cannot with the dog—or cat, or horse, or other charismatic fauna—getting whacked. Search the name of the movie, and the site provides a list of user-submitted yes/no answers for animal deaths, plus a slew of other potential dealbreakers. (For example, I sincerely appreciate “Are any teeth damaged?”) User comments frequently contain great beta on whether the death is shown on camera, and if so, how brutal it is. No longer must you waste 80-plus minutes of your life waiting and watching as Buffy or Ralph meets an unjust end; now you can pick something else to watch. Or go read a book—Does the Dog Die covers those, too.
—Aleta Burchyski, associate managing editor
This month, I was really into these two short trad climbing clips of Austrian Babsi Zangerl. They are both from 2016 (I am very behind the times), but huge runouts and techy climbing on small gear is timeless.
—Matt Skenazy, senior editor
I’ve been following Brianna Madia on Instagram for a couple years now, and her feed is a constant source of inspiration, incredible writing, and high-quality dog content. When one of her pups, Dagwood, was tragically struck by a car a few weeks ago, I was reminded of how we can become emotionally attached to people we’ve never even met. Dagwood is defying all odds and crushing one surgery after another. The most amazing part is that Madia’s community has raised nearly $100,000 for Dagwood’s vet bills. The internet can be an OK place sometimes. (P.S. If you’d like to donate, here’s the link.)
—Emily Reed, assistant gear editor
I just finished this TV show on Netflix called Cable Girls. It’s a Spanish drama based in the 1920s Madrid. The main characters are four women who work as operators at the first telephone company in Madrid. The show is super overdramatic but almost scarily timely with its focus on female inequality. While things were way more unequal between genders and sexuality back then, a lot of it is still pretty relatable. There is an English-dubbed version, but I like to listen to the original with subtitles to practice my Spanish a little.
—Johanna Flashman, digital editorial fellow
I was nervous to watch Free Solo, because I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to all the hype. It did. It was absolutely fascinating to see climber Alex Honnold so up close, in terms of his incredible athletic ability and his psychological approach to free soloing. I knew he survived the free solo of El Capitan, yet I was still squirming like crazy in my seat as he climbed it. I’m in awe of how Honnold manages fear and adrenaline. He was even hamming for the camera on the way up! Great footage from Jimmy Chin and crew, too, and storytelling by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. It’s awesome to see a climbing movie crushing it and breaking into the mainstream audiences.
—Mary Turner, deputy editor