The books, movies, podcasts, music, and more that our editors couldn't stop talking about
If you’re not into movies about RVs possessed by serial killer ghosts, perhaps you’ll enjoy 8,000 words of golf gossip. Here at Outside, we provide culture suggestions for everyone.
What We Read
I’ll be the first to tell you I’m an Emma Cline fangirl. Her short story “Son of Friedman,” recently published by The New Yorker, was just the thing to tide me over until her next book comes out. Her eerily striking prose and penchant for playing with California archetypes—even in this New York City-based tale about the progeny of a once-famous film producer—always bring me back for more.
—Alison Van Houten, editorial fellow
This month I read Heather Hansman’s new book Downriver, about the history and future of the Green River. It’s incredible. Hansman is a former raft guide and a journalist with a heart for rivers and a head for policy. As she paddles the length of the Green from its headwaters in Wyoming to its confluence with the Colorado, she explores the uneasy intersection of recreation, land and resource management, and climate change. Water in the West is weird, wonky, and hard to get your head around. It’s also precarious, but Hansman handles the many complicated questions with humor, honesty, and humanity. This is essential reading.
—Abbie Barronian, assistant editor
When I was growing up, early April always brought the familiar background noise of hushed commentary and muted cheers as my Dad tuned into the Masters Tournament, a major golf championship at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. Although I always watched the tournament with only mild attention, I was riveted by Nick Paumgarten’s behind-the-scenes New Yorker feature, “Unlike Any Other,” about the exclusive golf club. The piece includes just the right amount of history, juicy gossip, and humorous people watching, so you won’t remember you’re reading an 8,000-plus-word article on golf until you’re finished.
—Kelsey Lindsey, assistant editor
In How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell argues that it’s not enough for us to reclaim ownership over our relationship with our devices and social media, and invest in high-quality leisure activities. Instead, we must “disengage from the attention economy” and “reengage with something else”—all for the purpose of social activism. Odell argues that we have become disconnected from each other and from our communities, that we are losing our empathy, and that we are busy “constructing digital worlds while the actual world is crumbling before our eyes.” But as dark as all that sounds, How to Do Nothing is one of the most optimistic manifestos I have ever read. With hopeful examples of what a compassionate, socially active community looks like (including lots of birdwatching!), this book was a necessary read for this moment and for anyone who participates in digital media.
—Jenny Earnest, audience development director
What We Listened To
Apparently, there are enough murders and disappearances in Texas to dedicate an entire podcast to the topic. Although Gone Cold Podcast premiered about a year ago, I just discovered it this week. So far, I’ve plowed through the most recent episodes—one about the Dallas Lipstick murder in the ’80s and the other about a young mother killed in the early ’70s—and can confirm that I plan to spend this weekend binging through the archive.
—Abigail Wise, online managing editor
What We Watched and Otherwise Experienced
Fans of trope-y horror and #vanlife should check out The Toybox on Hulu, in which a cute extended family hits the road in a retro RV that’s possessed by a dead serial killer. “Back in my day, we used to open the window to get fresh air,” quips Grandpa as the ghostly shenanigans begin. The gore ranges from silly to visceral, but thankfully it never rises to the level of torture porn—and Bentley the yellow lab smartly runs away, so no trauma there. If you need a reason to not buy that $1,500 GMC Motorhome you found on Craigslist, this is your movie.
—Aleta Burchyski, associate managing editor
I watched Shirkers, an incredible and unusual documentary from filmmaker Sandi Tan. When Tan was a teenager in Singapore, she and her friends made a movie together (also called Shirkers) with the help of an older mentor named Georges. The young filmmakers were precocious and totally immersed in their project. When they finished filming, Georges disappeared and took their movie with him. He died two decades later, and his widow found all the old film—which he’d carried with him from place to place, without ever contacting Tan and her friends again—and returned it to Tan. The 2018 version of Shirkers (which includes lots of the old footage) is a retelling of their original creative vision; an examination of Georges’ character and motivations; and a nostalgic look back at how Tan, her friends, and their country have changed over the years since their project was stolen from them. I was totally fascinated by this movie, and I’ve never seen anything like it.
—Molly Mirhashem, senior editor
Like many people, I could not wait for the second season of Big Little Lies to premier on HBO this month. The first few episodes have not disappointed (Meryl Streep is delightfully creepy in a way only she could pull off). They’ve been all the more fun to watch because in May I went on a road trip down the California Coast, where the show takes place, with two of my best friends. (One of them is an editor at the Seattle Times and wrote a lovely essay about the journey.) The first half of the drive was effectively a Big Little Lies tour: as we drove through the cypress-lined streets of Monterey and down Big Sur, blasting the theme song, I half expected to see Madeline driving behind us having a fit of road rage or Jane running along the bluffs above the ocean.
—Luke Whelan, research editor
I recently went to the Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, where for three days I watched films based on outdoor, political, environmental, and social justice issues. One of my favorites this year was Lazarus, a film about a Malawian albino musician who is breaking the cultural stereotypes on albinism and putting a spotlight on the issue around the world. Thousands of albino people are living in Malawi and are constantly in danger of being abducted, murdered, or mutilated because some believe their body parts possess magic. The film documents Lazarus’s journey as he busks along the streets of Malawi and begins to produce his first album, all while bringing energy and upbeat rhythms through his music. You can visit his website to find out more or listen to his songs on Spotify.
—Petra Zeiler, art director
I went to the Alexander Girard exhibit at the Santa Fe Folk Art Museum. Girard was a textile designer who used color and graphics in the most interesting ways, and expanded into furniture and home design as well, working with Eames and Herman Miller, among many others. He also did the re-branding campaign for Braniff Airways called “The End of the Plain Plane.” It was wild to see how things Girard had designed in the 1960s are super hip again now. The museum also houses Girard’s extensive folk art collection.
—Mary Turner, deputy editor
My holy grail of laugh-out-loud TV shows will always be The Office—until they remove it from Netflix in 2021, and I nosedive into a post-Office (get it?) depression. But I just started watching People Just Do Nothing on Netflix and it is true comedic gold. The show, which originally started as a YouTube series, is a mockumentary that follows a group of friends that run a pirate radio station called Kurupt FM. Centered around the lives of self proclaimed musical genius MC Grindah, and his loyal friend DJ Beats the show is a master class on combining humor with small profound moments. Truly, I have not seen a show like it since The Office, and I cannot recommend it enough.
—Kyra Kennedy, photo editor
Every year around this time, I suffer (very light emphasis on the word “suffer”) from seasonal allergies, and assume my role as the person on the hike who sneezes loudly, snot rockets profusely, and thinks it’s interesting to keep saying “Wow, I just don’t know what’s in the air today, ha ha!” I am unfortunately still that person, but now I do know what is in the air on a daily basis thanks to my little allergy buddy, the My Pollen Forecast app. It gives me a daily allergen report based on factors like pollen counts, wind strength, and humidity, and it lets me log how bad my symptoms are every day so it can guess what I’m most allergic to. This may not be a cool pastime, but knowing that tree pollens and chenopods are my mortal enemies has certainly enriched my time in nature.
—Erin Berger, senior editor