Everything Our Editors Loved in June
Oprah’s interview with Elliot Page, a history of the national park system centering Indigenous perspectives, and more
In June, when we weren’t outdoors braving the heat, Outside editors stayed cool inside with gripping psychological horror, nonfiction by New Yorker staff writers, and a surprisingly absorbing docuseries about the history of pop music. Here’s everything we loved last month.
What We Read
I just finished reading Uncanny Valley, a memoir by New Yorker journalist Anna Wiener, in which she tells the story of her five years working at Silicon Valley tech startups. When Wiener was 25 years old, she decided to quit her low-paying New York publishing job to move to California to try her hand in tech. The book is, in a word, unsettling. Wiener writes about the increasing inhumaneness of the tech industry—from cold and unfeeling bosses to biohackers who use binaural beats to optimize their sleep cycles. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, and in many cases, it does, but Wiener’s book is a reminder that it also leaves us with apps that control much of our time and decision-making, distancing us from real human interaction. Wiener, comically, never reveals the names of the companies she refers to, though in most cases, it’s easy to understand which company she’s talking about—“the social network everyone hated” doesn’t leave a lot to mystery. While reading, I felt compelled to examine how much time I spend online and think about the creepy ways apps and websites are tracking my activity. It was upsetting to think of how much time I waste scrolling mindlessly on my phone, giving in to customized advertisements, but I also found ways I could cut back. Wiener shows us that tech is going to rule the world eventually, but at least I can try to slow that domination in my own life. —Maura Fox, assistant editor
I read The Only Good Indians, a new novel by Stephen Graham Jones. I don’t want to give too much away, but, to summarize loosely, this fantastic book tells the story of four Native American men who committed a crime as teenagers that comes back to them as adults. Graham Jones is a brilliant writer: his work is textured and cinematic, and the characters are so finely drawn you feel like you could walk up to them and shake their hands. I haven’t read a novel that scared me this much since The Shining. —Abigail Barronian, associate editor
I’ve been eagerly awaiting Patrick Radden Keefe’s next book ever since I read Say Nothing, his riveting 2018 history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. His latest work, Empire of Pain, is equally compelling, though the subject matter is just as grim. Empire of Pain charts the story of four generations of the Sackler family, the dynasty once known for their philanthropic contributions to institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but now better known for the role that their company, Purdue Pharma, played in the opioid crisis. Although other books have explored the origins of the opioid epidemic, Keefe’s is the first to focus exclusively on the Sacklers, and he tells their story in novelistic detail, drawing on an extraordinary trove of court documents and original reporting. As a journalist, it’s the kind of book I want to reread and study, just to figure out how Keefe did it. —Sophie Murguia, associate editor
What We Listened To
I’ve been loving singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus’s latest album Home Video. Dacus established herself as an exciting new indie rock voice with her first two albums, No Burden and Historian, as well as with boygenius, the EP she released with fellow indie darlings Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker. In Home Video, Dacus uses her rich voice and nimble songwriting to explore her coming of age in Richmond, Virginia, during which she reckoned with the Christian faith she grew up with, the intensity of teenage romance, and navigating how to support friends who had unhealthy relationships with lovers or parents. While the songs are vulnerable and sometimes dark, they are often extremely catchy. —Luke Whelan, senior editor
Though I grew up in our national parks and have spent a lot of time consuming media about their history, I have rarely encountered podcasts about our public lands that manage to do that rich and fascinating legacy justice in a fresh and compelling way. Parks podcast (co-created by former Outside digital visuals editor Mary Mathis) is an exception, with in-depth dives into the not-so-great origins of America’s greatest idea—and its continually complicated present. The project centers Indigenous stories and storytellers and has a bold vision for donation-based, “radically transparent” journalism that compensates everyone involved for their labor and knowledge. Parks released its inaugural episode on June 22, and it fittingly centered on the creation of our first national park, Yellowstone. I found it surprising, heartbreaking, and motivating, and I look forward to listening further. —Maren Larsen, associate editor
What We Watched
In late April, Oprah interviewed Elliot Page on “The Oprah Conversation,” the Apple TV program, soon after the Oscar-nominated actor came out as transgender. It was a wonderfully personal perspective on Page’s struggles to be comfortable in his body and his decision to make life-altering changes after 34 years. Thanks to Page’s openness—he was obviously very nervous at the outset, yet pushed through his discomfort to recollect childhood stories of specific times when he felt the female identity was one he couldn’t abide—and Oprah’s tactful yet direct questioning, the interview could not have been more insightful. The two addressed legislation affecting transgender people, the battle for inclusivity in sports, and the sad consequences of shunning trans children in our culture. I found the dialogue absorbing and unique. —Tasha Zemke, copy editor
Bored and restless one evening late last month, I fired up Netflix and clicked on the first show suggested to me. Now, I don’t know about you, but I like to thumb my nose at the Netflix algorithm for some deep-seated anarchic reasoning, but on this night, I succumbed to our data overlords. Within moments of watching This Is Pop, an eight-episode docuseries released on the streaming service on June 22, I was intrigued. Within minutes, I was sitting up in bed. The series description reads as underwhelming and nondescript—“Uncover the real stories behind your favorite pop songs,” it begins—which is perhaps why I was expecting to nod off to some version of I Love the ’90s. In actuality, this series manages to be both sprawling and hyper-focused, with each episode highlighting one slice of the genre with 44 minutes of captivating detail. The first episode dives deep into Boyz II Men and skillfully presents discussions of race and cultural appropriation. The second fast-forwards to the history of auto-tune (ft. T-Pain), and the third takes us to Sweden, of all places. The whole thing feels like a playlist set to random shuffle. I’m loving it. —Tyler Dunn, audience development editor
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