Everything Our Editors Loved in March
‘The Good Place,’ a UN ambassador’s memoir, and a new true-crime podcast were just some of our favorites this month
As spring arrives, Outside editors are staying busy by bingeing a beloved TV series, listening to some motivational guided runs, and stepping up our fermentation game. Here’s everything we loved in March.
What We Read
I’ve been picking my way through Sandor Ellix Katz’s The Art of Fermentation for months. My wife and I have been on the fermentation train ever since we attended a festival dedicated to bubbly things in 2011, but this book helped me kick our production into high gear. We now have Thai-chile hot sauce in the cupboard, sourdough starter on the counter, hard cider in the basement, and kimchi in the fridge. The book is an extensive tour of types of fermentation around the world, but the biggest impact it had on me was giving me license to experiment. Katz argues again and again that the worst thing that could happen while fermenting is a batch going bad (well, glass bottles can also explode due to high pressure, so watch out for that). His approach loosened me up to try new things and persuaded me not be too upset if something didn’t turn out exactly how I envisioned—like when a whole batch of hard cider ended up flat in the bottles. No matter, it makes a great cocktail mixer or spritzer! I now appreciate the process more but still enjoy the heck out of the final products, like my first sips of homemade ginger beer. —Will Taylor, gear director
I’ve been reading former United Nations ambassador Samantha Power’s memoir The Education of an Idealist. Power was born in Ireland but moved to the U.S. as a young child with her mother and brother, and her trajectory from a high school sports fanatic to one of President Obama’s most trusted foreign-policy advisers is nothing short of impressive. The book offers an overview of her career, including her work as a foreign correspondent during the Bosnian genocide in the 1990s, her contentious meetings with world leaders, and her time working for the Obama administration. But Power also gets more personal when she recounts her complex relationship with her alcoholic father, her struggles to get pregnant, and her uncertainties about the role the U.S. can and should play in international affairs. Power is a political figure who had a hand in some of this country’s most controversial international entanglements, so I’m wary of praising her fully. However, her career-long focus on promoting human rights feels genuine and, with my own interest in global relations, I’ve found this to be an inspiring and educational read. —Maura Fox, research associate
Like everyone else I know, I can’t stay on top of all the email newsletters I subscribe to. But one that I always open (and recently started paying for) is Griefbacon, by writer Helena Fitzgerald. Griefbacon doesn’t really have a theme like most newsletters these days, but it definitely has a mood. Here’s how Fitzgerald describes it (in part) on the Griefbacon About page: “A bunch of long, weird essays. The conversations you have when you’re the last people at a party at 3am. That feeling you get after taking a long, hot shower, or after crying a lot, or after crying a lot in a long hot shower.” If that sounds like your thing, here’s one of my recent-ish favorite issues, which is very loosely about parties and the way time feels around the New Year. —Molly Mirhashem, digital deputy editor
What We Listened To
The podcast Mommy Doomsday follows the disappearance of Lori Vallow’s children, who vanished in late 2019. You may remember the case: Vallow made headlines when her children’s bodies were found on the property of Chad Daybell, her husband and a fanatic doomsday believer. The more investigators dug into the strange circumstances tied to the couple—like the death of Daybell’s wife weeks before he married Vallow, as well as the death of Vallow’s estranged husband—the more they began to connect the dots. In this new podcast, Dateline NBC’s Keith Morrison retraces the bizarre events. —Abigail Wise, digital managing director
I’ve been hearing good things about the popular history podcast You’re Wrong About for years, but somehow only started listening a couple months ago. In each episode, hosts Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes take a person or concept from recent history and examine how it’s been misinterpreted or misremembered—examples include the Y2K bug, the O.J. Simpson trial, and the Challenger disaster. The two have a loose, conversational style that belies the painstaking research that goes into each episode, and they’re particularly skilled at unpacking media perceptions of misunderstood women like Princess Diana, Anita Hill, and Tonya Harding. I’ve spent more time than ever listening to podcasts in the long hours at home during the pandemic, and it’s nice to discover one that teaches me something new every week. —Sophie Murguia, associate editor
In March I listened to Indigenous Futures, a podcast from Teo Montoya, an N’de (Lipan Apache) science-fiction writer and electronic-music producer. In short episodes, Montoya introduces his listeners to the idea of Indigenous Futurism, an artistic and creative movement that brings Indigenous frameworks of thought to science fiction and similar genres. The ideas and themes that drive Indigenous Futurism are broadly applicable to everything from how we relate to each other and our communities to how we consume and create any work—music, journalism, fine art. Montoya is a friendly and approachable narrator with a clear, keen interest in his subject matter. Listening feels less like attending a college lecture and more like having a coffee with a friend. —Abigail Barronian, associate editor
I’ve been reading Rob Harvilla’s music criticism for eons, going back to his days as music editor for the Village Voice in the mid-aughts, then following him through stops at Spin, Deadspin, and his current home, the Ringer. The only thing that’s changed is that now I listen to him. Late last year he launched 60 Songs that Explain the Nineties, and the weekly episodes jump to the top of my podcast queue every Thursday, stepping in as the soundtrack of my morning run. I can’t think of many other writers whose prose voice translates so well to audio. Plus, the podcast’s subject matter seems purpose-built to take advantage of my prime-nostalgia years. Each episode focuses on a single hit song, with Harvilla supplying fascinating context—often through delightful and unexpected detours—that help explain its commercial success. A favorite recent episode examines No Doubt’s “I’m Just a Girl,” managing to simultaneously give Gwen Stefani her due as a pop-star pioneer and take her to task for serial cultural appropriation. —Chris Keyes, editor in chief
I started using the Nike Run Club app in 2017 but returned to it recently when I began listening to its guided runs at the suggestion of a friend. Would it be too bold to say these guided runs have changed my life? Maybe not. The app offers a series of runs led by Nike coaches and runners. They range in length from seven minutes to an hour and feature different themes, like preparing for a marathon or bouncing back from a tough day. My favorite guide is head coach Chris Bennett, who is quite literally the most motivational man I have ever heard speak. His “30 Minute Head Starts” run, in which he gives you something inspiring to think about every two minutes, recently cleared my mind after an especially tough workday. Coach Bennett reminds me to cut down on the negative self-talk, be proud of myself for getting outdoors, and think about why my trail runs are actually making me a different (and better) person. Running used to feel like a very toxic challenge for me—I’d push myself too hard and feel terrible if I was slow. Now my evening jog has turned into a space where I can reflect on the day and have a little grace for myself, too. —M.F.
What We Watched
Lots of time sheltering in place at home this year allowed me to dive into the wide and wonderful world of television with greater gusto (and desperation) than ever before. But after 12 months of falling for addictive TV shows that I subsequently learned were eventually canceled (I was almost 20 years late to the Firefly fandom, and I’m still angry about it) or only had one season (see: Netflix’s Feel Good or Hulu’s The Great), I needed a bingeable, take-your-mind-off-the-world comedy with many seasons and a satisfying ending. Luckily, I found that in The Good Place, NBC’s popular comedy series about the afterlife. The show has a lovable cast, excellent twists, bizarre running gags, and enough contemplation on the meaning of life to make it seem like more than just fluff. Buy yourself a pint of fro-yo and settle in for a forking good time. —Maren Larsen, Buyer’s Guide deputy editor