Everything Our Editors Loved in May 2021
‘The Great Pottery Throw Down,’ an eye-opening anthology about climate change, and an Oscar-winning film starring Mads Mikkelsen
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With summer just around the corner, we spent the month of May enjoying absorbing accounts of surf culture around the world, a fascinating field guide to our hometown of Santa Fe, and a reality competition series that inspired one editor to pick up a new hobby. Here are the books, films, and shows that Outside staff couldn’t get enough of last month.
What We Read
Like everything under the Wildsam umbrella, the company’s new Santa Fe Field Guide is so much more than just a guidebook. Complete with striking illustrations, interviews with locals, and thoughtful passages about important issues (like water access, child hunger, the Pueblo Revolt, and Indigenous culture preservation), the book delivers a thoughtful snapshot of its subject. I’ve been reading bits of it before bed, and while it may seem odd to read a travel book about my own town, I’ve learned a ton about Santa Fe’s history—plus, I have some new restaurants I want to check out! —Abigail Wise, digital managing director
Last month, I read All We Can Save, an anthology of clear-eyed essays and poetry by women climate leaders, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson. I can’t recommend it enough. Climate change literature is, by nature, frightening: we’re talking about inevitable catastrophe. But what often gets lost in the conversation about all that has been destroyed is, of course, all that we might still save. The writers are not naively optimistic; as ecologists, environmental lawyers, politicians, activists, and organizers, they understand better than most just how bad things are. So when they tell me there is a path forward, that we have cause for hope, and that we must have faith in our ability to come together and create change, I believe them. —Abigail Barronian, associate editor
A couple weeks ago, I read The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America by Yale historian Greg Grandin, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. The book is a wide-ranging history of the idea of the frontier in the American consciousness—from westward expansion to 19th-century imperialism to Cold War internationalism. For centuries, Grandin argues, the frontier was a defining symbol of American politics: the country’s leaders portrayed outward expansion as a panacea for social and political problems, while avoiding the responsibility to reckon with the extremist violence that took place on the nation’s perimeters. But in recent years, as Americans have tired of foreign wars and Trump has stoked the flames of anti-immigrant sentiment, the border wall has replaced the frontier as “America’s new symbol,” Grandin writes; it’s “a monument to a final closing of the frontier.” Grandin is skillful at making surprising connections between concepts (for instance, in the way he links the frontier mindset to the dot-com boom) and at synthesizing the many ways in which racist violence has defined this country’s history. Though The End of the Myth was published in the middle of the Trump administration, it’s highly relevant at a time when President Biden is continuing some of Trump’s most punitive border policies. —Sophie Murguia, associate editor
What We Listened To
I’ve been listening to the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Barbarian Days on Audible, read by its author William Finnegan. It’s a treat to get transported to iconic places like Honolua Bay in Maui and Rincon in California at a time when modern surf culture was taking form alongside the countercultural movements of the sixties. Finnegan brings the rigor of his New Yorker features to his descriptions of his childhood and early adulthood, using letters and journals from the time to write in revealing detail about the the Hawaiian surfers he idolized as a kid, the breaks he surfed, the fights he got in, and the relationships he screwed up. And his lyrical descriptions of surfing give the sport the literary treatment it deserves. —Luke Whelan, senior editor
What We Watched
If you need to remember why small, kind gestures in life are important, watch the Danish movie Another Round, which recently won an Oscar for best international film. Made by director Thomas Vinterberg, whose 19-year-old daughter was tragically killed in a car accident right as filming began, the movie follows four male high school teachers in Denmark who are going through midlife malaise and wondering if anything they’ve done has meaning in the world. They decide to try an experiment to increase their motivation based on research that shows that maintaining a blood alcohol level of .05 makes you happier and more creative. Initially their lives improve, but inevitably things go awry for them all. While there are some sad, dark moments in the film, in the end it reveals simple human truths that are well worth being reminded of. Plus, actor Mads Mikkelsen is in it—enough said. —Mary Turner, deputy editor
I loved the first episode of Lost Track: Atlantic, a surf series in the mold of Endless Summer that tracks best friends Torren Martyn and Ishka Folkwell as they trick out an old van and travel the European coast. Martyn’s surfing is mesmerizing, and the views of Scotland and Ireland in the 45-minute episode one are wild and well worth a view, even if you don’t surf. —Matt Skenazy, features editor
Anyone who is a fan of The Great British Bake Off will recognize the show’s spirit in The Great Pottery Throw Down: ten amateurs from around the UK are judged on two or three skill challenges per episode, each one ending in an elimination until we have a season winner. But instead of flinging flour and chocolate, these artists are flinging clay and glaze, creating everything from a set of raku-fired pots to a toilet. As in Bake Off, all of the contestants are sweet and charming, making The Great Pottery Throw Down a soothing watch after particularly stressful days. I sped through all four seasons of the show (available on HBO Max) and can’t wait until we get a fifth. Until then, I’ll be signing up for some local ceramics classes. —Kelsey Lindsey, senior editor