Well friends, here we are! This is the first of a new monthly series – I really enjoyed the routine and comfort of committing to a regular post when I did it last year, but felt I’d reached a natural end to the ones I was doing.
And as my focus and values have shifted away from buying new shit all the time and towards things that bring me contentment, I wanted to introduce some new topics to this little patch of the internet. The result of that is Read. Watch. Listen. – the first of which you’re currently reading.
The initial topic I turned to when considering what I was interested in beyond clothes and travel was books. I also like TV, and think I have decent taste in it (a statement I’m probably about to prove wrong, but what can you do), and over the last year I’ve become an avid podcast listener. Those things – slices of entertainment, culture, amusement and countless other functions – seemed as good a thing to write about as any, so each month I’ll be recommending my favourite reads, TV shows and podcasts.
Not a single person has asked for my recommendations, so this are very much unsolicited, but I personally choose things based on suggestions from other people and I figure some of you might do the same. Let’s dive into what I’ve been consuming in January!
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh | I’ve been a lover of dystopian fiction since my teenage years, and this is one of the best I’ve read in a long time; eerily atmospheric and with a precisely spun, almost tangible world, the kind of writing that begins to prickle at your neck and stays with you long after the final page is turned. Three sisters live a strange, contained existence in an abandoned hotel in an island, where they are schooled by their parents to fear men and ‘the mainland’ and subjected to a series of ritualistic ‘therapies’. When King, their father, disappears, and three men wash ashore, their insular existence as they know it begins to unravel, and they must confront the nebulous threat of contamination while navigating their own desire and rivalries. I would recommend making sure you have a decent amount of time for the first crack at this, something I didn’t do on my first go. Failing to ‘get into it’ after a couple of evenings reading two pages before bed, I abandoned the whole thing, but on trying again this year with a decent hour to get stuck in, I was richly rewarded.
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite | I actually read this in that delicious pocket of time between Christmas and New Year so not in January at all, but this is my post, so I make the rules. I absolutely devoured it; it’s a pacey combination of satire and slasher, so darkly funny and sardonic that I could barely wait to get back to it each time. We join Korede on page one, being summoned by her beautiful and haphazard sister Ayoola to help clean the blood from the house in which she has just dispatched a boyfriend – for the third time. Braithwaite’s examination of the sisters’ relationship takes centre stage when Ayoola starts dating Tade, a doctor at the hospital where Korede works as a nurse and whom she just so happens to adore. I’ve heard mixed reviews, especially on the ending, but there’s no denying that the distinctive writing and captivating characters make for an enjoyable and morbidly humorous read.
Chernobyl | Without a doubt one of the most well crafted TV shows I’ve ever seen, this historical drama follows the unfolding of the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in April 1986 – and the aftermath. It’s clear to see how well researched this was and despite some dramatic liberties, I genuinely felt I learned a lot more about the tragedy, something that in all honesty I had very little knowledge of. Eerie, intelligent and absolutely riveting, if there’s one series from 2019 I would recommend to anyone, it’s this one. The accompanying podcast is great too!
Don’t F*ck With Cats | This blew my fucking mind, people. This 3 episode Netflix docuseries is thoroughly unpleasant at times and downright upsetting in others, but it’s also absolutely captivating. It follows the progressively twisted crimes committed by a mystery killer and the efforts to uncover him by a group of amateur online sleuths from all over the world, prompted by his first video featuring himself suffocating a pair of kittens (hence the title – and also hence to unpleasantness). The unravelling of the story is nothing short of jawdropping at times, and while the address to camera at the very end was a bit of a stretch in my view (if you’ve seen it, you’ll know) and certain questions are left unanswered, it makes for a fascinating watch.
Since it’s the first volume of this post, I’ve gone with with my two most listened to podcasts last year, both of which I have listened to this month too. They’re long running and hugely popular, so part of me felt they hardly constituted recommendations, but ultimately I couldn’t not include them.
Casefile | One for the true crime fans, Casefile explores a case a week – some notorious, some lesser-known. If you dive right at the latter half of the episodes available, your first reaction may well be alarm at the voice delivering the story (‘the Australian robot’, as Rob calls him, and ‘the anonymous host’ in the podcast’s own words) but I promise that this quickly becomes just part of it and the cases themselves take centre stage. The exploration of each case is so thorough and fascinating and the structure is tailored to the particulars of each crime and investigation. Some of my top episodes (by which I mean most morbidly fascinating, because the last one of these in particular is really sickening) include Sherri Rasmussen, Jaycee Lee Dugard and Katherine Knight. There are some excellent mini-series in there too – The Moors Murders and The East Area Rapist in particular.
My Dad Wrote a Porno | For so long I’d heard people talking about this and didn’t give it a go myself, and naturally as soon as I did I wondered what I’d been doing without it for so long. Hosted by Jamie Morton, James Cooper and BBC Radio 1’s Alice Levine, each episode is structured around Jamie reading aloud a chapter of Belinda Blinked, his father’s amateur erotic novel. Nothing but hilarity can ensue when someone is having to actually speak the words ‘Her vaginal lids popped open’ in the knowledge that their dad penned them and the references to the world of business and sales which make up a sizeable chunk of the whole thing are even funnier. Please, if you haven’t, just start at the beginning and start making eye contact with strangers while ‘Her nipples hardened with her feeling and they were now as large as the three inch rivets which had held the hull of the fateful Titanic together’ plays in your ear.