Well, reader: the world is a strange place right now (how many times have you heard that in the past few weeks?!). With an appreciation for the little things seemingly more heightened and routine habits and hobbies valued more than ever, things to read, watch and listen to have begun to take on a new importance for me; there are times when reading a chapter of my book at lunchtime or going for a run with a podcast has genuinely reset a day.
I must confess that I expected to have a whole lot more time to watch and read all the things that I’d always wanted to, but it turns out that ‘working from home’ actually means working, from home – a crushing realisation, and one that’s meant that I’m still plodding through everything I consume at the same rate as before. Who knew!
Without further ado, let’s get on to this month’s recommendations. I haven’t really felt like starting anything too intense – I guess there’s an obvious reason for that – but there are some serious themes in them even if they’re also fun or heartwarming or easy to commit to.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid | Instagram is not often where I turn for book recommendations, but the distinctive cover of this kept popping up, and once I’d read about it I couldn’t not place an order. Emira, a young black woman, is accused by a security guard in a grocery store of kidnapping Briar, the white child she is babysitting, while doing a last minute favour for her charge’s parents. What follows is a chain of events that explores a multitude of issues – race is a major theme, of course, as is privilege and allyship, but also class and motherhood.
The narrative weaves between Emira and Alix – Briar’s mother and Emira’s boss – who cant shift her focus from her own obsession with proving herself progressive, completely blinding her from connecting with Emira as a person, despite her desperate and shortsighted attempts to do so. The same can’t be said for her daughter; the relationship between Emira and Briar is a joy. It sounds strange to say that a book which explores such important topics is ‘delightful’, but it truly is; fun and sharp, hugely compelling, compassionate and poignant. It might be a fast paced read, but it has really stayed with me.
This Country | I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to start watching this because I think it’s brilliant, and at the same time I’ve found it hard to define what makes it so good. This Country takes the mockumentary format and follows the antics of cousins Kerry and Kurtan as a way of exploring the lives of young people in rural communities. It is very very British, and also for all of its ridiculousness very truthful too – I expect most people who grew up outside of a large city will recognise some of the characters. One thing I thoroughly enjoy is the references, which again feel so familiar: turkey dinosaurs, Compare the Meerkat memorabilia, Flubber.
I’m loathe to make this comparison in a way because it is its own standalone work, but if you like The Office (UK), I think you’ll like this because there is a touch of that in it – and it’s not just because it’s a mockumentary or because of Kurtan’s (Charlie Cooper) physical resemblance to Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook). Comedy and poignancy are woven together so well here – sometimes the most hilarious of characters or situations are also the saddest, and This Country balances those reactions perfectly.
Beautiful Anonymous | I’ve asked several times for podcast recommendations and I often get the same responses (Serial, Shagged Married Annoyed, and then a load by people’s favourite bloggers), but I’ve never had this response before, so when Charlie dropped it into the suggestion box (thank you Charlie!) I was immediately intrigued. The premise is fairly simple; one phone call, one hour, no names. In each episode, comedian Chris Gethard opens the phone line to one anonymous caller and they just…talk. I’ve only listened to a handful of episodes, but I couldn’t not include this timely reminder of the power of human connection entirely removed from the physical.
One thing I really like about this format is that it allows for such variety in the tone of the episodes – one day you can be listening to something that’s very intense and harrowing, and the next it’ll be a funny story told by a stranger with an infectious laugh. It also means that you don’t need to start at the beginning, because each episode works as a standalone listen, which is a bonus when there are over 200 of them. The host has an article on medium about where to begin, which is where I started!
What’s been on your bookshelf/in your headphone/on your telly recently? I’m really in need of some recommendations from other people now!