Not reading or listening to the news allows lots of time to explore the worlds of podcasts and novels.
I spent probably too much of the year not reading, listening to or watching the news (unless it’s #MeToo coverage), and as such, I’ve become a podcast addict and actually finished more novels than I have in years.
Here’s my year in consumption.
The Longform Podcast is my current favorite thing to listen to. It’s journalists interviewing journalists about what it’s like to be a journalist. It hits on current news, too, but it’s mostly a geeky dive into the craft (can I use that word?) about reporting and writing.
I can’t promise those outside of the field will garner as much from it, but if you want to try a few episodes: I balled my eyes out listening to Hillary Clinton talk about writing her campaign recap book; Jodi Kantor is an American hero; GQ is more than cute-girls-in-no-clothes and editor Jim Nelson proves that; Ariel Levy is so unsentimental it made me cry; I will always listen to whatever Ta-Nehisi Coates says; this gets meta but learning about The New York Times corrections process and how a negative review is a serious book-sales killer is really fascinating, as is whatever Vanessa Grigoriadis says; Elizabeth Gilbert is more than Eat, Pray, Love; I want Cheryl Strayed as my personal sherpa; early motherhood is insane and I need to read Sarah Menkedick’s book; and Maggie Haberman is too important to stop working, typing, texting, tweeting during this interview and I find it so rude but also like, wow, this is what it takes to be one of the most important political reporters working today.
Other favorites: Death, Sex & Money, Modern Love, Terrible, Thanks for Asking (hat tip: Holley Simmons) and The Longest Shortest Time. I’ve yet to find a food podcast that I can wholeheartedly endorse. Please send me suggestions.
I listen to Pandora, with the ads. I’m not a music person. But some things you probably already know:
Album: A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs
“Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man
“Alaska” by Maggie Rogers
“Want You Back” by HAIM
My husband and I vacationed in Hawaii this year and I have to admit I wasn’t prepared for Peyton Place by Grace Metalious to swing me through so many moods. We’d be on this insane beautiful beach and I’d be lost in this soap opera of a novel, unable to snap out of the characters’ tragic lives. It’s an expertly woven tale of small-town drama, and honestly, probably better read under the covers on a cold day than on the sand.
I also loved Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, another saga of a small town. Each chapter is a self-contained short story, though they weave together via Olive Kitteridge herself, a complicated, strong woman navigating life after 60. Here I Am is ultimately pretty sad, but I like that in my Jonathan Safran Foer books. Heartburn by Nora Ephron is also a downer, but damn if it isn’t the funniest written book about a breaking family. (And the narrator is a cookbook writer!)
Long Form + Essays + Journalism
“Every Parent Wants to Protect Their Child. I Never Got the Chance.” is an excruciating, beautiful, heartbreaking essay on The Cut by a mother who gives birth—though wishes she didn’t—to a son with cystic fibrosis.
Food essays can be so over-wrought and I almost can’t read any more about how this fill-in-the-blank dish sums up someone’s whole, complicated life. But Talia Lavin pulls it off in The New Yorker‘s “Leaving a Religion and a Marriage, and Gaining a Chicken Soup.”
Brett Martin for GQ is must-read for understanding the restaurant world.
Bear witness to gun violence: “Two strangers bond over country music and beer. Then the gunshots started.” by Wesley Lowery and “The wounds they carry: For six teens at a Las Vegas high school, homecoming week started with a country music concert.” by John Woodrow Cox, both for The Washington Post.