Over a given month, I’ll usually read a handful of books, play some video games, watch some things, & listen to a ton of podcasts. On each month’s last day, I’ll mention the best of what I consumed. Here’s the best of February/March 2018:
The Way of Kings1
Despite the garrulous nature of many works of fantasy, few of those I enjoy reach 1000 pages; even fewer do so with ease. Sanderson decided to write an entire series with that page length as a template. As a fan, I certainly don’t begrudge him taking all this space and time to do his phenomenal world-building. I’m particularly drawn to his obfuscation of villainy, and the complexity of the cast of characters made the task of reading this less daunting than it might have otherwise been.
The Three-Body Problem2
Easily one of my favorite adult science fiction novels, The Three Body Problem begins very slowly, but once you leave the Communist kangaroo court, the complications present themselves, and then embark upon a slow process of self-clarification. The premise on which this book (another first entry in a series) leaves the reader is…troubling, and weighty. I enjoyed the translation, which conveys a sort of lyrical linguistic agility that contrasts nicely with the somewhat dark subject matter.
The Tombs of Atuan3
Ursula K. Le Guin
A solitary book (despite being the middle entry in a trilogy), The Tombs of Atuan is populated by a tiny yet memorable cast. Figures such as the young headstrong Tenar, indoctrinated from a terribly young age in a religion unforgiving of the heretical, stand tall alongside the slightly-less-young magical prodigy Sparrowhawk/Ged, self-dispatched to procure a magical artifact. I thought I might cry at least three times.
Director: Ryan Coogler
This was the first movie I’d seen in theaters in maybe nine months. As inspirational to think-piece writers as it was to the scores of black and brown folk who helped to make it one of the most successful movies of all time. 4
I spend most of my working days mindlessly listening to Tycho DJ sets while I peck away at my computer. But every once in a while, something comes across in my Spotify Discover Weekly or somewhere else that I find truly delightful.
Blac Rabbit, Self-titled EP
This video of two of the band members busking in the subway to the Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week” piqued my curiosity. Blac Rabbit is sonically situated in the new wave of modern psychedelic rock that’s made its mark over the past decade (think Tame Impala, Toro y Moi, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Real Estate, Washed Out).
The War on Drugs, A Deeper Understanding
The Philly music scene has long produced some of my favorite acts (The Roots, Dr. Dog, Erykah Badu, G. Love, mewithoutYou), but it took me a while to catch on with The War on Drugs. This latest album showed me that they were well-worth the wait.
Ezra Klein, “How technology brings out the worst in us, with Tristan Harris”
Understanding how social media has actually screwed us: not in existing, but in being taken too trivially until it became too late to check the capitalist impulses of these government-like companies that shape our discourse with impunity
FiveThirtyeight Politics, “The gun debate”
In the aftermath of the shooting in Parkland, FL, the 538 crew takes apart the public opinion info and political tactics around guns
Longform, “282: Jenna Wortham”
The host of one of my favorite podcasts comes on one of my favorite podcasts to discuss, among other things, how job descriptions are crap
Fictional, “Count of Monte Cristo, parts one, two, & three”
The side project of the host of perhaps my favorite podcast, Fictional does The Count of Monte Cristo with trademark aplomb and wit. Can’t wait for the second leg in the show’s next season.
Overdue, “285: The Fifth Season, by NK Jemisin” & “286: Kindred, by Octavia Butler”
Two guys who read books later than they should tackle some of the headiest science fiction I’ve ever read, both by some of the most towering giants in black sci-fi. Each episode was successful in making me want to revisit the source material.
The Weeds, “The stupidest f*cking idea I’ve ever heard”
Matt Yglesias is never not annoyed at something, and for this episode, he is annoyed with how we speak about guns and gun policy.
TV Shows & Video Games
The Good Place (Netflix, Hulu)
NBC, Executive Producer: Michael Schur
Much better than people said. Delighted to have waited long enough so that I could watch all of seasons one & two at once.
The Good Fight (CBS All-Access)
CBS, Executive Producers: Robert King, Michelle King, Phil Alden Robinson
A show for everyone who ever watched The Good Wife and thought to themselves: “Where are all the black people in Chicago?” “What kind of trial attorneys never swear?” “Why doesn’t the occasional lesbian subplot have more of a role in this story?”
Hannibal (Amazon Prime)
NBC, Executive Producer: Brian Fuller
Both literally and figuratively some of the darkest television I’ve ever watched, and I’ve seen Dexter all the way through multiple times. Still cannot believe this was ever on network television.
Hangar 13/2K Games
In competition with Watch Dogs 2 and Skyrim for one of the most fun open-world games I’ve ever played. Set in a slightly-fictionalized version of late 1960s New Orleans, you get to play a black Vietnam veteran who has come back home, and must take the city back from the sleazy mobsters, white supremacists in flour-sack masks, and (in one of the DLCs) a renegade ex-black ops specialist attempting to steal a nuke.
Interested in pursuing previous/future editions of my media diet? Here you are.
- The Stormlight Archive, Book 1
- Remembrance of Earth’s Past, Book 1
- The Earthsea Cycle, Book 2
- Not all think-pieces are created equal…
On the Blackness of the Panther, by Teju Cole The Limits of Black Panther’s Afrofuturism, by Gerry Canavan On Killmonger, the American Villain of ‘Black Panther’, by Doreen St. Félix How Black Panther Asks Us to Examine Who We Are To One Another, by Rahawa Haile ‘Black Panther’ and the Search for Home, by Zito Madu ‘Black Panther’, Black Power, and the Black Nationalist Tradition, by Jordan X. Evans ‘Black Panther’ and the Invention of ‘Africa’, by Jelani Cobb