Summer Media Endorsements

I cannot guarantee that you will like all of these things, but I can guarantee that I have. I have a fair amount of free time on my hands this summer, and the bulk of it will be spent either revisiting some of these media items or just moving the hell into their guest houses and drinking their wine for the entire month of July.

Please feel free to add your own recommendations below: like-minded gossip/media consumers are always looking for new things to distract them when the gossip well runs dry, leaving only Kardashians and Real Housewives.

BLOGS:
1.) What Would a Nerd Wear.
I sorta kinda went to college with this person, meaning she lived in the same house as I did four years after, then went to grad school and now has a pretty blog where she wears clothes that are affordable, cute, and not ridiculous. She also knows how to write, which distinguishes her from the bulk of fashion blogs. Doing her part to rid academia of the frump, one blog post at a time.

2.) Grantland
I don’t know if this new Bill Simmons-headed site is going to live up to the hype or not — I will say, however, that I love Simmons’ writing and podcasts (even though I am a dilettante when it comes to sports fandom; some say this is why I like Simmons, but bygones) and I like them even more when they involve Chuck Klosterman, one of the quickest wits writing today. Plus Dave Eggers and a host of other personalities and writers treading the intersection between sports and pop culture. Stay tuned.

3.) The Hairpin, duh, and not just because I’ve been writing for it.
(Speaking of which: if you missed the last in the Scandals of Classic Hollywood series, it’s on Clara Bow. You can find it here).

PODCASTS:
1.) Slate’s Cultural Gabfest
Find this on iTunes and give it a listen. This is the best pop culture podcast available. I’ve loved Dana Stevens for a long time — she’s the film reviewer for Slate, has a Ph.D. in English, and is full of insight, historical grounding, and verve. Julia Turner has the best vocabulary of anyone I know on a podcast, plus she’s always endorsing awesome things like “Return of the Mack.” (If you were not born within four years of 1981, you might not understand why that’s awesome. It’s okay, you’ll still like the podcast. Each week, along with their sometimes-bastardy-but-still-likable cohost, they discuss three au courant issues. (Usually a film, a television show, a new album, a new article that everyone’s talking about, etc. etc.) It’s also only about 45 minutes, so you don’t find yourself having to stop it in the middle if, like me, you use podcasts as your soundtrack for making dinner.

LONG FORM JOURNALISM THAT YOU SAID YOU’D GET AROUND TO READING BUT DIDN’T:
The New Yorker article on Paul Haggis and Scientology. It’s up in full form, it’s free, and it’s the best piece of investigative journalism you’ll read this year. Really incendiary stuff. Stop pretending like you read it, pour a glass on wine, and click on the link.

BOOKS:
1.) Jo Ann Beard, In Zanesville

Beard’s previous book is called The Boys of My Youth. But neither it nor In Zanesville are melodrama: they’re mostly just hilarious. Kinda memoir, kinda not, set in the late ’60s — if you like A Girl Named Zippy, you will love this even more. You’ll also tear through it.

2.) Jo Nesbø – The Redbreast

This Slate piece convinced me that if I liked the Dragon Tattoo series but wanted something a bit more….rigorous…then this was the place for me. That’s not to say that these books are academic — they just require you to think a bit more, but with the same interlocking and gripping intrigue that made Stieg Larson’s books into bestsellers. Plus the author is a TOTAL FOX and you can just stare at him when you need to take a break from reading.

3.) Tana French, The Likeness

French’s first mystery, In the Woods, was a huge smash. You’ve totally seen it on every book counter and in every airport book shop. The follow-up involves one of the main female characters going undercover, and I think I like it even more than the first. I’m usually not this in to mysteries, but I find them wonderful beach/pool reading — especially when they’re as evocatively rendered as this one.

4.) Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad

This book won this year’s Pulitzer. It is about many, many things — too many to possibly summarize — and a lot of people have said some pretty wonderful things about it. If you like dexterous writing, if you have a taste for vignettes of individuals, if you just want to say that in addition to reading The Hunger Games you also read what very well may be the best book of the year, read this. It’ll seriously blow you out of the water.

TELEVISION:
1.) Misfits.
Please, how are you not watching this show? Can I tell you that every single person that I’ve cajoling into watching has been sucked into a hole, only to emerge sometime around S02E03 when a certain twist makes them consider the way that life and love and narrative will ever be the same? For more encouragement, see the two-part series that Faye Woods and I wrote over at Antenna back in January. It’s all streaming on YouTube.

2.) Sherlock.
It’s only three episodes. It’s not fuddy-duddy. It stars a guy with the absurd name of Benedict Cumberbatch. You can watch it with your mom or your boyfriend or your kid. But it’s smarter than anything you’ll see on American television.

3.) Parks and Rec.
This is the funniest thing on network television, and if you start with Season 2, as I recommend, you will soon realize what all the fuss about Ron Swanson is. Available on Netflix Streaming.

4.) Downton Abbey.
Another British show, also widely available streaming. This is for those nights when you’re tempted to rent something with Kate Hudson mostly because you just want a romance and to look at some clothes. RESIST THE URGE AND WATCH DOWNTON ABBEY. It’s more than a costume drama — there’s all sorts of intriguing class politics, including the gradual decay of the British landed gentry — but also a love story, really great hats, Maggie Smith, and the usual stuff that goes with upstairs/downstairs dramas that remain so appealing.

5.) Game of Thrones.
I was an early nay-sayer. The first episode was atrocious and offensive. But now I’m hooked, the gender and race politics have (somewhat) improved, and what everyone said about The Sopranos meets medievalism, well, okay, they’re right. Plus: Direwolves! (For the haters: a really fantastic take-down of the show, courtesy of Jeffrey Sconce).

So that’s all I’ve got, at least until the next time I go on vacation and read four books in eight days. But please, share your own?

8 Responses to “Summer Media Endorsements”

  1. Faye Woods says:

    Goon Squad was the best book I have read in a long long time (as well as Hunger Games, obv, but, like a grown up book). On a podcast level I recommend Julie Klausner’s ‘How Was Your Week’, ‘Pop Culture Happy Hour’ from the Monkey See team and other NPR peeps and Extra Hot Great from some of the ex-TWOP crowd including Tara Ariano and Joe Reid.

    This summer I am reading a book about Chavs and a book about 1950s office girls. Such diversity!

    • Annie says:

      I love all of those Podcasts (especially the NPR Monkey See one) and am so glad you mentioned them. Tell me tell me the names of the Chav and 1950s office girls books?

  2. Faye Woods says:

    I get all excited Friday afternoons when a new PCHH episode is imminent and always LOL over it whilst cooking my dinner!

    Aha, well;

    ‘Chav: The Demonization Of The Working Class’ by Owen Jones, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jun/08/chavs-demonization-owen-jones-review

    The surely Mad Men-influencing The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe has been reissued http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/may/08/best-everything-rona-jaffe-review

    On a further working (in both senses of the word) ladies in the 50s/60s but London this time I recommend A Vision of Loveliness http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vision-Loveliness-Louise-Levene/dp/1408801469

    And on a further ‘Chav’ note the ever fabulous Grace Dent has a great YA series that unpicks the stereotype through her central character http://www.amazon.co.uk/Trainers-V-Tiaras-Diary-Chav/dp/0340932171/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1307720496&sr=1-1

  3. Caroline says:

    Reading Summer, a novella by Edith Wharton, is an ironic summer read. It’s neither simple nor particularly enjoyable, but it’s a little angsty and short. Unwanted admirers, debilitating crushes, abortion, and good old-fashioned disappointments.

    • Annie says:

      Hilarious — I read Summer LAST Summer. And you’re right: a great ironic Summer read. Especially if you like Wharton, which us two English nerds obviously do.

  4. hey thanks so much, annie! that’s high praise. and i think having both survived the Mold That Will Not Go Away in the barn shower, as well as the pervasive Spiders That Come Through The Windows and Nest in Your Clothes, we have shared experiences that make us more than “sorta kinda” know each other.
    off to read that new yorker article now! (i’m ashamed to say many of my new yorkers seem to rot on the coffee table while i shed tears of blood over papers i need to grade…but now it’s summer so i have no excuse).

  5. Mockingbird says:

    ZOMG, I’m just going to dork out for a second over Tana French and “The Likeness.” I love this book so much that when I was visiting my parents and saw a copy on the $6 table at B&N, I bought it “for my dad,” whom I knew would never actually read it but now I have a copy at home for next Christmas if I need to escape into it. It is English Major Utopia. Her writing is amazing, each of her three books has a distinct and unique voice, but they tie together so well to tell about modern Dublin.

    And “The Redbreast” is also great. I found it through a fellow Larsson-fan friend before the Nesbo push really blew up here in the states. Good writing, and the story is of that “Never learned that in school” area of historical fiction that makes you want to learn more. (See also: Phillip Kerr) If you like the Swedes, have you read Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo’s “The Story of Crime” series, from the 60′s-70′s? The first one is a little slow, but they become less about procedure and more about the deep changes to Swedish society at the time and are fascinating. Plus, they’re interesting in that the crimes are solved by a real team, not just a lone “Brilliant But Flawed” detective.

  6. So I stumbled on you from your Clark Gable post on The Hairpin (which I loved, btw — it’s such a great series), stayed awhile to read a couple posts, and you mention Tania and What Would a Nerd Wear, which is one of my favorite fashion/academic blogs. Love your writing style, and basically you have a new fan here. :)