To be more deliberate with my time and help diversify my literary world, I committed to only reading authors of color during my quarantine time and throughout 2020. I first read April Sinclair’s “Coffee Will Make You Black” (1994) and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (1965). Two very different books, but both so important to read. The first is a fictional story told from a young girl’s point of view as she examines colorism and her own femininity and sexuality. Malcolm X’s autobiography paralyzed me with the knowledge that I did not actually know anything about this crucial and complex man before, and I am so glad that I was able to really learn about him now. I journeyed from Malcolm X to James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” (1963), a perfect follow-up to the autobiography as Baldwin discusses Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam in this short nonfiction piece. Staying on the nonfiction side of things, I read “Between the World and Me” (2015), a striking and important letter written by a father to his son about holding on to his Black body. Ready for some fiction, I consumed “Kindred” (1979) by Octavia E. Butler and “A Mercy” (2008) by Toni Morrison both in a span of two days. Most recently, I have read “Girl, Woman, Other” (2019) by Bernardine Evaristo which was a simply stunning composition weaving together so many non-male Black lives and experiences into one complete and breathtaking story. Celeste Ng’s “Little Fires Everywhere” (2017) is currently on my bedside table, along with “In the Castle of My Skin” (1953) by George Lamming and “On Beauty” (2005) by Zadie Smith. 

— Devina Bhalla

 

At the beginning of quarantine, I created a list of films to watch in order to enrich my knowledge of cinema. I ended up watching one percent of the list and a lot of movies that weren’t on there, so I’m still nowhere near where I want to be. The movies I did get to watch for the first time (in order of how much I enjoyed them) were: “Apocalypse Now” (1979), “There Will Be Blood” (2007), “Clueless” (1995), “The Passenger” (1975), “Inception” (2010), “Once Upon a Time in America” (1984), “As Good as It Gets” (1997), “Chinatown” (1974), “Frances Ha” (2013), “Taxi Driver” (1976), “Joker” (2019), “Tootsie” (1982), “Drive” (2011), “Green Book” (2018), “Da 5 Bloods” (2020), “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), “Mediterraneo” (1991), “History of the Word: Part I” (1981) and “Palm Springs” (2020). Yeah, I do realize I ranked “Clueless” above most of those classics. I watched four TV shows in their entirety: “The Sopranos” (1999–2007), “The Wire” (2002–2008), “What We Do in the Shadows” (2019–) and “BoJack Horseman” (2014–2020). “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” are undoubtedly in the top three shows of all time. I read one whole book, which seems pathetic until you consider that I’ve not read a single book for pleasure since Rick Riordan ruled the literary world. In a vacuum, it isn’t much, but, relatively, it’s honest work. (The book was “The Sirens of Titan” (1959) by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.) I have been on a five-month musical hiatus because I am building up my ear functionality in anticipation of Kanye West’s forthcoming “Donda.” I Googled an image of “Starry Night” (1889) and that’s about it for art.

— Tuna Margalit 

 

This summer I consumed a lot of Netflix, but I’ve been told my taste in shows (“Outer Banks” (2020–), “The Vampire Diaries” (2009–2017), etc.) is not actually that good. So instead, I’ll talk about books. Around June, I began Zadie Smith’sSwing Time” (2016), a detailed account of growing up as a woman of color in the U.K. and coming of age in the time of the media, and I loved every sublimely composed chapter. After that, I picked up Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” (2011); I chose the author-read audio book, which made every joke that much more hilarious. Then, as I began working for historical fiction author Greer Macallister, I had the opportunity to read her upcoming novel The Arctic Fury” (expected late 2020), a unique story about a women-led expedition to the Arctic with a delectably twisty plot. A few days ago I finished “Expectation” (2019) by Anna Hope, a novel about life doling out the unexpected, which seemed relevant during a pandemic. And, of course, I have to shout out my favorite podcast: “Girls Gotta Eat” (2018–). It always manages to be shamelessly relatable, and I adore it for that.

— Elizabeth Sander

 

After the personal, emotional chaos that came from going back and forth between “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” (2020) and “The Last of Us: Part II” (2020) this summer (two games that could not be more different if they tried), I found a lot of solace in replaying some games from my younger days, including the “Mass Effect” (2007–2017) trilogy, which, I was reminded, somehow boasts both an incredible, expansive story and some of the worst driving mechanics I’ve ever experienced. I watched all four seasons of “The Legend of Korra” (2012–2014) in an obscenely short amount of time after it dropped on Netflix, and I fell in love with the TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s “Normal People” (2020) which was short, intimate and devastatingly beautiful. Daisy Edgar-Jones is a queen, and I definitely cried at the end. Thomas Middleditch and Benjamin Schwartz’s improv special on Netflix served up three fantastically funny shows, all improvised on the spot, and Hulu’s movie “Palm Springs” (2020) put a delightful new twist on the classic “Groundhog Day” (1993) formula. Beyond that, I found myself comfort-rewatching a LOT of “Parks and Recreation” (2009–2015) and “New Girl” (2011–2018), as though I wasn’t habitually rewatching those all the time already.

— Steph Hoechst

 

A lot of music has been released since March, but Lady Gaga’s otherworldly album “Chromatica” (2020) remains on repeat. It’s an introspective journey through trauma and healing, an album that’ll pound in post-pandemic nightclubs. Personal biases toward Gaga aside, “Chromatica” is a standout thanks to how it uses the dancefloor as a setting for processing and discovering; these aren’t just fun pop songs to listen to on the weekly grocery store trips. Favorite tracks include “Alice,” “911,” “1000 Doves” and “Babylon” (but there are really no skips on the album, so any could be a favorite). Other music highlights include Dua Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia” (2020), Chloe X Halle’s “Ungodly Hour” (2020) and Taylor Swift’s “folklore” (2020).  

Like every bored college student in their childhood bedroom, I loved rewatching “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2005–2008) and “The Legend of Korra” (2012–2014). Both are great shows, but “Korra” in particular deserves attention — it’s a deeply mature show that discusses politics, identities and healing. Quarantine film highlights include rewatching the Pokémon movies (including “Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai” (2007), the best Pokémon movie ever), the “Mission: Impossible” (1996–) films, “Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe” (2020), the perfect final season of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” (2008–2020), “The Da Vinci Code” (2006) and “Angels & Demons” (2009). “The Da Vinci Code” was pretty wacky, but “Angels & Demons” is actually incredible. Give the latter a watch — it’s got Ewan McGregor

— Chris Panella

 

Like many, I saw quarantine as an opportunity to binge-watch Netflix for 10 of my 14 waking hours. I tore through a few shows pretty quickly. Two of my favorites were “Shameless” (2011–), which was best enjoyed when sitting with my housemates, and “Community” (2009–2015). I also rewatched some old favorites like “New Girl” (2011–2018) and “Gossip Girl” (2007–2012). Pretty quickly, however, I got tired and my eyes begged me to stop staring at the Netflix and TikTok screens and pick up a book. The first book I read was “Normal People” (2018) by Sally Rooney since I had heard so much of the hype around the show. I have yet to watch the show, but I cannot imagine how it could be much better than the book which was amazing. After the ensuing sadness of finishing such a wonderful book and wishing I could go back to before and have the chance to read it again, I picked up Sally Rooney’s debut novel, “Conversations with Friends” (2017), with the hope that it would be a fraction as good as “Normal People.” I was not disappointed. While the characters were a little bit older and the story different, the relationship Rooney creates between the reader and characters felt the same as in “Normal People.” I felt so connected to them that I felt everything from their happiness to heartbreak. 

— Colette Smith

 

When presented with a guilt-free opportunity to stay indoors and endlessly devour media, I jumped from medium to medium to catch up on everything I’d been too busy to check out. For TV shows I blew through “Tiger King” (2020) in under 48 hours and experienced a similar mix of horrified delight as the saga unfolded. I also dove headfirst into HBO’s “Doom Patrol” (2019–), a dark yet heartfelt look at a group of superhero-ish misfits and their adventures that range from zany to mind-bending insanity. My favorite books begin with Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” (2013), an emotional and hilarious behind-the-scenes look at Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room” (2003), the so-called “worst movie ever made” through the eyes of Sestero, the film’s line producer and co-star. Much like “Tiger King,” the discomfort is high and matched only by the book’s cavalcade of humor to lighten an otherwise cringeworthy look at ego run amok on the part of writer, director and star Wiseau. My second favorite read was the DC Comics Inc. epic, “Doomsday Clock” (2017–2019) by Geoff Johns with art by Gary Frank. The series chronicles a desperate attempt by a ragtag group of costumed characters as they journey to the world of DC to find “Watchmen” (1986–1987) lead Dr. Manhattan to avert a catastrophe on their world. The series is tight and gripping, on account of Johns’ masterful storytelling, and beautifully realized in Frank’s dynamic art with special care given to the series’ cinematic-scale battles and beautiful covers.

— Drew Weisberg




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