Recommendations, Vol. 2
Books, films, podcasts, newsletters and more.
CONTENT WARNING: This post contains explicit language. Please be advised.
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)
Ursula! What a master. And what a masterful book. It was my intro to her work, actually, and, though I haven’t gotten as far into her catalog as I’d like just yet, I believe this book should be required reading—for juniors and seniors in high school and/or creative writing students at the university level. Or both. It’s a cerebral story, and it’s cerebrally written, but not in a way that makes it inaccessible.
I’ve loved sci-fi films for a long time now, but this was, I believe, my first foray into sci-fi novels, and it continues to serve as a critical piece of my tastes changing.
And, to boot, Ursula’s just really fucking cool. Writers out there, watch this interview with her back in 1985. And then watch her acceptance speech for the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2014.
And also, writers, check this book out for advice and assurance when it comes to the writer’s life. Good stuff.
Film + TV
Raised by Wolves by Aaron Guzikowski / HBO (2020-2022)
I came to this one late. I didn’t know it at the time of viewing, but HBO opted to not renew it for future seasons, which turns out is a real shame. There’s a Change.org petition you can sign if after viewing you feel as I do. No idea if it’ll actually change anything, but good to know I’m not alone.
Since its release it had always kind of been on my radar, though, and that’s because Ridley Scott helped produce the show, and back when they were running initial promotion for its opener the Alien comparisons ran amok—which I of course was intrigued by.
So by the time I did watch it—while my daughter was sick, I’d sit with her in the recliner while she napped in my arms, and watch on my phone, with one Bluetooth earbud in (if you have a nice home set up, I’d imagine the audio & visuals would be wonderful)—I’d forgotten about a lot of what had been said about the show early on. I’d simply scrolled the HBO Max app, saw the featured image for the show and was like, “Oh yeah, I remember wanting to watch that.”
It took three or four episodes before I was fully hooked.
^ Holy fuck. I couldn’t stop listening to this one. Not for the squeamish. If a survival story isn’t your cup of tea, though, this is a great podcast and is often very, very funny. So give a different episode a listen.
^ I wouldn’t be surprised to see this podcast (or At a Distance, its sister podcast) make a few appearances in future lists of recs. They book great guests doing great work, and this episode is one that continues to resonate with me.
^ The state of Washington, where I live, is one of several in the west that has faced intensifying wildfire seasons over the past years. So this hit home, in that way. But if you zoom out and you think of all the land-healing practices western culture has attempted to eliminate over the centuries… well, it’s heartbreaking.
^ I know that seeing “MAILBAG” here might trigger this idea that you need to be familiar with the podcast in order to understand what’s being asked, but you don’t. Because it looks like the episode embed here is cutting off the majority of the title, a few of the questions being asked are… “Why does the internet make us depressed?” And, “Where does good writing come from?” And, my favorite, “Is college worth it anymore?” Which, along with the link I’ve included below to the “The End of the English Major” article from the New Yorker, was very validating to hear, given that I feel my own college degree has fallen incredibly short.
Articles / Newsletters
“Renaissance of the Weird: Experimental Fiction as the New American Normal” / LitHub
Dismantling The Career Ladder 🪜 , the latest from
“The End of the English Major” / New Yorker (again, validation for how I’ve felt about my own college degree)
^ if you have the time, you should watch the whole series. Very cool.
^ likely to make you sad. But also hopeful.
^ as a girl dad myself, I thought this was super cute. He just came out with a new album, Ben, which I’d recommend as well.
Cover image for “Recommendations, Vol. 2” is by Jorm Sangsorn.