By Shelby Rowe Moyer
Whether you’re sad about it or not, it’s fall. Personally, we’re here for it. We’re coveting thick-knit sweaters and head-shrinking scarves and those big, chunky boots that take up too much closet space.
We’re also here for the opportunity to shamelessly plunk down on the couch with an engrossing book or show or taking a brisk walk to catch up on listening to a podcast or audiobook. We can’t peel ourselves away from these hearty sources of entertainment.
Don’t Read it, Listen to it
Trust us, the narration really makes these books shine.
“The Witches Are Coming” by Lindy West
If you don’t already know Lindy West as an author or political commentator, you may have heard of her show, “Shrill,” a body-positive series about a young writer coming into her own. The “Witches Are Coming” is her second, uproariously funny book. In this book of essays, she sharply and thoughtfully discusses misogyny, whether Adam Sandler is funny, why society so readily forgives scandalized celebs and the irony of “innocent men” crying “WITCH HUNT!”
West writes, “This is a relatively new usage of the term. Traditionally, ‘witch hunt’ has been used in reference to the witch trials of early modern Europe and colonial America, during which an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 people were brutally tortured by being briefly ostracized at work and having a lot of people yell at them. Wait. That’s wrong. They were actually hanged, beheaded, or burned at the stake. Still, though. Very, very similar to the modern-day witch hunts against rapists!”
No matter your political leanings, we recommend you give it a listen. Her overarching plea is for a kinder, more equitably society. She also calls Guy Fieri a “human flip flop.” Need we say more?
“More Than Enough” by Elaine Welteroth
At age 29, Elaine Welteroth took the helm of “Teen Vogue,” making her the youngest editor in chief in Condé Nast history. The 2017 promotion also made her the second Black person to garner the EIC title in the company’s 107-year history. To help put that in perspective, Condé Nast currently owns 124 magazines. So, yeah…
If you were to flatten her career and simply look at her milestones, one might assume her journalistic rise was easy, as she scored an internship with “Ebony” magazine and then became a beauty writer and editor at “Glamour.” In her memoir, however, Welteroth digs into the struggles she encountered, traveling back to her childhood where she first started struggling with her identity as a Black person.
Welteroth’s narrative is for every woman, namely women of color, who never felt like they were “enough.”
“The Old Faceless Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home” by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
The opening scene is menacing and unnerving: shoes smoldering, unexplainable text messages, a glass shard stabbed into the ignition of a car — actions taken to sabotage one man from going on a date.
The perpetrator of crimes amassed from home to home are the merciless doings of a centuries-old ghost. But who is she and what does she want? Fink’s novel retraces this woman’s history, peeling open the reasons for her retribution. We love the audiobook version because it’s narrated by Mara Wilson, the child actress who starred in “Matilda.” Love you, Mara!
Immersive titles guaranteed to transport you.
“Barkskins” by Annie Proulx
From the author of “Brokeback Mountain” comes this massive, world-building novel that follows several generations stemming from two men who immigrated to New France (modern-day Canada). The men, René Sel and Charles Duquet, are introduced as indentured servants, clearing forest land for the same lord. Over the next roughly 300 years, their ancestry lines weave in and out.
Barkskins paints a landscape of tranquil and brutish pioneering and the anguishing end of native living. Proulx’s mastery lies in her subtlety. Though told through the familiar lens of tragedy, hardship and the legacy of family business, the lynchpin character is actually the thinning forest and how it was mistaken as a never-ending resource.
Sidenote: If you think you can cheat by watching the new show on Hulu, the joke’s on you. The TV show and book are totally different, aside from a few threads.
“A Witch in Time” by Constance Sayers
If you’re looking for an escape and a reprieve from the continual harassing of 2020, this is your book. Part romance and part mystery, “A Witch in Time” follows three central characters as they’re forced to suffer the same events that ruined their previous lives — due to a messy curse that has tied them all together. It’s sweet and achy and beautiful and has an ending that satisfies.
Are You Still Watching? Yes, Thanks for Asking.
Honestly, though, that question is pretty passive-aggressive.
Amazon Prime took the 2011 film and turned it up a notch in this high-energy thriller that begins with a young girl and her father living off the grid. For a decade or more, they’ve been hiding to avoid being recaptured by agents from a secret government program that has taken ownership of infant girls and raised them to be assassins. And we’re pretty sure you can guess what wildness ensues.
As of now, there are three seasons out (you’re welcome), and the show only gets more and more intense. The plotline will have you glued to the screen as your empathetic leanings and character cheering switch again and again.
“Disclosure” and “Pose”
You could singularly watch either of these Netflix titles, but we think they make the perfect duo. Our advice? Watch “Disclosure” first. The documentary, with interviews from highly visible trans people, breaks down the damaging depictions of trans-ness on film, TV and the demoralizing questions from reporters that are vaulted at real-life trans men and women. It’s truly eye-opening, and a great education for the masses, especially because few of us personally know a trans person.
“Pose” is a beautifully made FX TV series that streams on Netflix. According to FX, the Golden Globe-nominated show “features the largest recurring cast of LGBTQ actors ever for a scripted series.” It portrays the 1980s underground ball culture in New York, in which trans men and women competed for name recognition. The series is written and performed with grace, with characters that evolve and display the depth they deserve.
Amazon Prime subscribers probably already have this on their radar. Season two began airing weekly on the streaming service, and it’s a superhero show unlike all the others. What if the good guys were secretly the bad guys? The Seven is a group of superheroes paid by Vought, a power-hungry company that is wrapping its tentacles around, and pushing its way into, the U.S. military. The true nature of these superheroes is delectably disturbing.
Why we love it: There are a few female characters that are just so bad***, and we love their strength and courage.
FYI: This one can be gruesome and might be emotionally triggering to some.
Have You Listened to That Podcast?
Gas is cheap these days; it’s time for a nice, long drive!
“Nice White Parents”
In 1963, a group of white parents in New York lobbied to build a new school closer to their neighborhood so that their children could grow up in a more racially diverse classroom. In the end, they won, and the school — known as I.S. 293 — was developed a few blocks closer to where they lived. When it finally opened, however, none of those parents sent their children there.
In this five-part series, I.S. 293 is just one sliver of the conversation around the decades-long fight for desegregation in New York City, explored by reporter Chana Joffe-Walt. Desegregation was initially considered the best way to resolve the deplorable conditions at Black schools. But is it still? White parents that have flooded a historically nonwhite school seem to have a different idea of “what is best” for the students. The series turns its attention to the powerful influence of white parents.
“Man in the Window”
The Golden State Killer is considered California’s deadliest serial killer, committing countless burglaries, rapes and murders in the 1970s and into the ’80s. It wasn’t until 2018 that he was arrested after a new genealogy test marked him as a suspect, and in 2020, he plead to 13 counts of first-degree murder.
His crimes are truly diabolical, and “Man in the Window” — reported by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paige St. John — uncovers new details. The story is told from the chilling and traumatic perspective of his victims, including male victims who carry an immense amount of shame and pain.