[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
A non-comprehensive overview of stuff I loved this month.
Book: The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
I found this novel at Mike's cabin, read the first few pages, and was hooked. The Winter of Our Discontent is Steinbeck's last novel, published in 1961. The title comes from the first two lines of William Shakespeare's Richard III: "Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun [or son] of York." The storyline follows a man named Ethan Allen Hawley in New Bay Town, New York. Hawley comes from an aristocratic family that lost its fortune, and he works as a clerk in a small grocery store. His family resents their lack of wealth, and Hawley struggles to maintain honesty and integrity amongst a corrupt society. He eventually finds his way back to wealth, but lets go of his integrity to do so. The San Francisco Chronicle called The Winter of Our Discontent "A poignant, bitter, deeply ironic comment on the lessening of American standards."
Audiobook: Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan
Audible costs $16/month and it is by far my favorite subscription service. I not only get one credit each month, but I get access to a library of free content. Good Neighbors was a recommended listen, based on my listening history. It's a mystery of sorts, set on a suburban street in Long Island where all the families but one get along. Social tensions are running high when a sinkhole opens in a nearby park. A young girl later falls inside and perishes, setting off a string of wild accusations, unsavory human behavior, and the dark underbelly of a family that seems perfect on the surface.
Documentary: What is a Woman by Matt Walsh
This documentary is highly controversial, which made me curious. It is only available on The Daily Wire, and it's hosted by Matt Walsh, a conservative political commentator. He interviews doctors, academics, phycologists, etc. asking them the simple question, "What is a woman?" The answers he gets vary, but his point is that nobody can give him a straight answer. He seems to think there should one simple answer to the question, one that is rooted in biology (at the end, he declares a woman a biologically female human). One professor struggles to define the word "woman" without saying the word "woman," highlighting, in a hilarious way, the echo chamber many academics live in. The entire documentary is 94 minutes long, and despite my leftish stance about most issues, I found myself enjoying the film. I did wonder why Walsh cares so much to define what womanhood is, seeing that he isn't one. The documentary also moonlights as a commentary about language while overlooking the very nature of language itself as a constantly-evolving phenomenon. The word "flux" for example, used to refer to diarrhea, and now means "continuous change." While the word "woman" might once have meant a biological female, it is now understood to mean more. Not many people seem to care that much, but Matt Walsh does.
Movie: Luckiest Girl Alive
This is a new movie based on the 2015 best-selling novel of the same name by Jessica Knoll. It's only available on Netflix and stars Mila Kunis, Finn Wittrock, and Connie Britton. Luckiest Girl Alive is a story about Ani FaNelli, a New York-based writer who appears to have it all: a coveted position at a glossy magazine and a rich fiancé who adores her. Her past comes to the surface when the director of a crime documentary invites her to tell her side of a shocking incident that took place when she was a teenager at the prestigious Brentley School. Luckiest Girl Alive covers broad but poignant social issues like sexual assault and school shootings and implies that justice will always find itself.
I enjoy listening to Peterson's podcast as he is always thought-provoking and captures my attention. I didn't know much about Peirs Morgan, but I enjoyed their conversation, in which they chat about mistakes they've made being in the public eye, their take on the rise and fall of Donald Trump, and the best ways they've learned to be good interviewers.
Rich Roll is one of my favorite podcast hosts. He's also a writer and an ultramarathon runner (check out his book, Finding Ultra). He interviewed his wife about her vegan cheese business, ShriMu, and how to mix spirituality and business. They talk about how they've weathered the pandemic as a couple as well as ways we can all evolve as a result of the lockdown.
Lex Fridman is infinitely smarter than I am, so sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the subject matter he addresses on his show. This podcast though, was one of my favorites. Annaka Harris is the author of Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind. She is an editor and consultant for science writers, specializing in neuroscience and physics. The conversation centers around consciousness; what is it, why does it exist, and how does it shape us? We take our experience of being in the world for granted, but Harris urges us to think about it deeper. I haven't read her book, but it is a New York Times bestseller (buy it here).
The Advanced Selling Podcast: Are Big Deals Unique?
The Advanced Selling Podcast is "the longest running sales podcast in podcast history" and is hosted by two self-proclaimed sales veterans, Bill Caskey and Bryan Neale. Their episodes are short, rarely running longer than twenty minutes, and they cover a wide range of sales topics from mindset, productivity, prospecting, managing up, cold calling, organizing your day, and what organizations get wrong about sales departments and sales teams. This particular episode covered the topic of big deals, and how sales people often throw everything at a big deal in order to win it (and how sometimes, that's the totally wrong tactic).
This podcast is hosted by husband/wife duo Michael and Lauryn. They put out two episodes each week and they're always interesting, but this one stood out. Dr. Zuckerman is national expert in narcissism and narcissistic abuse and a licensed clinical psychologist. She specializes in the treatment of adults with anxiety, mood disorders, and relationship difficulties. They talk about how to parent a narcissistic child, what to do when you have a narcissistic parent, and how to leave a narcissistic partner. A great listen generally, but specifically if you might know a narcissist.
P.S. Send me podcast and/or book and/or movie recommendations.