The summer months are always a great time to take some time out and me and my fellow specialist Content Creators have definitely made the most of it this year with trips to the US, Belgium, the south coast and relaxing staycations. While the weather in the UK has certainly been unpredictable, being stuck indoors during a sudden downpour could be worse when there are so many good books and TV programmes to catch up on.
So, if like me you’re packing your bags to catch some late summer sun and are wondering what to take to keep you entertained on the flight or while lazing on the beach, worry not because here are our recommendations:
I’m currently reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. It’s an inspiring but often horrifying story of people coming together to help each other out in the face of great adversity. The fact the story is embedded in real-life events makes it an incredibly sobering read.
Parks and Recreation is my current go-to show. While I love comedy, it’s not often TV shows actually make me laugh out loud. But Parks is certainly delivering the goods. On a bleaker note, I’m eagerly anticipating the return of The Walking Dead which is due in October. The last few seasons haven’t had great reviews but I for one have really enjoyed the show’s slow evolution from all-out blood ‘n guts horror to a story of survivalism in a post-apocalyptic world.
I’m currently addicted to the soundtrack of the TV series Better Things. I’ve not seen a single episode of the series (although I’ve heard great things about it) but was recently introduced to the soundtrack by a family member and I’m discovering a lot of great artists both new and old.
While most of us with a Netflix addiction have been enjoying the third series of Stranger Things (I’m a fan, don’t get me wrong), I binge-watched the entire first season of The Umbrella Academy. Fantasy, but in a different way to ST, it deals with complex (and well-written) characters, time travel, the apocalypse and family, all tinged with a bit of darkness that never quite lets the story fall into self-pity. The soundtrack is amazing as well, so for me, the show has been the gift that keeps on giving this summer, even when I’m sitting at my desk.
I’ve also been reading Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. It may sound like a new age self-help book, but it’s really a fascinating insight into our first impressions, intuition and how we make decisions in (you guessed it) the blink of an eye without quite realising how or why we do it. The books uses some great examples to get its point across and it’s well worth a look..
I’m currently reading a book by Robert Macfarlane called Landmarks. It is an ideal book to read in the summer months, when you are celebrating the chance to spend more time in the great outdoors.
Macfarlane has written a number of books on the landscape and nature generally. He writes very elegantly but also with a real energy and passion for these topics. Landmarks is my favourite so far because it celebrates the language we use to describe the natural world but also shows how that language is shrinking as our green spaces vanish. While he was researching the book, a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published. Macfarlane calls out that many nature terms were left out and replaced with technology terms; “Deletions included acorn, adder, pasture and willow…the natural displaced by the indoor and the virtual. For blackberry read Blackberry.”
I’m a bit late getting round to this one, but I’m reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt ahead of the film adaptation being released next month. It’s mainly set in New York and after having visited the city for a second time this summer I’ve really enjoyed being able to picture where the action’s taking place. I’m also working my way through the second series of Mindhunter on Netflix. It’s disturbing at times, but I love the true crime genre and this series is proving to be as compelling as the first. I just have to be careful not to watch it too close to bedtime!
My favourite thing to listen to at the moment is the Off Menu podcast in which comedians Ed Gamble and James Acaster talk to celebrity guests about their dream meal. It’s the perfect antidote to my boring commute and always gets me thinking about what my dream meal would be – the answer to which changes all the time!
Currently captivated by Breaking News – The Remaking of Journalism and Why it Matters Now. This book is by The Guardian’s former editor Alan Rusbridger about how he grappled with the paper’s future, as the 200-year-old model of journalism was pulverised by the anarchy of the web. What exactly is journalism is when anyone can publish anything and the web giants take all the money? While answering that question he was orchestrating some remarkable stories (WikiLeaks etc).
I’m not naturally drawn to The Guardian, but at that time I was in a much smaller newsroom simultaneously battling and embracing the web. Nobody really knew which way to go, and the people at the very top of the organisation were pretty clueless, so Rusbridger’s agonising holds great fascination. The Guardian appeared to have a clear sense of direction. In reality, the dilemmas he chews over have not gone away.
I’m not watching anything. August is rubbish apart from the cricket highlights. This week I’m mostly listening to old acid house mixes from raves I never went to and clubs I never entered.
My summer reading is Wild Swans by Jung Chang. I did read it over twenty years ago but it’s on my book club list and my memory isn’t that good! It hasn’t lost any of its shock and awe the second time around either. The book was hugely popular in the 1990s and tells the story of three generations of daughters growing up in China. It is hugely inspirational and in stark contrast to our lives. For example, while most of the team have enjoyed at least a few days off from work this summer, in 1950s China, officials were expected to work from 8 am until 11 pm, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
I’ve also been binge-watching The Affair on Now TV. It very cleverly tells the story of several characters from different perspectives, which often leaves you wondering what actually happened. I love a good drama that makes you think so I’m hugely excited to find out that there’s a new series starting this weekend.