Around this time every year, we’re usually packing away our desks and heading off for one of the jammiest weekends of the year, the four day bank holiday to celebrate Easter. Always hitting just as Spring does, it’s one of the most perfectly-timed holidays we Brits get outside of our allocated holiday days, but this one isn’t quite the same is it?
As we all continue to stay inside over our next four days off, the question of what we’ll get up to is an odd one. You’re probably on the hunt for some cultural and creative recommendations to get your teeth stuck into so, below, our editorial team has shared books we’ve enjoyed, podcasts we’re hooked to, music that we’re listening to and even some of our favourite articles we’ve published this year if you fancy sticking around here too.
See you next week and stay safe,
It’s Nice That
Ruby Boddington, Associate Editor
If you’re a fan of Love Island, Big Brother or Masterchef – even better if, like me, you’re a fan of all three – then you have to stop what you're doing and go and watch Terrace House. I know most of you have probably already binged your way through the hours upon hours available on Netflix but for those of you who haven’t, here’s the premise: six young men and women, in Japan, all strangers, move into a house to spend the summer together and cameras capture the whole thing. They’re kind of meant to date, and a lot of them do, but that’s not the only point. Everyone continues going to the jobs they had before joining the show, and you’re just along for the ride. Oh and there’s a lot of amazing food involved. Just sit back, relax and enjoy watching a group of people get to know each other – turns out there’s a lot of drama in mundanity.
The Silence of the Girls
Towards the end of last year, I read Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls and could 👏🏻 not 👏🏻 put 👏🏻 it 👏🏻 down. The book (which has a beautiful cover illustrated by Sarah Young) retells The Iliad through the voices of the women involved in the legendary Trojan war but who have, until now, remained voiceless. It follows Briseis, a queen whose Grecian city falls, as she is transformed from royalty to slave and thereafter awarded to Achilles as a prize of war. Briseis, in spite of everything, is strong and likeable and Barker tells her story in such a contemporary way that you can't help but draw parallels with the many, many stories that arose during the #metoo movement and this Grecian myth. Not much has changed since 1180 BC, eh?
I can’t not mention Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and NW by Zadie Smith either – both of which I’ve finished over the past couple of weeks. Both books follow several characters throughout their lifetime, switching between voices as the chapters progress, and both are incredible at telling the same story from different perspectives, interweaving narratives in a satisfying story where no loose ends are left untied. NW is set entirely in northwest London and much of Girl, Woman, Other also takes place in the capital, which makes for an addictive read if you are familiar with the city.
Girl Taken is a podcast produced by BBC 4, hosted by journalist Sue Mitchell which follows the story of Rob Lowe. Back in 2015, the father-of-four was a volunteer in the Calais Jungle and he agreed to help smuggle a man’s four-year-old daughter into the UK – that man was a refugee he’d become good friends with, who told Rob he’d fled Afghanistan, his wife was dead and he’d been threatened by the Taliban. Rob was caught and what unfolds is a story which is even more sinister than it first seemed. It’s an incredible feat of journalism, friendship across borders, and parental love. I cried, several times.
The Other Latif
Radiolab’s Latif Nasser had always believed his name was unique, until one day when he made a shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay, allegedly, one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. The podcast series follows Latif into a years-long investigation, trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn’t do. You'll change your mind ten times an episode. I also cried, several times.
Finally, here’s a collection of must-reads, written by (some of) my esteemed colleagues and friends:
Drawn in the dock: the story of courtroom illustration, by Jenny Brewer
Ayla Angelos, Staff Writer
Always thought that my yacht rock phase was just a phase, but turns out it’s here for a while. It’s the kind of music that morphs you into a jiving dad, perhaps a dad who’s jiving on a yacht, and lifts the mood pretty fast. There are quite a few yacht rock legends around, but one, in particular, is Michael McDonald – various mixes and specials can be found online. I very much recommend this as the soundtrack to some lockdown gardening – or something along those lines.
Tonga Peak Times
One of my utmost favourite podcasts of all time has to be Tonga ‘Peak Times’ by Mike Skinner and Murkage Dave. If you’re into more chit-chat-style podcasts that discuss current affairs and are a bit funny, then this is the one. Makes you realise how much you can love and hate one single person at any given time (Mike Skinner), and you also learn quite a bit from it too – did you know who KFC follows on Twitter?
Only recently have I started watching The Great British Bake Off. Came to this one pretty late, yep, but I always thought of it as being pretty dull and really not my jam – excuse the pun. It’s probably one of the most comforting TV shows to watch at home, besides The Simpsons – especially when you’re feeling tired and cosy, or if you’re quarantining from a global pandemic. I think in times like these, it’s never been more important to feel cosy, or at home, so it’s a great antidote! Not only has it taught me what “prove” means – which came in very handy recently with a near-failed attempt at making bread – but it’s a great show to have on in the background while you do other things.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
I’ve just finished reading Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tobarczuk. Literally amazing. I’ll describe it as an “eco-feminist-crime-thriller”, as it follows this eccentric 70-year-old woman who lives in rural Poland (she also loves astrology and lines up every moment and person she meets with the stars). After the disappearance of her two girls (dogs), various murders take place on the mountains. Good twist at the end; really not your usual crime thriller story. The way that Olga describes her characters is utterly gripping, too. A great way to spend the first chunk of lockdown life!
Jenny Brewer, News Editor
The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will be Glad That You Did)
Now we’re navigating the challenge of working and parenting simultaneously all the lifelong day, Philippa Perry’s advice couldn’t be more useful. She helps analyse why you react the way you do, usually because of an event from your own childhood, and how to avoid repeating mistakes, so your child is confident and secure in themselves and your relationship. Vitally for me (someone who usually baulks at self-help books) she isn’t patronising at all, instead her writing is relatable and realistic.
Hip-Hop Evolution (Netflix)
This is a genuinely great hip-hop documentary, starting from its very beginnings with Grandmaster Flash to the 90s and 2000s. My teenage nostalgia peaked around the later episodes, seeing all those Hype Williams Puff Daddy videos and looking at how the Neptunes got started, and when Missy Elliott made waves. There’s four series, plenty to fill your free hours and inspire your music-making desires, and you don’t have to be a huge hip-hop fan to enjoy the stories and ridiculous characters behind them.
New York Times Parenting
This is one of the highlights of my inbox, full of brilliant personal stories with a mix of advice, humour and brutal reality that only parents will understand, for example, Crying in your car counts as self-care and Just give them the screens (for now). And the Tiny Victories section is a nice touch, sharing little tricks real parents have used to get through the day.
Drawn in the Dock
It only came out the other day but it’s one of the best articles I’ve ever worked on. It was so fascinating talking to Priscilla Coleman about her intense working process and the secrets of the job – usually having to somehow encapsulate the whole courtroom in one drawing, without being allowed to draw in court, instead, remembering everything via written notes and scrambling to get it done in an hour or two before sending it to the publisher. And the incredible pieces of history she had witnessed, her subject matter ranging from Rose West to Naomi Campbell. Also, my dad always worked in law so it’s probably the one and only time our worlds will crossover and he might understand my job.
Jyni Ong, Staff Writer
Graphic Design: Now in Production
What the hell does experimental typography even mean? How does the visualisation of information shape our society? As members of the creative community, these are all questions that many of us ask ourselves from time to time and it’s just a handful of many topics explored in Graphic Design: Now in Production, a very handy book published alongside an exhibition of the same name at the Walker Art Centre a few years ago now. Featuring over 250 artists and 1,400 images, the extensive catalogue delves into those innovators who have rewritten the nature of contemporary graphic design, and features texts by some of critical design’s most important thinkers.
RuPaul's Drag Race
Shantay I could watch you forever and ever and ever (ad infinitum). Even the eye-roll-inducing, cringy moments – I’m talking about you Alaska and that $10,000 bribe during that episode of All Stars. I just googled Rupaul’s Drag Race puns to try and write some class A, Easter-tastic journalism, but instead, I found myself down a black hole of Reddit memes from this season (that’s season 12 if you are a freak and didn’t know that already) and now I’ve lost a lot of time. The hilarity, the outfits, the strength of community, the drama – you’re not doing quarantine right without this show.
BBC Four's In Our Time
If you’re looking for something a little higher brow to listen to this weekend, have a gander at BBC 4’s In Our Time. Melvin Bragg hosts a panel of academic experts and traverses through topics as wide-ranging from Plato’s Symposium, guilt, the Samurai, metaphysical poetry and Frida Kahlo. Understandably it’s not for everyone, but I like to think of it as my alternative academic education if I’d never gone to art school, squashed into hour-long ep full of digestible sound bites.
Waking Up Down by Yaeji
I can’t stop listening to Yaeji at the moment. A couple of weeks back I had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Yaeji about her recent video for Waking Up Down. When I first saw it, I instantly became obsessed not only with her sound, but her vibe and also the super cute characters she created for the animation – Woofa and the chef are my favourites btw. They’re the perfect tunes to accompany this sunny bank holiday quarantine, spreading upbeat happy harmonies while reminding us that though we can’t do a lot of things at the moment, there are at least still some things that we’ve got down.
Amy Sproson, Social Media Assistant
Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
This was recommended to me by my graphics course leader back in 2014 and only recently did I decide to give it a read. Don’t be fooled by its title, it won’t teach you how to change your oil whilst in a downward-facing dog. The narrator and his Son Chris embark on a month-long motorcycle odyssey across the states which – everyone who’s ever been on the back of a bike knows – is one hell of a journey. Our minds are guided down long empty roads with mountainous backdrops and hot, dusty mirages, but the entire journey serves as a metaphor for something deeper and more mysterious. It’s the perfect book for anyone in need of a sunny and freeing escape right now.
So the BBC’s TV series Inside No. 9 has been around since 2014, but my housemates and I have only just discovered it. The premise is quite simple – each episode is set inside a home or building with the street number nine, but each one is based in a completely different world, with different characters and storylines. Some are dark and sinister, others hilarious and bizarre. One episode of note is the second episode of the very first season, A Quiet Night In. A modern homage to the early 20th Century silent comedies, the skit tells the tale of a burglary gone very very wrong. The writing is brilliant throughout the series, (albeit with some WTF-was-that-about? moments) and is very easy to binge.
Productivity by Sondra Batbold
In working from home, I’ve noticed just how much effort it takes to avoid your music becoming too repetitive. I have different playlists for cooking, pre-drinks, the gym, and even one full of really embarrassing songs to play really loud with my mum in the car, but I don’t have one for being stuck inside all day whilst trying to not eat all my quarantine snacks. Luckily such a thing does exist, however. A Spotify user called Sondra Batbold has compiled a playlist called Productivity and it’s 13 hours of chill, upbeat songs to help keep your mind focussed.
Lucy Bourton, Deputy Editor
I really love Masterchef (professional and amateur) every year and would 100 per cent choose to be stuck in my house and watch it repeatedly. If you’ve never got into it now is literally the perfect time. First of all, there’s loads of it. It’s on three, maybe four, times a week and never ends! Secondly, it provides plenty of meal inspiration – usually something ridiculous to make which will take up some time. Everyone will admit that John and Greg aren’t that great, but you can avoid them through much of it anyway! Plus the music is really good, especially when it cringely cuts as people are chopping.
Countless KEXP sessions
Other than the music between scenes in Masterchef I’ve been listening to a tonne of KEXP sessions, in an attempt to have some kind of live music experience while we’re inside. There’s something about the hosts (particularly Cheryl Walters) which I’ve always found very comforting for their absolute enthusiasm for the band in front of them. Some of my ultimate favourites – old and new – include Preoccupations (but when they were Viet Cong), Phoebe Bridgers, Ty Segall and White Fence, Steve Gunn and this Angel Olsen one, released just a few days ago.
Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman
I feel like the most predictable person in the world, but, Alison Roman’s Nothing Fancy cookbook is providing a lot of comfort in reading material and meals while we’ve been on lockdown. After hearing about her shallot pasta recipe from an article we published on recipes a few days back, I have become a bit obsessed with Alison, and the pasta, and the stew and the cookies too. Finding it very difficult to get stuck into a good book with all of this going on anyway so cookbooks are a really good alternative. Also, I’m just finding a lot of comfort in rereading The Goldfinch. Again.
I’m lucky enough to get read Ayla's writing every day but this piece she did on the artist Jonah Pontzer is particularly good. Also how that gal finds these things on the internet is beyond me.
Harry Bennett, Editorial Assistant
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
Deborah Levy has created the most wonderful characters in a small story that follows a mother and daughter to Spain in Hot Milk. It is a funny and bright-eyed insight into a closed-off relationship that is as effortlessly charming as it is thoughtful. Definitely a novel that will stay with you.
I cannot recommend the show enough. Filmed not far from where I grew up, the brother and sister dream team Charlie and Daisy Cooper have crafted the most joyous, quiet and hilarious series that is full of absurd but relatable, flawed characters and that looks at ups and downs of countryside living.
MacGuffin No. 8.
The latest issue of MacGuffin focuses on The Desk, an object made all the more relevant, due to the current circumstances, considering it’s the place where you spend all of your working day. Fascinating insight and beautifully designed by Sandra Kasenaar, Kirsten Algera and Ernst van Der Hoeven.
My Dad Wrote A Porno
Have you guys heard of this niche, indie podcast called My Dad Wrote A Porno? I’m late to the game but if you haven’t listened to it, you really REALLY should. Believe the hype.
So Tonight That I Might See by Mazzy Star
Released in 1983 this is a beautiful, ethereal album that feels forever fresh, hazy and exciting.
If I could live in the world of an illustrator, it would be a world created by Adam Higton. The joyful and thoughtful province he creates is one I think we can all agree we’d enjoy spending a long weekend in.