Stuff We Liked This Month: February 2019
Recommended movies, books, essays, and newsletters.

We’re always interested in other people’s “media diets” — the books/movies/TV/podcasts that people seek out and spend their time with. Every month, we share a few things that meant something to us, made us laugh, made us think, and kept us company.


The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America edited by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman (2019, Little Brown and Company)
Talk about a book that directly responds to our current political climate! It’s so, so, so good, even though I wish there were more essays. This collection is worth the read, and even though some of the stuff gets heavy, the good thing is you can dip in and out.—JL

The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster
I saw this novella referenced in a New Yorker article (I forget which), and although I’m not really a sci-fi person, I do have an affinity for post-apocalyptic tales that get me all tingly for their spot-on depiction of our ever-evolving world towards utter dystopia. Am I sick? Anyway, this story from 1909 (!!!) is about The Machine, a palm-sized screen that helps people survive underground because the above-ground world is totally fucked. The Machine offers its own version of FaceTime and iMessages, too. As with all gadgets, what happens when it malfunctions? I’ll tell you this much: it doesn’t end well.—JL

Severance: A Novel by Ling Ma (2018, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
I too am not one who usually pics up apocalyptic fiction, but thankfully Ling Ma’s debut novel is so much more than that. I knew next to nothing about Severance when I checked it out from the Brooklyn Public Library, which was maybe for the best. It follows Candace, a young office worker who finds herself showing up for work day after day as NYC’s population dwindles thanks to a worldwide “fever” that turns people into zombies. Through shifting timelines we learn about Candace’s past growing up with immigrant parents, her unsatisfying job in publishing, and the events that lead to her escaping the wasteland of Manhattan to join a group of the fever-immune. Ma’s writing is both funny and knowing, and injected with a warm humanity that I usually find missing in 28 Days Later-style tales.—MML


Minding the Gap (dir. Bing Liu, 2018, Hulu)
Out of all the skateboard-themed movies that came out last year, this one is by far the most superior. (It was also nominated for an Oscar, so.) I should say: this doc is not really about skateboarding — it’s about domestic violence and how that affects each of the guys in their skateboard clique. It’s devastatingly honest but handled with such care, and it’s impressive how much was accomplished with such few resources.—JL

PEN15 (created by Maya Erskine, Anna Konkle, and Sam Zvibleman, 2019, Hulu)
I feel like I’m shouting into an echo chamber here, but damn, this show is unbelievable. So, the only thing I’ll say is this: my favorite episode, “Posh,” should be required viewing. It tackles racism — both the outright and the micro-aggressive kind — in a way I’ve never seen on TV before, and it’s perfect. I cried and cried, I laughed and laughed. It was co-written by my friend Jeff Chan (whom I went to high school with), so this ep particularly hit home hard. When it comes to commenting on racism through a comedic lens, PEN15 is what Master of None wishes it could be.—JL

Can You Ever Forgive Me?  (dir. Marielle Heller, 2018, iTunes)
Melissa McCarthy is so good as real-life writer-turned-scammer Lee Israel. But really, I can’t stop thinking Richard E. Grant’s glamorous, heartbreaking face.—MML


Darcie Wilder’s “sentences”
It’s simply simple — a weekly newsletter of standout sentences from articles that Darcie reads, of such gems like: “Described by Fox as a ‘millennial vaper,’ the 22-year-old Scibelli, who wore a ‘Vape God’ hat, repeatedly hit his e-cigarette while praising the vaping lifestyle.”—JL


“My First Year Sober” by Edith Zimmerman
Lately I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping. I often find myself at 3 a.m. scrolling through the contents of my Instapaper queue in the dark, looking for something to read and tire out my eyes and mind so that I can eventually fall back to sleep. Which is how I landed on Edith Zimmerman’s 2018 graphic essay about her decision to stop drinking. It’s tender and true and messy, just the way big life-altering decisions tend to be.—MML