As a voracious reader, movie/TV, and podcast consumer, I often find myself having reviews and recommendations from my latest forays. While my tastes are of course unique, I get frequent requests and perhaps it’d be inconsiderate not to share a summary of my media harvest for those looking for hidden gems. Not all that’s listed here was released in 2018, but that’s when I got ahold of it.
Disclaimer: It should go without saying, but this list reflects what I uniquely appreciated and I often disagree with my closest friends. So, this likely says as much about me as the quality of what’s here. Also, I’ve only consumed a small amount of what came out in 2018… so, this isn’t meant to be comprehensive.
The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt
My top recommendation of the year, and this whole post may be a stalking-horse for putting this title in front of more eyes. I believe Haidt and Lukianoff role-model exemplary neutrality for such a charged and important topic. The thesis of this work elegantly presents three fallacies of mindset that are insidiously contributing to our increasingly inflamed culture war. This gives simple words for understanding what frustrates so many. The audible version is read by Haight and works well.
Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
I dare you to study this treatise for humanitarian progress. It has nothing to do with enlightenment as a state of being, but the intellectual movement that promotes reason and science. I believe getting acquainted with these arguments is so important because it goes squarely against the deluge of noise telling us about all the ways that humans are driving ourselves off of a cliff, instead of celebrating the many ways we’re accomplishing so much. Why? It’s not that one story is more true than the other… more simply, negative sensational stories drive more business for mainstream media. I don’t expect everyone to agree with all or most of what’s presented by Pinker (I don’t); but I encourage people to entertain it in order to get familiarized with the arguments instead of falling prey to typical cognitive biases and uninformed thinking. I’m not interested in more people that think they’re ‘right’, I’m a stand for more people that are intimate with multiple perspectives—therefore enabling more compassion, empathy, and collaborative problem solving.
Shogun by James Clavell
World famous historical fiction epic published in 1975 based on the true exploits of English navigator William James, who became one of the first ever Western samurai. This novel was incredibly successful when published and was adapted into many different forms. For me, it ticked several important boxes for what I like in a novel: it’s a thoroughly gripping page-turner; it richly educated me about another culture; the characters are truly brilliant and inspiring; and it shook me to the core about how the pre-modern Japanese held life & death. Shogun is the first in Clavell’s masterful “Asian Series” of historical fiction. I enjoyed “Tai Pan” and “Noble House” almost as much and highly recommend them to anyone who loves action-packed intellectually-stimulating novels and wants to have their mind blown.
12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson
Dr Peterson’s recent publication here has taken the world by storm. Being an avid follower of his work, I believe it captures the best articulation of his core themes—which are focused on facing and transcending the inherent suffering of life, instead of withdrawing from it. I particularly appreciated the essays on “ Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping“; “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them”; “Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)”. The audible version is read by Jordan and is a great way to enjoy this one.
Alex Honnold’s warrior journey of soloing El Capitan while negotiating his relationship is so exhilarating, I saw it four times in the theater, dragging along as many folks as I could. All the neuro-chemical benefits of a horror film without the gore. What struck me the most was Honnold’s transmission about what it means to be a warrior today- to have a mission that you are committed to, unwaveringly, and can summon unprecedented excellence. I believe this orientation is medicine for modern culture.
A daddy-daughter story disguised as instagram identity management alongside grade school self-esteem development. So painfully real it makes the skin crawl. I remember some people walking out of the theater because some scenes were so intense. But I thought it was so tastefully well done and treated these fragile areas with the sensitivity and nuance they deserve.
Follows the exploits of a 13yr old struggling with a troubled home, and finding acceptance with skate shop haunts. Similar to Eighth Grade, Mid-90s is so vivid that it’s challenging at times… but very worth it. A stunning portrayal of mentorship, fraternal vs biological brotherhood, and the fragility of youth on many levels.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor
This is the documentary of Fred Rogers, the original televangelist whose simple transformative message reached millions of children. If you’re like me, you remember well Mr Roger’s Neighborhood, but are awed by the perspective of how important his work was for the time, and how perennial his lessons are for all generations.
I also LOVED: Tully ; Love, Simon ; BlacKkKlansman ; The Rider ; A Simple Favor ; Ralph Breaks the Internet ; A Star is Born ; Ready Player One ; Vice.
2017 Special Mentions: Wonder; Lady Bird, Coco, Baby Driver, Mother!, the Post
Cobra Kai (YouTube Premium)
Sometimes, life just presents us with lovely surprises. In this case, a part of my childhood has come back, and it’s been given the best possible treatment. Thirty years after the Karate Kid, Johnny Lawrence is now confronting the politically correct world of 2018. “If you’re not strong on the inside, you can’t be strong on the outside. And right now you’re all weak. And I know that because I was you. I used to have no friends. Used to be the weirdo kid. Not that weird; I still hooked up with babes and all, but the point is, I wasn’t always the badass sensei I am today.” – Johnny
The 2000s and the Nineties (Netflix)
CNN has been producing these decade-based zeitgeists for some time now. 60s, 70s, etc. There are episodes on the music, the movies, current events, and more. Going through this survey of the 2000’s helped me make so much sense of what I was living through at the time. Hindsight truly is 20-20. They’re all good, but I recommend starting with the 90s, then watch the 2000s.
Jason Bateman and Laura Linney play impressive roles trying to save their family through money laundering in the ozarks. Seasons 1 and 2 throughly engrossed me.
Great British Baking Show (Netflix)
What makes this show so addictive? I believe it’s the combination of British charm, surrounding relatable amateur competitors, engaged in the wholesome art of baking, making things that I might have a shot of replicating in my kitchen.
Sharp Objects (HBO)
Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson playing out Gillian Flynn’s disturbing family mystery. You think you have issues with your parents?
Big Mouth (Netflix)
Grade school puberty anthropomorphized in animation. Animation TV shows always seem to push cultural taboos, but this one expands the boundaries in a direction that I think has been long overdue for more transparency.
Netflix: Black Mirror Bandersnatch; Sex Education; Maniac; Bodyguard
HBO: Succession; Big Little Lies; Amazon: Homecoming; Legion
A thorough explanation of the business model underlying multi-level marketing (MLM) businesses, and how they evolved from the pyramid schemes of the 80s. This single season tracks the earliest MLMs, the FTC’s numerous successes and failures in prosecution, the manipulative training programs, and how deeply the larger associations are sewn into our economy… and endlessly destroying lives financially.
The Perfect Scam
AARP’s podcast hosted by Frank Abagnale (Catch Me If You Can), that share stories about scams of all sorts and the technological and psychological strategies employed. Always informative and entertaining… if not heartbreaking.
Who’s profiting from the current administration and at what cost? This is an experiment in open investigative journalism that calls publicly for information, then investigates and reports what it can find… and there’s plenty beneath the surface here.
Welcome to Fairhaven, a literal Bubble of corporate utopia set amid the wild, imp-infested Brush. The first scripted comedy series from Maximum Fun, Bubble tells a tale that is both contemporary and otherworldly, as a small band of monster killers struggles to make ends meet and find love in a nightmarish version of the gig economy.
This podcast series produced by Oppenheimer funds tracks international “megatrends” of how markets are shifting and responding to various innovations. This has been highly valuable for me to stay on top of what’s happening in the world and know how I want to invest my own time, research, and finances.
Speaking of Podcasts…, here are a few I was recently invited to be on and enjoyed being a part of:
Jeff Salzman hosted me on the Daily Evolver where we shared stories about our efforts building Integral community in Boulder.
Daniel Thorson facilitated a wonderful conversation here about the challenges of community organization on the Emerge podcast.