The Librarianist, Patrick deWitt

A new book from one of my favourite authors. A lot less witty than his earlier books (intentionally so, I presume, given his command of language), and I liked it a little less.

How to Cook a Wolf, M.F.K. Fisher

one of the most impressive pieces of food writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy. Fisher writes with such incredible width, humanity and grace. The revised edition is sprinkled with parenthetical comments that make the experience of reading the book almost like a witty conversation with the author. Delightful from tail to top.

I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki, Baek Se-hee

I’ve long been interested in how media depicts mental health; and, in particular, fascinated at the differences between its treatment in the East and West (not that these two groups are of course meaningfully homogenous). This book gives you a fly on the wall perspective of someone receiving therapy, which oftentimes paralleled my own mental health journey. While I enjoyed the transcripts, I think the short essays were a little less meaningful for me. The title is really a bit of throwaway, there’s no meaningful discussion of the author’s love of food (or tteokbokki in particular).

Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman

Burkeman is one of those writers who is capable of distilling such weighty and significant philosophical concepts into actionable and practical advice. As brilliant as his earlier book, The Antidote, and required reading for everyone seeking to navigate a finite life.

Midsomer Murders, season eight

A confident season, let down only really by one episode I did not particularly enjoy (an episode which seemed really quite dark in a way that Midsomer, despite its premise, often is not). As they take away, they also give: this season had one of my all time favourite protagonists: a retired Russian spy. I’ll say no more.

The Curse, season one

more from the very special mind of Nathan Fielder who is one of the most interesting voices in TV. I found this show really unusual; it was certainly confident in its decisions, only I was not always sure those decisions landed for me. The ending blew my mind. It’s a slow, lingering affair that sticks with one and I find it hard to rate as a result. But as I’m still thinking about it days after finishing it I have to then recommend it.

Demon Slayer, Mugen Train arc

On paper, Demon Slayer is not the sort of anime I’d naturally gravitate towards, but this kinetic show just works for me. The character art and animation are both strong, although the show uses this sort of early CGI (think Alex Mack-tier) type effect for the demon sometimes and it just throws me off. I’ve already moved on to the Entertainment District arc and am enjoying it. 

Baldur’s Gate 3, Larian Studios

It’s a big game, a very big game to misquote the ad from the early 2000s. A steep learning curve if you’re not familiar with how to play D&D, like me, but a joyful, sprawling, engaging adventure for those who persist. A real maximalist delight and a success at that.

Authoritarian Century, Azeem Ibrahim

Exceptionally cogent and concise analysis from a rare mind; profoundly frightening in its implications, especially given the increasing possibility of a second Trump Whitehouse. A powerful call to bolster and support liberal democracies by moving away from the death-grip of neoliberal free market thinking; it has failed people, and these people are now turning to radical populist authoritarians. Some useful thinking on China, Russia, social media and conspiracies and the Far Right and Radical Islam, too.

Mrs Davis, season one

This is definitely a “give it a few episodes” to get going type of show. Once it does get going, it delivers a mesmerising and thoroughly modern exploration of faith. I will always try to support art that takes risks and big swings, and this show does and they mostly pay off.

Demon Slayer, Entertainment District Arc

A lot of fun. It is testament to the animation and art direction that I’ll happily watch a four episode fight when usually my eyes instantly glaze over in quick fight scenes. It’s violence for adults but story telling for kids.

In Praise of Slow, Carl Honoré

A wonderful introduction and exploration of being slow, as explored through categories like work, cities, sex, music, and food. I think of this more of a primer than something that dives deeper into a specific category: which is to say I made very few notes while reading, compared with some other more focussed books. Nonetheless, very well written.

The Kitchen, Daniel Kaluuya, Kibwe Tavares

A few spectacular scenes let down by a meandering plot that does not really know what it wants to say or do. Good worldbuilding and a commendable performance by Jedaiah Bannerman.

Solo Lemon Mango

I never thought I’d add a soda to this list, especially something as commercial as Solo, but I spied this new flavour in the supermarket and it’s kinda exactly my thing. I know in my heart in hearts it’ll be short lived, but right now it’s the taste of summer for me.

The Holdovers, Alexander Payne

I have this thing, an abiding passion really, for movies that deal with or explore grace. This movie is rich in grace and understanding. The characters interact with each other the way real people do. I thought this was beautiful and I cried often.

Past Lives, Celine Song

I film I wanted to love more than I actually did. It felt mannered and millennial and oddly superficial at times. I failed to buy into the connection of the characters, despite, I admit, reasonable on-screen chemistry. It was just so empty. Beautiful but empty.

They Cloned Tyrone, Juel Taylor

A hilarious and well acted modern subversive blaxploitation film. Smart writing, suitably ludicrous plot, and excellent acting from all. Watch with friends for the best time. And I hope Netflix invests in more films that look like this than films that look like The Killer.

Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet

Incredible cinema. Sandra Hüller gives the performance of a life time: a multilayered, nuanced, sensitive and credible performance that compels you to focus utterly on her when she’s on the screen. The rest of the movie is smart and makes good use of its nearly two and a half hour run time. A new favourite.

Mr Bates vs The Post Office, season one

Watch this and be prepared to develop very strong feelings about how evil the Post Office is. The series tackles a real crisis that is so symptomatic of the weaknesses of modern society: a reliance on the private sector to deliver essential public services; a reliance on the infallibility of computers over humans; and the failure of justice.

Adulthood Rites, Octavia E Butler

Despite being a little bogged down in middle book syndrome, this book explored the thoroughly bizarre and abhorrent alien race the Oankali, who exist through drugging and manipulating each other chemically. It is hard to escape the book’s bitter conclusion that there is something very dark at the heart of humanity that gives rise to such violence. Incredible writing and world development from Butler.

Cocoon, Geometric Interactive

A triumph of a puzzle game, wherein you jump between interconnected worlds to solve problems. Minimal storytelling in a game that features essentially no text. It ended just as it was getting good which is better, I suppose, than hanging around too long.

Leave the World Behind, Sam Esmail

Oh boy, this film was too long, too unsure of itself, and trying to be too clever for its own good. Ethan Hawke and Julia Roberts felt like they were acting in different movies, and the constant misdirection about what was actually happening began to feel quite cheap and pointless. And it’s a pity because I love the genre of the world falling apart type films.

Talk to Me, the Philippous

creating an Australian movie that doesn’t make me cringe to a degree is a real achievement; I didn’t think this was an amazing movie, but I thought it was a good teen horror romp. I was a little dismayed to discover both a prequel and a sequel are in development, however.

Trigun Stampede, season one

This lost me. It was a little more action heavy that I have the stomach for and although I found the world spectacularly interesting, the worldbuilding wasn’t enough for me. I kept watching out of hope and because the art was rather mostly good.

The Killer, David Fincher

If anyone wants to know what the Netflix look is, send them to this movie. For how middling it is in premise I found myself oddly engaged: Fincher pulls it off, yet again! Plus there’s a far too short but amazing scene with Tilda Swinton which I assume was shot in a day.

The Quiet Girl, Colm Bairéad

A beautiful, quiet film about how we all need the right environment to be nurtured. Plus it plays very much into my interest in the idea of a found family as being more important than one’s biological family. It is also lovely to see a film set almost entirely in Irish, although I found the few English lines to be almost incomprehensible without the use of subtitles, which frustratingly weren’t available on the first platform I used to watch the film. Another sad case for piracy.

Hunger, Sittisiri Mongkolsiri

the first Thai film I’ve seen, and what a great starting point. The film is like a darker version of the Bear that is more focussed on the class divide and the corruption of the elite. 

Spy x Family, season two

This series continues to be so incredibly charming you almost forget the show has seemingly abandoned its overarching narrative. Sometimes more of a good thing can be okay but not forever. I’m giving it a recommendation but they better not try to get away with this again.