AlRawabi School for Girls, season two

After a strong first season, I had high expectations for the second season—always a bit of a trap. I thought this season was very inconsistent: I suspect the central problem is it simply tried to cover too many topics and as a result felt patchy, uneven and that it didn’t do any one of the plotlines the justice they deserve. As a cultural study, I still think it is worth watching: both for the exploration of what it is to be a young woman in Jordan society, but also to be a young women in today’s social-media hellfire landscape.

American Mermaid, Julia Langbein

What an intriguing debut novel! I found this quite slow to read, and often wondered where it was all going. Langbein’s writing, however, is often quite witty: there are some great lines throughout this sometimes meandering, curious novel. 

The Art of Reading, Damon Young

Young writes so well, yet the premise of this book feels quite uncertain: is it about the joy of reading? Is it about novels and stories themselves? Is it a vehicle for the author to explore the thoughts of various other philosophers? I spent a nice time with this book but could not recommend it. 

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, season one

I was initially quite excited about this—I thought it was going to explore what life would be like in a world where monsters have not only arrived, but made themselves comfortable—yet I was quickly let down by ChatGPT levels of plotting and exposition and some younger actors who struggled to convey anything other than pure petulance. I sincerely hope they get a second season and can improve upon a rocky foundation.

The Brothers Sun, season one

A lot to like about this show—yes, aside from the transcendent Michelle Yeoh—but sadly really let down by crummy writing, peak performances from others in the cast. Still, more Asian-American representation please!

Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese

Beautiful and distressing; a languid story of man’s lack of humanity. The lack of justice is incredibly frustrating, but sadly falls part of a broader story about mankind. I just wish it wasn’t so very, very long.

Your Head is a Houseboat, Campbell Walker

A refreshing and novel way of exploring mental health. Some of the suggestions and parts of the approach feel a little dogmatic, or at least contrived to fit into the houseboat metaphor, but nonetheless I imagine for a lot of people this would be a useful way to  begin exploring their mental health. 

Cold People, Tom Rob Smith

The book is very much something you might buy at an airport, and so long as that is what you expect going in, you might have an OK time: I found the book pretty uneven and the ending was unsatisfying. Nonetheless, there are some genuinely interesting ideas about survival and humanity. 

Number Go Up, Zeke Faux

Number Go Up, Zeke Faux

I wanted a really trenchant and forensic analysis of the odd world of crypto and instead I got more of a journalistic process story/gee, bitcoin bros sure are tacky/awful gossipy thing. There is enough that is genuinely concerning about crypto (which, to his credit, he touches upon, although not nearly enough) that we don’t have to make fun of the individual participants.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.