Reading, Listening, Watching: November 2018


Cover image of The Witch Elm bookThe Witch Elm, by Tana French (2018)

I don’t usually read mystery novels, but had heard the New York Times Book Review podcast interview with Tana French, the author of The Dublin Murder Squad series (which I haven’t yet read), and it was Halloween, so I decided to give this book a try. I won’t include any spoilers, but if you are into intrigue, Ireland, art, media, and trust issues, you will like this book. If you are interested in reading the Murder Squad series, I found this recommendation on Book Riot suggesting the optimal order in which to read them (which differs from the chronological order of publication). And for an overview of French’s crime fiction, read this article published earlier this year in The New Yorker. I listened to this book on Audible, which was read by Paul Nugent, a new favorite reader for me.

Book cover to Jeff Tweedy's autobiography, Let's Go (So We Can Get Back)Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, etc., by Jeff Tweedy (2018)

I am a casual Wilco fan in that I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of their catalog, but their music and other productions such as the 2002 documentary, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco by Sam Jones, and the Solid Sound Festival, are all on my list of experiences that have left a good kind of mark. I have seen them play live at Solid Sound and at Thompson’s Point in Portland, ME. When I heard about Jeff Tweedy’s memoir being published, I was intrigued because there is a lot that I don’t know about him and the band, and I also know that he has grown and changed a lot as a person over the past two decades. I am also a sucker for learning more about how creative people make the doughnuts, and this book opens the door a crack when Tweedy shares about his songwriting process and the way his thinking about what he does and makes have evolved over time. There are a lot of funny, light moments which balance some of the more serious stories. I also listened to this book on Audible which was read by the author.

The cover of I Might Regret This by Abbi Jacobson

I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff, by Abbi Jacobson (2018)

Who doesn’t want to take a road trip across the U.S.A? Who doesn’t want to know the intimate details of a solo trip taken by Abbi Jacobsen, who recently wrapped the fifth and final season of Broad City? Unlike Jeff Tweedy who has been known to be a private type, Jacobson is of a generation who has shared it all through her writing and performance and on social media. In this memoir in travelogue form, Jacobson goes deeper to explore adventure, loneliness, relationships, success, societal norms (and how she has shaken up her own). There were a lot of times when I laughed along with her, and many other times when I couldn’t believe my ears because she was expressing thoughts that I have had (as have some of my female friends). For Broad City fans, there are stories about how the show came to be, and vulnerable tellings about what it is like to be stressed and filled with anxiety when you are making a hit comedy show. Everybody hurts sometimes.

Anna & Elizabeth (Photo by John Cohen)

The Invisible Comes To Us, Anna & Elizabeth (2018)

I really like it when a friend makes a recommendation that they just know I will love, and I do. This happened earlier this month when my friend, the author Ron Maclean, invited me to go see Anna & Elizabeth in Boston. I had heard of this band (likely through one of their many appearances on various NPR shows), but I couldn’t put my finger on anything specific about them. Turns out, their music is very specific and their live show is a transformative experience. The duo have done research in both Appalachia and New England libraries and archives to find folk songs written by women over the last hundred years or so. They then arrange and record these songs, paying tribute to the original writers and musicians by telling their stories in between numbers and through visual storytelling in the form of a “crankie,” an open wooden box that holds an illustrated scroll that the performer “cranks’ to advance — an early movie. Visit All Songs Considered to read or listen to an interview with Anna & Elizabeth from earlier this year, and to watch a video that they filmed in Brooklyn. Below is a video of a performance with “crankie.”