This is a little category I will start of things I am enjoying at the moment—books, albums, films and tv shows, articles, essays; just a couple of suggestions for whomever is reading this. Also so that I can chronicle my tastes for my future self to wax nostalgic about. So, these recommendations will occur sporadically and unplanned; whenever I feel I’ve been consuming so much goodness I just have to share, this will happen.
Look, I’ve never liked One Direction, their generic pop offerings and bad hairstyles. I mean, I have but not like this or this. I’ve always been more interested in their fame, people’s reactions to them, the fandom aspect of being a Directioner and the mystery (what goes on during A&R meetings and management’s mind control of the boys’ image and persona) of boy bands. But, I mostly just laughed/rolled my eyes at avid fans. Then Zayn Malik quit the band and now I love him.
Zayn has always been the band member that got a lot of shit, especially in regards to his race and religion. It definitely wasn’t a surprise to me (I was always betting on either Zayn or Harry as the first to leave the band. Now that Zayn has left, I await Harry’s departure) and, it turns out, fans of One Direction. Fans talked about how Zayn always seemed unhappy and Zayn later clarified his unhappiness with the way One Direction stifled him creatively as well as robbed him of a private life. Fans were saddened by his exit but you know who was delighted? Me! Post-One Direction Zayn Malik and all the opinion pieces and conversations he inspires excites me. He’s so much more interesting now—much better-looking too. Seeing Zayn really carve out his individuality, most notably with his hair, is such a thrilling thing to watch. And it has brought forth the following favorites of mine:
- Soft Power by Fariha Roisin
- Zayn Malik’s Next Direction by Duncan Cooper (although the title is a bit too on the nose)
- Zayn Malik’s Instagram (seriously, this, Beyoncé’s and Tavi Gevinson’s give me aesthetic life)
- Mainstream Minority: Zayn Malik’s Role As A Muslim Superstar Is Only Going To Grow by Diyana Noory
THE RAVEN CYCLE
I began reading Maggie Stiefvater‘s The Raven Cycle series this year and it has become strange to imagine a time when I was unacquainted with the wonderful world Maggie has created. Because, and I don’t know how, I have fallen obsessionally head over heels in love/envy with the characters and world Maggie has built as well as her writing style and they way she approaches fiction, especially YA fiction.
YA fiction doesn’t have the greatest reputation. This is mostly because highbrow individuals and adults regard anything created by or for teenagers as unintellectual and insubstantial. It is also because of poorly written novels and book series that went on to become huge bestsellers, and furthermore, the faces of YA fiction. Books like: the Twilight series, The Mortal Instruments (which, I’ll admit, I was obsessed with at some point in my life but quickly outgrew, thank God. Regardless, I look forward to the tv series coming in January because I fell in love with the cast, don’t judge me ok?), Divergent trilogy, etc. While the YA industry still pumps out terrible novels like last year’s Red Queen (the climax was the funniest part of the book), it also, thankfully, produces spectacular works like The Raven Cycle.
So, The Raven Cycle. There’s really no way to go about explaining or describing the books without giving much away. It follows Blue Sargent, Richard Gansey III, Ronan Lynch, Adam Parrish and Noah Czerny as they search for a dead Welsh king in fictional town Henrietta, Virginia. Also, if Blue kisses her true love he will die. Also, Gansey’s soon-approaching death has been prophesied. I know these all sound like gibberish but there’s not much else I can tell without giving it all away. Fortunately, for these books, it is better to know very little before going in. It doesn’t disappoint.
One thing I know is that you will become obsessed with these books. You will become obsessed, oh yes, so obsessed with these characters. They will become your life and source of joy. As well as heartbreak and pain. So obsessed that, like me, you will create a book blog that will become 99% The Raven Cycle trash. I promise.
LIZZIE BENNET’S DIARIES
If you liked Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice you will enjoy this modern retelling of it that’s funny and quirky and just really cool:
TWO BROWN GIRLS
Hosted by writers Zeba Blay and Fariha Roisin, the podcast featuring intelligent and engaging conversations about pop culture has definitely become one of my favorite things this past couple of months. I definitely recommend this to any and everyone. In fact, this suggestion is my Christmas gift to whomever is reading this. Have a listen and have a blast.
Movies I’ve watched this year that have stayed with me and that I will recommend to any and everyone:
SLAP HER, SHE’S FRENCH!
I recently watched this very silly very entertaining very funny movie that has now become one of my favorites and I want everyone else to watch it. It’s so stupid but it’s so hilarious. I personally believe it should have gotten more attention in the vein of classic teen comedies like 10 Things I Hate About You and Clueless but it’s okay.
The Godfather on the other hand is a classic I had never bothered to watch before. I mean I tried but could never seem to get past the wedding scene. Until very recently when I watched all three movies and now understand what all the fuss was about. The Godfather movies are wonderful stories about family and legacy and the lengths people go to protect and sustain it. Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall and co. give amazing performances. I really love these movies and recommend them to everyone.
I saw Ex Machina earlier this year and have been singing it to everyone to watch. It’s one of my favorite sci-fi movies because it actually focuses on the science. In recent times, most sic-fi movie offerings (especially dystopia) have leaned more on the action/action-against-the-government storylines that have honestly grown old since The Hunger Games. A good “the future is bleak, the government are crazy totalitarian freaks” novel I read (and haven’t finished, don’t stone me) was 1984 which brought up so many questions about the power and control held by the government, questions that are relevant today because of the internet and all the information the government has on us, that Big Brother is watching you goosebumps-feel. The Hunger Games is another good dystopian I read (and finished, yay!) because of the questions on the government and on media and entertainment, and how a combination of the two is almost always propaganda. Since then, I have tired of the all-action-no-content offerings that Hollywood has been throwing at us, especially the book-to-movie adaptations of novels that are variations on The Hunger Games. I love dystopia but right now it’s having a creative block.
I also love when other aspects of sci-fi are explored masterfully. Like, robots and AI and all the questions of what will earth be like, for both the world and us humans, if artificial life was integrated into the fabric of society. It’s an interesting question and Ex Machina does it very well, without the usual robots are bad and are out to kill us! cliché that many writers and filmmakers lazily stick to. It’s sci-fi, it’s philosophy, it’s human psychology thrown back at humans, it’s be careful of what you create, it’s Oscar Isaac dancing to 70s disco; it’s pretty much one of the best sci-fi films you will ever watch. So, watch it! I implore you to.
I watched this movie recently and was blown away by it. It unsettled me. I am still really trying to process my feelings. But it’s an interesting movie, a sort of commentary on the roles we play as people to satisfy our base-level desires, especially in relation to love/belonging; it also touches on how the media, and public opinion, aid in perpetuating the steadfastness of these truths/untruths. Public opinion has become a human shaping tool. We feed into what the public wants of us, who we want the public to see. This reminds me of an awesome essay I read by Durga Chew-Bose which I linked in the Reading List below but will still put here: Things That Ordinary People Wouldn’t Do: To Die For At 20. It’s about a different movie but it touches on some things that Gone Girl did too, like the selves we manufacture for the public eye and the longstanding verdict of the public. I don’t know how to talk about Gone Girl without spoiling it. It’s better to go in knowing next to nothing. But I’ll share this: Rosamund Pike is amazing in this movie.
Here are a couple of wonderful essays and articles I read this year:
- How I Learned To Stop Erasing Myself by Durga Chew-Bose
- The Art of Failure by Arabelle Sicardi which I made a blog post about.
- Growing Up Muslim In A Post-9/11 World by Fariha Roisin
- The Natural: The Trouble Portraying Blackness In Video Games by Evan Narcisse
- Watching Women Want by Autumn Whitfield-Madrano
- Tan Lines by Durga Chew-Bose
- For The Love of Love by Fariha Roisin
- Beauty Is Broken by Arabelle Sicardi
- How It Feels by Jenny Zhang
- It’s Frustratingly Rare To Find A Novel About Women That’s Not About Love by Kelsey McKinney
- Feeling Depleted? by Sara Ahmed
- Los Angeles Plays Itself by Dayna Tortorici
- Birdsong by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Safe Nominees In Safe Movies: A Roundtable Discussion on the 2015 Oscar Nominations
- Swole Without A Goal by Anshuman Iddamsetty
- Things That Ordinary People Wouldn’t Do: To Die For At 20 by Durga Chew-Bose
- It All Begins Beneath the Skin: Examining the Gothic Body of Siouxsie Sioux by Hazel Cills
- Of Course Rachel Dolezal Isn’t Black: Her Sympathetic Comeback Media Tour Proves It by Shannon M. Houston
- The Scent of the Nile by Chandler Burr
- Any novel by Helen Oyeyemi
TAVI GEVINSON AT VULTURE FESTIVAL 2015
I definitely connect to Tavi’s obsession with the self. For a long time I’ve felt that focusing on oneself was a very conceited and narcissistic thing to do and so a lot of the things I’ve done is try to understand other people’s selves, excluding myself and my experiences from the conversation. But Tavi has made a career out of herself and her experiences and it’s a little weird for me to think of because I’ve been grounded in the opposite way of thinking but I find it really interesting.
And finally, words of advice: