You might be stuck at home, but you don't need to be bored. Recommendations for movies, shows, books, audiobooks, and lectures I've enjoyed recently.
It appears that the most direct way to make the situation better right now is to “flatten the curve”, which requires keeping people at home in isolation.
The way I see things, if there’s anything I can personally do to make being stuck at home any better for people, that would be a good for civilization.
Since I’m a voracious consumer of content, I’m in a position to share some recommendations that could make your time at home entertaining, and in some cases, more thoughtful.
Here are some books, audiobooks, TV shows, movies, podcasts, and lectures I’ve enjoyed in recent memory. Take care and enjoy!
Entertainment list for people stuck at home
Invisible Planets - this collection of contemporary Chinese science fiction short stories has been an enjoyable way to dive into new worlds without having to commit to entire novels. I’ve been more into very long novels so this is refreshing. Also, Ken Liu translated all these into English and I loved his work on two of the Three-Body Problem books.
War God trilogy - this “historical fiction” trilogy dives into the Spanish conquest of Mexico, gravitating around Cortez and Moctezuma as opponents who are each communicating with their own deity (Cortez with St. Peter and Moctezuma with the Aztec god known as Hummingbird). There’s some magic, psychedelics and lots of big battle scenes. I just started the third book in the series and am excited to see how it concludes.
Atomic Habits - I’ve been reading this one for a few months because each time I pick it up, I get so much that I end up chewing on it for a bit before coming back to the book. In this time of uncertainty, having stable habits can be very grounding for people so if you’re looking for ways to stay centered and productive for the next few months, might be worth picking this one up.
Creative Selection - I was skeptical about reading this account of the design process at Apple during the Steve Jobs era but am very glad I gave it a shot. I loved reading about a few key projects that the author (a principal engineer at Apple) worked on leading up to the Safari, iPhone and iPad launches. I find the details of these projects and the context surrounding them quite fascinating. If you’re looking for a few stories about things like the iPhone keyboard came to existence, you’ll enjoy this one a lot.
The Fifth Season - my friend Laser (yes that’s his name) recommended the Broken Earth Trilogy to me a while back since the author is only one to win three Hugo awards in three consecutive years. I don’t want to give anything away but it’s been a very interesting addition to my sci fi diet (I enjoyed book one, gearing up for books two and three).
The Ride of a Lifetime - Bob Iger’s memoir about his journey leading up to, and throughout his tenure as Disney’s CEO, which will go down as one of the most successful runs any CEO has had in the last few decades. Bob’s a natural storyteller and provides intimate details about putting in the work and rising through the ranks. It sheds light on his deep friendship with Steve Jobs and talks through the rationale behind key acquisitions like Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox.
Who is Michael Ovitz - The founder of CAA (Creative Artists Agency), Mike Ovitz became respected and feared by many powerful people and lived to tell the story. Ovitz briefly overlapped with Bob Iger at Disney and had one of the most public breakups after about a year because it netted him a $140 million severance package. Ovitz writes about this and many more chapters in Hollywood’s history. It’s juicy.
The Mastery of Love - I’ve heard about don Miguel Ruiz several times over the years but never read any of his writing. I finally started listening to this one a couple weeks ago and it’s been a pleasant surprise. The writing is practical and spiritual at the same time, which is hard to pull off. It brings Toltec wisdom about self-love as a key to relationships is giving me a new perspective and reframing some of my thinking. If you’re feeling down and having trouble with relationships, this one just might help you get back on track.
See - I recently bought an Apple product which gave me a free year of Apple TV+, Apple’s streaming service. So naturally, I started poking around the original content and stumbled upon a show about a dystopian future in which the human race has lost the sense of sight, and society finds new ways to interact, build, hunt, and survive. Then a set of twins is born with sight. Starring Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones), I’ve been impressed with the acting and high-budget production on this one.
The Morning Show - another Apple TV+ original, this all star cast includes Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carrell and others. It dives into the environment surrounding a top morning news show in the midst of the #MeToo movement. The acting and story have been super good so far; I’m into it.
Safe - we started watching this one on Netflix after some casual browsing when I noticed the Dexter guy as the star. He plays a dad looking for his daughter after she doesn’t come home one night. It’s a British show and I had to google whether the actor is British (he’s not but his accent is convincing).
Curb Your Enthusiasm - Larry David’s classic HBO show is back for its 10th season and it’s tackling our politically correct culture head-on while keeping true to the improv-within-scripted-scenario recipe. It’s my favorite season so far and you’ll love it if you like this kind of humor.
The Outsider - HBO’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel started off like another murder mystery and evolved into a real sci-fi thriller that kept us itching for the next episode each week. It’s scary in the fun kind of way and very binge-worthy now that the season has ended.
Better Call Saul - as a fan of Breaking Bad, I was a bit skeptical when I heard Saul Goodman was going to get his own spinoff. I was completely wrong. It’s incredible and arguably better than Breaking Bad IMO. It’s become one of my favorite all time shows. Just binged season 4 on Netflix and can’t wait for season 5 to make it on there as well.
Watchmen - I remember feeling kinda “meh” about the Watchmen movie that came out several years ago. It felt boring and a bit confusing to me (maybe it’s worth revisiting but I digress). So when I saw HBO making a series I was once again skeptical. But the ratings started coming in and people were saying it lived up to the HBO reputation. So I gave it a try. And couldn't stop. The story was compelling, the plot evolved in unexpected ways, and the production value / acting were first class. Only one season is out, second season can’t come soon enough.
Frozen II - I love animated movies and while I didn’t love the first Frozen, found this one much darker and deeper. It’s very entertaining and Olaf the snowman is excellent.
The Two Popes - I’m not sure what I expected when I started watching this but the Oscar buzz around the two lead actors (Jonathan Pryce aka the sparrow from Game of Thrones and Anthony Hopkins) were worth a shot. I found the premise intriguing and was hooked early on when I realized it was based on a true story. I don’t want to spoil any of it, but it’s a very good story with strong acting.
The Irishman - this one’s been on my list since it came out (a Scorsese film with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci? you gotta be kidding me) but it was hard for me to find the three and a half hours to watch it. So the trip to Mexico City was the perfect time to download on Netflix and watch. I loved it. It might be the best performance I’ve ever seen from De Niro and it’s up there with any other Scorsese movie I can name.
Ford v Ferrari - I watched this on the flight back from FL earlier this week and really enjoyed it. Christian Bale steals the show yet again and Matt Damon adds a solid performance as Carroll Shelby, one of the best car designers of all-time as Henry Ford II sets off the build a Ford that can beat Ferrari in the 24 hour Le Mans race. It’s high action and based on a true story.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood - I didn’t grow up watching Mr. Rogers but I love Tom Hanks so I watched this while I was in Florida. I found it unique but quite slow in certain parts, which is apparently exactly in line with what the actual Mr. Rogers vibe was like. Tom Hanks had a captivating performance and I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the movie in the days since I watched it.
The Farewell - I’ve been wanting to watch this since I first saw the trailer in the movies but it never jumped to the top of the list until my Florida trip (I love watching movies with my mom). The film follows a American-Chinese family as they find out their wonderful matriarch is diagnosed with cancer and struggle with the Chinese norm of keeping this information secret to protect the sick person. It was funny and touching - we both really liked it.
Onward - My mom & I went to the theater to watch the latest Pixar film (we figured it was out last chance to see a movie in the theater for quite some time) and to be fully honest, I was a little disappointed (maybe my expectations were too high). BUT it was still worth watching and enjoyable. As of tonight, Disney made it available for streaming so that’ll put it right in your living room for easy access.
Knives Out - I’m not sure what genre this one fits into but I’d say it’s a mystery/drama/action film that revolved around the death of a big-time author and publisher. Starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans and other stars, it was fun and entertaining.
Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - a lecture series on YouTube that aims to piece together a unified narrative that ties together the rise in depression, resurgence of psychedelics, modern shamanism, and other aspects of contemporary society through the lens of history and psychotechnology. It’s speaking to me on a deep level and I highly recommend it if these things sound interesting to you. I’m on part 5 and loving it.
Our Emotions and the Social Hierarchy - a two part audio recording of one of Jordan Peterson’s lectures in Australia early last year. My sense of self worth tends to be heavily influenced by what others think of me so this is coming at a good time and helping me understand the neurological and psychological underpinnings of the positive and negative emotion that results from how others see me.
A Conversation with Jerry Colonna about deep wisdom and truth - I watched this right before hitting send on the newsletter and included it because it’s a fantastic coaching session between Carl Richards (a big time financial planner) and one of the best executive coaches in the world (a Buddhist who was also a big time investment banker and venture capitalist) that kicks off with Carl asking Jerry, “what are we supposed to tell our clients right now?”. It captures the current vibe on an emotional and practical level.
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