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The 15 Best Things We Read, Watched, and Listened to Over the Holidays

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Raise your hand if you've consumed a lot of media over the past few weeks. Yes, hi, hello! 🙋‍♀️ Before we were all glued to the news and television last week, we spent the unseasonably quiet holidays at home escaping into novels, movies, and, yes, "Bridgerton." In lieu of Leslie's regular series, "The List" (which will be back later this month), we thought it would be fun to share some of the best diversions—including some (very) old, but new-to-us shows and books—we came across over our time off:

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Over the holidays, I finally felt like I had the bandwidth to start and finish a book and this one was riveting, suspenseful, and thought-provoking. It's a psychological thriller that delves into issues of racism, told from multiple perspectives, about a historically Black neighborhood and the unsettling changes happening to the community. The comparison that it's "'Rear Window' meets 'Get Out'" is spot-on, from a voyeuristic perspective and one that offers a glimpse into the frightening realities of gentrification. - Emily

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Don't let the subtitles discourage you! In this Danish film starring Mads Mikkelsen, a group of high school teachers in Copenhagen experiment with the idea of drinking alcohol daily, to see how it impacts their professional and social lives. The concept is daring and adventurous (and, let's be honest, incredibly naive), and ultimately serves as an excuse for the middle-aged men to find some respite from their routine lives. It's all going fine, until they begin to raise the stakes and the BAC. The movie is empathetic, unpredictable, beautifully shot, and often funny despite the alcohol abuse at its core. - Leslie

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Whether or not you vibe with her music, you have to admit Halsey is undeniably talented. She also happens to be radically brave, vulnerable, and outspoken–and not just through her songwriting. When the newsletter "Girls' Night In" recommended this particular episode as one of the best of the year in their last newsletter of 2020, I immediately downloaded it and headed out for a long, leisurely walk. Her conversation with Dax was refreshing, and I wound up learning so much about the brilliant, driven artist, cackling at their rapport, and thoroughly enjoying the entire hour and 45 minutes. I'd recommend it if you're in the mood for something refreshing, charming, and delightfully brash (just don't listen with anyone who winces at expletives). - Jess

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I chose this movie without seeing a trailer and didn't know a single thing about the story. I just knew I was in the mood for the bright colors and impeccable casting choices that Wes Anderson films deliver. The story takes place aboard a luxury train, the Darjeeling Limited, where three brothers have reunited a year after their father's funeral. They set out on a spiritual journey which has hints of satire, but there are some moments that surprise you with their tenderness. The pace of Wes Anderson movies isn't for everyone but perfect if you're looking to slow down and enjoy some eye candy (Adrien Brody or the cinematography, you tell me). - Cass

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I texted Kelly a few days into the holiday and about 150 pages into The Nightingale, asking if she'd read it and if she could enlighten me as to why it was so hyped up. It has all the elements of a book I should love: I'm a big fan of WWII historical fiction, it largely takes place in and around Paris (my favorite place in the world), and the story outlines the life of two sisters who are both diametrically different yet inextricably linked. While I found the prose absolutely stunning, the first half was a bit slow–but man, did the second half make up for it. I don't want to give anything else away, but I devoured the final 250 pages in a few hours, and the end is so devastatingly satisfying that it was well worth pushing through. - Jess

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I planned on skimming this article—how much more do I really need to read about COVID-19, its spread, and mismanagement?—but Lawrence Wright's reporting weaves in and out of individual stories (including my new hero, an anesthesiologist at U.Va, and the immunologist who created the vaccine, among others) and the larger headlines we all know well to form as complete a picture as I've ever read about COVID mitigation (and lack thereof) in the U.S. I'm thankful I didn't just skim this issue for the cartoons... - Leslie

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I'm a little late to the Conversations with Friends boat but so glad I finally made it. This book has been sitting in my Kindle since the beginning of quarantine. I can't tell you exactly where I got hooked, all I know is that I was immediately consumed. I ended up finishing it in one sitting. Rooney's books have a quiet, steady pull. Her writing style isn't marked by the traditional climax and resolution devices, yet you never find yourself asking, "when is something going to happen?" Conversations with Friends follows the relationship between two college students and a married couple. It talks about unconventional relationships while making them seem completely conventional. Rooney's ability to display intimacy and all its nuances is very special. If you've also read her other novel, Normal People, I'd love to know what you thought and if they compare at all. - Cass

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This was, hands down, the best way to cap off a quiet Christmas at home. We watched "Soul" as a family and while Sloan missed some of the deeper meanings, I found it to be profoundly moving and such a beautiful message to never give up on your dreams, to lead with empathy and understanding, and to live each day as if it's your last. For those who haven't seen it yet, I'd suggest not looking into the premise and to just watch it (and be sure to have tissues nearby). - Emily

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I won't elaborate too much on this book because you'll read about it in detail in a forthcoming blog post, but dang. I loved this book so much I've listened to it on audio and read it on paper already. The book is comprised of six short stories and one novella, all tied together with the theme of making a "correction" of some kind, like the title implies. These stories knocked me off my feet, and the very last page made me actually gasp out loud. - Kelly

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I'm still on the fence about how I felt about this show, but the fact that A. we finished all ten episodes in three nights and B. it's still something I'm thinking about makes me realize that I liked it more than I initially thought. After a plane full of teenage girls crashes [small spoiler ahead], you soon realize it wasn't an accident, and that the "retreat" they thought they were on is, in fact, a larger social experiment. - Emily

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Kelly has shouted these books' praises from the rooftops for a while now, so it's no surprise that, as soon as I finished the first book (The Fifth Season) over the course of a two-day camping trip, I immediately picked up the next two in the series. It takes some patience to get into Jemisin's futuristic world—with it's "orogenes" and "obelisks"—but once you get situated (which took me around fifty pages), I found myself thankful to be transported to an entirely different universe and an epic story that takes place amid the larger themes of racism and climate change. - Leslie

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I'm Christopher Nolan's biggest fan, so I paid the $20 to watch this right before Christmas and I mostly loved it, as expected. It's another sci-fi / psychological thriller, like many of his other films, but this time it's about objects and people who can go forward and backward in time. I highly recommend watching with subtitles to help in understanding what the heck is going on, but it's very well cast and visually stunning as per usual. - Kelly

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Before you jump to the next paragraph because this is an old show, HEAR ME OUT! I've started to compile a list of the TV shows I "missed" during the height of their cultural zeitgeist moment ("Lost," "Friday Night Lights," "Smash," "Scrubs," and "Dawson's Creek," to name a few) and figured there's no better time than quarantine to start them. "Desperate Housewives" was at the top of my list because I'd heard it was a suspenseful, character-driven, guilty pleasure show...and had eight seasons. I started the series over Thanksgiving and finished it right before Christmas... that's 180 episodes (I both disgust myself and am unabashedly proud as it's definitely a new personal binge record). So while I personally loved every moment of "DH" (as it's now commonly referred to in our home), this is more of a suggestion to find that series you meant to watch years ago but never got around to starting and finally press play on Season 1, Episode 1. - Jess

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Jess and I are clearly both huge fans of Monica Padman and Dax Shepard's "Armchair Expert," given the double-recommendation here, but over break, Jonah and I listened to both of Israeli historian and author Yuval Harari's episodes (here and here). He is just so smart, and introduced anthropological and psychological theories I'd never heard of like the "narrative versus experiential self," and concepts around political conservatives. I'm looking forward to reading his book Sapiens as soon as Jonah's done with our copy! - Leslie

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Yes, I fell into the "Bridgerton" trap over break and I'm not sorry that I finished it in two days. Reviews saying it's like a cross between "Gossip Girl" and "Downton Abbey" are pretty much correct. I love Shonda Rhimes (is anyone else still watching "Grey's Anatomy"?) so I'm not surprised that I mostly enjoyed this too, though this criticism is worth a read. Come for the Duke of Hastings, stay for the soundtrack. - Kelly

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