Best Books & Fabulous Films

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Cancel Field Trips, Cancel Forest Rangers: The Every by Dave Eggers (2021)

By Sebastian Tants-Boestad

Dave Eggers’s best­selling tech dystopia, The Cir­cle (2013), has final­ly received a sequel. While The Cir­cle described the rise of a fic­ti­tious tech and social media com­pa­ny and its protagonist’s steady descent into the mael­strom of sur­veil­lance cul­ture, The Every now picks up a cou­ple of years lat­er, after the Cir­cle has acquired a big online retail­er “named after a South Amer­i­can jun­gle.” The result­ing mega cor­po­ra­tion, called the Every, is pret­ty much the monop­o­list in all things dig­i­tal tech – from apps to online shop­ping to cut­ting edge hard­ware. Of course, it’s every bit as scary and unlike­able as one would imag­ine it to be. 

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The Reviews Are In: Babylon Berlin Sets the Scene for Unusually Visionary Television, Intercontinentally

By Hannah Quinque

CC BY-SA 4.0, Lear 21

Grant­ed, Baby­lon Berlin has at its dis­po­si­tion all the means nec­es­sary to become a true block­buster. But it isn’t every day the view­er gets to expe­ri­ence just how phe­nom­e­nal­ly a big bud­get can be spent on a TV series – with­out com­pro­mis­es between bom­bas­tic mon­tages and cin­e­matog­ra­phy for lovers, between fast-paced sto­ry devel­op­ment and cred­i­bly com­plex char­ac­ters, that is.

For Baby­lon Berlin, pro­duced in Ger­many by Ger­man pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies, the com­mit­ment to an unflinch­ing and unre­served depic­tion of a nation on the verge of fas­cism pays off. As a bit of an inside tip, the show’s spec­tac­u­lar efforts are appre­ci­at­ed far beyond its coun­try of ori­gin, as demon­strat­ed by almost exclu­sive­ly glow­ing U.S. reviews.

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A Human or Non-Human Companion? The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

By Maria Moss

Every so often, a book comes around by an author you’ve nev­er heard about – although you pride your­self on always fol­low­ing new, entic­ing, and award-win­ning pub­li­ca­tions from the U.S. Well, The Friend is a nov­el (the sixth!) by a woman whose name I’d nev­er encoun­tered before: Sigrid Nunez. Not George Saun­ders or Col­son White­head, not Joan Did­ion or Louise Erdrich, but Sigrid Nunez. And when I saw a Har­le­quin Great Dane on the cov­er, I knew I need­ed to read it. 

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Loving pro Virginia: A Films’ Powerfully Poignant Depiction of a Family’s Longing for Home

By Hannah Quinque

“I wan­na move ’em back to the country.

I don’t care what they do to us.

I won’t raise my fam­i­ly here.”

The 2016 art­house film Lov­ing, direct­ed by Jeff Nichols, has already run one hour and nine min­utes before Mil­dred Lov­ing express­es her unwill­ing­ness to com­ply with the court sen­tence that for­bids the fam­i­ly to reside in their home state of Vir­ginia. Her deci­sion sets them on a path of no return. The route takes their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Lov­ing v. Vir­ginia will pave the way toward freely mar­ry­ing, liv­ing, and lov­ing for inter­ra­cial cou­ples in the Unit­ed States (for cou­ples, which fit het­ero- and cis­nor­ma­tive stan­dards, that is.) At first glance, the desire to return to Vir­ginia might appear at odds with the vio­lent­ly hate­ful treat­ment Mil­dred and Richard Lov­ing expe­ri­enced at the hands of Vir­gin­ian author­i­ties amidst betray­al by one of their neigh­bors. At sec­ond glance, how­ev­er, the film shows that the Lov­ings’ love for their home and home state is as much a dri­ving force behind the strug­gle for equal rights as is their love for each other.

Mildred’s final deci­sion to return to Vir­ginia fol­lows after their child Don is hit by a car in the busy Wash­ing­ton neigh­bor­hood. One of the most action-dri­ven scenes in the oth­er­wise strik­ing­ly calm and qui­et movie, Don’s acci­dent serves as the final tip­ping point, ini­ti­at­ing the long jour­ney of the Lov­ing v. Vir­ginia court case.

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505 Hours and 45 Minutes of Comfort in Times of Uncertainty

By Caroline Densch

“Make Em Laugh : Sit­coms” by Austin Kleon is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

505 hours and 45 min­utes – that’s how long it takes to watch all of my favorite TV shows. Ever since the first nation­wide lock­down began in Ger­many last March, I’ve been doing some seri­ous re-watch­ing. Among the shows I’ve been bing­ing is the entire sea­son of Friends (10), Parks and Recre­ation (7), The Office (9), Mod­ern Fam­i­ly (10), How I Met Your Moth­er (9), New Girl (7), and Brook­lyn 99 (8) – and some more than once.

Accord­ing to The Huff­in­g­ton Post, watch­ing some­thing famil­iar trig­gers a feel­ing of nos­tal­gia, which has a pos­i­tive effect on your men­tal health. For instance, your mind may recon­nect with the set­ting, the peo­ple you were with, or the feel­ings you had when you ini­tial­ly watched a cer­tain episode. In my case, re-watch­ing TV shows trans­ports me back to the time before the pandemic.

I’ve always been some­one to watch a good TV show mul­ti­ple times or read a good book more than once. At this point, how­ev­er, the rate at which I re-watch a film or show has reached a new height. Why is that? And what do all those TV shows have in com­mon, apart from being suc­cess­ful Amer­i­can sitcoms?

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More than Just a Novel: Nic Stone’s Dear Martin

By Sabrina Völz

It’s been near­ly 52 years since Dr. Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. was assas­si­nat­ed on April 4, 1968. With­out a doubt, he con­tin­ues to inspire new gen­er­a­tions and serve as a role mod­el for non-vio­lent protest and change. In hon­or of Black His­to­ry Month in Feb­ru­ary, I’d like to review a young adult nov­el that brings the con­ver­sa­tion on racism and grow­ing up Black in the Unit­ed States to a new lev­el. It inves­ti­gates whether King’s teach­ings are still rel­e­vant today and whether they can help Jys­tice, a 17-year-old, promis­ing high school stu­dent. His life is turned upside down when he tries to help his intox­i­cat­ed ex-girl­friend get home safe­ly one night. In a con­fronta­tion with two police offi­cers, Jys­tice ends up on the ground in hand­cuffs – an all-too-famil­iar sight. The prob­lem: She’s White and he’s Black. As a result of the assault, Jys­tice will nev­er be the per­son he once was.

Nic Stone’s debut nov­el, Dear Mar­tin (2017), inter­weaves the top­ics of racial pro­fil­ing, police bru­tal­i­ty, black­face, col­or­blind racism, micro-aggres­sions, and act­ing ‘White’ with ques­tions of iden­ti­ty, friend­ship, and inter­ra­cial rela­tion­ships. With that list, you might just ask your­self how the author still man­ages to tell a good sto­ry with­out get­ting too dis­tract­ed and preachy. Well, she does. But before explor­ing the top­ic fur­ther, I’ll let Nic Stone intro­duce the book in her own words.

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