Everything Our Editors Loved in March
‘Severance,’ a John Green audiobook, and ‘60 Songs That Explain the ’90s’
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In March, Outside staffers turned up the volume on audiobooks, listening to authors get personal about broken hearts and human connection. Other literary pursuits included a book about a Montana reservation’s high school basketball team and the TV adaptation of Bridgerton. Here are all of our favorites from the month.
What We Read
The book I’m gifting and recommending to everyone at the moment is Brothers on Three, by Outside contributing editor Abe Streep. The story follows the arc of the Arlee Warriors, a Class C high school basketball team from Montana comprised of boys from the Flathead Indian Reservation. While the teens’ hoop dreams are what push the narrative forward, the questions that arise in the natural course of their greater pursuits are what lingered with me, among them what it means to be a success in our society to those who are marginalized by it. Streep’s incredible reporting, which spanned years, and the relationships he took care to cultivate and respect are evident and offered keen insight into how much this community worked to show its boys that they are cherished, even as their classmates died by suicide and college programs rejected them in favor of non-Natives. —Tasha Zemke, associate managing editor
This month I’ve been reading and rereading a book of poems by Marie Howe called What the Living Do. I got it secondhand, on a whim, and opened it to a poem that has carved itself into my brain. It’s called “The Gate,” and it opens: “I had no idea that the gate I would step through / to finally enter this world / would be the space my brother’s body made.” The collection of poems is about big things—family, intimacy, love, loss—but Howe deploys huge feelings with gentle, simple imagery and language, writing about a cheese and mustard sandwich, a sweatshirt, magnolia branches in a jar. It’s a book I’m already returning to regularly and one I suspect will be part of my life for a while. —Abigail Barronian, senior editor
What We Listened To
Country singer Hailey Whitters’s Raised begins with an orchestral piece called “Ad Astra per Alas Porci,” Latin for “to the stars on the wings of a pig”—a fitting opener for an album about growing up in Iowa, where hogs outnumber people seven to one. As a fellow Iowan (albeit one who was raised in an urban area), I felt a thrill of recognition as I listened to Whitters croon about “water-tower skylines,” “fields of dreams,” and going “to church in our blue jeans.” It’s rare to hear stories about the Midwest in mainstream country music. As Whitters recently told Vulture, when she moved to Nashville, Tennessee, from her hometown of Shueyville, she often reassured southerners that she was “a different kind of country” but still just as country as them. Influenced by heartland rock and nineties country hits à la John Mellencamp and the Chicks, Raised feels fresh and familiar all at once. —Isabella Rosario, assistant editor
Outside contributor Florence Williams’s new book Heartbreak was the Outside Book Club’s March pick, but what I didn’t learn until our Q and A with Williams is that she’d produced a special audiobook, released at the same time as the print version. Over the course of reporting Heartbreak—which is about navigating a divorce after 25 years of marriage and investigating the science behind a broken heart—Williams recorded hours of her interviews with various researchers and experts, conversations with friends, audio journals of the grief and confusion she felt in the months after the split, and even sessions with her therapist. Then she teamed up with Malcom Gladwell’s podcast outfit Pushkin Industries to integrate all that into the audiobook. The result is something that’s totally elevated and different from the experience of reading the book: hearing her friends support her during her lowest moments is poignant in a way the written version couldn’t achieve without hearing the emotion in their voices. And Williams even persuaded a man she started a fling with, who had some very interesting sexual preferences, to talk candidly on tape about the relationship, transforming that part of the book. I plowed through it chapter by chapter over the course of a week. —Luke Whelan, senior editor
Pray for my achy-breaky heart: I recently concluded The Ringer’s excellent podcast series 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s, and I’m now left without my weekly dose of Boys II Men and Billy Ray Cyrus. Like other music podcasts, 60 Songs explores its genre of choice (nineties pop hits) through the dual lenses of rock criticism and musicology. Each episode tackles a different song, and host Rob Harvilla delivers backstories for each band and sage explanations for why a particular record flew off the shelves at your local Sam Goody. But 60 Songs stands atop this crowded podcast genre because of Harvilla’s humor and lived experiences that will connect with any Gen Xer or older millennial. He weaves his own tales of pathetic geekiness into each episode, creating highly relatable moments for those of us who played in ska bands and recorded mix tapes off the radio. He reminds us of long-forgotten musical subcultures, like Cake fans or jangly guitar dudes. And he brings added cultural weight to songs and artists that—in the moment—felt like pure cheese. For instance, in order to understand Celine Dion’s multi-platinum success, Harvilla tells us to study the sexual tension in Meat Loaf’s epic 1977 duet “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” I could write paragraphs about my love for this podcast. It reinvigorated my affection for the songs and artists I listened to as a teenager and helped exorcise some musical demons that many of us still hold on to from that era. I’m no longer ashamed to sing with Dave Matthews on “Crash into Me” (OK, I may skip the creepier lyrics) or to rap along with Coolio on “Gangsta’s Paradise.” I have Harvilla and 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s to thank. —Fred Dreier, articles editor
In March, I blew through an audiobook of John Green’s 2021 release The Anthropocene Reviewed. The book’s series of essays each provide an in-depth review of various aspects of human life in the age of the Anthropocene and conclude, absurdly, with a one-to-five-star rating. For instance, Canada geese are given two out of five stars, while sunsets are given five stars. Diet Dr Pepper: four stars. I belly-laughed at a chapter on mortification that dryly described Green’s most embarrassing moments, sobbed to the sound of Hawaii’s last surviving Kauai Oo bird singing what should have been a duet with its long-gone mate, and found myself unexpectedly nostalgic for the wintry mix of weather common in my home state of Wisconsin. I’m sure the print version of the book is an engaging read, but it was wonderfully intimate to hear Green tell the stories himself; they provide snippets of memoir that touch on mental health, COVID fears, loss, and relationships. I was surprised to find (and feel) so much love and wonder for the world in these seemingly random essays. Of course, I had to give the book five stars. —Molly Hanson, associate editor
What We Watched
I didn’t really know what to expect when I first started watching Severance on Apple TV. The premise of the show is intentionally vague: It tells the story of a group of office workers (led by Adam Scott and Christopher Walken) who voluntarily undergo a procedure to completely disconnect their work self from their “regular” self. All memories, knowledge of their personal life, and awareness of current events are erased during the hours they refine data for their employer, Lumon, a mysterious company that gives off enough culty vibes to cast a shadow of disconcertment over the series. Over the nine episodes, the layers are slowly peeled back, revealing a dystopian reality that is equal parts terrifying and intriguing. It’s both thought-provoking and bingeable and gives a new meaning to the phrase work-life balance. —Kelsey Lindsey, senior editor
After devouring season one of the romance novel turned Netflix sensation Bridgerton, I have impatiently waited for the next love story in the series. The second chapter did not disappoint, laying out an enemies-to-lovers plotline between the eldest Bridgerton sibling, Anthony (played by Jonathan Bailey), and newcomer Kate Sharma (give actress Simone Ashley every award right now). Although I’m invested in the drama that comes with throwback courtship rituals, I was equally enthralled by the aesthetics of the show: ornate balls, over-the-top gowns, and classical covers of pop songs like Madonna’s “Material Girl.” The show has already been renewed for a third and fourth season, with plenty of breadcrumbs alluding to future plotlines. I’ll be tuning in once more, teacup in hand, to find out what happens to high society’s version of Gossip Girl, the illusive Lady Whistledown. —Daniella Byck, associate editor