Cultural Consumption | April-June 2020

An open book stacked on top of two other books. Photo by Reghan Skerry.

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Cultural Consumption is a quarterly roundup of (almost) everything I’ve been reading and watching.

I’ll just come out and admit it: I dropped the ball in the second quarter of 2020. I didn’t read much, I didn’t watch many movies. The focus just wasn’t there. And while I did keep track of everything, I didn’t bother to review anything in the moment. So here I am at the end of July, trying to remember why I gave a movie three stars instead of four in April. Forgive me if the reviews are brief.


The Hand on the Wall – Maureen Johnson
How do I quickly review the third instalment of a mystery trilogy without spoiling everything? I don’t know. But I can say this: I loved all three books, and this was a very satisfying end. ★★★☆☆
( | IndieBound)

Hashtag Authentic – Sara Tasker
For the most part, I don’t find books about photography very inspiring. (Books of photography are a different story.) But this was the exact right book at the exact right time, full of beautiful photos and creative exercises that have helped me rethink my relationship with photography. This is the book that made me want to take photos again. ★★★★☆
( | IndieBound)

One of Us is Next – Karen M. McManus
I devoured this in a weekend, and enjoyed in the moment, but it didn’t really grab me the way the first book did. (And now, however many months later, I can’t remember whodunnit. Take that as you will.) ★★★☆☆
( | IndieBound)

Cover of Bad Girls by Alex De Campi and Victor Santos

Bad Girls – Alex De Campi, Victor Santos
I had high hopes for this: female-led noir, set in Havana on the eve of 1960. There’s nothing there I don’t love. I wasn’t disappointed, exactly—the story is good, the art is fantastic—but I wanted more: more story, more insight into the characters, more… everything, really. ★★★☆☆
( | IndieBound)

The Art of X-Ray Reading – Roy Peter Clark
As I take time to work on my skills as a writer, I’ve found that I need to re-learn how to learn: how to read as a writer, how to study, how to move beyond theory and into application. This book (a chance discovery when I was wandering though the bookstore, back in the pre-COVID days), is helping. ★★★☆☆
( | IndieBound)

Jade City – Fonda Lee
A rich, dense crime saga influenced by kung fu movies and gangster films. With magic. I’m a little bit in love with this book. ★★★★★
( | IndieBound)

A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope – edited by Patrice Caldwell
I can’t remember the last time I read a collection of short stories and loved every single one of them. (This also reminded me that I really should read more short stories. If you have recommendations, drop them in the comments.) ★★★★☆
( | IndieBound)


A pretty straightforward crime drama. No surprises, and a bit light on real character development, but the core performances were fantastic. ★★★☆☆

Do I even need to review Parasite at this point? Probably not. If you haven’t seen it… see it. It’s incredible. That’s all I can say without spoilers. ★★★★★

Poster for The Half of It

The Half of It
I want more teen movies that feel like this: wistful and intelligent and so full of feelings…. So good. ★★★★☆

I also want more teen movies that feel like this: clever and genuinely funny and so much fun, with a twist that I didn’t see coming but fell perfectly into place. Of the movies I watched in this quarter, this was the most fun. ★★★★☆

Fruitvale Station
One of the most painful movies I’ve ever watched. Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan are amazing, but you already knew that. ★★★★★

MCU Rewatch: Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home

Rewatched: Dolemite is My Name