This Is What I Read And Listen To When I Think The World Is Going To Hell

This week, I read the book George R.R. Martin wishes he could write.

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Happy 2023! I love thinking about how we've collectively made it another lap around the sun, something that feels really significant and life-changing but in practice just means that we get to watch a ball drop in New York City and yell, "New year, new me!" until Feb. 1. Still, I'm a sucker for the turning over of a new year. The seasons repeat, days blur together, but there's a whole new beginning ahead of us. What will be different? What will stay the same? We'll only know in hindsight.

These are the things that have been keeping me company this week. Hope you enjoy it.


How to Hire Fake Friends and Family by Roc Morin. An Atlantic interview with the CEO of Family Romance, a Japanese company that lets you hire actors to play various roles in your life: “I played a father for a 12-year-old with a single mother. The girl was bullied because she didn’t have a dad, so the mother rented me. I’ve acted as the girl’s father ever since. I am the only real father that she knows. ... I’ve been seeing her for eight years. She just graduated high school.”


Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. Neil Gaiman described this fantasy book as “the kind of novel I never realized I was missing until I read it. ... It’s something new that feels old, in the best way.” I can’t sum up my thoughts on Black Leopard, Red Wolf much better than that. The novel follows Tracker, a superbly talented and isolated hunter, as he’s pulled into a web of political warfare, ancient magic, and a mystery that threatens to upend the world as he knows it. As a narrator, Tracker is loquacious and blasé, but the true poignancy of his story lies in what he leaves unsaid: his grief over a friendship gone cold, the toll of a life hardened by survival, his willingness to be loyal even at great personal cost.

Please read this book so I have someone to talk about it with. (I’m not joking, if you read this book email, I really want to talk about the ending with someone.)


Blue Bayou by Linda Ronstadt. Not everyone can cover a Roy Orbison song and outdo him, but Ronstadt’s version is a hands-down, no-contest smash. When her voice shifts from subdued calm to unmitigated despair in the chorus, she brings the bayou to life in all its rose-colored, nostalgic glory. “I’m going back someday / Come what may,” she promises. I can almost feel the humid summer night on my skin.

Wow, you read the whole thing! Thanks for that. If you have a favorite corner of the internet that you’d like to share, send it my way at with the subject line “reSEARCH.” We may feature it in a future newsletter.

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