WSM staff picks

Here’s what the staff of Washington State Magazine has been reading, watching, and listening to since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.


Larry Clark (’94 Comm.)


The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (Gallery Books, 2017) – Haddish’s comedy shines through some rough times in this memoir. I was laughing out loud during several parts.

The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner (Harper, 1972) – A classic of science fiction and environmental destruction

Ivory Apples by Lisa Goldstein (Tachyon Publications, 2019) – I enjoy a good novel about fiction becoming reality, and obsession. Goldstein’s words are gripping and, at times, terrifying.


Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend (Columbia Records, 2019)

Rough and Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan (Columbia Records, 2020)

folklore by Taylor Swift (Republic Records, 2020)

The Heart Speaks in Whispers by Corrine Bailey Rae (Virgin EMI, 2016)

Heard It In A Past Life – Maggie Rogers (Capitol Records, 2019)


Get Wired – Stories from Wired magazine

Pop Culture Happy Hour (NPR) – Sassy and sharp takes on pop culture

Sidedoor – Fascinating stories from Smithsonian Magazine

99% Invisible – Deep dives into the world around us that we often don’t notice


Adriana Janovich
Associate editor


The New Yorker. Trying to keep up. Same as before the pandemic.


Waiting for The French Dispatch. Meantime, revisiting old Wes Anderson films, including Moonrise Kingdom (2012), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Rushmore (1998), Bottle Rocket (1996)—even The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004).

Alone. This History channel reality show (2015-present) features survivalists trying to endure the harsh landscapes and temperatures of Patagonia, the Arctic, Mongolia, and Vancouver Island by building their own shelters, fishing, hunting, and trapping mice and other small animals.

Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak. This 2020 six-part Netflix documentary series covers a range of issues that seem particularly pertinent.

Contagion. This 2011 movie depicts a global pandemic that’s eerily similar to the current situation, except—spoiler alert—it only lasts 135 days, or about four and a half months.

Cold War. Loosely inspired by the story of the director’s parents, this stark and dramatic 2018 black-and-white film follows the hauntingly cruel love story of a musical director and young singer from post-war Poland through jazzy Paris night clubs in the 1960s—and beyond. The ache of the exiles, their passion, and the reach of the regimes behind the Iron Curtain is palpable and heartbreaking.

The Lighthouse. Two peacoat-wearing lighthouse keepers, played by Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, slowly go insane while stranded on an island in this stark black-and-white psychological horror-thriller film from 2019.

Trapped. In the first season of this Nordic noir series (2016), police in a remote Icelandic town face pressure to quickly solve a murder while a snowstorm cuts off the village from reinforcements from Reykjavik and strands a ferry in its port. In the second season (2019), the chief returns to the fjord to investigate a complex and surprising string of events. Both seasons are dramatic and suspenseful, set against a stunning landscape, and offer a sense of isolation, cold, and darkness.


John Paxson
Art director


The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous by Joseph Henrich (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020.) A bold, broad disciplined approach to explain the cultural development of Western civilization from an evolutionary psychological point of view—who could resist?

Time of the Magicians: Wittgenstein, Benjamin, Cassirer, Heidegger, and the Decade That Reinvented Philosophy by Wolfram Eilenberger (Penguin Press, 2020). You just have to return to the subject of philosophy every now and then during times of crisis.

The Securitarian Personality by John R. Hibbing (Oxford University Press, 2020). Helps explain how people can choose to support policy contrary to their interests and principles.


Source by Nubya Garcia (Concord Music Group, 2020). For me, Nubya Garcia kind of moves jazz from the museum back out into the greater world.


Rebecca Phillips (’76, ’81 DVM)
Staff writer


The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy by Seth Mnookin (Simon & Schuster, 2012)

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone (Dey Street Books, 2017)

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-first Century by Jessica Bruder (W.W. Norton & Co., 2017)


Rachel Webber (’11 Comm.)
Contributing writer


The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another by Ainissa Brown  (MIT Press, 2020)


Rumours by Fleetwood Mac (Warner Brothers, 1977)

Folklore by Taylor Swift (Republic Records, 2020)

Hark! By Andrew Bird (Loma Vista Recordings, 2020)


Mindful Meditations

Stuff You Should Know


Alysen Boston
Contributing writer (’17 Comm.)


Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhouse (Simon & Schuster, 2020). This fantasy book, the first in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, is written by a Native American author and features LGBT characters.


Rumours by Fleetwood Mac (Warner Brothers, 1977)


Unlocking Us—Best-selling author and research professor Brené Brown explores what it means to be human in this popular podcast.


More recommendations

What WSU leaders and faculty are reading

Offerings from WSU Press

Books by WSU alumni

What to listen to: Pandemic playlists from WSU music faculty and alumni

What to watch: Movies and TV shows featuring WSU, alumni, and staff

Podcasts to ponder