In 2001’s Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich set out to walk in the shoes of the working poor, trying to find jobs and living on the wages or lack thereof. The book remains timely and offers an eye-opening account of the challenges and obstacles faced by millions of Americans.
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“Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” Every seven years since 1964, the Up Series revisits a socially diverse group of British men and women. We watch as precocious seven year olds morph into awkward teenagers, ambitious or struggling young adults, and into middle age with 2005’s 49 Up.
Zeitoun insists on riding out Hurricane Katrina as his family flees for safety. In the aftermath, he provides whatever assistance he can from his secondhand canoe before his story takes a troubling turn. Dave Eggers‘ disturbing, nonfiction account shows how extreme circumstances can obstruct the lines between heroes, authority, victims and criminals.
In Breaking Bad, a high school teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer partners with a former student and turns his chemistry skills into a money-making meth enterprise to support his family. This intense series is surprisingly touching, brutal and revealing as he tries to keep his family afloat and navigate the unpredictable underworld of drugs.
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss is a vast topic for a slim novel that carries its weight well. Young Alma seeks her literary namesake as past and present bounce through the world of an aging man. The touching lives and human characters engage as the story’s secrets keep the pages turning.
In 30 Days, Morgan Spurlock, of Supersize Me fame, presents a series of month long experiments in immersion. Each episode challenges one person to step outside their comfort zone for experiences different from and sometimes contrary to their everyday life. The results are often eye-opening and touching.
You probably have things you don’t need, but it doesn’t take over your life. Stuff, by Randy Frost & Gail Steketee, explores the thoughts, feelings and rationale of people we see on shows like Hoarders. You may be surprised by this fascinating and compassionate look at extreme relationships to stuff.
Accepting a whim invitation, French student Celine reluctantly agrees to explore nocturnal Vienna with Jesse, an American she just met. Before Sunrise, the young travelers spend one night in conversation discovering each other and themselves before parting ways. A decade later, Before Sunset revisits the impact of that night.
North Korea claims its people have Nothing to Envy of other countries. Barbara Demick’s fascinating reporting of escapees from the secretive regime paints a different picture. The stories of survival, love and disenchantment in the face of extreme scarcity and a leader’s absolute egoism are touching, daring and eye-opening.
Indulge your inner shower singer by listening to Glee Volume 1: The Music. The show’s cast sings contemporary and 80s tunes, a little Broadway and even Neil Diamond with all the flair and fun of the show. It’s a great way to get your Glee fix until April.