Book Club

What Have You Read + Watched Recently?

By: Jen Shoop

I love throwing this question out to the Magpie community because I always reel in loads of perfect, “right now” recommendations:

What are you reading and watching right now?

On my end —

+Read and loved The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, a twisty-turn-y domestic suspense set in D.C. If you’re looking for a thriller that won’t tamper with your psyche (it’s not that dark) but will absorb you in its drama, this is for you. I didn’t anticipate where it would land, and found it gripping and deliciously easy to read. Elsewhere, I described the novel’s style as “distinguished by its elegant pace. Imagine the vibe/aesthetic/interiors of a Nancy Meyers flick transmuted into a writerly style. The novel reads like marble countertops and manicured lawns.” I’ll be reading their other brain-child, The Wife Between Us, post-haste.

+Took my girl to the Taylor Swift Era’s Concert in theater. It was a glittering delight, and I was entranced by the production, which delivers both the scale of the enormous-packed-concert-hall experience (and Swift’s corresponding, outsized belovedness) and the up-close shots we all really want. It is long (nearly three hours) and while I’m sure the performance would fly by in-person, it was a bit taxing on a screen, and especially for two six year-olds, who were wiggling and distracted by hour one. (We ended up leaving at the two hour mark.) I think the concert will be great “getting ready for a night out” or “girls’ wine night” fare once at home: put it on in the background, tune in for the anthems you love, and then let it roll. One element I am still unpacking: the way Swift seems to slip in and out of her own mythologized eras? What I mean is: there are songs where she seems thoroughly engrossed in the song itself (“Don’t Blame Me” and “Tolerate It” come to mind), in performing its intimacies and lyrics, and there are others where she seems almost winking at a former version of herself, especially the earlier albums, nearly to the point of karaokeing her own music? It gives the concert interesting texture, as if she’s also along for the ride, also living out her own nostalgia for her discography. Also: I loved her glittery boots.

+Have you seen “Theater Camp”? It’s a mockumentary about, well, “theater people” streaming on Hulu and it’s the last movie in memory that made Landon and I laugh so hard, we had to pause and then rewind. It balances the laughs with real heart, and I found myself welling up during the finale song and feeling for the characters, who in some cases reveal surprising depth. I also love the meta-meta-meta-ness of this movie, in which we find layer after layer of performance and performance analysis, all drawn sharply, with a perfect and surprising balance of tenderness and humor. One review said: “This movie was clearly made with love by theatre people, about theatre people and for theatre people,” and that’s manifest — but it was also clearly made by theatre people who are not so absorbed in their own craft that they can’t poke fun at themselves. (And I always secretly like when a movie is clearly, unapologetically destined for a specific viewer: this one does not care if it is indulging in too much “inside baseball” on the theater front. It’s for theater people, and it does not apologize. This means the jokes and characters are richer and less cluttered by qualification.) Excellent performances, witty dialogue, and moving takeaways. Also — performances by children that were, unexpectedly, excellent (versus distracting).

+Am I the only person who didn’t enjoy the Beckham documentary? I tuned in one night when Mr. Magpie was out, knowing next to nothing and feeling very neutral about David Beckham, and turned it off thirty minutes later, liking him less? Unfortunately, the puerility of the opening scene, set in the Beckham apiary, has now replaced “Posh Spice’s husband” as my go-to Beckham touchstone.

+”Jose Andres & Family in Spain” is as endearing as its host, and ideal for the kind of night where you’re zapped of intellectual or emotional energy and in search of something non-demanding and light. Similar in format to Stanley Tucci’s “Searching for Italy,” Jose visits fabulous eateries in Spain with his two adult daughters, and his joie de vivre (he’d be furious I’m using French to describe him) is contagious. I’ve long loved Andres, who got his start with restaurants in the D.C. area. We had our rehearsal dinner at Jaleo back in its heyday, and I’ve admired him, his food, and his humanitarian work since.

+Nearly done with Lisa Jewell’s None of This Is True, which is creepy in a “what’s behind the door” kind of way, with dark and twisted characters and an overall sinister vibe. It feels like a book without a soul, though, and I’m kind of anxious to be done with it. You know how most thrillers are, in spite of chilling subject matter, exciting and fun to read? This lacks that buoy.

+I wrote about these earlier in the season, but two excellent horror movies we watched this year: “The Blackening” and “Bodies Bodies Bodies.” Both deliver incisive cultural/social commentary, but are also a thrill to watch — exciting, funny, unexpected, sometimes edge-of-your-seat. Both have a modern whodunit vibe. Excellent, excellent, excellent.

How about you?


+More of the books on my fall reading list here. Hoping to tackle something a bit more substantive next.

+What would you study if you were going back to school tomorrow?

+Do you take your own joy seriously?

Shopping Break.

+I wore this t-shirt to the Swift concert-in-theater experience and my daughter and I were tickled to see when the camera pans to a concert-goer wearing the same one! My daughter wore this tee and these boots. I’m actually really impressed with the boots — she’s been wearing them ever since and they look cute with little dresses and jeans!

+Perfect puffer at a great price. Has a serious Herno vibe, but $228.

+Shopbop’s tiered sale is still underway, and I noticed that my favorite off-white jeans are included. These are the jeans I’m wearing in like 90% of the photos I’ve shared over the past few weeks. I sized up for a looser/baggier fit. My short girlies can rest easy — these come with a raw hem so I just trimmed them so they weren’t too long. The contrast brown stitching makes these perfect for fall.

+If you’re lucky, you can still snag some of the fun Thanksgiving/autumn tabletop pieces from John Derian’s collab with Target, which launched on Sunday. I love Derian and have amassed a number of his little trays and dishes over the years. In this launch, I picked up these fun little appetizer plates and these children’s melamine plates and cups for the Thanksgiving table.

+In a similar vein – – how funky are these mushroom-inspired candles?

+Speaking of Zara, I just added two of their knits to my cart: this 100% wool polo sweater in the yummiest shade of pink, and this unusually-cut knit wrap top.

+Want either / both paired with wide-leg olive green cords like these and these.

+Just reordered these pens for the millionth time. I am picky about pens — I do a lot of drafting and note-taking by hand — and was a Le Pen girl for years, but these take the cake. THE BEST. I love them so much, I’ve given them as gifts to friends!

+J. Crew has discounted most of their site. These fab suede tall boots are included.

+Love the unexpected color and details of this Baybala dress. In case you’re not familiar, Baybala offers beautiful pieces for the entire family, with lots of coordinating options. A great brand for family photos, holiday outfits, etc.

+Giambattista Valli has some epic holiday shoes: case in point one and case in point two.

+If you’re a romance girlie, and are also invested in the Taylor-Travis dalliance, I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter about the Windy City series of books, which center around love stories with professional athletes.

+This checked dress, with a cropped cableknit sweater = perfect for fall.

+Fun patterned rug for a child’s room.

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16 thoughts on “What Have You Read + Watched Recently?

  1. Could not agree more with your assessment of Theater Camp! I am not an erstwhile “theatre kid”, but I appreciated this movie so much for all of the reasons you mentioned. I am also such a huge fan of Molly Gordon (Shiva Baby is one of my favorite films I’ve seen in the past few years, and I loved her in The Bear, too) — so I was primed to love Theater Camp! And speaking of Emma Seligman (who wrote + directed Shiva Baby), I am very eager to see Bottoms. I’ve been traveling a ton since the end of the summer but now it’s streaming, so I need to make time to see it! I have a soft spot for teen comedies and Ayo Edibiri, and this seems like such a fun send-up of the raunchy teen comedy trope.

    I also love José Andres — I met him in 2008 while he was helping one of the chef/authors who had just published a book with my then-employer. I got to take an uptown-to-downtown Manhattan ride in a car with him and the chef (!) and he made a huge impression on me, even though he wasn’t as well-known (esp. outside of DC) at the time. He is an amazing human.

    I have not watched much at all lately in the way of films, having spent most of this month away from home, but I have been reading a bunch. I feel like I recently commented about a bunch of the books (haha), but I just began Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and I love it so far — I appreciate Zevin’s writing style as well as the Boston/Cambridge references, and there are lots of good vocab words included! I will have more fully-baked thoughts as I progress, I’m sure 🙂


    1. WOW, I’m starstruck for you, from afar and nearly fifteen years later! Jose Andres, in the flesh! I adore him.

      So glad I found a fellow “Theater Camp” fan!! It was pitch perfect.


  2. Just have to add the Turkey shaped acacia serving board from the John Derian collection is adorable! Saw it in person in the store and couldn’t leave it behind. Love the collection!

    1. Wah – I wanted it all! I honestly wanted to add everything to my cart. I bought some of the Derian for Target pieces when they did a Halloween themed one a few years ago and I LOVE them, and my kids treasure their appearance every year, too!


  3. Watching lately: Lessons in Chemistry (new miniseries on Apple+) – I loved the book and the first two episodes really delivered. Also, Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, which is delightfully campy, almost bordering on mockumentary (if you liked Drop Dead Gorgeous, you will love RHOSLC). & very anxiously awaiting the return of The Crown next month!

    Reading lately: I tend to alternate between literary fiction and beach reads/BRADs (as coined by @beachreadsandbubbly, the steamier beach-read books). My two most recent reads: Lauren Groff’s The Vaster Wilds which, if you enjoyed Matrix, it had a similar feel (follows a young girl who escapes the Jamestown colony during the “starving time” and her attempt to survive the wilderness solo); and Liz Tomforde’s Caught Up (third in a series of BRADs about professional athletes, this one is about a single dad MLB pitcher). Next on my list: Demon Copperhead.

    1. i have a few books ahead of this, but SO eager to read the vaster wilds as a matrix/all-things-groff fan. love to hear that someone else is on the same page (literally?). you’ll have to let us know what you think of demon copperhead… i had to put it down after a few chapters because the abuse/motherhood pieces hit me way too hard (not the focus, but i’m oddly fragile around things like that as a new(ish) mom now). but i definitely feel as though i’m missing out on a novel so many have raved about, especially since i’ve enjoyed other kingsolver books.

      1. I’m with you, Erica!! I’ve been meaning to make my way to Demon Copperhead for months and months but just can’t bring myself to volunteer for that heaviness right now. Maybe a different month/year/season…


  4. You have to watch World on Fire, it’s a PBS Masterpiece series and it is phenomenal! It’s two seasons, six episodes each. I recently finished the series by Janet Fitch, The Revolution of Marina M and the second book in the series, Chimes of a Lost Cathedral. I’m surprised I don’t hear more about it, the books were amazing.

  5. What are you reading and watching right now?

    Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson – it’s a fun read which makes you laugh and the writer has this character set pegged. Almost finished heard a lot of people hate the ending but I’ve got to finish it myself before forming an opinion.

    Watching everything Halloween plus Southern Charm new season and the CW Nancy Drew on Max. Getting into the spirit.

    Not sure what’s next on the reading list yet still trying to decide

    1. Love these! I also enjoyed Pineapple Street. It had a modern-day-Wharton feel to it. Let me know what you think when you hit the end!


    2. I loved Pineapple Street – truly one of those books where it feels like “not much really happens” (not huge plot movement) but such great character development. One of my favorite reads of the year!

      1. Agree with this, Sophia! I really remember the characters, even months after reading it? There are also scenes that still play out in my mind — she had very cinematic writing for being character-driven.


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