Snowy Eyes & Ears: My Winter Break Book & Podcast Recommendations

It’s that magical time of year: the snow falls, the semester ends, cookies are everywhere. Best of all, I get to read and listen to non-homework related content! Suck it, Blackboard.

This is my last winter break ever, by the way. I’m finishing school in May. My goals include reading through my book list, catching up on podcasts, and returning to CodeAcademy to learn HTML and CSS. Oh yeah, I’ll also be preparing for a Pompeii-style resume distribution. (Shhh… be very, very quite. It’s job hunting season.) Also, are you hiring?

Sure, this is a big list to get through. How will I do it? A fresh case of Surge soda, will do. Also, you should help me conquer this list, we can be accountability partners. It’ll be like an entertainment support group. It’ll get us through the winter. I’ll bring the Surge.



The Spy Who Came in From the Cold—John Le Carre

I led off with this book for two reasons: 1) it has “cold” in the title, which relates perfectly to my winter theme and 2) my best friend’s fiancé said it was one of her favorite books. They’re not getting married until April, which gives me plenty of time. If the book sucks, I’ll have to shut down that wedding, Wayne Campbell style.


51F96zHLX9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Joy Luck Club—Amy Tan

I read an amazing short story by Amy Tan last year called “Rules of the Game.” It blew me away (sincere family structure, clever humor, and complex, heartfelt characters), and ever since I’ve been trying to find the time to read more of her work. I think “The Joy Luck Club” was a movie, but I don’t know much about it. I’ll start with the book and go from there.

9781620406359Bluff City Pawn—Stephen Schottenfeld

I’m three chapters in and Schottenfeld’s debut novel is claiming all my extra time. I can’t get away from it. The story revolves around three brothers who own and operate a Memphis pawn shop. There’s nothing spectacular going on in the plot, but the characters are genuine and absorbing. I’m suckered in like a pawn ticket, returning to pay whether my time can afford it or not.

Inherent_vice_coverInherent Vice—Thomas Pynchon

The Inherent Vice movie is set to come out soon, but Pynchon has been on my “Must read authors” list for quite some time. I hear Pynchon is becoming one of America’s most prominent literary voices. Or he already has been. Either way I’m behind. I added a little urgency and moved him towards the top of my reading list after seeing that incredible movie trailer. Can you blame me?

PrintBorn to Blog—Mark Schaefer & Stanford A. Smith

This is my only non-fiction book for the break, though I’ll try to squeeze in more if I can. I picked this book up because I needed a B(log)-vitamin boost. (I’m hoping to kick-start TheNumberKevin with gusto in 2015.) So far, the book doesn’t cover anything I haven’t heard before, but it puts the information in a way that is motivating and, honestly, therapeutic.

41QhgNOxSqL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Saga, Volume Four—Fiona Staples & Brian K. Vaughn

My return into comics and graphic novels is in full swing. I’m loving what’s happening in the comic art-form right now. Saga, is on the forefront of the industry. The writing is beyond excellent and the artwork is fascinating. It’s like these two artists are competing against one another, like John and Paul. If you haven’t checked out Saga yet, do it now! Volume Four comes out soon.



It’s exactly how it sounds. Startup. Yes, it’s about a startup. Sounds like something that would only be interesting to entrepreneurs and business students? You’re probably right. But then again, it’s produced and hosted by Alex Bloomberg. He’s from one of my other favorite podcasts ever, Planet Money. I’m not helping my case here, am I? Okay, I’ll just say this. My wife loves this podcast too. So there.

ps_podcast_logo_3-5Pushing Social

I discovered this blog/podcast after picking up the book Born to Blog (see above). Stanford A. Smith is a social media whiz. He’s incredibly smart, but also approachable. I forget who the cohost is (excuse me!), but she’s great too. They don’t just assume you know the jargon or buzz words. They explain even the industry standards which is nice. If you’re looking to explore content marketing, this is a great podcast. Start with the episode, “What the heck is Content Marketing anyway?”

cover170x170The X-Files Files

Comedian Kumail Nanjiani leads this hilarious, nostalgic trip down X-Files memory lane. Obviously, if you’re not an X-Files fan (or, X-Phile, yes that’s what we call it) this may not appeal to you. Then again, it may be a perfect opportunity for you to finally watch this glorious show. He guides you through each season, even telling you which episodes to skip. The guests are usually fellow comedians, but occasionally he brings in former X-Files writers, producers and actors.

Flophouse_cover1The Flop House

I just read about this podcast on Slate, though I think a few friends have mentioned it before. Basically, movie nerds watch bad movies, or bombs, and discuss them. Initially, I pushed this podcast away because listening to grown men complain in depth about trivial art gets old really fast. That said, the reviews have been good. I hear The Flop House is an enjoyable listen, often finding the good in the bad.


If you haven’t heard, Serial is the best, most important artistic achievement to ever happen to modern society. Okay, so the expectations have been a bit high. I’m currently about six episodes in, but I had to postpone the new episodes due to schoolwork. Both my wife and I are looking forward to jumping back into this real life, crime narrative. A lot has been said about how good this show is, but don’t let expectations ruin this wonderful podcast for you. Go in fresh and expect an intriguing story. That’s all it is. Stick around if you find it’s worth your time.

What are you reading and listening to this winter? Also, do you italicize podcast names?


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