Netflix's Best Book Binges
One of my favorite things to do on a lazy Sunday morning is to snuggle my fiancé and/or cat and watch Netflix. My favorite categories include horror movies, comedies and period pieces (which means my "Recommended" list is more than a little odd). More than anything, I enjoy watching an engaging show and finding out there's a book I can read, too. With that, here's a list of my recent favorites from Netflix and the corresponding books on our shelves.
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Alias Grace, like its big sister The Handmaid's Tale earlier in the year, has made a splashy Internet debut this past November. It received critical acclaim with a stellar performance from Sarah Gadon as the titular Grace Marks. The show may be a weekend watch at six episodes, but the book will take you a little more time at just under 500 pages. Grace's introspection and reactions to her situation draw you in to her rich inner world, where her observations on class and caste form a biting social commentary still applicable today. Atwood's celebrated murderess in both book and show won't let go of you easily, even after you turn the last page.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Netflix's documentary on the United States' prison industrial complex, 13th, changed the way many people think about incarceration and its effects on communities of color. Ava DuVernay's unflinching direction strikes at the heart of the matter while maintaining its composure. These same calm, utterly unforgiving observations can be found in The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Reading this book for me was a lot like waking up out of a dream—I realized in reading it that I have a lot of learning to do on this subject and that the world was not as I thought it was. In addition to highly recommending this book, I'd recommend in particular the audiobook version read by Karen Chilton.
Mindhunter by John E. Douglas
I'm not typically one for true crime drama, but Mindhunter on Netflix drew me in for one simple reason: I loved Jonathan Groff in Hamilton. While it got me to start this show, Groff's skill in portraying Agent Holden Ford (based on John E. Douglas himself) kept me to the end. Groff brings you in to the basement of the FBI's Training Division as he dives into studying serial killers and developing prevention methods. Groff's Agent Ford, along with the other characters you meet in the beginning, are deeply affected by their work and are ultimately not the same people you'll end the series with. Reading the book, I can definitely appreciate both Groff's skill in portraying the history of the Behavioral Science Unit as well as Douglas' journey in developing methods to combat serial killers.
Washington's Spies by Alexander Rose
Continuing on the Hamilton theme with this selection, Rose's book is about the people in and out of the Culper Ring (including Hercules Mulligan). This early spy ring helped America with the Revolutionary War amidst numerous double-and triple-crosses and cross-Atlantic intrigues, with George Washington at the hub of events. The TV show itself is not new, having premiered in 2014, but as all four seasons are finally on Netflix, it makes for a great long-term watch. The book is even more thrilling than the show, however, especially thanks to the tremendous amount of primary research done by Rose for Spies. If you enjoy true crime and/or American history, this one should be next on your reading list.
Betrayal by the Investigative Staff of the Boston Globe
I will tell you that I have a lot of favorite movies, but believe me when I say that Spotlight is absolutely one of my all-time favorites. The build-up of the story, the compelling characters, the long slog of thorough investigative journalism—the film is a gem. Following up a watch with a reading of Betrayal will only help you appreciate the story more. Published in 2003, it's a summation of the innumerable hours put into researching not only the abuses by the Boston clergy over decades but also into the history of the Catholic Church in America. Reading this book was tremendously difficult due to the subject matter, but it's an important (and remarkably non-judgmental) read.
The Shining by Stephen King
I've been a long-time Stephen King fan—growing up, his books were what really kindled my love of reading. I consider The Shining to be one of his best. Although King himself notoriously hates Stanley Kubrick's interpretation of his work, it's a great film if you want to be frightened. The novel ramps this up by a factor of 10—I'm not exaggerating when I say it's the literary equivalent of riding a rollercoaster. You'll find yourself shouting at the characters in the book but being unable to turn away (just like you would in the theater). For the last 100-or-so pages, make sure you have your seatbelt on.