Creative Sensemaker: What to read, watch and listen to this weekend

A man looking at a woman from behind her in a library

A rundown of new books, films, music and more by Tortoise Media, the slow news agency

By Xavier Greenwood

If you had to choose a single moment when the onward march of online streaming became impossible to ignore, you could make a good case for 17 January 2019, when Netflix tweeted that 40 million households had watched You in just four weeks.

A trashy show about a sociopathic bookstore manager, You had performed badly on regular TV, with just 650,000 weekly viewers when it premiered on Lifetime a few months earlier. Its success on Netflix demonstrated the unique capacity of streaming services to give slept-on releases a second chance.

The belated recognition of Lad: A Yorkshire Story, is a particularly heartwarming example of this. Set in the Yorkshire Dales and shot for just £65,000, the film tells the story of a teenager who comes to terms with the death of his dad when he befriends a park ranger. It is, put simply, a masterpiece – and one that had been overlooked. The director, Dan Hartley, who recruited the cast from the local community, made the film a decade ago and spent several years trying and failing to get a distribution deal for it.

Then, suddenly it was uploaded to YouTube without his permission, and racked up 1.5 million views from around the world. Now properly released on Amazon Prime, during lockdown, it has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. It is not one to miss. And now, thankfully, it’s harder to do so.

Here are this week’s recommendations:

The front of a book showing a starry sky
A colourful book cover


(To buy any of these books, and browse further, click on the title to go to the Tortoise Book Store.)

Extraterrestrial: The First Sign Of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth by Avi Loeb
In this highly readable and (dare I say) convincing book, Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard’s astronomy department, asks whether our solar system was visited by aliens. Loeb makes a compelling argument for why he believes the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua – spotted by a Nasa telescope in 2017 – was sent intentionally, and makes the broader point that it is arrogant and odds-defying to think that we are unique.

Three Mothers: How The Mothers Of Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X And James Baldwin Shaped A Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs
So much, for good reason, has been written about three of America’s great civil rights icons, but very little about their mothers. In her fascinating debut, Anna Malaika Tubbs stitches together the lives of Alberta, Louise and Berdis from the ‘margins and footnotes’ of books, speeches, and other literature. All three women were foundational to the work of their sons, and all three were forgotten by history for far too long.

A teenage boy and girl sitting on a bed


The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (Amazon Prime, 12 February)
This sparkling distraction of a movie takes the familiar time-loop concept and sticks in never ending deja vu a 17-year-old who has managed to make the most of things and escape insanity. The intrigue and inevitable will-they-won’t-they begin when our protagonist meets a girl going through the same predicament. It will irritate strict logicians, but when it’s this likeable… who cares?

Possessor (DVD, iTunes)
Tortoise editor Peter Hoskin writes…
, a tale of assassination done by mind control, walks the same territory of body horror, psychological investigation and corporate satire that director Brandon Cronenberg’s father – David Cronenberg – walked all those years ago. But it does so with panache, with an understanding of 21st-century dynamics rather than 20th-century ones, and aided by a brilliant central turn from Andrea Riseborough.