Now that most of the holiday glitter and tinsel has been cleaned up and 2019 is well underway (how the hell did that happen?), we’re looking forward to new books, movies and TV to delight and enlighten us. Here’s what’s on our radar.
Well, it is winter. And there’s a staggering wealth of good TV for those of us not born yesterday—so much so that between binge-watching stuff we previously missed and checking out what’s new, we might need to make an effort to leave the house at all.
Kicking things off in January, beloved funny lady Molly Shannon plays a stage mom in The Other Two, about a child star and his siblings, written by SNL’-ers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider (Comedy Central, starting January 24). Shrill, based on Lindy West’s biting memoir of the same name, is a take-down of fat-shaming and misogyny. At 36, West’s not quite our generation, but she is our kind of feminist—and although we wish she had shown up a decade or two ago, we’re glad she’s here now (Hulu, March 15).
Julia Louis-Dreyfus can make us laugh at politics, even now.
Deeper into the season (with no set start dates yet), we’re looking forward to the return of Veep—because Julia Louis-Dreyfus can make us laugh at politics, even now. (HBO). Also in our sights is the return of The Crown, this time starring Olivia Colman as the older Queen Elizabeth (Netflix). By the way, if you haven’t seen Colman playing Queen Anne in the recent movie The Favourite, do that poste-haste. Winona Ryder lights up kooky, 80s-nostalgic Stranger Things for season three (Netflix), and Meryl Streep joins Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon on Big Little Lies (HBO) as more of our biggest movie stars-of-a-certain-age find great roles on the small screen.
Despite the endless onslaught of superheroes and talking-animal kiddie flicks that we thankfully never have to sit through again, there are some tantalizing films about actual human beings, some of them even female and (gasp) old enough to have a hot flash. What Men Want stars comic genius Taraji P. Henson (of the TV hit Empire) as a sports agent who gains an advantage when she develops the ability to read men’s minds (Feb 8). While laughter may be the best medicine, sometimes there’s nothing better than cathartic horror. Lupita Nyong’o and Elisabeth Moss are sure to rock it in Us, a Jordan Peele-directed nail-biter, centered on a woman’s return to her childhood beachfront home and its traumatic past (March 15).
We’re greedy for the film version of Downton Abbey.
Whether or not you’ve read the runaway bestseller, you’ll want to see witty mama drama Where’d You Go, Bernadette, with a cast that includes Cate Blanchett and Kristen Wiig. We’re not too proud to admit we’re greedy for the film version of PBS’s upscale soap opera Downton Abbey (September 20). October brings double pleasure. First, The Woman in the Window, a kickass thriller of the paranoia/gaslighting variety starring Amy Adams and Julianne Moore (October 4) and the film adaptation of Donna Tartt’s brainy novel The Goldfinch (October 11). Finally, sometime next year, we’ll see Renee Zellweger starring as Judy Garland in the biopic Judy, circa 1968. Apparently, Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli doesn’t approve, but we might.
For sheer badassery, not much can equal the sublime Glenda Jackson portraying King Lear in a gender-blind production on Broadway. It’s enough to consider hightailing it to New York and taking out a bank loan to buy a ticket (Previews Feb 28, opens April 4). And as long as we’re going for broke on Broadway, there’s also Hillary and Clinton, starring Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in what’s billed as “primarily a comedy” set behind doors in New Hampshire in 2008 (Previews March 16, opens April 18).
For all the hoopla about summer reading, winter’s when we really want to dig into a good read—and not self-help or diet advice, thank you very much.
For cold January nights, we recommend escaping into two hot reads: Nancy Bilyeau’s The Blue—a page-turning novel of intrigue in 18th-century England—and the paperback release of Laurie Gwen Shapiro’s The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica. (Don’t let the “guy story” aspect throw you—it’s a delightfully immersive true tale of adventure and chutzpah in a time long gone.)
A trio of gorgeous memoirs also comes out in January. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by bestselling author Dani Shapiro unfolds like the best of mysteries as it follows her 2016 discovery, through a genealogy website, that her beloved deceased father was not her biological dad. Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country by Pam Houston is a grown-up love letter to the earth and its creatures by a writer who’s been knocking our socks off for decades. Joy Enough by debut author Sarah McColl opens, “I loved my mother, and she died. Is that a story?” For any of us reckoning with loss and impermanence—and who isn’t?—that most certainly is a story, and McColl tells it with insight and grace.
June brings a new novel by Eat, Pray, Love’s Elizabeth Gilbert.
Come February, we’ll need to get our hands on The Source of Self Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison for a wisdom fix. Heartbreaking but essential is Yiyun Li’s Where Reason Ends. A novel composed by the award-winning author after the death of her child to suicide, it imagines a conversation between a mother and a child in a timeless world. For the thrill of discovering a new favorite author, try Lisa Gornick’s sweeping historical novel The Peacock Feast. Gornick’s PhD in clinical psychology is put to good use here, as she sees deeply into her characters, who include Anna Freud and Louis Tiffany, along with those she’s created.
In March, check out Terese Svoboda’s Great American Desert, with stories ranging from the Pleistocene era to the distant future, in a new genre gaining traction as “cli fi”—climate fiction. Also intriguing are The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See, a buzzy multigenerational novel set in 20th Century Korea, and Donna Baier Stein’s Scenes from the Heartland: Stories Based on Lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton, a moving look into hidden rural lives.
Among the books we’re most anticipating as the year rolls on: The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates (April); City of Girls, a novel by Elizabeth Gilbert, who knocked it out of several ballparks with Eat, Pray, Love (June); and Olive, Again, a sequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (September).
That should keep us busy for a while!
Dawn Raffel’s works include a memoir, The Secret Life of Objects, which was a Wall Street Journal bestseller, a novel, and two story collections. Her latest book, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney, was published in August 2018. She served as Executive Articles Editor of O, The Oprah Magazine for seven years, and subsequently held senior-level “at- large” positions at More and Reader’s Digest. She has also taught creative writing at the MFA level and summer seminars worldwide. She currently works as an independent editor and is launching yoga/writing workshops. Find her at dawnraffel.com