Stories surround us. As an author, I find it vital to pay attention to the stories I come across by accident and also to tease out stories from their hiding places. The reward is a life full of beauty. These are the stories (and the places I go to find the stories) that move me.
Photo via this article, featuring a dish by Grant Achatz.
1 | Chef's Table
I have a soft spot for cooking shows. (If you don't believe me, check out my Instagram account.) I married my husband insistent that he should not expect me to do any cooking at all, whatsoever - and then I started experimenting in the kitchen. Six years later, cooking is one of my favorite ways to spend the late evening. In fact, in the middle of my son's labor, my husband and I found time to watch a cooking show.
Thing is, though I often find my mouth watering when I watch your average cooking show, even I have to admit the lack of quality of most of these shows - the hosts feel average, the editing is sub-par, the cinematography and production is low-budget. (Not to down on those things, PBS. You still hold a special place in my heart.)
Photo via this article, featuring a dish by Dominique Crenn.
Chef's Table, on the other hand, feels to be in a different genre altogether. The storytelling, the cinematography, and the food simply shimmers. This show is a work of art, as are the dishes these chefs conjure. And the chefs they feature - though they have won awards and are notable in that respect (many of their restaurants are Michelin starred) - these chefs also have stories that need to be told. I always find myself wiping away tears at the end of episodes. And the stories leave me hungry to create (and often, they leave me literally hungry as well).
Watch on Netflix: "Grant Achatz " (Season 2, Episode 1) OR "Dominique Crenn" (Season 2, Episode 3)
Photo of Citicorp Tower by Joel Werner. (From the 99 Percent Invisible website)
2 | 99 Percent Invisible
Of course the best design, host Roman Mars contends, is invisible design. Hence, the best name for a podcast about good design is 99 percent invisible - after all, it's only the 1 percent of us who care about design that might notice the stories in all the structures, furniture, kitchen utensils, feats of engineering and artwork that surrounds us. And let me tell you - the invisible world is chock FULL of stories.
From telling the story of the first scientific inquiry into creativity (Episode 220) to the rationale behind uncomfortable park benches to the first exploration of the ocean floor by a primitive submarine, 99 Percent Invisible always tells stories that peak my interest - and often lead me on rabbit trails that fuels my writing.
"Head" graphic by Betabrand.
3 | Next Draft Newsletter
I can't keep up with the news. In fact, I don't even try. Which is one reason Dave Pell's daily newsletter - a witty top-10 summation of the news - has become my go-to for both the big and small stories of the day.
For example, this excerpt from the current newsletter:
"Our culture is so sick with all of you publicly commenting on a celebrity divorce involving people you've never met. That's why I'm mourning in private. Yes, most of the coverage is gross gossip, silly rumors, or bad Mr. and Mrs. Smith sequel jokes. But if you're into the topic, you should probably check out this quite interesting perspective from Anne Helen Petersen: Brangelina Is Dead; Long Live Angelina."
Photo of artist Skio Ding via Facebook.
4 | Humans of New York
Ever wonder, say in an airport, who these people are who surround you? The Humans of New York project gives you the feel that a photographer just decided to ask the person sharing a park bench with him to share her life story with him. (Oh, actually, that is the origin story...). And then he turns around and shares her portrait and a segment of the interview with his millions of followers on Instagram and Facebook - which can often change his subjects' lives (see artist Skio Ding's story!). But without fail, the interviews move me and make me ask the same questions about my neighbors - who are you? And who am I?
Illustration by Rami Niemi.
5 | Wired Magazine
Wired is known for its tech insights - and sure, those are fine and good. (Let's just say, I'm not the type who sits on the edge of my seat waiting for the next big Apple press release.) But I never cease to be amazed by the interviews Wired's reporters nab - for example, an interview with perhaps the most wanted man in the universe, Edward Snowden. And then there's the weird stuff, like Jon Mooallem's column, "Mr. Know-It-All," which is simply an excuse for Jon to write masterful essays to fill up a couple of Wired's pages each month. Or the absurd parenting advice from Jim Gaffigan, father extraordinaire, for Wired's parenting feature. Basically, the writing always blows me away and the topics they cover keeps me learning. (What can I say, I'm a lifelong student!). Which, by the way, is to say nothing of the design of the magazine itself - it's beautiful to look at. (Though, admittedly, there was that one time when the uber-contemporary design made the magazine less readable and more irritating to me). All in all, reading Wired magazine is a stellar way to reboot that pretty little brain of yours.
What stories inspire you?