Summer Escapes

July 26, 2023

August is a popular month to leave work behind for more leisurely pursuits. With that in mind, we bring you our second annual roundup of what to read, watch, and listen to. This list is based mostly on recommendations from our Farient colleagues. It aims to be neither comprehensive nor a collection of what is new or necessarily trending, although there is some of that mixed in, too. We sought suggestions based on what is engaging our staff.

Founder and CEO Robin Ferracone enthusiastically and without reservation recommends Trust by Hernan Diaz. “One of the best books I’ve read in a long time,” says Ferracone. She also recommends two shows worth watching: Karen Pirie, a three-part British detective series (based on the novels by Val Mcdermid) that streamed last year on BritBox, and Poker Face, a two-hour Russell Crowe thriller, who stars and directs, that turns on an annual high-stakes card game in his native country down under.

The Shadow of Kilimanjaro: On Foot Across East Africa by the pioneering adventurer and author Rick Ridgeway provided inspiration to Farient’s Randi Caplan as she prepped for a 100-plus mile trek this summer across Kenya’s Tsavo National Park. (This adventure follows last summer’s ascent to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro by Ferracone and Caplan. Perhaps next year we should consider a Brief themed “What I Did on My Summer Vacation!”)

Caplan also recommends the gripping nonfiction thrillers written by Bill Browder: Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man’s Fight for Justice and his first book, Freezing Order: A True Story of Russian Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath. An admitted true-crime devotee, Caplan listens to several podcasts devoted to the genre, including Red Handed. For a binge-worthy political thriller she and others recommend Tehran—a spy thriller now in its third season—or Borgen, an authentic but fictional political drama that plots the rise and leadership challenges both at home and in the office of Denmark’s first female prime minister. (Fun fact: In real life, Denmark has had two female prime ministers that include current PM Mette Frederiksen, a Social Democrat elected in 2019, and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who was serving at the time of the show’s original airing in 2013.)

Ted Lasso whose third and final season dropped earlier this summer is outrageously popular with its fans. While the comedy-drama’s namesake and aw-shucks American coach of the fictional AFC Richmond soccer team in South London may not be for everyone, fans around the world—and Farient research analyst Bradley Cross—are smitten. Succession and Billions may cut too close to home for some but nonetheless are worthy of their loyalists. While consensus that later episodes of Billions grew tired, the story line in the third and final season of Succession was anything but. Also entertaining was corporate-governance guru and Sidley Austin attorney extraordinaire Holly Gregory’s deals analysis of the first two seasons for Wired, which can be discovered through a simple search.

An avid reader on her commute to and from Farient’s New York office, Angela Moe recommends the hefty and transportive Dune sci-fi series written by Frank Herbert, largely credited with creating the genre, and Dune sequels written by Frank’s son, Brian Herbert. She has also devoured five of the six books in Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series based in a futuristic society where people have been genetically altered into a caste-like system and populate multiple planets. Moe says the only video series she has watched is the wacky Jury Duty, a wickedly idiosyncratic mockumentary that follows a sequestered jury. The upshot is that every character in the show is a real actor except for the hapless Rob, who is appointed jury foreman. He is told that the filming and interviews taking place throughout the trial’s eight episodes will be part of a real documentary. Offbeat and episodes are 30 minutes or less.

On recent cross-country flights, ESG Leader Brian Bueno has been entertained by Everything Now: Lessons from the City-State of Los Angeles by Rosecrans Baldwin. Admittedly not much a TV watcher, he enjoyed the sci-fi workplace thriller Severance. Apple TV has said it would create season two of the acclaimed show, presuming the Hollywood writers and actors strike gets resolved. For an alternative view of the entertainment and pop culture scene, Bueno tunes into the podcast Las Culturistas.

Little is more refreshing than real-life drama that is not your own. Nonfiction must-reads for those inclined for looks inside others’ boardrooms include James B. Stewart’s steamy and unseemly newest book, Unscripted: The Epic Battle for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family. Also being read is David Grann’s newest historical nonfiction tale, The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder, a grim but epic tale of survivors—or were they mutineers—after the 1742 destruction of a British warship off the coast of Patagonia. Like Grann’s earlier novels—Killers of the Flower Moon (the movie, directed by Martin Scorsese, is to be released by Apple TV in October) and The Lost City of Z are also—page turners.

In fiction, recommendations ranged from new to classic. Described by one reviewer as a “love letter to the literary gamer,” Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin was incidentally one of only two books recommended by Bill Gates in his annual summer roundup. Also recommended and weighing in at 700-plus pages is the elegantly written, richly textured, and excruciating in its medical details The Covenant of Water by writer and physician Abraham Verghese. Like his bestselling novel of 2011, Cutting for Stone, Covenant is a sweeping multigenerational family and historical saga worthy of commitment.

While strikes in Hollywood raise questions about the immediate future of new programming, the solicitation of recommendations for this annual feature spurred interoffice buzz about this summer’s in-theater blockbusters: Will you or will you not see Asteroid City, Barbie, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, or Oppenheimer?

If blockbuster-avoidance is more to your liking, you might want to consider some lesser-known, more business-oriented indie films. Among our recommendations is Air, which tells a succinct version of Nike’s negotiations to create the first Michael Jordan branded sneaker; or BlackBerry, an exploration of brand obsolescence among other frailties. Or if terror, camp, and social indictment is more your thing, M3GAN! or “Model 3 Generative Android,” might just be your ticket.

What are you reading, watching, or listening to? Email us…

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