The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006)

At some point, when time allows, I aim to flesh this out a bit further for submission to , but for now I’ll say this: The Road by Cormac McCarthy has served as a foundational text for me as a writer. I first read it when I was 17; I remember it was summer break, and in the late mornings and/or early afternoons of my days off, I’d sit on a wooden bench at my parents’ house, beneath the shade of a birch tree, and just devour it.

To that point, it wasn’t that I disliked books. Not at all. But I hadn’t read much outside of the titles that had been assigned in English classes. And if I could apply one word to my memories of those titles, it’s “dense.” Which doesn’t necessarily translate to “bad.” They were just meaty. Or, perhaps, made to feel meaty—and therefore sometimes unenjoyable—because of just how long we’d spend ripping them apart and looking under the hood for “theme” and “motif” and the like (something I came to loathe about English classes in college as well).

When I opened up The Road, I knew I was looking at something different. Something that maybe wasn’t “punk rock,” or written as anything close to a middle finger to literature—McCarthy was around 72 years of age when The Road was published, after all, and enjoying a successful literary career (that I knew nothing about before reading this book)—but it was something that read that way to me, a high school junior getting the intricacies of persuasive essays drilled into his head. Like McCarthy was taking everything I was learning, crumpling it into a ball, unraveling said ball, cutting the unraveled version into little strips, and reassembling those strips in ways that served the story.

Quite simply, The Road did its own damn thing. It made its own damn rules. Which feels fitting for the world built across its pages.

I’ve read it a few times since then, and used it as a guiding light of sorts for my own attempt at a post-apocalyptic world, but I’ll never forget closing the back cover for the first time, looking out from that shady spot on our hay fields, and thinking to myself, “Jesus.”

Film + TV

Chimp Empire by James Reed / Netflix (2023)

Full disclosure: I’m a bit of a sucker for nature documentaries. Stories about nature, stories in nature… over the years they’ve become my jam. I eventually backed out of the program due to finances, but just a few years ago I was even slated to start my pursuit of an MFA in environmental writing. So, it’s a big piece of me.

And though I’m not ready to proclaim Chimp Empire as the pinnacle of nature documentaries, I think it’s well worth any human’s time. Because, well, there’s just so much we can learn by spending hours with some of our evolutionary ancestors. To expect it to fully explain who we are as a species and why we do what we do is very unrealistic. But I do believe that what we see on screen here can get us a little bit closer.

Podcasts + Music

^ Plain English is a podcast I listen to pretty consistently, and if I could pare it down to one reason I think it’s because host Derek Thompson asks really good questions. And this topic, as evidenced by the write-up in this post, is near and dear to me.

^ A fascinating, in-depth look at the recent controversy surrounding J.K. Rowling, as told by host Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church—“a Calvinist Christian sect categorized by some watchdog organizations as a hate group.” I definitely binged this one.

^ I feel like Dave Eggers is a pretty polarizing writer? Is that true? And Outside is a polarizing magazine? I don’t know. I really like them both (Eggers’s literary path has always been a goalpost of mine, given not only his talent and versatility as a writer, but because of all that McSweeney’s has become), and I found it really interesting to hear Eggers talk about his latest book, which is told through the eyes of a dog named Johanes.

Articles + Newsletters

  • "I Am Anxious" by Scott Neumyer / Anxious Dude
    • ^ Love this newsletter and was so happy to add my own experiences with anxiety.


  • ^ Again, a topic near and dear to me, but I think this video is really helpful to any person who’s curious about how the current film & TV landscape came to be. Pretty crazy to learn that writers on award-winning shows are struggling financially.

Circling Back

This is the first time I’m including this section, dedicated to the times that I’ve made recommendations before finishing the very thing I’m recommending—something I’ve done twice in recent months.

See by Stephen Knight / Apple TV+ (2019—2022)

Back when I recommended this one, I acknowledged that, while I really enjoyed the first season, I was a bit iffy on the second season and that I had yet to watch the final season.

In the four months since, I’ve done just that and, bulleted for clarity, here’s what I have to say about the series as a whole:

  • Season 1: Great
  • Season 2: Meh
  • Season 3: Skip

In conclusion, this recommendation can be labeled as a “Miss,” and I retract my initial recommendation.

Sorry, dear reader. Sorry, Momoa.

“Parched” — Colorado Public Radio

When I wrote Recommendations, Vol. 4, I noted that I’d only listened to one episode of this 10-part podcast (or, at least its 10-part first season), and that maybe I was “jumping the gun.”

Especially given how See turned out above, I’m happy to circle back on this one after listening to final episode and say that this show is definitely worth your time. The structure is brilliant, with each of the episodes examining a proposed solution to the water crisis of the American Southwest, from transporting flood waters from the Mississippi River across the country, to just how viable desalinating the Pacific Ocean could be, and more.

I feel like I learned a lot, and that, here in the State of Washington, where dammed rivers supply the overwhelming majority of power grids, I’m seeing things differently—likely to the annoyance of my three-year-old, whom I remind whenever she washes her hands to conserve as much water as she can.

I’ll give myself the grade of “Hit” on this one.

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