Outside Reading — It’s Not TV edition

 

Don’t Let Nationalists Speak for the Nation by Jill Lepore

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This piece showed up in the Sunday edition of The New York Times, and it perfectly expresses one of the most painfully fraught dilemmas of the current political moment in the U.S. I’ve long admired Jill Lepore for her ability to identify the echoes in the nation’s history, combining the the facts with a shrewd and subtle understanding of the ways in which base human psychology keeps tripping us up. I especially appreciate her glancing — but pointed — acknowledgement of the Democrats’ complicity of cowardly silence in allowing the emergence and then dominance of a toxic expression of the nation’s supposed character than completely ignores the real strengths of our ongoing experiment. I suspect it might be expertly excised from her new book, This America: A Case for the Nation, which is remarkable in and of itself because she also released a massive tome of U.S. history within the past year.

 

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Every HBO Series, Ranked by Noel Murray and Scott Tobias

Much as I’m susceptible to a good list, I sometimes slip past the many, many completist pop culture rankings flung into the multiverse by the good folks at Vulture. So I almost missed this comprehensive breakdown of the every drama and situation comedy series produced and aired under the HBO banner. Then I realized the list was compiled and the accompanying article written by Scott Tobias and Noel Murray — who were part of the team that elevated AV Club to its bygone peak and then presided over the late, great film site The Dissolve — causing me to circle back to it as quickly as I could. As I would expect, it’s a pure delight. The capsule reviews miraculously nail down the strength, flaw, and flavors of the programs in just a few sentences, and even the ranking entertains, from the laudably damning placement of disastrous prestige fare such as Here and Now and The Newsroom to the generosity extended to relative oddities from the long roster. And the top five looks exactly right to me.