The Books, Music and Podcasts Comets Recommend to Keep You Entertained

By Melissa Graham  |  April 13, 2020

Whether you are an essential worker, working from home or looking for a break from your day-to-day routine, these recommendations and resources will help guide you through this unprecedented time.

Author Kimberly King Parsons BA’00, MA’04 published “Black Light,” a collection of short stories, last summer and embarked on a cross-country book tour including a stop at Interabang Books in Dallas. Here she offers three recommendations for fellow bookworms:

  1. Orange World by Karen Russell

Like all of her work, “Orange World” is both sublime at the sentence level and tremendously entertaining. Especially in times like these, it’s such a joyous escape to sink into stories about haunted ski lodges, bog girls and tornado farmers. I always feel so heartened to spend time in Russell’s weird worlds.

  1. Trump Sky Alpha by Mark Doten

This seemed like wild speculative fiction just a few weeks ago, and yet some of the details (though very different from our current situation!) are strikingly prescient. Like everything Doten writes, it’s voice-driven, cerebral and darkly funny.

  1. Texas Field Guide by Wildsam

Sure, we might not be taking road trips any time soon, but “Texas Field Guide” (part of the American Road Trip series) is an escapist little gem to get you ready for the After Times. Full disclosure: I have an essay in here about Bob Wills, Buddy Holly and the Butthole Surfers, but there are also tremendous essays by Octavio Solis and Stephen Harrigan, as well as an excerpted work from Lady Bird Johnson, among others.

Justin Mills BS’19, who goes by the stage name of Levees, is a Dallas-based folk artist with two albums out on Bandcamp and Spotify. The banjo and guitar player has also been writing new material while quarantined and has been featuring live sessions on Instagram Live each week. Here’s what he’s been listening to lately:

  1. Heretic Pride by The Mountain Goats

I’d suggest the Mountain Goats if you like narrative songwriting, lo-fi and if you think a lot about youth or dysfunctional relationships.

  1. Better Oblivion Community Center

This is a collaboration of Phoebe Bridgers and Connor Oberst from Bright Eyes, and a must-listen.

  1. Mitski

I’d recommend Mitski if you like the Pixies and indie rock, and/or are touch starved. She writes a lot about her relationship with music, but the intimacy of her language gives it a confessional quality.

  1. Phoebe Bridgers

If you like Connor Oberst, singer-songwriters, or if you miss your friends, listen to Phoebe Bridgers.

Ricardo Castrillón BA’17 and Danyelle Gates BA’17, employees in UT Dallas’ Office of Communications, often find themselves faced with complicated, unfamiliar topics. As the voices behind “Could We Ever,” the Comets enlist the help of University experts to break down a wide range of complex issues and relevant topics, from science to art and beyond. Below, they share their current favorite podcasts:

  1. Gates recommends:

My favorite podcast is ‘The Guilty Feminist.” I really enjoy how much I learn and grow as a person from the show. It includes a wide variety of topics and guests under the feminism umbrella, and I feel like I’m introduced to a lot of intersections I wouldn’t encounter in real life. The host, Deborah Frances-White, isn’t afraid to mess up and learn as she goes, which I find really admirable.”

  1. Castrillón picks:

The five weekly podcasts I never miss are “Reply All,” “RadioLab,” “‘My Favorite Murder,” “Dynamic Banter” and “Views.”

You can also catch up on UT Dallas’ “Could We Ever” podcast on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Anchor, Radio Public and YouTube.

UT Dallas also just launched a new podcast, “Comets Discuss,” which features discussions with University faculty and staff on current events and issues. Tune in here.

If you’re looking to stay active with at-home workouts, instructors from University Recreation are teaching live classes weekly that can be streamed through Microsoft Teams. De-stress with yoga, burn calories with HIIT workouts or work on strength training with these easy-to-access routines.