Love Potion Number Nine

The other day, I found myself thinking about modern life and our obsession with the concept of love.

For centuries (if not millennia), the concept of love didn’t factor into humans’ decision-making processes. Our ancestors often married for security or wealth.

They didn’t look for careers that sparked their passions. Instead, they followed in an older relative’s footsteps by inheriting a farm or trade. Perhaps they’d apprentice in a new career that provided stability and some economic security. But most of their focus was on surviving.

Vacations, extensive travel, and the overwhelming pressures of making choices weren’t luxuries they had.

I mention this because I sometimes feel like I have too many choices. Scientists have called this “overchoice” or “choice overload.” Others call it “the paradox of choice.” These terms describe a phenomenon where people have so many choices that they either cannot make a choice under pressure or are dissatisfied with their decisions because they worry that they could have done better.

Perhaps you feel that way when you walk into a library or bookstore. Or maybe it comes up when you’re flipping through TV channels or streaming services, looking for something to watch.

Never fear. I have a few suggestions that might make your choices easier. Here, in no particular order, are some of my new favorite books, TV shows, and movies.

1. The Eternal Sky trilogy by Elizabeth Bear – Elizabeth Bear writes both fantasy and sci-fi. I’ve seen her name on several awards lists, and I finally gave her earlier novel Carnival a try. It’s a terrific sci-fi novel, and it prompted me to read more of her books. I recently finished the Eternal Sky trilogy, and I highly recommend it. It’s set in the world of Great Khans, Chinese emperors, and the Celadon Highway. The first book in the series is Range of Ghosts.

2. Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse – This is the second book in Roanhorse’s Sixth World series, which is set in Dinétah after the Navajo gods separate it from the rest of the U.S. Like the first book in this series, I devoured this novel in just a few hours. It’s too fast-paced and fun to put down. (If you want a chillingly good read, check out Roanhorse’s award-winning short story, “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” at Apex Magazine.)

3. The Dreamblood duology by N.K. Jemisin – I think these were the first two novels N.K. Jemisin tried to publish. They aren’t as complex in structure as her Broken Earth trilogy is, but they already show her skill at crafting fantastic worlds with complex, believable characters. Frankly, I’ll read anything she writes. She’s just that good. The first book is The Killing Moon.

4. The six-part series Good Omens on Amazon Prime – The series is based on the book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. If you haven’t read the novel, I highly recommend you do. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, and not many books make me guffaw in public. The TV show is relatively faithful to the novel, thanks to Neil Gaiman serving as showrunner. We had to pause the video at times because we were laughing too hard to catch the dialogue. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, then keep tabs on DVD releases. Amazon has a pre-order date for the Blu-ray set already, although it doesn’t have a release date.

5. The TV show Lucifer now on Netflix – This show originally aired on FOX, which canceled it after three seasons. Netflix gave it a fourth season and recently announced a fifth and final season. The show is based on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, but I haven’t read them. Jen has but said the show is a good bit different from the comics. Either way, Tom Ellis as Lucifer is fantastic. And Lesley-Ann Brandt’s performance as Mazikeen shouldn’t be missed.

6. Captain Marvel – Admittedly, I don’t go to the movie theater as often as I used to. I’ve missed a lot of the big-budget blockbusters in the theater, but I made a point to see Captain Marvel on the big screen. Now that it’s out on DVD, I watched it again. I caught a few things on the second viewing that I didn’t notice on the first. I read the comics by Kelly Sue DeConnick, and this film keeps the spirit that DeConnick brought to the page.

(Edited to add:)

7. Us by Jordan Peele – Let me start off by saying I am NOT a horror-movie fan. I don’t enjoy being grossed out by the latest slasher films. But I do enjoy psychological thrillers, and I thought Jordan Peele’s Get Out was an intriguing, thought-provoking film. When I heard he wrote, directed, and produced Us, I decided to give it a chance. And I’m glad I did. Those two films convinced me I need to pay careful attention to anything Jordan Peele writes, directs, or produces. If you haven’t paid attention to Lupita Nyong’o as an actor, I think you will after this film. And if you’re already a fan, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in her performance.

Those are my recommendations as we head into the long, hot days of summer here in the northern hemisphere. If you have any suggestions for me, pop them into the comments.

(Photo by Bree Evans on Unsplash)

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