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Resources for living ... recommended fiction books, mini-serieses and movies (regularly updated)





In navigating this very complex, rich - and often terrifying - journey of being human, I've found great help and relief, and even joy and awe, in stories that somehow give meaning to the struggle and pain and hope and delight of this crazy journey of life on earth. (Of course there are many other forms of creativity, in music, visual art, dance etc that contribute profound meaning and wisdom and delight, but for this entry let's focus on story!).


Sometimes, especially if we're at a flat, low or down point, reading or engaging in a good series can be life-transforming, as our experiences of difficulty are mirrored and validated and, we are reminded of the profundity and gift of what it is to be human.


Coming of age stories such as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, or Robin Hobb's incredible series of books that create worlds, traverse key human dilemma's (being chosen ... or not chosen, love, los, death, redemption, the agony and ecstasy of human love .... a full spectrum of dark and light. Heartwarming serieses like Ted Lasso (apart from being funny and sexy) help us to feel ... not alone. Often we think of 'watching netflix' as a distraction. I believe great stories are an incredible resource. At times in my life having a good series to sink into has been a bulwark against despondency and despair, and at other times simply a great delight.


In the Wim Wenders movie Wings of Desire (what a trailer!) an angel falls in love with a mortal and relinquishes eternity to experience being with her. (City of Angels with Nick Cage and Meg Ryan is another version of this age-old stiory). Why would anyone give up heaven, and peace, to dive into the maelstrom? Being immersed in a story, falling in love with the characters, and experiencing their transformations is arguable one the the gifts of this life.


The books, movies and serieses listed below are some favourites. The links to book websites like Good Reads give a sense of what the books are about. If you don't already know the booko site, it's fantastic, and provides a real-time comparison of the price of books from a big range on online booksellers (including the total price with postage separately so you can make a true comparison). And I find my kindle fire a good way of having my whole library available, plus it's a tablet and shows colour.


This is a screenshot from the Booko website to give you an idea of what it provides.



Screen Shot 2019-08-25 at 5.36.20 pm



So ... here are some authors and books of intelligent fiction that I've particularly enjoyed and that have helped in the discovery of meaning and joy in life. I hope they may also speak to you. 




The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is a fantastic hero's journey tale. The backstory and history of King Arthur's Court, an of Avalon told through the eyes of Arthur's sister, Morgaine


Cutting for Stone is one of the most comperlling, well-written stories I've ever read. Perfect holiday readsing. And the author has just released a new book after many years, which, along with this biography of Stevie Nicks, Gold Dust Woman, will be my summer reading.


And in terms of other good musician biographies, I recommend this bio of Leanoard Cohen.



Astonishing the Gods by Ben Okri: apart from being beautifully, poetically-written, it's an allegory about learning to trust.


The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: a heart-wrenching and hearty-opening story about a deep love.


The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin: a profound and deightful tale of ... well, so many aspects of becoming a full human being. The first book, The Wizard of Earthsea, is a great psychological thriller about integrating our shadow. Tehanu (book 4) has won many prizes, and is considered one of the first feminist works of fantasy / sci-fi. The Farthest Shore (book 3) is an amazing tale of journeying to the depth of the underworld (and much more). If you get the Complete Earthsea it also contains a book of stories, Tales from Earthsea, plus The Other Wind, which is almost my favourite of all. If you fall in love with Le Guin, as I did, 3 other books of hers I particularly recommend are: Gifts, Voices and Powers. 


A more recent discovery is the writer Robin Hobb. I started with The Liveship Trader series, which is a brilliantly-written and deeply-interesting world in itself. Hobb is one of those people with a vastness of imagination and understanding that shows true genius. The richness of her characters and mining of the range of human experience is a great delight. It has some of the best descriptions of the meeting of two beings in love that I've yet come across. The Rain Wild chronicles take up the story of the dragons. And the books about Fitz and the Fool  (George Martin was very influence by Hobb ... imagine if Game of Thrones was actually heartful!). I would honestly say that Robin Hobb is a genius akin to Tolkein and I cannot recommend her highly enough.


Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels is a story of love and healing. Set during WW2, an archeaologist befriends a boy hiding from the Nazis and adopts him. The film is also very good.


All the light we cannot see and also Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr


Passage to Junneau


The Snow Leapard


The Ice Diaries


Anything by by Richard Holmes


(to be continued ....)




And speaking of movies, this is just the very beginning of ones I'd recommend:



Whale Rider

The Lives of Others

Never Look Away


Green Book

The Great Beauty

Jesus of Montreal

Wings of Desire

The Rainbow (Ken Russel)

The King (Timothy Chalamet)

High Ground

The Tracker (Ralf de Heer)

Penguin Bloom


Portrait of a Woman on Fire

Marie Antoinette (Sophia Copolla)


Contact (Jodie Foster)

First Contact (Star Trek)

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Tess (Thomas Hardy)

Thin Red Line

Troy one of the better epic period dramas, with real psychologivak dfepth snd great (pre LOTR) battle scenes, plus Brad Pitt!


Jodorowsky's Dune

Blade Runner

Blade Runner 2049

Amazing Grace (Aretha)


Crossfre Hurricane (Rolling Stones doco)

Sound City

Almost Famous (What do I love about this movie? ... to quote Russel at the end: 'Everything'!)

Topsy Turvy (Mike Leigh on Gilbert and Sullivan)


The Salt of the Earth

Where the Crawdads Sing - beautiful stiry of (female) empowerment


(to be continued ....)


And some Series I'd recommend


Treme, set in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricaine Katrina is by David Simon (who produced The Wire). It's slow to get started but well worth the investment. If your'e unsure watch the last episode of Season 1. It's subtle and clever and is, above all, a celebration of the music, food and people of New Orleans with some great characters and a well-constructed storyline. For those who love music.


This is Us is simply superb. Everything about this show is great. It traces the story of the Pearson family through the parents' courship in late 60s / early 70s USA to the present. Simply wow! Very emotional and rich characterisation and development, also addressing issues of race, class and sexuality in a way that is intelligent and not heavy-handed.


Halt and catch Fire, set in the early days of the internet revolution is an elegant and well produced story featuring great characters, music and storylines. Joe is a wonderful character. Great mise-en-scene, music and intriguingly non-hetero-normative.


Billions, a contemporary take on Wall Street to the power of 100. Apart from being a very juicy and sexy show, it traces the character arcs of a villain and a lawgiver ... with interesting twists. It's also a great exploration of raw power and its downfalls, and the casting, acting and wrtiting are top notch.


In the vein of heros and villains and the sticky threads between them, Justified, starring Timothy Oliphant - besides being a celebration of redneck culture - is the storey of a Sherrif and a criminal, again many with twists and turns. It's smart, great drama and the characters are lovable. I like it better than Ozark, more intelligent and heartful, but in a similat vein.


Transparent is a story of a dad than comes out as Trans. The story is engaging and often funny .. and without giving away any plot-spoilers, it includes quite a bit of Jesus Christ Superstar, so what's not to like?! (Some trivia - the actoir that plays the brother made Wild, wild country)


Downton Abbey - Jane Austeny schmaltz but diverting, and well written. It captures a bygone world of charm very well. Sanditon is a more edgy version (imaginr Sophia Copola directing Pride and Predjudice) with lots of flouro and messing with racial sterteotuypes and Season 1 particulaly gets away with what would usually be classed as porn - and good porn at that! 


The Good Doctor - an engaging programme about a surgeon with autism, and overall a good-enough medical drama. Like New Amsterdam it challenges many stereotypes around race, sexualiuty, gender and able-ism and the characters are interesting and loveable, with good plot development in both cases.


Normal People an unusual and touching story of coming of age and emerging identity set in Ireland. Touches on subject most seriess don't.


Speaking of touching on material mostlt left unexploted, Borgen is a fantastic political drama based on Denmark having an environmentalist, female PM. Cancel your schedule for the next few weeks as you won't want to stop watching this. Ther's also grerat plot and character development.


If you like political dramas The West Wing is an oldie but brilliant ands heartful.  One of the serieses I've most enjoyed.


The Morning Wars, an excellent exploration of the substance of the Me Too movement and the life experiences and dilemmas it throws up around issues of toxic masculinity, gender politics and sexism.


Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the offshoot, Angel are truly new myth cycles for our trime. As coming of age stories they look at the Hero's (or in the case of Buffy, Heroine's, journey of navigating the ethical (and relational) dilemmas of becoming an adult, and how we find our identity and empowerment, including how we move from being the solo warrior to party of a community. Before he went over to the Dark (and Boring!) side Joss Wheedon was a genius. His Western set in Outer Space, Firefly, is also a rolliking good watch.


The Durrels of Corfu, based on the family of Gerald (My family and other animals) and Lawrence (The Alexandria Quartet) set on a Greek sland, while not deep, is divertying and delighful.


Paper Giants is the story of Cleo magazine, the Australian icon. Set in Sydney in the 70s, complete with the fashion and music, it creates a memorable portrait of those heady times.


The First Lady is based on the wives of 3 US presidents, Elanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford and Michelle Obama. Great performaces by Gillian Anderson, Michelle Pfieffer and Viloa Davis. It got mixed critical reception but I really enjoyed it.


Atlantic Crossing is the story of the Norwegian royal family's escape frm WW2 to America, including the Queen and Rooseveldt's complex relationjship.,


Brideshead Revisited, one of the original TV series binge watches, stands the test of time. Based on Evelyn Waugh's book, set in the early 20th century it's a tale, ultimatelky of love. Set in England, including classic period-drama footage of Oxbridge in the days before the Great War it is the story of (amomg many other things) a complex young man's complex interteactions with a genteel English Catholic Family. It investigates questions of faith and consciense.


The bear is simpl;y rthe best thing ever. A love letter to the coity of Chicago, it is about a Michelin chef who inherits his brother's beef sandwich shop. The writing, acting and character development is exceptional, and the Christmas eposide in Season 2 is vintage Scorcese.


(to be continued ....)


Another great source of recommendations is to both enjoy and to support healing Krish and Amana's list of books and movies.