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114 podcasts, books, TV shows, movies, more |

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Rose Wong

Whether you’re staying put or going away, summer is a great time to relax and to try new things. So we asked TED speakers to recommend podcasts, books, TV shows, movies and more that have nourished their minds, spirits and bodies (yes, you’ll find a link to a recipe for olive-cheese loaf below) in recent times.

Enjoy, and we hope these recommendations are as nourishing for you as they have been to TED’s speakers.

Things to listen to (primarily podcasts)

A Bob Dylan Primer podcast
Hosted by Michael Hacker, this podcast is a personal guide to the strange and wonderful life and music of a transformer, a musician who’s transformed himself and the culture around him. As I grow older, his songs take on new meanings — “Goodbye’s too good a word … ”
– Uri Alon, TED Conversation: A COVID-19 “exit” strategy to end lockdown and reopen the economy

Balanced Black Girl podcast
Host Les Alfred has a voice that immediately calms me down. She usually starts out the podcast with breathing or with just taking one big breath. She relates typical struggles of everyday work-life balance and about what’s happening in the world that impacts Black America. Her podcast nourishes my mind and soul. I stop and just listen — no multitasking. I breathe when she breathes, I listen, and I think about the little nuggets I learned from the podcast throughout the day.
– Anastasia Penright, TED Talk: 5 steps to remove yourself from drama at work

Black Girl In Om podcast
This is my new favorite podcast! Host Lauren Ash has created an experience for Black womxn that is both nourishing and empowering. From episodes on mindful movement to womb wisdom, the show’s topics are always timely and relevant. Lauren’s calming voice is an added bonus and brings me back to center every time I listen. Black Girl in Om is now my go-to for wellness conversations.
– Ebony Roberts, TED Talk: How to co-parent as allies – not adversaries

Bringing Wellbeing To Life podcast
Dr. Denise Quinlan’s Irish lilt and encyclopedic knowledge of wellbeing makes her my favorite podcaster when it comes to building our personal and collective well-being and resilience resources. She always gets globally valued guests and manages to ask them all the right questions, not interrupting their flow.
– Lucy Hone, TED Talk: 3 secrets of resilient people

Code Switch podcast
In the present moment as our nation grapples again and again with its legacy of racial injustice, NPR’s Code Switch is a podcast produced by writers of color about contemporary and historic issues about race and discrimination, and how we, as a country, might find hope and move in a different and better direction.
– Laura Wright, TED-Ed Lesson: Why should you read “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy?

The Happiness Lab podcast
This podcast, hosted by Dr. Laurie Santos (TED Talk: A monkey economy as irrational as ours), takes you through the latest happiness research and offers insightful anecdotes. It will make you feel differently about your day to day, especially during these up-and-down times.
– Catie Cuan, TED Talk: Teaching robots how to dance

The History of American Slavery podcast
This Slate podcast provides a detailed overview of the history of American slavery from multiple perspectives. Hosts Jamelle Bouie and Rebecca Onion interview scholars and explore topics rarely covered in school curriculum, allowing listeners to walk away with an enriched understanding of the American past. From stories of some of the first Africans to settle in what became the United States to the ways that African Americans experienced emancipation, this series provides a college-level understanding accessible to learners at any level. This series should be required listening for all Americans as we look toward addressing historic and contemporary problems of race, justice, freedom, and equality that challenge us even in this very moment.
– Daina Berry, TED-Ed Lesson: The electrifying speeches of Sojourner Truth

How I Built This podcast
This is a great podcast to tune into during your spare time. Hosted by Guy Raz, it dives into the stories of how innovators and entrepreneurs built the companies that started a movement. Some of the great companies nowadays weren’t started intentionally. We can all appreciate a successful company, but it’s the innovators’, entrepreneurs’ and idealists’ individual stories that are really the most alluring. Plus, it’s a great reminder to me to really appreciate my own story, because who knows what movement could spawn from it?
– Rob Cooke, TED Talk: The cost of work stress – and how to reduce it

How to Survive the End of the World podcast
This podcast, hosted by activists Adrienne Maree Brown and Autumn Brown, goes even beyond what the title promises. In conversation with each other and with other amazing activists, they reveal aspects of a world in collapse and show how these fractures can be transformed into opportunities for renewal.
– Yifat Susskind, TED Talk: In uncertain times, think like a mother

Lady Don’t Take No podcast
This personal podcast from Alicia Garza, a cofounder of Black Lives Matter, is full of laughs and love, bringing on guests whose contributions to the culture are meaningful while also lifting our spirits.
– Heather C. McGhee, TED Talk: Racism has a cost for everyone

Librivox audiobooks
I’m hugely grateful for the sustenance I’ve derived over the years from Librivox, a vast library of free, public-domain audiobooks read by generous volunteers. I often choose my books not by the author but by the reader, and one of my favorites is the late Nicholas Clifford (1930-2019), who seems to have been born to read Henry James aloud. I could graze all day on the wholegrain of Clifford’s genial tones, and I would never have thought that James’s infamously challenging “late style” could be so lucid, natural and human as it is in these recordings. Elizabeth Klett reading Nella Larsen is also outstanding.
– Sascha Morrell, TED-Ed Lesson: Why should you read Moby Dick?

Lore podcast
I’m a historic preservation nerd who lives in an allegedly haunted house with a spooky black cat, and I have a couple of friends who work with old art museums and galleries or in architectural restoration. And we’ve all got great stories. Give us some wine or whiskey, and we’re all in for a night of creepy tales about what happens in the creaking old buildings we love so much. In lockdown, I miss these nights dearly. But Lore, hosted by Aaron Mahnke, is a fitting substitute. Each episode rambles through a series of loosely connected stories about “the darker side of history,” but they’re told not in a way that’s meant to shock or gross out (as many modern horror movies do), but rather they’re meant to spin a great yarn. Campfires optional.
– Caroline McCarthy, TED Talk: How advertising is dividing us

Sean Carroll’s Mindscape podcast
This podcast is the place that I go to satisfy a craving for new, captivating ideas and mysteries in science, the arts, popular culture, history, philosophy and more. Sean Carroll interviews thinkers and doers in unexpected fields, ranging from poker psychology and ancient automatons to quantum physics and pandemics, and his thoughtful questions make each episode fulfilling with long-lasting nourishment for the intellect. You always feel smarter after listening to a Mindscape session!
– Adrienne Mayor, TED-Ed Lesson: Did the Amazons really exist?

The Moth podcast
We all share this human experience and to truly understand it with empathy and love, you simply have to listen to a person tell their own story in their own words. Like moths to a flame, we come for the warmth of togetherness. I have learned so much just listening to this podcast on my commute, and I always want more.
– Lee Thomas, TED Talk: How I help people understand vitiligo

Storytelling is such a powerful way to build empathy. I would go on walks, listen to The Moth and often cry while listening to these stories because of the humanity that is expressed. I love the wide breadth of lived experiences that are shared — from small experiences to large experiences and people from all walks of life.
– Sara Jones, TED Talk: Reclaiming my voice as a transracial adoptee

The Slowdown podcast
The Slowdown quite literally does what its name suggests — it helps you pause and take a moment to breathe. Each episode is short (just 5 minutes!) and simple. Poet Tracy K. Smith begins with reflecting upon recent happenings in her life, then reads out a poem in her calm, meditative voice. I find it a great way to take a break, feel the range of emotions and vivid imagination that poetry evokes, and discover new writers.
– Ananya Grover, TED Talk: A campaign for period positivity

The Writer’s Voice podcast and Fiction Podcast
Literary podcasts are a staple source of mental nutrition when I’m rushing around or mired in mindless tasks, and two best enjoyed together are The Writer’s Voice and the Fiction Podcast, both from The New Yorker magazine. The former features fiction from recent issues, read by the authors themselves, while the latter features writers choosing stories from back issues to read aloud and discuss with The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman. I like to listen to an author’s new work in The Writer’s Voice in conjunction with that author’s reading of another’s work in The Fiction Podcast. For an appetizer, try Anne Enright reading her story “Night Swim” for The Writer’s Voice, then wash it down with her reading and discussion of John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” for the Fiction Podcast.
– Sascha Morrell, TED-Ed Lesson: Why should you read Moby Dick?

Touré Show podcast episode where Zadie Smith was interviewed
Zadie Smith, as journalist Touré notes, is the best at making being smart seem really cool. I got hooked on Zadie when I read her essay about the important differences between pleasure and joy. This interview with her makes me feel OK about interrogating my own thoughts, and she makes me want to read more to write more. She is brilliant and Touré is brilliant, and they talk about Jay-Z, writing, family, Nina Simone and the courage it takes to write with urgent integrity. The two of them share excitement over aesthetic risk in Touré’s Brooklyn apartment in a conversation that feels suspended in time.
– Sara Sanford, TED Talk: How to design gender bias out of your workplace

The Vedic Worldview podcast
Thom Knoles is my guru and the pre-eminent master teacher of Vedic Meditation, who has taught over 40,000 people around the world to meditate. His podcast is filled with knowledge about how to live life effortlessly without suffering while pursuing your life’s path. Whether you meditate or not, his wise words and calming voice will certainly put your mind at ease.
– Angel Chang, TED Talk: How ancient textiles can help the future

What’s Going On” album
This timely classic album is rich with Marvin Gaye’s once-in-a-lifetime voice, sweeping sonic melodies, socially conscious lyrics, and spiritually hopeful musings. Released in 1971 (one year before I was born), it surprisingly sounds as if it was written for this very moment.

— Shaka Senghor, TED Talk: Why your worst deeds don’t define you

Things to read (basically books)

Fiction and poetry

The Epic of Gilgamesh
Almost 5,000 years old, the story of the Mesopotamian king Gilgamesh and his search for the secret of eternal life is the earliest human tale that we have. For anyone who thinks only modern people can wrestle with difficult issues, this epic is a lesson in humility. Read the story of Gilgamesh with its timeless portrayal of the central issues of humanity — justice, violence, sex, love, friendship, power, death — and you’ll never look at the ancient world the same way again.
– Phillip Freeman, TED-Ed Lesson: A day in the life of an ancient Celtic Druid

“A Library of Babel”, a short story by Jorge Luis Borges (which can be found here)
It’s almost impossible to understand how vast our universe truly is but Argentine fabulist Jorge Luis Borges gave it a try. He dreamed up a library the size of the universe in one of his most extraordinary stories “The Library of Babel”. While employed as an assistant librarian, Borges imagined a Library “composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings.” Like the universe, this fantastic Escher-like structure is both vividly described yet impossible to imagine — a vast universe-as-library, thought to contain every possible 410-page permutation of a basic book structure, enough to express some version of every work ever written, and everything that ever could be. In a finite world, a cosmic perspective isn’t a luxury; it is a necessity. Conveying the vastness of our universe to the public is the real challenge faced by astronomers and writers alike.
– Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, TED Talk: Your body was forged in the spectacular death of stars

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Octavia Butler was so ahead of her time. Recommended to me by my good friend Dr. Shamell Bell, the world Octavia creates for the reader feels eerily like some serious foreshadowing of the 2020 world that we’re currently faced with.
– Joel Leon, TED Talk: The beautiful, hard work of co-parenting

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This is one of my absolute favorite fables to read at any time because of the relevance it has no matter where you are in life. It’s timeless. It is a book, to me, that has the power to leave anyone inspired and to those who aren’t, reflective and hopefully that will lead to inspiration. It continuously helps me reshape my perception of the tests and trials of life as necessary lessons that lead to self-discovery. A fantastic book on resiliency, reflection and growth.
– Rob Cooke, TED Talk: The cost of work stress – and how to reduce it

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This novel provided me with a sense of perspective during the toughest days of lockdown this year, reminding me that, however bad we think it is, there are always those who have endured more.
– Lucy Hone, TED Talk: 3 secrets of resilient people

An American Sunrise: Poems by Joy Harjo
This beautiful collection of poetry paints a picture of who we are as Americans — but also who we could be — from the perspective of the first Indigenous US poet laureate.
– Yifat Susskind, TED Talk: In uncertain times, think like a mother

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Especially because I live in the city, I love finding books that transport me back to nature. I just began this one, and I’m loving it. It tells the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and Sophia’s grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny, unspoiled island in the gulf of Finland.
– Shantell Martin, TED Talk: How drawing can set you free

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
This novel is a truly great and terrifying telling of the life of Vlad Tepes, aka Count Dracula. Its plot is innovative and riveting. Combining history, science fiction and adventure, The Historian is not for the faint of heart, but it’s many steps above the gory nonsense of many modern-day horror stories. What if evil was as clear and simple as this story? Would life be easier?
– Georges C. Benjamin, TED Conversation: The secret weapon against pandemics

Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book that Changes Lives by Dan Millman
This book has been with me for many, many years, and it’s the first book I read that really forced me to take note of how the mind can be your greatest ally or foe. It also showed me to avoid too much attachment to material things and that achievements, that accomplishments alone won’t lead to a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life, and to take inventory of the simple things that I may be taking for granted. Ultimately, those tend to bring the most value. Given how the world has evolved so drastically nowadays, I’d wager it’s a book everyone can benefit from right now.
– Rob Cooke, TED Talk: The cost of work stress – and how to reduce it

The Overstory by Richard Powers
Richard Powers won the Pulitzer Prize for this massive novel about a group of initially unwitting activists fighting to save ancient redwoods in the Pacific Northwest. I teach environmental literature, and much of what I read and teach can be very depressing and apocalyptic. The Overstory, by contrast, is oddly hopeful, a novel about environmental destruction that nonetheless leaves the reader feeling some sense of comfort.
– Laura Wright, TED-Ed Lesson: Why should you read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy?

the Lithia Trilogy (Out of Breath, The Ghost Runner, The Last Mile) by Blair Richmond
I recommend this YA series about a 19-year-old long distance runner named Kat Jones and vampires. Oh, and they’re vegan vampires.
– Laura Wright, TED-Ed Lesson: Why should you read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy?

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
I first read this novel in my late teens, and it manages to capture feelings of isolation, loneliness and a general sense of not fitting in. At the time, Holden seemed an unwitting, but appropriate, comrade who helped establish that periods of internal turmoil are actual, lived human experiences that we all have to go through and work on. I still think about the guy sometimes, along with other Holdens of the world, and wonder how they are holding up.
– France Villarta, TED Talk: The gender-fluid history of the Philippines

Ring of Stars by Richard Sanford
Full disclosure: I am related to the author, but I’d find this novel nourishing even if it wasn’t written by family. Ring of Stars is a story that we need. Written in 2012 as a futuristic novel, it now feels uncomfortably real. As violence, random and routine, fractures the US, the main character receives a vision. Outside of American towns that are burning like embers, he builds a safe haven: a classic drive-in theater, a circular wall bejeweled with mica and glass and shards of mirror. Standing up to the forces of our time, Sanford lights a way through the nation’s chaos, offering a glimpse of what many of us crave: shared space; safety in one another; fugitive hearts finding a place to rest.
– Sara Sanford, TED Talk: How to design gender bias out of your workplace

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I find myself re-reading Lord of the Rings when there is upheaval or change in my life. My parents read it to me as a child, and some combination of that and Tolkien’s gorgeous writing and fantasy land, good-versus-evil vibes help center me.
– Eric Sannerud, TED Talk: Without farmers, you’d be hungry, naked and sober

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
I was supposed to travel to Russia — it was going to be my first visit — but then the pandemic struck. So, I made do with this novel which took me to the Metropol hotel (and no, I wasn’t actually going to stay there). And while it was an excellent portrayal of the inside of the hotel, it was an even more excellent exploration of a host of social issues, including social isolation (an unfortunate reality for many pre-pandemic and for even more during the pandemic) and issues of class.
– Vinay Shandal, TED Talk: How conscious investors can turn up the heat and make companies change

The Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s political comic satire is about a fictional African nation, its megalomaniacal ruler and the toadies that cater to his every idiotic whim. Translated from Kikuyu, which is an oral and highly performative language, the narrative is expansive, magical and sprawling — more than 700 pages total. I haven’t taught it in about five years, but I keep thinking about it now because so much about it resonates with the current political situation in the US (watch, for example, Trevor Noah’s bit about Donald Trump being the perfect African president).
– Laura Wright, TED-Ed Lesson: Why should you read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy?

Fools Crow and The Heartsong of Charging Elk by James Welch
These are emotionally fulfilling adventures about individuals from Indigenous cultures dealing with colonial pressure. Welch, a Blackfeet novelist-poet and founder of the Native-American renaissance, was knighted by the French government. Fools Crow is set in Montana during the Indian Wars in the 1870s, while Charging Elk’s story, based on a real incident, follows an “escapee” from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to a new life in Marseilles at the turn of the 19th century.
– Adrienne Mayor, TED-Ed Lesson: Did the Amazons really exist?

Nonfiction

From the Pantry,” a New York Times column
Melissa Clark, cookbook author and chef, has been writing this excellent column. She shares adaptable and semi-improvised recipes that you can make with the ingredients at the front and back of your shelves. The olive and cheese loaf is divine!
– Catie Cuan, TED Talk: Teaching robots how to dance

People Not Property: Stories of Slavery in the Colonial North
This award-winning website is the perfect starting point to understand the history of slavery in the United States. It is rich with resources and interactive lessons for consumers of all ages. In addition to reenactments, short videos, historical documents and testimonies from enslaved people in the North, the site shows the ways in which slavery was not solely a Southern institution. The idea of looking at enslaved people as “people not property” is a simple reminder of the humanity of the enslaved.
– Daina Berry, TED-Ed Lesson: The electrifying speeches of Sojourner Truth

The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram
How did Western culture become so alienated from the natural world? This truly unusual book explores the feeling of estrangement through a blend of intellectual history and ecological philosophy written in a way that would make Gabriel García Márquez proud. The author is a magician by training and uses mental sleight of hand to trick us into seeing nature holistically rather than through the typical Cartesian lens of mind-body dualism. In times of ecological and existential crisis, this book offers hope in the form of a changed perception of the environment and our relationship to it.
– Soraya Fiorio, TED-Ed Lesson: Who was the world’s first author?

The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life by Shawn Achor (TED Talk: The happy secret to better work)
This book reminds us that happiness is indeed the key to a successful life and high performance. Based on extensive research and mind-blowing studies, you’ll learn to understand the dynamics of success.
– Anna Piperal, TED Talk: What a digital government looks like

How China Escaped the Poverty Trap by Yuen Yuen Ang
My work is about how innovation can help people lead more prosperous lives. In How China Escaped the Poverty Trap, Yuen Yuen Ang writes brilliantly about the delicate and interdependent relationship between private markets and public bureaucracy as it relates to creating prosperity. At the core of Ang’s book and beyond the economic analysis, graphs and tables, is one word: Hope. Her book highlights the fact that large and small nations alike can develop, and billions of people can lift themselves out of poverty. Reading about the economic miracle that transformed the lives of close to one billion people gives me hope that our work can touch the lives of billions others who struggle daily to make ends meet.
– Efosa Ojomo, TED Talk: Reducing corruption takes a specific kind of investment

A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison by Dwayne Betts
Dwayne Betts writes about the impact of incarceration on Black men and how it ripples through the lives of the families that it impacts. He brings you through his own journey of incarceration and through his release, and he inspires me along the way with real stories that massage my desires to help create empathy in the world. He grew up in Suitland, Maryland, and smoked weed outside of a high school as his teachers watched with disappointment. Today he’s an attorney preparing to complete the PhD program at Yale Law. It’s pretty amazing.
– Marcus Bullock, TED Talk: An app that helps incarcerated people stay connected to their families

Love At Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection by Deborah Blum
I re-read this nonfiction book during quarantine, and while it isn’t new, it feels eerily relevant in a time when social distancing measures have forced us to pull away from the intimate human contact we all crave. It’s astonishing to think how in the early 20th century, the medical community discouraged affection between parents and children, believing it would lead to needy offspring. As a result, a shocking number of babies in orphanages, left alone and untouched, would simply die, apparently for lack of love. What finally overturned these beliefs was the research of Harry Harlow, who studied the effects of neglect on primates in the 1950s. The book traces how his experiments, now seen as problematic and cruel, were key to establishing the emotional and intellectual benefits of touch, revolutionizing the field of psychology and our understanding of nurturing. “If monkeys have taught us anything, it’s that you’ve got to learn how to love before you learn how to live,” he wrote. I find it especially striking that it was monkeys who helped us understand what it means to be human. And even more profound — the book ultimately challenges our cherished notion that we are anything but animals ourselves.
– Kat Mustatea, TED Talk: What is the value of art in an age of thinking machines?

It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond by Julia Cameron
In her latest book, Julia Cameron — the bestselling author of The Artist’s Way — takes you on a journey to reclaim the life you want to live. Although this book was originally written for those embarking on a second act (new career, retirement, empty nest or starting over in some way), during this pandemic time it can help those who are interested in using a creative process to reflect and reset. This book has given me a fresh perspective on pursuing my next act, while sparking my creativity and helping me move forward in a positive and powerful way.
– Estelle Gibson, TED Talk: The true cost of financial independence

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon
On January 23, my teacher, mentor and friend Clayton Christensen passed away. I felt like I had lost a big part of myself because professor Christensen had not only taught me so much about innovation and business, but he also modeled how to lead a good life. In this book, he reminds us that our deepest sense of joy and happiness will come not from our accomplishments and accolades but from the close relationships in our lives. He also provides a framework to help us develop lasting relationships. So even though 2020 has been a year characterized by much loss, I’m often reminded and constantly nourished by the thought of all the loving relationships in my life and how I can best strengthen them.
– Efosa Ojomo, TED Talk: Reducing corruption takes a specific kind of investment

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
Form good habits and break bad ones while staying at home — this is a practical and useful book for your everyday life.
– Jiabao Li, TED Talk: Art that reveals how technology frames reality

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper (TED Talk: The racial politics of time)
The pandemic has made my attention span short and diminished my patience for reading nonsense. Enter Brittney Cooper’s page-turning memoir about feminist anger and, more specifically, about embracing her own Black feminist rage. From the first sentence, the writing is electric –the book is a page turner — but I also love that Cooper makes me feel super-smart by delivering complex emotions and ideas in a readable package, like how she sees feminism as the desire to love female friends in defiance of a world that teaches us to hate other women and ourselves.
– Elizabeth Pryor, TED Talk: Why it’s so hard to talk about the N-word

Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One by Dr. Joe Dispenza
This book is about change, and change is the only thing that is actually constant in life. I am always trying to learn how to be my best self, and this book explains human patterns and how to change them.
– Lee Thomas, TED Talk: How I help people understand vitiligo

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E. B. Dubois
Dr. W.E.B. Dubois’s seminal work is essential reading for all that choose to understand the racial unrest in America and our path forward. It’s a collection of essays that were written through his life experiences. He coined the phrase “double consciousness” — the concept that African Americans must look at the world through the eyes of racist white America but they must also measure our progress through that same lens. He also utilized and made widely known the term the “color line,” which was probably coined by Frederick Douglass to describe racial segregation as a descriptor of the divide between African Americans and white Americans. In this time of racial awakenings, this seems like a great book for a second and third re-reading to remind me of why I need to continue to fight for justice and equality.
– Georges C. Benjamin, TED Conversation: The secret weapon against pandemics

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas
This delightful and touching memoir describes Firoozeh Dumas’s life after she and her family immigrated to the United States from Iran. As a first-generation immigrant with a similar background, I connected so much to this book and its lighthearted but poignant descriptions of immigrant life.
– Dorsa Amir, TED Talk: How the Industrial Revolution changed childhood

The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Edith Eger
I keep coming back to my dog-eared, highlighted copy of this memoir. In times of stress and uncertainty, Edith Eger’s voice is unwavering, her insights breathtaking. This book is a reminder that no matter what our current situation, while we may have no idea exactly how we’ll get through it, we can choose how we move forward — and in doing so, we choose who we are when we come out the other side.
– Darria Long, TED Talk: An ER doctor on triaging your “crazy busy” life

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (TED Talk: Want to get great at something? Get a coach
This nonfiction book is an invitation to ponder what it means to live, and not only survive. I read this after my parents went through a series of health scares, and it gave me a window to ask them questions about their fears and wishes. It also took me on an introspective, soulful journey about our limited time on earth.
– Catie Cuan (TED Talk: Teaching robots how to dance)

The Cartoon History of the Universe by Larry Gonick
Imagine getting a history lesson in a fun cartoon format. This is what you get with this book, and I can highly recommend it for a good summer read.
– Camilla Arndal Andersen, TED Talk: What happens in your brain when you taste food

Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise
I found this book so nourishing in a season when energy and morale have been low. It inspired me to pick myself up by taking small steps towards the things that I know still matter in my life.
– Noeline Kirabo, TED Talk: 2 questions to uncover your passion — and turn it into a career

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
This book playfully yet concisely explains how Winnie the Pooh embodies the philosophical principles of Taoism that can lead to simplicity, wisdom and contentment. So, to understand Pooh is to begin understanding Taoism. It also uses the other characters from that children’s series to personify the habits and mindsets that can lead us away from contentment and toward complexity. This book helped me identify, through the characters, the unnecessary complexity and stress I add to my life. With the world being so restless, fast-paced and evolving, this easy read provides a means of self-reflection to aid you in slowing down your world and seeing the value of simplicity that leads to peace and happiness, regardless of what’s going on around you.
– Rob Cooke, TED Talk: The cost of work stress – and how to reduce it

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz
This book is a modern telling of the life of abolitionist John Brown. It’s brought me great peace amidst the chaos of American life today, because it shows what a person with deep convictions can accomplish. It may seem like an odd suggestion — given that he helped spark the Civil War — but his example inspires me to stay true and vocal in what I believe is right.
– Eric Sannerud, TED Talk: Without farmers, you’d be hungry, naked and sober

Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell Jackson (TED Talk: Should “blackness” exist?
Mitchell Jackson reminds me of what life can look like in neighborhoods that are filled with violence and drug addiction. His stories also help remind me that there are survivors in the ‘hood, tell us about the history of the Bloods and the Crips, and allow his readers to learn about the constant war on Black lives. The book is very unpredictable, and the way he weaves his stories into lessons is a work of art.
– Marcus Bullock, TED Talk: An app that helps incarcerated people stay connected to their families

Tribe: On Homecoming & Belonging by Sebastian Junger (TED Talk: Why veterans miss war)
Although this isn’t a new book, I re-read this during lockdown as I considered the role that communities were playing during this global pandemic. We were looking out for neighbors again, saying hello, feeling connected in new and strange ways, and many connections we perhaps took for granted were highlighted as all the more important once they were ripped away. This short non-fiction read begins with an exploration into why contemporary US soldiers suffer PTSD more than those from any other nation at any point in history, but it morphs into the grander realization, that modernization breeds isolation and our entire sense of identities are built around the communities we are a part of. We need our people more than we know.
– Oliver Jeffers, TED Talk: An ode to living on Earth

Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination by Dr Robin D. G. Kelley
Another recommendation from Dr. Shamell Bell, who was a former student of Dr. Kelley’s, Freedom Dreams implores the reader to see the intellectuals and revolutionaries leading the charge of Black liberation as way to examine the potential and ways the Black imagination can open the doors for liberation of all peoples. This read has helped me to lean further into the possibilities of real change in 2020.
– Joel Leon, TED Talk: The beautiful, hard work of co-parenting

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
One of the unexpected silver linings of lockdown and quarantine has been the ability to rediscover the joys of nature in our own backyards, as lighter traffic and air pollution have brought some formerly shy native species back into visibility. There’s no better book to read for renewing our connection with the natural world than Braiding Sweetgrass. The author is a botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, so this set of loosely connected essays on plants and the rest of the natural world is a beautiful blend of science and spirituality. One entire essay is about the lichen commonly known as rock tripe, which I’d never once thought about or cared to notice, but whose very existence is imbued with a metaphorical beauty about partnership and reliance. A few days after I read it, I went on a hike and saw an entire boulder covered in rock tripe on one side. According to Kimmerer, it’s edible, “tasting vaguely of rock and mushroom,” but I’m not quite that ambitious yet.
– Caroline McCarthy, TED Talk: How advertising is dividing us

The Generous Man: How Helping Others is the Sexiest Thing You Can Do by Tor Nørretranders
This is a fantastic book to open your eyes and realize that life is not just survival of the fittest, but rather a beautiful medley of art, music and generosity.
– Camilla Arndal Andersen, TED Talk: What happens in your brain when you taste food

Dark Emu: Aboriginal Australia and The Birth of Agriculture by Bruce Pascoe
I received this as a gift while I was in Australia. Bruce Pascoe is an Indigenous writer and anthologist and draws on firsthand accounts from colonial journals to dispel the myth that Aboriginal people were hunters and gatherers and “did nothing with the land that resembled agriculture”. He also has an incredible TEDx Talk that covers some of what he discusses in the book.
– Shantell Martin, TED Talk: How drawing can set you free

The Centre Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn Saks
This book is inspiring to me in so many ways. The author is a successful lawyer who has not only survived, but thrived, with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Her perspectives on mental health are really refreshing to me as a psychiatrist because I so often hear tales of despair or bleak prognoses. But Dr. Saks is not for this narrative at all, and I am grateful for it. For example, she states that having a mental illness, especially one as severe as schizophrenia, needn’t define one’s life, and she advocates that we are all more similar than we are different. She has also given a TED Talk, where she discusses her life and this book.
– Anees Bahji, TED-Ed Lesson: Is marijuana bad for your brain?

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Shumacher
Long before Marie Kondo asked us to throw out all things that do not bring us joy, renowned economist E.F. Shumacher was asking, “Where is the rich society that says: ‘Halt! We have enough!’” I’ve returned to Small is Beautiful recently, to be nourished by his argument for economics as if people mattered — economics of permanence, rather than economics of short-term gain. A former Rhodes Scholar and economic advisor to the British Control Commission in postwar Germany, Shumacher has solid credentials. This makes Small is Beautiful intriguing. He challenges the assumptions that economics should be studied and interpreted purely as “mathematical specification and statistical quantification.” Without focusing on the needs, motivations and purpose of the humans that economies should serve, he argues, this quantitative analysis will always point towards bigness that will ultimately destroy us. Smallness, Schumacher argues, is “free, efficient, creative, enjoyable, enduring.” One might even say “nourishing.”
– Sara Sanford, TED Talk: How to design gender bias out of your workplace

Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos: With Applications to Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Engineering by Steven H. Strogatz (TED Talk: The science of sync)
Warning: This one’s for math lovers. When I find myself in times of trouble, I re-read Steven Strogatz’s Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos, and coronavirus gave me my fifth re-reading. Strogatz takes such good care of me, leading me by the hand with humor through the simplicity he finds in the complex dynamics of nature. This book refreshes the mind and soul; it’s also an aesthetic experience.
– Uri Alon, TED Conversation: A COVID-19 “exit” strategy to end lockdown and reopen the economy

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle (TED Talk: Connected, but alone?)
In a quarantine time when we depend more on technology than ever to be together with others, this nonfiction book reminds us of the isolation and connection brought by technologically mediated social interaction.
– Jiabao Li, TED Talk: Art that reveals how technology frames reality

The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell
As the authors of this relatively dense book put it, “we are born with the genetic template of Homo sapiens, but we cannot become fully human without what we learn from each other.” This book is a fascinating dive — pun intended — into the extraordinary intelligence and social structures of cetaceans, looking at them not as pseudo-mythical creatures to be fetishized but rather as complex, flawed and often unpredictable social beings just like humans are. I’ve spent a fair number of nights in these high-anxiety times attempting to fall asleep by listening to the songs of humpback whales over Spotify, but until I read this book hadn’t realized that maybe what was lulling me into slumber was the fact that I was effectively listening to social chatter and communication — the things that so many of have missed so much lately.

— Caroline McCarthy, TED Talk: How advertising is dividing us

Things to watch (mainly TV and movies) 

TV shows and videos

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s videos
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has taken the quarantine challenge and risen to it, streaming full recordings of performances, online dance classes with virtuoso dancers and new performances composed of dancers “at home” (either in their New York apartments or in parks). Plus, supporting Alvin Ailey is a wonderful way to support Black creative arts and have your breath taken away by human talent.
– Heather C. McGhee, TED Talk: Racism has a cost for everyone

America’s Got Talent
If you’ve never watched it before, this NBC competition show features performers from a variety of talents and highlights dreams coming true for many of the contestants. Some of them have overcome a tragedy, heartbreak or obstacle in their lives, but no matter what they’ve gone through, they’ve never given up on their big dream to be on stage. Some of the performers are wacky and way-out, but many are really, really talented. In a time when we are surrounded by negative messages, I always feel uplifted and inspired when I watch this show.
– Estelle Gibson, TED Talk: The true cost of financial independence

Black Love
This Amazon docu-series showcases the beauty and complexity of love. For Black folk living in a world where anti-Black racism is a threat every day, love is a revolutionary act. Every time I see a Black couple in love, young or old, it nourishes my soul. For me, this show represents what is possible when we are vulnerable and brave and it reminds me why love is worth fighting for.
– Ebony Roberts, TED Talk: How to co-parent as allies – not adversaries

black-ish
This ABC sitcom tackles tough situations that happen in life in such an entertaining way that I not only learn something but sometimes it changes my opinion a subject. The biggest nourishment I get from this show is that it always ends with everything coming together, with the family hugging, realizing how they were wrong or appreciating what they have. It leaves a smile on my face and is my go-to when I need a pick-me-up from real life.
– Anastasia Penright, TED Talk: 5 steps to remove yourself from drama at work

BoJack Horseman
It is hard to call this animated Netflix series nourishing in the traditional sense. The show is unsparing in its sarcasm and relentless in its examination of the darkest themes of modern life: racism, sexism, depression, addiction, trauma, self-destructive behavior. Its eponymous character is a humanoid horse, living in a version of Hollywood in which humans and animals co-exist. There is something utterly delightful and liberating in this imaginative setup, which allows for both distance and clarity toward its uncomfortable subject matter. The show makes use of its fantastical premise and multi-species jokes to get at something about our own world that feels brave, sad, funny and true all at once. If BoJack, broken and alcoholic as he is, can stumble toward some form of grace, then maybe anyone can.
– Kat Mustatea, TED Talk: What is the value of art in an age of thinking machines?

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
I think most people are aware of the ‘90s Sabrina, the Teenage Witch TV show; however, this Netflix series is a rather dark and deeply sumptuous, twist on it. I’ve always found things like magic, mysticism, mythology and the like very fascinating, and the show actually does a really good job at presenting history in a fascinating, interesting and spellbinding way (although I’m not going to say it’s 100 percent accurate).
– Anees Bahji, TED-Ed Lesson: Is marijuana bad for your brain?

Community
As a journalist, I feel nourished when I come away with a sense of enlightenment, and I found that this summer with this TV show. I’m behind on the times when it comes to Community; it ran from 2009 to 2016. But it still feels so relevant, even if the characters use flip phones. On the surface, it seems like the sitcom is just highlighting stereotypes, but in actuality it’s toying with them and teasing society — and the TV world — for even coming up with them in the first place. The show raises a lot of questions and toes a lot of boundaries, and while no one person may agree with all of it, I at least appreciate the discussions that the show brings to light.
– Amy Padnani, TED Talk: How we’re honoring people overlooked by history

Dave
Lil’ Dicky stole my heart and stole 2020. This Hulu original sitcom is hilarious and heartwarming, and as someone who classifies themselves as a recovering rapper, the themes around relationships and dealing with your real life and “rap life” hit very close to home.
– Joel Leon, TED Talk: The beautiful, hard work of co-parenting

Dear …
“One person’s story” can change the world. I watch “Dear” — an Apple docu-series– with my daughters, Raia and Ruby, to show them that they can be anything they want to be. It’s so inspiring to hear the stories of people like Misty Copeland and Lin Manuel Miranda and how they became the leaders and luminaries that they are today.
– Robert Reffkin, TED Original Video: 5 ways to create stronger connections

Descendants of the Sun
I feel there is something beautiful and musical about the Korean language. I like to believe that speaking Korean for my first three years of life trained my brain to love its sound even though I struggle learning and speaking Korean now. Auditory memory is powerful, and when I watch Korean shows like this one, I find the language incredibly soothing to my ears. Asian filmmakers are so skillful, and I also love seeing Koreans become worldwide media stars.
– Sara Jones, TED Talk: Reclaiming my voice as a transracial adoptee

Floor is Lava
My sister, brother and I played “Floor is Lava” everywhere when we were kids — from the living room to the playground — and this Netflix game show is summer laughter fodder far beyond what I expected.
– Catie Cuan, TED Talk: Teaching robots how to dance

Gavin and Stacey
When you’re going through tough times, research shows it’s important to keep topping up your positive emotions. This classic Anglo-Welsh comedy — starring James Corden and Rob Brydon — keeps me laughing, but better than that, it fills me with hope.
– Lucy Hone, TED Talk: 3 secrets of resilient people

I May Destroy You
I was fortunate enough to work with a group of influencers on the campaign launch for this new HBO series, which stars and is written by Michaela Cole. It’s a strong departure from Michaela’s Chewing Gum fame but in the best way possible. Dealing with issues surrounding mental health and sexual assault, the producers and Michaela were careful to roll out the show with content to help further the discussion around the serious issues that it touches on.
– Joel Leon, TED Talk: The beautiful, hard work of co-parenting

Insecure
I dare someone to watch Issa Rae’s binge-worthy HBO series about hip, funny thirty-something Black women in L.A. finding their wholly imperfect way through relationships and budding careers and not understand that some African Americans use the n-word in a way that completely subverts white racism. Aside from its amplification of young Black culture in southern California, what makes season 4 of Insecure so gratifying is the story’s focus on something seldom seen in art: best girl friends who break each other’s hearts and then get turned all around trying to love their way back.
– Elizabeth Pryor, TED Talk: Why it’s so hard to talk about the N-word

Little Fires Everywhere
This Hulu series based on Celeste Ng’s novel by the same name is a much needed exploration of white privilege. Kerry Washington does a superb job bringing to life the complexity of the character of Mia Warren, and in doing so makes that exploration all the more powerful.
– Vinay Shandal, TED Talk: How conscious investors can turn up the heat and make companies change

PEN15
This show came out last year, but I’m watching it for the third time right now. PEN15 is my favorite love story in recent memory. Except it’s not about a couple; it’s about the totally platonic love between two 13-year-old girls who are ride-or-die best friends. The catch? they’re played by the show’s creators — who are in their 30s. Somehow, this makes it one of the most accurate portrayals of tweenage life that I have ever seen, and therefore unspeakably funny. This show doesn’t just make me laugh; it makes snot come out of my nose. Plus, it’s set in the year 2000, which means that it’s packed with bops. PS: If anyone asks you, the title is pronounced PEN-15, not penis. I think?
– Yve Blake, TED Talk: For the love of fangirls

Salt Fat Acid Heat
I’m a huge fan of Samin Nosrat, a brilliant chef and talented Iranian woman making her mark on the world. In this TV show, Samin brings her unique perspective to explore local cuisines around the world, focusing on voices typically uncelebrated in the culinary arts, highlighting women and home cooks.
– Dorsa Amir, TED Talk: How the Industrial Revolution changed childhood

Sea of Faith
We view scientific knowledge as the opposite of religious belief, but where and how did this schism originate? The six-part BBC docu-series explores the history of Christianity from the Scientific Revolution onward. The ideas of such varied thinkers as Charles Darwin, Carl Jung and Arthur Schopenhauer are propped against the backdrop of religious faith, more loosely interpreted as humanity’s place in the cosmos. This series was radical and controversial when it was released, and it asks deeper questions about whether the division between faith and knowledge has ever been clean-cut and whether they continue to inform one another. This is an intellectually challenging journey for anyone interested in the question of human meaning in a scientific world.
– Soraya Fiorio, TED-Ed Lesson: Who was the world’s first author?

Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi
This show could not have come at a better time. In an interview, Padma Lakshmi says, “I was tired of certain people getting to decide who an American was and what American food is … All my life in food, I’ve heard the term ‘New American Cuisine.’ What the hell is that? I just wanted to go and find out.” In this 10-episode Hulu series, Lakshmi uses food to explore American history and the fragile line between assimilation and survival. Touring heritage through cuisine, Taste the Nation brings viewers into the kitchens of American communities, such as the Gullah Geechee people, who’ve managed to hold onto their traditions despite seemingly impossible odds. Beyond being educational, it’s just yummy watching: fry bread, dosas, poke …. Just nourishing.
– Sara Sanford, TED Talk: How to design gender bias out of your workplace

The Mandalorian
This space gunfighter series on Disney+ builds on the Star Wars franchise. The character of the Mandalorian is the typical rough space bounty hunter and warrior with a hidden past, but what makes this show so interesting is that it’s full of action and adventure and unclear political agendas. Also, they’ve introduced a very mysterious character: Baby Yoda. This is enjoyable to watch and keeps you on the edge of your seat and away from the political channels.
– Georges C. Benjamin, TED Conversation: The secret weapon against pandemics

The Last Dance
I really enjoyed watching this ESPN docu-series about Michael Jordan (it will be available on Netflix July 19). An eye-opening view of an icon, it captures a time when the entertainment and sports worlds grew in many ways.
– Lee Thomas, TED Talk: How I help people understand vitiligo

Ugly Delicious
I spent much of my isolation time thinking about things I’d like to be eating. It all began when my wife was feeling under the weather (turns out it was not COVID, but it seemed it could be). She had light symptoms but self-isolated in our house, so I was assigned the couch. The one benefit to couch-surfing meant that I could watch whatever I liked before falling asleep and what caught my eye was this David Chang Netflix show. I started watching because I’d heard there was an episode on pizza in which a pilgrimage was made to my hometown, New Haven, Connecticut, which is pizza central for those in the know. But I was hooked by Chang’s menschiness and his very funny sidekick, Peter Meehan. I binged the whole series and found it funny, insightful and moving. So I quickly ordered all cookbooks with Chang and/or Meehan’s name attached. My favorite cookbook to read was Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes, written by Meehan. It’s a cookbook that made me laugh out loud. That is very hard to do, especially for a cookbook. There’s a paragraph about making a Thai noodle dish that made me laugh so hard that I could not get the words out when trying to read it aloud to my confused wife.
– Noah Charney, TED-Ed Lesson: The art forger who tricked the Nazis

Workin’ Moms
No one really understands the issues that may arise when you try to combine a business person and a good mother. This Netflix sitcom reminds you that being a working mom can be hard in so many different ways, and it just makes you laugh and appreciate your life situation with the little ones.
– Anna Piperal, TED Talk: What a digital government looks like

Movies 

13th
As an African American journalist, entertainment reporter and movie critic living through a changing time in our country, I’m often asked about what films can educate and entertain. The number-one movie I recommend is 13th on Netflix. In vivid images and sound, this documentary clearly explains the systems that have placed our country in the situation it is in right now.
– Lee Thomas, TED Talk: How I help people understand vitiligo

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
This documentary is simply beautiful. It’s about a generation of disability advocates and how they came together in their youth through a summer camp; later on, they banded together to fight for their rights in the oft-forgotten-but-very-important 504 Sit In, which paved the way for the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The movie has a wonderful tone — the storyline is infused with humor, and while it teaches you about the disability community, it doesn’t beat you over the head with lessons or make you feel guilty. Instead, you come away learning about a group of people who are vibrant, passionate and resilient, and you have a new sense of appreciation for their hard fight.
– Amy Padnani, TED Talk: How we’re honoring people overlooked by history

Get Out
Jordan Peele’s brilliant, fast-paced, darkly funny horror film uses microaggressions like other scary movies use ominous music — as a warning to sit at the edge of our seat because something’s about to go down. Unlike most Hollywood films that devote entire storylines to proving that racism exists, Get Out accepts this fact as its central conceit. So this movie is an “ahhhhh” for anyone exhausted by a lifetime of trying to convince other people that white supremacy is a thing, and PS, liberals can believe in it too. Spoiler alert: No white saviors here.
– Elizabeth Pryor, TED Talk: Why it’s so hard to talk about the N-word

Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story
This was what I needed to watch this year to bounce back amidst all the setbacks we are experiencing. I was inspired to revive my hope and to keep pressing on, no matter the obstacles. It’s never too late to start fresh and pick up your dreams.
– Noeline Kirabo, TED Talk: 2 questions to uncover your passion — and turn it into a career

I Used To Be Normal
Like my TED Talk, this documentary is all about the power of boyband fangirls and how easily they are misunderstood. But what I especially love about this movie is how funny it is and how often it surprises you. It’s about three generations of fangirls, and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t found it utterly fascinating. So I recommend this movie to anyone who loves fangirls, hates fangirls, is a fangirl, is scared of fangirls, is raising a fangirl, or has never heard of the word. Hit me up on Twitter when you’ve seen it, and let’s discuss the moment with the cruise. I can’t stop thinking about the cruise!
– Yve Blake, TED Talk: For the love of fangirls

(In)Visible Portraits
(In)Visible Portraits marks the directorial debut of Oge Egbuonu, who has created a masterpiece with this documentary that explores the history of Black women in America. While it both educates and dismantles the many harmful labels and archetypes that have been assigned to Black women, it’s also an extremely beautiful and nourishing love letter by and for Black women. It’s a must watch.
Shantell Martin, TED Talk: How drawing can set you free

My Neighbor Totoro
I’m a fan of animation and of Hayao Miyazaki’s body of work in particular — not only for the pleasing visuals but also for their layered storytelling and strong social commentary. I’d recommend all of his films, but of the ones I’ve seen, this is probably my favorite. I love the feelings of childhood innocence, wonder and amusement it evokes.
– France Villarta, TED Talk: The gender-fluid history of the Philippines

The Biggest Little Farm
This is a beautiful documentary about a farm that was inspired by a dog. Watching it reminds me of what a diverse community looks like. Ripe with all the ups and downs you can imagine, their story shows a promise and resiliency of spirit that is undeniable.
– Shaka Senghor, TED Talk: Why your worst deeds don’t define you

The Intern
The character played by Anne Hathaway owns her own business, which starts off small and grew exponentially in a short period of time. She is so in tune with her business that she tries to do customer service and help with marketing just so she can see her vision come true. She puts so much pressure on herself, yet she can’t stop. I LOVE THIS MOVIE. I feel nourished every time I watch it, because she has it together but she doesn’t have it together — at the same time. Seeing her gives me a sense of comfort that I’m not alone. I can do it all, look crazy doing it, realize I’m not doing it all, learn to ask for help, and have a great story to tell my friends and family. I feel relaxed and inspired when I watch this, and it’s one of my top-five favorite repeated movies.
– Anastasia Penright, TED Talk: 5 steps to remove yourself from drama at work

The Last Black Man in San Francisco
This movie is a visual and emotional love letter to “home,” as it exists in the present moment and in our memories. Writer and star Jimmie Fails took inspiration from his own life growing up in the Bay Area in the 1990s. As another Bay Area ‘90s native, this tale profoundly affected me. I thought of all the “homes” that nourished my upbringing and the one I now spend most of my time in.
– Catie Cuan, TED Talk: Teaching robots how to dance

The Pursuit of Happyness
This Will Smith movie serves as a phenomenal reminder that my life is not as bad as it could be and that happiness is not guaranteed or owed. Life can be unfair, even cruel at times. However, with grit, persistence and the opportunity to continue despite uncertainty, pain and just plain bad luck, attaining moments of happiness is so worth the effort. The movie emphasizes that life is a series of moments — some good and some not so much — but we need to keep pushing forward.
– Rob Cooke, TED Talk: The cost of work stress – and how to reduce it

There are two particular moments in this movie I come back to again and again: when Will Smith talks to his son on the basketball court and tells him not to let anyone — not even him — tell him he can’t do something. And then, of course, the ending.
– Robert Reffkin, TED Original Video: 5 ways to create stronger connections

The Red Turtle
The Red Turtle is such a beautiful movie. It is a simple and moving story about learning to live with nature and the rewards of just letting go. Every time I watch this animated film, it leaves me speechless — quite literally, because there are no words spoken in the movie, just music. I’ve watched it three times while on a plane (I cried every time), and it leaves me with so much gratitude for life.
– Angel Chang, TED Talk: How ancient textiles can help the future

The Secret of Kells
One of my favorite movies of all time, The Secret of Kells is a gorgeous and magical animated film which follows Brendan, a curious young monk-in-training, as he helps an aged scribe produce a book of transcendent beauty in the midst of a very violent world. It moves seamlessly between Christianity and the older religion and gods of Ireland. It’s a great story of hope and love set in a time when it seemed that everything was about to fall apart.
– Phillip Freeman, TED-Ed Lesson: A day in the life of an ancient Celtic Druid

The Times of Harvey Milk
I’ve spent some time in the Bay Area, and I’m fascinated by the openness of the community and its embrace of the LGBTQ cause. This documentary film chronicles the political career and assassination of Harvey Milk, San Francisco’s first openly gay supervisor, and the activism, people and events that helped shape the politics of a nation. It’s aspirational and hopefully, the kind of progress achieved in this corner of the world is something we can replicate in my country.
– France Villarta, TED Talk: The gender-fluid history of the Philippines

The Two Popes
Had I been told at the start of quarantine that I’d find nourishment from the Catholic church, I wouldn’t have believed you. Although I was raised Catholic (hell, was even an altar boy when I was 10!), I became a devout atheist when the hypocrisy of the church did not stand up to even the slightest scrutiny. But here is a film about two wise men: one painted as evil by many but with enough empathy and lack of ego to step out of a role that had only once before been abdicated in almost 1,000 years when he realized he wasn’t the man for the job; the other, kind and humble, who is in the process of dragging an ancient institution into the 21st century. It showed that even such lumbering giants as the church — which has arguably done as much harm as good — can change for the better when the right people are guiding. The takeaway line for me was “The truth is vital, but without love, it is unbearable.” That’s especially true in these times as much of Western society confronts a past that it would rather have brushed under the carpet.
– Oliver Jeffers, TED Talk: An ode to living on Earth

The Watermelon Woman
I recently watched this film, and I was delighted by it. Released in 1996, it was the first feature by and about a black lesbian but it feels more relevant than ever, exploring themes of representation and the ability and power of telling your own story and the importance of having access to be able to do so.
– Shantell Martin, TED Talk: How drawing can set you free

The Toy Story movies
The first Toy Story, released in 1995, was the first entirely computer-animated Hollywood film. Throughout the four Toy Story films, the messages that have stayed with me the most are about the importance of courage, empathy, imagination and the willingness to embrace change. This series also demonstrated the amazing advances of computer graphics technology. The fine detail of the images, such as the backdrop of dust blowing, appear flawless. I’m inspired to see how the innovation which produced such powerful graphic processing chips has made such an enormous impact on the animation industry and the entertainment world as a whole.
– Andrew Ho, TED Talk: How tech is creating new hope for epilepsy patients

Udaan
A poignant and intense coming-of-age story of a teenager named Rohan in an industrial small town in India, Udaan is a film that will unsettle you, deeply move you, and remind you of the resilience of the human spirit. While on the surface it’s a film about an abusive father-son relationship, it subtly explores loneliness, friendship, brotherhood, career choices, fathers versus fatherly figures and much more. It left me inspired and hopeful to lead a fuller, freer life. Bonus: It has a beautiful soundtrack.
– Ananya Grover, TED talk: A campaign for period positivity




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