Set in the near future, after an airborne disease has wiped out much of the population of the planet, Station Eleven (2014) follows a troupe of traveling musicians and actors as they migrate from town to town to put on shows. The plot bounces back and forth in time describing the first days of the pandemic then returning to the future, showing the evolution of the characters. Emily St. John Mandel skillfully brings these seemingly disparate storylines together as the main characters converge in the end.
A man is pulled from the ocean by a fishing boat. He is riddled with bullet holes but somehow still alive. He has no recollection of who he is or what he was doing, yet he has advanced combat skills and can speak several languages. A laser projector found with him gives the only clue: a safe deposit box number in Zurich. After he goes to the bank to retrieve the contents of the box, very dangerous people begin trying to kill him, and he expertly evades them. Can he remember who he is before it is too late?
The Bourne Identity (2002, PG-13) is the first action-packed movie in the Bourne series starring Matt Damon (and based on the novel of the same name by Robert Ludlum). Watch the entire series by checking out "The Bourne Series" binge box, which includes The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Legacy, and Jason Bourne.
This classic novel is a page turner from start to finish. The beauty of To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) is that it is told from the point of view of six-year-old Jean Louise Finch (nicknamed Scout), whose curiosity and confusion about the racial injustice she sees all around her serve to highlight and call into question these horrible racial biases. The main storyline follows Scout's father, Atticus, a lawyer who has been appointed by the judge to defend a black man accused of rape. The fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, in the early 1930s serves as the backdrop with a multitude of characters, young and old, each with their own prejudices.
Beyond the major theme, the book is about growing up and parenting in a particular place and time. Harper Lee's novel explores the human condition exposing the flaws of even the protagonists, who have their own biases.
If you liked this book, check out our list of read-alikes.
Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) is the coolest kid in his suburban school, and he has decided to take a day off with his best friend and girlfriend. After scheming their way out of attending school for the day, they sneak into Chicago for an adventure. Everything seems to go Ferris's way, but the principal is on to him and determined to put an end to the fun. This John Hughes film, with Ferris's signature soliloquies, is a classic 80s comedy.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986, PG-13) is part of the "1980s Radical Adventures" binge box along with E.T., Ghostbusters, Goonies, and Better Off Dead. And for more films set in Chicago, check out our list Location: Chicago.
Set in Australia, Big Little Lies (2014) starts with a dead body at trivia night attended by all the parents of the elementary students. Was it murder? Liane Moriarty creates suspense, then goes back in time and skillfully guides the reader full circle to return to this moment. It follows three women, each with a secret, whose lives converge when their children attend the same kindergarten. The book is about fitting in, being a parent, the interpersonal lives of women, and the little lies we live with every day. By the end, you will become attached to these characters.
Read the ebook or listen to the audiobook on Overdrive. After you read the book, check out the TV show adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, and Zoe Kravitz. Big Little Lies. Season 1 follows the book, and season 2 goes beyond.
Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) have decided to leave the small, isolated town of "Perfection" for greener pastures. Unfortunately, they are a little too late. There's something under the ground, and it's killing people one by one. Now they are trapped. This comedy-horror film will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Tremors (1990, PG-13) also stars Michael Gross and Reba McEntire. This film is available on DVD in the Binge Box "Funny and Scary Collection" along with Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Cabin in the Woods, and What We Do in the Shadows.
Willa Cather's My Antonia (1918) describes growing up in frontier Nebraska during the end of the eighteenth century. It is told from the point of view of ten-year-old orphan Jim Burden, who leaves Virginia to live with his paternal grandparents. He soon befriends Antonia Shimerda, who lives on the next farm, and they go on adventures that are indelibly etched into their memories. They grow up together and become lifelong friends, keeping in touch even after Jim moves east, eventually settling in New York. When he comes to visit later in life, Antonia has aged considerably, but despite her change in appearance, she is still the dear friend he remembers.
This gem has a script that is so well written, you could almost close your eyes and just listen to the movie and come away entertained by the romantic comedy. Dexter (Cary Grant) shows up a few days before his rich ex-wife Tracy's (Katharine Hepburn) wedding to George Kittredge (John Howard) with two tabloid reporters, Mike (James Stewart) and Liz (Ruth Hussey), in tow. Dexter, a recovering alcoholic, confronts Tracy about her role in their divorce, while she belittles him for his addiction. The movie exhibits a series of sharp-witted confrontations between Dexter and Tracy, but beneath the seeming malice is a deep-seated love they still feel for one another. Will she go through with wedding another man?
The Philadelphia Story (1940) is a must-see for the star-studded cast alone. You can find it in the "Weddings—Classic Films" binge box along with The Bride Came C.O.D., The Father of the Bride, and Princess O'Rourke. And for more classic romantic comedies, check out our lists that cover the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
Clay lost his Silicon Valley job due to the recession and takes a job at an unusual bookstore, working odd hours. The few customers that patronize the store are a curious bunch and seem to return again and again without buying anything, but rather check out very old books. He soon discovers a pattern to the activity which leads to a 500-year-old mystery.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (2012) by Robin Sloan is a fun read, with elements of suspense and mystery, plus plenty of quirky characters. For those who like to listen, narrator Ari Flakos sets the tone just right. Listen to the audiobook or read the ebook on Overdrive.
We have an entire list of Books for Book Lovers—check it out!
John McClane (Bruce Willis), currently separated from his wife, is an NYPD cop invited to her company Christmas party in a Los Angeles skyscraper. When terrorists seize the building and a group of hostages, McClane is their only chance of escape. Die Hard (1988, R) sets the standard for action/hostage movies and catapulted Willis into becoming an action hero movie megastar. Also starring Alan Rickman as his nemesis. Get the "Die Hard Collection" binge box to watch the entire series. It is also featured in the "Christmas Gone Wrong" binge box.
The Age of Miracles (2012) is beautifully told from the point of view of eleven-year-old Julia. As the Earth's rotation slows, it has unintended and dire consequences for all life on the planet. Meanwhile, Julia is already grappling with all the complexities of being a pre-teen girl, including a crush on a boy, falling out with close friends, and strained relations with her father.
Karen Thompson Walker does an excellent job of putting you in the frame of mind of this young girl, which makes the calamity seem that much more real and heartfelt. Read the ebook or listen to the audiobook on Overdrive.
This is the quintessential Christmas movie that everyone has seen or should see. George Bailey (James Stewart) has seen his life's dreams dashed one after another, and in a moment of despair, contemplates taking his own life. An angel is sent to show George just how different the world would be if he were never born. Check out this timeless classic directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart and Donna Reed.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946, PG) is available as a part of the binge box called "A Classic Christmas Collection" which also includes Christmas in Connecticut, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol, and White Christmas.
Also, take a look at our list of Family Christmas Movies.
In May 1945, a plane took off from an American military base on the perimeter of Netherlands New Guinea en route to buzz the interior. Recently, they had discovered a civilization lost to time that had not had contact with the outside world in thousands of years. To boost morale, one of the officer's greenlighted this sightseeing tour, loaded up the plane with curious personnel, and embarked. Unfortunately, after dipping low into a valley, the plane failed to climb over the next ridge and crashed. Only two men and a woman survived. Injured and surrounded by unfriendly natives, they were stranded. This is the true-life story of the daring rescue mission to extract them from the land that time forgot.
Check out Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II (2011) by Mitchell Zuckoff today. Find the ebook and audiobook on Overdrive. Also browse of list of True Adventure titles.
Set in a post-apocalyptic future, The Road (2006) follows a father and his young son heading south on a mostly deserted road, pushing a shopping cart with all their belongings. Any human they encounter is a threat to either steal their food or worse, to eat them as food. Every second is a fight for survival, and barely a page goes by where there is not a description of hunger. The father's sole purpose is to keep his son alive.
I would recommend this Cormac McCarthy title to readers of dystopian fiction.
Check out our list Welcome to Dystopia for more ideas.