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What's Making Us Happy: A guide to your weekend reading and listening

This week a movie's real-life story took an upsetting turn, Netflix's DVD business decided to go out with a bang, and a film adaptation soared.

Here's what the NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

The Right Sort of Man and other books in the Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery series by Allison Montclair

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Macmillan

The Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery series is a series of books by Allison Montclair — and they're all good. It begins with The Right Sort of Man,set immediately after World War II. The main characters are Gwendolyn Bainbridge, a war widow who's trying to regain custody of her son, and her friend Iris Sparks, who is basically like a codebreaker and spy during the war at Bletchley Park and who's kind of processing her PTSD. They come together because they're starting a marriage bureau called The Right Sort — and their first client gets accused of murder. The mysteries are really tight, and fun, and compelling. I listened to them all on audio, and they worked great that way, but I think they would also read really well and really fast. — Margaret Willison

The Paul F. Tompkins' episode of the Good One podcast

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Vulture

Writer Jesse David Fox covers stand-up comedy for Vulture. On his podcast Good One he interviews comedians about specific jokes or specific bits. If you're at all interested in the craft of stand-up comedy, comedy, or writing in general, it's a great listen. It's been going on for six years now, and he very recently got an interview with Paul F. Tompkins. They deconstruct a bit from Tompkins' 2007 album ImpersonalThe Peanut Brittle Bit — and they go over the enormous range of his career. They talk about why he stepped away from stand-up in favor of improv and podcasts, and also what he's thinking about now as he's preparing to dive back into stand-up. It is a two and a half hour talk. It's somebody who has very candid thoughts and very raw, real emotions that have been thoughtfully processed into insights about the business and the creative life. — Glen Weldon

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

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Macmillan

I recently interviewed the writer John Scalzi at the National Book Festival. One of the things that I read in the run up to this conversation is his 2022 novel, The Kaiju Preservation Society,which is a science fiction adventure book. But as the title suggests, it is basically about a group of people whose job it is to go to the kind of alternate world in which Godzillas exist and take care of them. I have not always been a big science fiction reader, but I have tried really hard to be better about reading across genres. I think frequently about our friendPetra Mayer, who passed in 2021, but who was a big inspiration to me in terms of loving lots, and lots, and lots, of different things. This is a great example of something I wouldn't necessarily have read that I went out of my way to read that I was delighted to find was right up my alley. If you're looking for that fun, snacky adventure book, it is 100% that and I very much enjoyed it. — Linda Holmes

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

I spent an evening with the Netflix romcom Happiness for Beginners this week. The film stars Ellie Kemper and Luke Grimes as two members of a group going on a sort of adult camping excursion (like, camping for adults, not adult camping). Do they fall in love? Yyyyyyyes! It's based on a book by Katherine Center, whose stuff I really like, and if you're a person who likes a weekend watch that goes down easy, I recommend it.

I've been catching up with Only Murders in the Building, which is about a third of the way into its third season. They're making great use of both Paul Rudd and Meryl Streep (as well as the core cast), and if you're a person who likes musical theater, you're going to get a lot out of this season.

Frequent and marvelous PCHH panelist Ronald Young, Jr. has a new podcast out called Weight For It, and there are few people I would trust more to do this work well.


Beth Noveyadapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment "What's Making Us Happy" for the Web. If you like these suggestions, consider signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Margaret Willison
Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.
Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.