This is Allens

Entertain me

Is there any greater gift than an enthusiastic recommendation? We think not. Here are the books, series, podcasts, films and music we love so much they have to be shared.

What Nicky Friedman is reading, watching and listening to

My reading Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc – this book is the product of the writer's nine-year immersion in a poor neighbourhood in the Bronx. She doesn't just empathise with the characters; she knows them and understand their lives – the complexity, the chaos, the love and the conflict. To read this is to understand something of a completely different world and to question so many assumptions we make.

The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn – this epic tale of one man's search for relatives lost during the Holocaust reads almost like poetry - a Homeresque tale of the mystery and suspense involved in a decade-long quest to answer a simple question – what happened to the people in the photo? By scaling the loss of six million down to one group of six family members, Mendelsohn captures the horror that huge statistics can obscure.

When will there be Good News by Kate Atkinson – this is part of the Jackson Brodie series by English writer Atkinson. These books are light-hearted, well-constructed, layered mysteries with a highly likeable PI who stumbles into crime scenes and resolves them all with charm and good, honest common sense.

My listening I am devoted to two Slate podcasts. First, the Political Gabfest, a weekly discussion of American politics with three super clever and knowledgeable presenters. Listening to this makes you feel smart. Secondly, the Culture Gabfest, same format but a discussion of three cultural products a week (a movie, a tv show, an album, an essay). This one makes you feel cultured or sometimes, woefully ignorant but it's always fun.

My watching I loved The Bureau – a nail-biting, eyes-covering French spy show with a great cast and script which is, to my totally uninformed view, realistic as far as spy shows go. Don't be deterred by the subtitles or the five season run; it's worth it.

Dominie Banfield's reading and listening recommendations

Books A piece of advice I had from my psychologist was to keep a mental library of books on 'ways I've dealt with challenges in the past'. When I find myself panicking or getting agitated at someone or something, I stop and take a book 'down from the shelf' and read about how I was able to manage a similar situation in the past. It helps me stay calm and confident that I will be able to navigate my way through whatever is going on. So, imaginary books! And The Great Gatsby, of course.

Podcasts I'm obsessed by podcasts, particularly on baseball – Effectively Wild is the best – and US politics – Fivethirtyeight highly recommended. They are a balm that stops me over-thinking about myself as I focus instead on why everyone hates the Astros.

Music Music can be tough if you are prone to melancholy – some combinations of lyrics and music can make a sad day much, much worse, but I endorse strongly How I Got Over by Aretha Franklin, if you need to be lifted up.

Zac Thompson's recommended reading, listening and watching for Mental Health Month

Books Leviathan: The Unauthorised Biography of Sydney by John Birmingham – I have been engrossed by John Birmingham's chaotic and ugly history of Sydney. I didn't think reading about the city's flukes, paradoxes and injustices would deepen my affection for the harbour-city, but it really has. 

The Insider by Christopher Pyne – I love drama of all kinds but political dramas are a weakness of mine. I am dying to read about some of the biggest twists and turns in Canberra from the perspective of the brutally witty and notorious 'fixer'. 

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst – a gift from a workmate at Allens, this Man Booker-prize winning novel was my slow burn last summer. It tells the story of a gay man from humble origins anxiously navigating the upper echelons of Thatcherite London while the stigma of the AIDS crisis looms in the background. It's profoundly moving, tragic, and beautifully written. 

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith – the book I have read a thousand times, because it is just so good. Only a queer woman such as Highsmith could create a character like Tom Ripley, an anti-hero so tormented by his own identity that he is willing to kill to reinvent himself as someone more acceptable in the eyes of society. If you get hooked on Highsmith, I also recommend René Clément's 1960 film adaptation Plein Soleil which is probably my all-time favourite film.

Film Orlando – Sally Potter's beautiful and quirky adaptation of Virginia Woolf's time- and gender-subversive play is spellbinding and Jimmy Somerville's score is brilliant. Highly recommended if you're after something different in a Sunday arvo film.

Podcast Stories From Sydney – this podcast is researched and presented by an old uni friend, and I really enjoy how it delves into the weird and often miraculous backstories from Sydney's past. As we're not travelling anywhere soon, it's nice to learn new things about familiar places and see them in a different light.