#1 Rage by Bob Woodward
There has long been a familiar rhythm to a Woodward book launch: a splashy excerpt in the Post, a dishy drip-drip-drip of you-were-there anecdotes, the ensuing DC-insider speculation about the identities of the legendary reporter’s anonymous tipsters. But this time, some of the most shocking material comes from a source who was actually on the record: Trump himself. The President, who sat for 18 interviews with Woodard for the book, was calling Rage FAKE on Twitter even before the damning specifics started to trickle out.
#2 Soul Love Now: The Black Fire Records Story, 1975–1993, Various Artists
This ten-track compilation documents the late Black Fire Records, a DC label devoted to capturing Afrocentric sounds. The vibe here is more wind chimes than congas, but you can still hear the roots of go-go. Perhaps the biggest treat is Experience Unlimited’s “People,” a groovy slice of astral soft rock that couldn’t be further from their 1988 hit “Da Butt.”
#3 What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era by Carlos Lozada
Few people have read more books about the Trump era than Lozada. The Washington Post’s nonfiction book critic perused 150-plus titles about the Trump administration for this work of critical analysis, sorting them into categories that he gives names such as “Chaos Chronicles” and “Heartlandia.” No matter who wins in November, “What were we thinking?” will be a pertinent question for years.
#4 Wonder Woman 1984*
The familiar superhero has long been a favorite of DC, the comic-book company. Now she’ll also be a favorite of DC, the nation’s capital. Much of this new film—which is set in the ’80s and stars Gal Gadot—was shot around Washington. The production reportedly took pains to accurately portray the Reagan-era city, going so far as to bring back the Commander Salamander store for a scene shot in Georgetown.
#5 “iPhone,” Rico Nasty
Raised in Prince George’s County, Rico Nasty is an in-demand rapper who will release an eagerly awaited album, Nightmare Vacation, sometime this year. In August, she shared this infectiously sing-songy track, with blown-out production courtesy of Dylan Brady from the duo 100 gecs. It’s perfect for a backyard barbecue, but maybe don’t invite her if you’re worried about Covid? She boasts on the track about “smoking so much gas I forgot to put my mask on.”
#6 Reaganland: America’s Right Turn 1976–1980 by Rick Perlstein
After writing three prior books on the rise of the conservative movement in the US, Perlstein is well equipped to explore how Ronald Reagan transformed himself into one of the 20th century’s most influential politicians. This book covers the crucial four years between Reagan’s failed bid for the White House and his subsequent ascendancy.
#7 Late Era
On this new audio series from the brain trust behind Welcome to Chicago—a podcast that analyzes, for no good reason, the massive recorded output of the “Saturday in the Park” band—three music writers dissect albums from major artists such as Neil Young and Miles Davis. The catch: They’re interested only in much-reviled latter-day work from these giants, which leads to funny and insightful conversations about, say, the Bob Dylan lowlight Under the Red Sky.
#8 My Life as a Villainess by Laura Lippman
Superfans of Lippman the crime novelist and Lippman the Twitter personality—particularly women—will dig her foray into memoir. In essays that go behind the scenes of her split from the Baltimore Sun, her coupling with its star crime writer (David Simon), her pride in being the old mom of a young kid, and beyond, she’s gleefully brassy and laugh-out-loud funny.
#9 Nice White Parents
Serial is still best known for its first season, a deep dive into the conviction of Maryland man Adnan Syed. But since then, the podcast has continued to do vital—if less viral—work, with the third season, which vividly illuminates flaws in our criminal-justice system, hitting especially hard. Now comes this five-part series, an incisive look at race and schools that’s hosted and reported by Chana Joffe-Walt.
#10 The Comey Rule
Jeff Daniels stars as the embattled former FBI chief in this not-exactly-timely Showtime drama based on James Comey’s 2018 book. Will viewers really want to relive these events in miniseries form? Is there any good reason to rehash this stuff given the world-shaking developments that have long since eclipsed Comey’s revelations? To what extent will orange makeup and a bad wig transform Irish actor Brendan Gleeson into Trump?
Wonder Woman was delayed after this went to press.
This article originally appeared in the October, 2020 issue.