Take a Break with Bennington
This holiday season, relax and rewind the year with these notable picks of podcasts, movies, books, and TV shows released in 2023 and featuring work from the Bennington College community.
If you’ve heard of Bennington, you’ve heard of The Secret History.
Author Donna Tartt ‘86 began writing this #BookTok dark academia favorite when she was a student at Bennington, later publishing the book when she was only 29. Bennington readers will appreciate a similarity in setting and style to the world of Tartt’s Hampden College.
For the first time since the book’s original publication in 1992, fans can enjoy listening to Tartt narrate her own work in The Secret History’s audiobook release.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” challenges the late Mary Oliver in her famous poem “The Summer Day.” Oliver was a faculty member at Bennington College from 1996-2001 whose poetic observations and meditations on the natural world earned her both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
In Wild and Precious, narrated by Sophia Bush, a litany of voices respond to the ongoing influence of Oliver and her work, including reflections from her former Bennington students, Summer Brennan ’01, Matthew Phillischer ’00, Emily Popek ’00, and Alexander Westphal ’98.
Published as the second title from Roxane Gay Books, Lush Lives by Bennington College faculty member J. Vanessa Lyon is narrated by Elle Cleviden in its Audible release.
As touted by the publisher, “With beguiling wit and undeniable passion, Lush Lives is a deliciously queer and sexy novel about bold, brilliant women unafraid to take risks and fight for what they love.”
In February 2023, New Hampshire Public Radio’s investigative crime podcast, hosted by senior reporter/producer Jason Moon ’13, returned for its long-awaited second season.
The podcast’s first season boasted over 21 million downloads. In the second, “Sharon Johnson’s family and friends have spent the last 35 years coping with her brutal murder. But what if that story was based on a lie? The man imprisoned for her murder maintains his innocence.”
Touted as the “podcast that gets freshmen to graduation,” this educational podcast hosted by Dr. Shandra L. McDonald helps ease the jarring transition from high school graduate to college freshman by offering wisdom from those who have been there before.
Andreea Coscai ’22 spoke about her experience as an international student at Bennington College during the episode for “From Bucharest to Bennington: Andreea Coscai’s Academic Journey as an International Student in the US.”
Hosted by Atlas Obscura co-founder Dylan Thuras ’04, The Atlas Obscura Podcast is “a short, daily celebration of the world’s strange and wondrous places.”
Recent episodes explore the Aurora, TX, cemetery reported to house a pilot who died in a UFO crash in the 1800s; the Superman tribute museum located in Metropolis, IL; and the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts.
Pushing the boundaries of vocal music, this latest album from the Grammy Award-winning ensemble Roomful of Teeth—of which faculty member Virginia Warnken Kelsey is a part— leads listeners “through the beauty and struggle of language.”
Dana Foote ’18 formed Sir Chloe while at Bennington as part of her senior work. Since then, the band—which includes Teddy O’Mara ’19, Palmer Foote, Emma Welch ’17, and Austin Holmes—has gone on to gain indie rock acclaim.
I Am the Dog is the band’s debut album, and “an attempt at understanding the mayhem that exists both in everyday life and the natural world,” writes Flaunt.
Want to dive into the sounds around Bennington’s campus? Explore work by current Bennington College Music students.
Film & TV
The prequel novel to Suzanne Collins’s New York Times bestselling Hunger Games series makes its silver screen premiere, with an all-star cast including Peter Dinklage ’91.
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is the origin story of Cornelius Snow, president of Panem during the original Hunger Games series and explores the backstory of this bloodsoaked ritual. Dinklage plays Casca Highbottom, dean of the Capitol Academy and creator of the games.
As Grammy Award-winning musician and longtime The Late Show bandleader Jon Batiste attempts to compose a symphony, his wife, bestselling author and journalist Suleika Jaouad MFA ’20, undergoes cancer treatment.
Netflix presents this documentary as “a portrait of two artists at a crossroads and a meditation on art, love and the creative process.”
HBO’s Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning series concluded its four-season run in 2023.
Michelle Matland ’84 is the costume designer for the series, styling the Roys in this “provocative, funny series about a highly dysfunctional dynasty.”
Sitting in Bars with Cake is written by Audrey Shulman ’09 and based on her book by the same name.
This Amazon Original movie is inspired by Shulman’s own experience searching for love (and sharing many a dessert) by bringing cakes to share in Los Angeles bars, with the hope of attracting prospective suitors.
Justin Theroux ’91 co-stars alongside Woody Harrelson in this HBO limited series, which imagines the behind-the-scenes of the 1972 Watergate scandal.
Theroux plays FBI agent and lawyer G. Gordon Liddy, who, alongside Harrelson’s E. Howard Hunt, organized the burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters, which unwittingly led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974.
In 2023, Bennington undergraduate and Bennington Writing Seminars alumni and faculty members published more than 20 nationally reviewed books. Their writing spanned a wide range of genres from nonfiction essays, memoirs, and biographies to novels, poetry, young adult literature, and short stories.
With such a wide range to highlight, the 2023 books of Bennington deserved their own feature. Find your next read.