Books and Binge-Watching: What We Did This Summer

L-R: Sr. Patricia Evanick, D.C. ’97GEd; Christine Horstman; Monique Jernigan; and Jason T. Bartlett, Ph.D.

L-R: Sr. Patricia Evanick, D.C. ’97GEd; Christine Horstman; Monique Jernigan; and Jason T. Bartlett, Ph.D.

September 2, 2020

The summer of 2020 was certainly a summer like no other. Social distancing protocols and travel restrictions put a damper on most vacation plans, while a series of heat waves in July found people throughout the New York metropolitan area moving indoors in search of air-conditioned spaces.

Fortunately, e-readers and TV streaming services offer a virtually unlimited library of books and programming for those seeking entertainment from the comfort of home. We asked members of the St. John’s community to tell us about their choices for summer reading and binge-watching over the past few months.  

At the top of the reading list for Sr. Patricia Evanick, D.C. ’97GEd, Campus Minister for Faith Formation and Leadership, was Dreams Come True: Discovering God's Vision for Your Life by James R. Walters, Ed.D. A familiar face on the University’s Queens, NY, campus, Dr. Walters is Director of Residence Ministry and Catholic Scholars.

“My favorite book was Dreams Come True,” said Sr. Evanick. “I work with Jimmy, and his book is amazing and such an incredible gift to us all!”

Among her other favorite reads were The Other America: Poverty in the United States by Michael Harrington; Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis; Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini; Deadly Cross and Blindside by James Patterson; In the Company of Jesus by Rev. James Martin, S.J.; Fair Warning by Michael Connelly; Thick as Thieves by Sandra Brown; Paranoia by Joseph Finder; and Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity by Ronald Rolheiser.

When she was not absorbed in a book, Sr. Evanick found time to relax by binging on a wide range of programs, including The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Clue, Swamp People, Jack Ryan, Father Brown, The Crown, The Great British Baking Show, and Call the Midwife.

Like many people, Christine Horstman’s summer plans were put on hold due to the pandemic. The Director of Communications in the Office of Enrollment Management postponed trips to Maine and visits to family, and the Guns N’ Roses concert she was looking forward to was rescheduled for 2021.

In lieu of reading any books this summer, Ms. Horstman has pursued her passion for writing. “I have been able to devote more time to writing my book,” she said. “The working title is Precious Boy, and it details my 33-year quest for truth about a crime that happened 85 years ago in New York City that involved my great-uncle.”

She also enjoyed binging on a wide range of series, including Dead to Me, The Politician, Psych, Broadchurch, and Chopped.

Monique Jernigan, Executive Director, Office of Multicultural Affairs, and Director of the Inclusivity Resource Center, spent much of the summer reading titles that explore the subjects of race, inclusivity, and injustice, including How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi; White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo, Ph.D.; Inclusive Leadership: The Definitive Guide to Developing and Executing an Impactful Diversity and Inclusion Strategy by Charlotte Sweeney and Fleur Bothwick; and So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.

How to Be an Antiracist is my favorite because of the concrete language Mr. Kendi uses to examine the constructs of racism and white supremacy,” she said. “More specifically, I liked the easy-to-use tools he provides for us all to be antiracist—from holding ourselves accountable and acknowledging when we have contributed to racist ideas to dismantling racist ideas and policies.”

Despite reading a long list of titles this summer, Ms. Jernigan found time to binge-watch a number of popular shows, including Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness; Ozark; The Handmaid’s Tale; How to Get Away with Murder; and Hanna. “I was really into Tiger King,” she said. “I love animals and unique characters like Joe Exotic. It felt like a mixture between Animal Planet, a crime/murder-mystery, and a reality show.”

While people around the world spent the summer months settling into new schedules and routines, Jason T. Bartlett, Ph.D., Associate Director of Residence Life on the Staten Island, NY, campus, adjusted to life as a new father—an event that involved a unique binge-watching experience.

“My wife and I welcomed our first daughter, Claire, in May,” he said. “When it was time for an early-morning feeding or diaper change, Claire and I took in every episode of the original The Twilight Zone.”

He continued, “I have watched The Twilight Zone many times before. My brothers and I used to host viewing marathon sessions around New Year’s. It was a thrill to welcome Claire into a Bartlett family tradition.”

The Bartlett family also enjoys streaming episodes of New Girl on Netflix. “New Girl is hysterical,” he said. “It has been a much-needed antidote to these strange times we live in.”

Dr. Bartlett also found some much-needed solace by reading works of fiction and biographies, including News of the World by Paulette Jiles; The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner; The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury by Sam Weller; If It Bleeds by Stephen King; and The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s by William I. Hitchcock.

“The Bradbury biography was a wonderful read,” he said. “It was very informative and expertly researched. You really got to know Bradbury by the end of the book.”

The cancellation of concerts this summer was a disappointment to Dr. Bartlett, too, who had planned to attend two shows by the band Pearl Jam. “I had tickets to shows in Maryland and New York City,” he said. “Sadly, they are postponed indefinitely.”

With live concerts eliminated from his calendar, Dr. Bartlett took a “retro” approach to bring much-needed music back into his life. “No concert season meant that vinyl was in heavy rotation,” he said. “Viva la vinyl!”