This year seems to have turned all of us into amateur epidemiologists, aspiring home-schooling experts and political prognosticators. There is a lot of bad, confusing stuff going on in this world. We see it on TV, we ingest it every time we doom-scroll on Twitter, we try to explain it to our kids and many of us actually live it, one way or another.

The other side of this coin is that there has never been a better market for frothy escapism. Nobody wants to live inside their own head (or inside this crazy world) all the time. Not right now. Certainly not me. And so, I dove headlong into quick reads and mindless TV in a way that I haven’t enjoyed since my breast reduction surgery in 2005, when I nibbled Vicodin and gleefully flipped the pages of Us Weekly as though it were “American Pastoral.”

Right now, there is no shame in gobbling up trashy beach reads like Doritos or zoning out with “Selling Sunset.” Really, we never need an excuse, but this moment truly calls for it. What are you enjoying? Here are my current Jewish-themed recs:

To read: “Big Summer” by Jennifer Weiner


Nobody does relatable empathy as well as longtime chick-lit goddess and Jewish writer Jennifer Weiner, whose humanity and good-natured normality shine through in all of her books. Her heroines are usually a little bit pudgy, a little bit self-conscious and completely down-to-earth (think Anastasia Krupnik for grown-ups). “Big Summer” features Daphne Berg, a Jewish plus-sized Instagram influencer/nanny (most 21st-century job description ever) from the Upper West Side who ends up as a bridesmaid in her ex-best-friend’s socialite wedding on Cape Cod. Then, a murder is committed. And, naturally, Berg must solve it. It’s a little bit unrealistic and veers into Scooby-Doo territory at times, but it’s also wonderfully descriptive (the food alone!) and worth it for the peek into pre-pandemic Manhattan wealth and privilege…a Manhattan that might not exist again for a long time.

To listen: “You Must Remember This”

Hollywood was a hotbed of scandal long before TMZ and Twitter, but most gossip was brushed under the rug or glossed over…until now! “You Must Remember This” is a must-listen for those of us who loved E!’s “Mysteries & Scandals” in the late 1990s. Film historian (and Jew!) Karina Longworth recounts tawdry tales of a bygone Tinseltown, from Cass Elliot’s crash dieting to Charles Manson’s murder sprees to the tortured psychology of tarnished Old Hollywood ice princess Joan “No Wire Hangers” Crawford.

To watch: “Selling Sunset”

This is worth it for the glamorous real estate shots alone, especially while we all crawl the walls of our own homes. The Netflix original follows Jewish twin brothers Jason and Brett Oppenheim and their troupe of catty, back-biting realtors as they peddle Beverly Hills mansions to affluent, often mind-bogglingly vapid buyers (how did they get so wealthy?). Think “Real Housewives” mixed with HGTV, with a little bit of throwback “Beverly Hills 90210” for good measure. It’s the perfect laundry-folding, cooking-dinner show.

What are your guilty pleasures these days?