Sara Pascoe is a comedian and actor born in 1981 in Dagenham, east London. She began performing standup in 2007 and made her Edinburgh festival fringe debut in 2010 with the critically acclaimed Sara Pascoe Vs Her Ego. She regularly appears on TV panel shows and her show LadsLadsLads, about a romantic breakup, was broadcast in a BBC Two special. Pascoe’s first book, Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body, was published in 2016 and her latest, Sex Power Money, which explores human evolution, sexual representation and wealth, is out in paperback on 20 August.
I’m 39, don’t have any children, and this is the first time I’ve read anything about motherhood that didn’t bore me. It’s a memoir and I actually found the accidental pregnancy that Heawood describes so viscerally really aspirational. She goes into great detail. She likens the birth to being high in a club with music throbbing through you. Her due date was 11 September, so she gets a couple of chapters out of that. She had to go through some really hard times. The father didn’t meet her daughter until she was seven. So it’s all really unconventional but laugh-out-loud funny.
I heard about this because it won the best true crime podcast at this year’s British podcast awards. It’s about an almost 40-year-old case of two backpackers from Manchester who turn up drowned in Guatemala after helping someone move a yacht. It looks at why the guy who was eventually charged with murdering them [Silas Duane Boston] wasn’t found until 2016. The presenters interviewed his sons, who were on the boat when he did it, and there’s also an episode about how they think he worked with Joseph James DeAngelo, the Golden State Killer. Usually a podcast has one arc, but you can tell that as they were researching, it became weirder and weirder and that other people who spent time with Boston went missing. It’s incredible journalism.
This is about legalised slavery via the incarceration system in America. Much of it is so shocking that it doesn’t feel like it could be true. I always knew that the American prison system was bad, but it’s so bad that it stayed in my peripheral vision, because I couldn’t absorb that this is how the world has been structurally built. You almost think “that wouldn’t be allowed” and I think that’s probably the biggest frustration for black people. It’s not even wilful ignorance, but people who see themselves as “good people” can accidentally deny other people’s real experiences because they want to feel like the world is a better place than it actually is. I had no idea that the police in America started as a slave patrol. It’s important knowing where these things come from and that it’s not hypothetical, and that it’s based on racism.
This novel about Hillary and Bill Clinton is astonishing. It’s imaginary, but Curtis Sittenfeld has obviously done huge amounts of research on Hillary. She really makes you fall in love with Bill, who is so charismatic – a Yale student with a beard. When he started to cheat, it felt like I’d been punched in the heart. Bill had the most famous affair in the world, and if you were a straight woman in a monogamous relationship, Hillary staying with him didn’t make sense. But this novel gives such a human explanation for something that a lot of us from the outside couldn’t understand. It shows how overachieving people can still feel not good enough.
5. Live stream
Abandoman is a famous Edinburgh comedian who sells out shows. He does improvised hip-hop, and early in lockdown he started doing nightly shows on Instagram. The first time I watched it, it was like a party – you saw him taking suggestions and the music was great. It just cheered me up so much. He’s moved it over to Twitch now and it’s free. It’s not a poor man’s version of a gig, it’s incredibly funny and it actually works so well on the internet.
Michaela Coel has made something so timely. It’s not purely comedy and it’s not purely drama. I think it’s genre-breaking, and a real debate about consent. It’s a mystery in which the viewer knows as much as the central character, who is a writer. One night, she goes out drinking, but there’s this sense that we’ve missed a chunk of the evening as she wakes up the next morning and starts to have flashbacks. Over the first couple of episodes, she’s trying to fill in what happened that night. It’s gritty realism. I hadn’t realised it was based on a personal experience. I couldn’t be more astounded or have more respect for her.
• To order Sex Power Money by Sara Pascoe go to guardianbookshop.com