What music album changed your life? For a while there, weeks into the pandemic, we started a beautiful ritual at The Correspondent with our distributed unbreaking newsroom: we would end a weekly meeting by reading to each other. One person picked up the nearest book they could find, and read from Alice in Wonderland; another read from Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit; one read an Italian nursery tale, while yet another read Beyonce lyrics, to general Zoom uproar.

I contributed one of my favourite recent poems by Hanif Abdurraqib, whose gorgeous anthology I keep by my computer. It’s a piece in which the sweaty bodies at a bustling house party hear the ‘rumour’ that Whitney Houston has died. Then I came across SixEightyTwoOhFive, a site created by the US poet in devotion to album playlists themed by years. Abdurraqib invites writer friends to submit playlists in an effort to "bring back the energy of the blog era," he says.

Start with poet Aricka Foreman’s description of Janet Jackson’s 1993 smash album Janet: "Y’all. Poetic Justice Janet, Maya Angelou’s poems, Regina King’s smart-mouthed fight is how I knew I would write poems. Janet Jackson’s career is a case study for how we might live inside our perpetual evolutions – constantly becoming. Another lesson I’d hold close ... I had a model for what cohesive storytelling as practice looked like. To do, make, change and reapproach."

Nabeelah, conversation editor
68to05: ‘Janet Jackson, Janet’ (reading time: seven minutes)
Our made-up borders and identities National borders have colonised our imagination, creating fears of invasion and cries to build walls. But how is it possible that the world’s 7.8 billion inhabitants are divided up in only some 200 states? Yásnaya Elena Aguilar Gil, a Mixe indigenous writer born within the national borders of Mexico, says that indigenous people living across national borders are a proof of just how made-up maps are.

She takes as an example the sentiment that some Mexicans share of shutting down the country’s southern border to avoid the arrival of Central American migrant caravans. "As an attempt to subvert that terrible narrative, I draw the map of a state – a country – that existed briefly during the nineteenth century and that included, in addition to what we today know to be Mexico, the countries of Central America, where Nahuatl is still widely spoken today. If the huge country I have drawn were to exist now, the current southern border wouldn’t exist, nor would those terrible comments about the migrant caravans. The series of historical events that determined the current silhouette of Mexico also determined what we think of as ‘us’, an artificial ‘us’ that could well have included people born in El Salvador or Guatemala," she writes.

Reading her words, I ask myself: how different is it to feel a belonging to a state that does not take into account indigenous identities, or the statelessness of the Roma people, or Trump’s calls for a physical wall? It is all based on the same usurped, colonial idea of territory, Aguilar Gil says.

Irene, First 1,000 Days correspondent
The Baffler: ‘The map and the territory’ (reading time: 24 minutes)
Don’t win the lottery. It will ruin your life Have you ever thought that winning the lottery would make you happy? This episode of The Happiness Lab (a fantastic podcast by Yale University’s Dr Laurie Santos) will make you think again.

Most events or things that you think will make you really really happy don’t. And most things that you think will tear your life apart really don’t bring you down for that long either. Happiness just isn’t defined by major life events the way we think it is.

Imogen, engagement editor
The Happiness Lab: ‘The unhappy millionaire’ (listening time: 40 minutes)

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