1. Read The Never List
Koethi Zan’s buzzed-about first novel is the horror story of two girls held in a dungeonlike basement. Could be the next Gone Girl; could merely keep you up all night at your vacation house.
Pamela Dorman Books.
2. Watch The Best of ‘Fridays’Is that …? Yes, it is.
Remember ABC’s eighties attempt to beat Saturday Night Live at its own game? The result was uneven (much like SNL), but when it was funny, it was very funny—and the cast included Larry David and Michael Richards, plus anarchic guest spots by Andy Kaufman. Shout! Factory, $31.98, August 6.
Theater3. See The Castle
Yonder it lies.
After their scorching, flawless Victory two seasons ago, the Potomac Theatre Project returns with another underperformed Howard Barker classic, a play that follows a group of crusaders home to a radically changed England. The great Jan Maxwell top-lines once again. —Scott Brown At the Atlantic Stage 2, through August 4.
4. Read The Cuckoo’s Calling
By “Robert Galbraith.”
Clearly, the book to read right now is The Cuckoo’s Calling, a critically acclaimed crime novel by British military man Robert Galbraith—who, as the world learned last week, is in fact J. K. Rowling in nom-de-plume drag. Good for her—but good luck finding a copy. When the news broke, the book rocketed its way right over the top of the Amazon best-seller list and out of stock. I’ve been assured that 12 billion new copies are being shipped imminently. —Kathryn Schulz Mulholland Books.
This is a play.
Julien Schwab’s crafty, poignant playlet is a small, cool gem in the miasma of summer: Tom has written the play we’re watching, and his sister Penny is trying to get their brother Roger to show up and end his long estrangement from Tom. Roger’s in the audience, with us, and he’s not amused by metatheater. From there, it’s down the rabbit hole, and if the hole kind of bends back on itself, that’s part of the point—family as an endless emotional recursion, where the lines between love, acting, and self-deception dissolve. —S.B.
At HERE, through August 24.
6. Watch Top Chef Masters
The staff gets involved.
Whether you love-watch or hate-watch the definitive American competitive-cooking series, it’s unmissable TV. Season five brings in another thirteen competitors, and this year there’s a new wrinkle: an online sidebar, Battle of the Sous Chefs, which pits the contestants’ right-hand men and women against one other. The sous-chef showdowns affect the main race, conferring immunity or adding obstacles by their outcome. —Matt Zoller Seitz
Bravo, July 24, 10 p.m.
7. Hear Bob Dylan
Plus Wilco, Ryan Bingham, and Beck.
Dylan in concert can be sublime one evening, ridiculous the next, dead boring the night after that. Here’s some advice: Focus on the vocals—or the way the old coot deploys his weather-beaten wheeze to find new avenues through that legendary songbook. —Jody Rosen
Jones Beach, July 27, 5:30 p.m.
Life going somewhere.
David N. Meyer’s book is a good solid reminder that the hair-and-sequins caricature was unfair to this interesting Brit band, who, in the course of a long career (of which disco was merely one phase), were asked to run up a few songs for that “little movie” about a Brooklyn disco.
Da Capo Press.
9. See Blackfish
Not so cute.
When a performing whale named Tilikum dragged a trainer to her death before horrified customers of Orlando’s SeaWorld, it wasn’t a freak tragedy. Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s grim documentary, aided by former employees who’ve risked their careers, reveals these mammals’ frighteningly unnatural captive lives. SeaWorld has hired itself a PR team to throw up a squid-ink screen. Ignore it, and see the film. —D.E.
In theaters now.
10. See The Canyons
LiLo plus Schrader: The movie did get made.
It hasn’t been screened, and who the hell knows how Paul Schrader’s sex-drenched psychodrama starring Lindsay Lohan will turn out? A New York Times Magazine feature confirmed our snarkiest ideas about Lohan’s trajectory, but once upon a time she was an easy, authentic, irresistibly charming actress. And Schrader never takes the easy road. Minds open, please. —D.E.
11. Look at Prospect Park: Olmsted & Vaux’s Brooklyn Masterpiece
The book of the borough’s backyard.
A big, lusciously photographed volume that’s destined to be the Brooklyn house gift of the year. Princeton Architectural Press
12. See Computer Chess
Director (and father of “mumblecore”) Andrew Bujalski is slyer than his critics give him credit for. His Computer Chess is a shapely comedy that begins in a dreary naturalistic mode. The setting is a chess match between primitive software programs circa 1980, and the film jumps among dorky designers as they watch their machines make a hash of the game. But something mischievous begins to creep in, and by the end Bujalski has you wondering which machines are more primitive—computers or humans? —D.E.
In theaters now.