The ever-growing glut of great new TV, movies, books, music, comics, and podcasts can be a lot to keep up with. So we here at Vox Culture — where our current obsessions include the latest true crime TV series, a satirical novel about a Brooklyn mom on the lam, and an engrossing step team documentary — have a few suggestions for how to make the best use of your pop culture–consuming time.
Here are seven items to consider for your pop culture queue.
Watch: Manhunt: Unabomber is surprisingly compelling puzzle TV
The success of The People v. O.J. Simpson in 2016 has led to the floodgates opening for true crime docudramas, because there are more crime tales than there are film crews to make them. Discovery Channel’s entry into this format is Manhunt, whose first season centers on the mid-’90s hunt for Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber.
It has Paul Bettany turning up the creepy charisma as Kaczynski and a seriously gifted ensemble cast (including Chris Noth and Keisha Castle Hughes) playing the FBI agents chasing him; the series doesn’t have the depth of O.J., but it’s hard to look away from all the same. And it has something almost as compelling as the earlier series’ look at how the Simpson trial predicted our modern era: a “play along at home” puzzle aspect, as a team of agents led by Jim Fitzgerald (Avatar’s Sam Worthington) scrambles to deduce who the Unabomber is from obscure clues left in his manuscript.
Even though you know how this one’s going to end, you might not know the whole backstory, which makes for a compelling watch. New episodes air Tuesdays at 10 pm on Discovery, with prior episodes available on the network’s website. —Todd VanDerWerff
Read: The latest from Tana French, Our Lady of Thoughtful Thrillers, is now out in paperback
There’s a bit of a cult around Tana French, and once you read one of her books, it’s easy to see why: They are so engrossing, so smart and suspenseful all at once, that when you’ve finished one, you have to read the other five.
French writes crime novels centered on a group of detectives on Dublin’s murder squad. Her six books are loosely connected, taking place in a shared universe with a few recurring characters popping up from book to book, but you can read them in any order you please. And now that her latest, The Trespasser, is out in paperback, there’s no reason not to start from the end and work backward. —Constance Grady
Watch: Step is a crowd-pleasing documentary that’s about so much more than dance
Amanda Lipitz’s Step takes as its framing device the competitive season of a high school step team in Baltimore, but the story it tells within that frame is about much more than the highly rhythmic, footwork-focused dance style. Set at a leadership academy for black girls whose first senior class is about to graduate — and where the goal is to achieve a 100 percent college acceptance rate among those seniors — Step focuses on the challenges and expectations facing three of the step team’s founding members who are about to embark on the rest of their lives.
Amid entertaining practice sessions and a couple of grin-inducing competitive stepping performances, Step paints a picture of the effort that goes into achieving excellence in the face of apathy, poverty, and violence (the specter of Freddie Gray hangs heavy over Step, which was filmed in Gray’s neighborhood shortly after he died in police custody). But the movie is far from didactic, opting instead for a fly-on-the-wall approach that allows viewers to naturally connect with, root for, and find inspiration in its charismatic subjects. —Genevieve Koski
Read: The Misfortune of Marion Palm is a darkly comic debut novel
Marion Palm is not a thief. She is a woman who embezzles. And now she’s on the lam.
Marion Palm has spent the past few years as an ordinary Brooklyn mom, living in a beautiful brownstone with her wealthy intellectual husband, and their two precocious children. But what no one knows is that she’s been slowly siphoning money away from the expensive private school where she works part time — nothing anyone would notice unless they went looking for it, just a little here and there.
It’s not that she’s greedy. But she grew up poor, and she knows her husband doesn’t have as much money as he thinks he does. Besides, she worked hard to embezzle that money. It’s hers by right, if you think about it.
But then the school gets audited. And Marion isn’t about to stick around and wait for the cops to find her. The resulting tale is a perverse and funny satire of the foibles of Brooklyn literati, with Marion — cool, determined, kleptomaniac Marion — as the unforgettable center. —CG
Read: Redlands is the horror comic book you’ve been waiting for
It’s hard to tell who you’re supposed to root for in Redlands, a new comic by Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa Del Rey. It’s either the corrupt, lynch-happy cops running the small Florida town of Redlands or the terrifying, homicidal, head-severing witches they’ve pissed off. Bellaire and Del Rey have created a story that’s frightening but also mordantly satisfying and, even with blood and heads being lopped off, its own kind of beautiful. Redlands is the next great horror comic, and if AMC, FX, or any other TV network is looking for a big new horror series to adapt (see: The Walking Dead), they should be paying attention to the nightmare Bellaire and Del Rey are weaving. —Alex Abad-Santos
Read: Prepare for the upcoming solar eclipse by reading Annie Dillard’s classic 1982 essay “Total Eclipse”
“This was the universe about which we have read so much and never before felt: the universe as a clockwork of loose spheres flung at stupefying, unauthorized speeds,” the great Annie Dillard wrote in her classic nonfiction essay about experiencing a 1979 solar eclipse in Washington. “Total Eclipse” quickly took its place among the iconic works of American writing, for the way it captures the terror, the wonder, and the strange mystery of such an event — and now the Atlantic has republished the essay in advance of the upcoming total solar eclipse that will be viewable from the US on August 21. It’s worth revisiting, not just to remember what an eclipse is like but to remember how small we really are in the universe. —Alissa Wilkinson
Read: Robert Pattinson answers very few questions for GQ, but paints an interesting picture regardless
Taffy Brodesser-Akner is one of our great celebrity profile writers — you may remember her as the woman who shared Tom Hiddleston’s Bolognese recipe with the world, or who broke the story that Don Lemon pronounces the t in sorbet. She has an eye for the single, telling detail that makes a celebrity seem touching or sad or buffoonish or likable, the detail that makes you feel like you know them because you read her profile.
So as Brodesser-Akner leaves GQ for the New York Times (she wrote that story about Weight Watchers that was widely shared last week), her last GQ stories are slowly trickling out. And at the top of the pile is her profile of poor Robert Pattinson, who is clearly still psychologically scarred from the years he spent as Edward Cullen in the Twilight film franchise.
The signature Brodesser-Akner detail? Pattinson is obsessed with finding something to do with her that will leave them both incapable of finishing their interview, because he deeply and profoundly does not want to answer questions for a national magazine. He would rather do a fecal matter transplant. —CG