Everything Our Editors Loved in August
‘The White Lotus,’ ‘Ted Lasso,’ and the harrowing tale of a shipwreck
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Fall is just around the corner, and luckily Outside editors have no shortage of TV recommendations for the chilly nights ahead—from the season’s most talked about HBO show to a smart docuseries about couples therapy. If your Netflix queue is already full, we have plenty of new music and old books to suggest, too. Here’s everything we loved last month.
What We Read
Soon after the pandemic began in 2020, I started a new habit of taking regular walks in my neighborhood, leading to my discovery of three Little Free Libraries within a few blocks of my home. They’ve since become my go-to sources for great reads. The latest: The Lifeboat, by Charlotte Rogan. This 2012 novel was a New York Times bestseller—and rightfully so—but I’d completely overlooked it when it came out. It centers on the survivors of a fictional Titanic-era shipwreck in the Atlantic, who cram into an overloaded lifeboat just before their U.S.-bound ocean liner drops into the sea. Through the eyes of a young widow, whose husband gallantly gave up his chance to be rescued, we watch as she and her slowly starving shipmates descend into rival factions and madness as they endure 21 days adrift. Eventually, several fellow passengers are sacrificed to the sea, and though the remaining survivors are eventually rescued, they have to answer to the fateful decisions they made. Do the normal laws of morality apply in such a dire situation? Wrestling with those questions is what makes The Lifeboat such a compelling tale. –Chris Keyes, editor in chief
Whether you’re ready to admit it or not, summer is winding down. The kiddos are going back to school, the days are getting shorter, and I wore a puffy to the coffee shop this morning. But while I’ll mourn the end of long, sunny days, I bring tidings of morbid joy: spooky season is almost upon us. In preparation, I turned to Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a foundational text of my favorite ghostly genre, gothic horror. Jackson is a master at creating cavernous mansions that are somehow eerily claustrophobic, and in this novel, we meet the young Mary Katherine, who lives with her sister Constance and uncle Julian in the house where their entire family died. I could tell you more about the plot, but the real allure of reading this book lies in the enchanting, arsenic-laced sweetness of the narration. There’s something unpleasant in the taste, but it won’t stop you from wanting more. —Maren Larsen, associate podcast producer
What We Listened To
August involved a lot of time on the move and a lot of socializing, which meant less time to read, but plenty of time to listen to nice music. I’ve been particularly into the album Actual Life (April 14-December 17, 2020) from UK producer Fred Gibson, known as Fred Again. The music is well-matched to the fizzy excitement of having something like a life again, as well as the weird ache of feeling like I’m not totally sure how to be a person in the world just yet. Produced in quarantine, and drawing on snippets of found speech from friends and strangers alike, the entire thing speaks nicely to the messiness of the collective loss we’ve all been through. It’s equally appropriate for sun-in-the-face, wind-through-the-windows drives and staying up late with friends. Personally, I like “Angie (I’ve Been Lost)” and “Kyle (I Found You)” the most. —Abigail Barronian, associate editor
What We Watched and Otherwise Experienced
The news cycle has been relentless this month, and for my girlfriend and me, the balm to all the bad news has been watching Ted Lasso every evening. Now in the middle of its second season on Apple TV+, the show chronicles the ups and downs of a dysfunctional English football team led by an American coach who knows nothing about soccer. It’s kind of an anti-sports-epic: whether the team wins or loses the game at the end of each episode is inconsequential. The appeal comes from watching Ted Lasso’s relentless positivity and kindness win over the team’s cynical owner and hostile players, and from seeing the characters move toward becoming better versions of themselves. Yes, it’s really that wholesome, but it’s also extremely well written and acted, and only occasionally veers into territory that feels a bit too trite to stomach. —Luke Whelan, senior editor
August was not the most exciting cultural month for me: I mostly watched Bachelor in Paradise and read Hannah Arendt, two very different experiences that probably don’t need my recommendation. Instead, I’ll cheat a little and recommend a show I streamed earlier this year, Showtime’s excellent docuseries Couples Therapy. As the title suggests, the series follows several New York City couples as they work on their relationships with the help of therapist Orna Guralnik. Though the premise might seem voyeuristic or gimmicky, you never get the sense that anyone involved is hamming it up for the camera; instead, the show offers a serious look at the messy process of reconciling your own wants and needs with a partner’s. As many reviewers have noted, Guralnik has a low-key charisma that really makes the show work—she’s the savvy, sympathetic therapist everyone wishes they had. If you missed the second season when it aired this spring, now is a great time to catch up. —Sophie Murguia, associate editor
Recently I’ve been bingeing the HBO series The White Lotus. It’s a superbly written comedic drama about a group of tourists vacationing at an island resort in Hawaii. The simplicity of the show’s structure allows for director/writer Mike White (of Nacho Libre, School of Rock, and Adventureland) to satirize the neurotic cast of characters with razor-like precision. Despite the seemingly serene setting of a luxury hotel, you will be on the edge of your seat for this entire series. —Evan Grainger, assistant video producer
Earlier this summer I got into watching the Showtime series The Affair, which wrapped up its fifth and final season in 2019. I’m only halfway through season two, but so many elements of the show have kept me hooked. There’s the dark theme song by Fiona Apple; the plot that flashes backward and forward in time, dropping hints that someone will be killed; and the way each episode is split into two viewpoints, with the first half of the show seen through the eyes of one character and the second half shifting to another. The great writing is supported by great acting, which has me siding between the mistress (played by Ruth Wilson) and the wife (played by Maura Tierney, whose performance as the overwhelmed, underappreciated mother of four kids who totally loses her shit in episode four was undoubtedly appreciated by many viewers). I’m both surprised and pleased that a series I randomly checked out for, admittedly, a bit of steaminess, has kept me riveted with its relatable depiction of how hard adulting and parenting can be in midlife. —Tasha Zemke, copy editor
My August was full of outdoor recreation—both from getting outside in the real world and from pretending to be outside in the 2016 video game Firewatch. When I chose the latter, I ditched my hiking shoes and dove into publisher Campo Santo’s immaculately designed world, a fictionalized version of Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest. The game itself, a short story about a U.S. Forest Service employee stationed in a fire tower for a summer, plays out like a choose-your-own-adventure book with a mystery plot that capitalizes on the job’s suffocating isolation. The game’s setting is the main attraction, offering a playground of digitally rendered mountains, lakes, and dense forests to get lost in. Following the story takes roughly four hours, but you can spend twice that time wandering hiking trails and finding small details that bring this virtual landscape to life. —Kevin Johnson, editorial fellow