Your fantasy team is dead. That one guy—the one you don’t like—has everything on lock. On the one hand, that’s too bad for you and for your friends, who are in your league and whose teams are also dead; on the other hand, it presents you and your friends with the opportunity to take up new interests. What might those be? We have some suggestions.
The words “quick” and “easy” will tend toward misnomeriness if you’re buying a Thai cookbook for, like, your dysfunctional buddy who feeds himself by buying a week’s worth of McNuggets on Monday and stashing them in the fridge. Some cooking skills—or at least basic familiarity with the interior of a kitchen—are required, as is realistic access to a more diverse grocery selection than you’ll find at the Tiger Mart down by the interstate off-ramp. Those disclaimers aside, basic Thai cooking is a great thing to learn. It’s fast and slightly harrowing in the most fun way, and produces aromatic, vivid, easily customizable food that zaps your palate from all directions. This book doesn’t stray too far into exotic ingredients or preparations, making it a good launching pad for someone who might be intimidated by the prospect.—Albert Burneko
The harmonica is a hell of a time. Learn to play it and then you get to be the harmonica at parties. Chime in on “Joy To The World”, “Oh Tannenbaum,” whatever. It’s a great party trick, and the next time the economy goes to shit, you’ve got a head start on the hobo lifestyle.—Leslie Horn
Reading comic books is a fun way to kill some time, but they can be difficult to get into. New issues come out monthly at best, and it can literally take years for a gripping story arc to conclude. Who’s got the patience for that?
If you haven’t touched any comic books since you were young, a couple of newish developments make them much easier to read as an adult. Most good series are now collected in trade paperbacks, where you can read five to 10 issues concluding a story arc, sans advertisements. Think of it as binge-watching on Netflix instead of tuning in each week. There is also a great diversity in the perspectives, topics, and characters explored by comic books, meaning there’s something that’ll pique your interest even if you don’t like superhero stories.
One of my favorites is Fables, which just published its 150th and final issue in July. The basic premise is that the Homelands, which is where all of the characters from fairy tales and folklore live, has been conquered by The Adversary. The fables have been forced to relocate to New York City, where they’ve built a new community amidst regular humans—”mundanes”. All your favorite characters are there: the Big Bad Wolf is the sheriff, Cinderella owns a shoe store, the Three Little Pigs live on a farm upstate, and Baba Yaga is an evil sorceress. You’ll dig it.—Kevin Draper
Everyone knows that person who—either out of a genuine love of foreign languages or a base desire to project worldliness—always talks about wanting to brush up on their once-tight (or so they say) but now-atrophied high school Spanish skills. Maybe they’re planning a trip to Spain and want to get the most out of it, or maybe they want to point out to you a couple idioms that weren’t translated in the subtitles of all the Almodóvar movies they talk about watching. Point being, it doesn’t matter if this friend earnestly wants to learn the language or not: this book will be a smart and helpful gift to them if they’re serious, as it’s a more readable and practical book than many in this genre. It’s also a good troll move if you just want to call their bluff in three months.—Billy Haisley
I’m not a gamer, but even I know that iOS games have a reputation for being JV kiddie garbage among hardcore gaming dipshits. But the three Room games, made by a tiny outfit named Fireproof, are different. They stick you in a series of meticulously crafted and haunting rooms and force you to open up elaborate puzzle boxes and conjure cool occult symbols. They remind me of when I used to play King’s Quest when I was a kid. I never want to leave them. Fireproof also made a VR game. If I owned it I would probably end up leaving my family.—Drew Magary
Illustration by Sam Woolley; photos via AP