What am I missing out on?

Illustration: Dustin Klare

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An entertainment diet is like any other diet: Your tried-and-true favorites may be comforting, but you'll get more nourishment if you mix things up. Here, a few culture experts* offer some off-the-menu suggestions.


If you want to push yourself a little... try Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith.
Even fiction devotees will be caught up in this essay collection. Smith trains her gimlet eye on the real world with eloquent musings on everything from literature to hollywood. "She's a brilliant novelist, but also a great cultural critic," says Danticat.

If you want to push yourself a little, and are interested in poetry... try The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Susan Harris.
You'll find something that speaks to you in this greatest-hits collection recommended by Danticat, which includes some of the finest work of the 20th century, from the masterpieces of Pablo Neruda to lesser-known gems by Léopold Sédar Senghor

If you want to push yourself a lot... try City of Bohane by Kevin Barry.
This gangland noir, set in an imaginary Irish city in 2053, is a challenging novel, but well worth the effort. "It's an epic tale, thick with mind-boggling language," says Obreht. "Every sentence produces a mild sense of euphoria."


If you want to explore fantasy (but would like to keep it uplifting)... try Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Filmed in post-Katrina Louisiana, this 2012 Sundance darling somehow makes an impending apocalypse seem magical. "It's a staggering survival story with incredibly raw performances," says Bell. "cinematically, it's masterful."

If you want to explore fantasy (and don't mind dark and moody themes)... try Children of Men.
If you want something brooding, Bell recommends this dystopian flick, which imagines a world after two decades of human infertility. "It's a haunting, high-concept thriller," she says. "Even if you're not a science fiction fan, it raises profound questions about our priorities."

If you want to stick to reality... try Top of the Lake.
On the surface, this seven-part miniseries is a suspenseful whodunit. But in the hands of director Jane Campion, it's also an exploration of matriarchy and metaphysics, says Brownstein. "It will resonate with you for a long time."


If you want to get wild and crazy... try Kanye West.
Keep an open mind: "Bombast and bloviating aside, his records are next-level," says Brownstein. "He's mastered a distinctive use of sound, and the result is galvanic, guttural music." And trust us: his beats are infectious.

If you don't want to get too crazy... try Dr. Dog.
This philly-based rock band impressed Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon with their catchy 1960s-inspired folk sound. "Listen to their album Be the Void," says case. "It's full of footloose, intelligent joy."

If you don't need lyrics... try Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
Since you're open to instrumental, Case suggests cave and Ellis's ethereal, sweeping sounds, which set the mood for gritty films like West of Memphis and Lawless. "They create a backdrop of beautiful, open landscapes," she says. "I work to their music a lot."

*The Experts: