Even film historians will find plenty of new information in Mark Seal’s new book about the battles fought behind the scenes to make The Godfather. If you have even a passing interest in Hollywood and the inner workings of studio productions, you’ll eat up Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli. For me the best part of these kinds of books is reading, then watching the movie with friends and speaking over the movie telling everyone all the fun facts you’ve learned. They love it when you do that!
One of my favorite books of the year, Tom Scharpling’s It Never Ends is full of funny, insightful, and sometimes heartbreaking accounts from a life of working in television and radio. From learning to deal with mental illness and discovering the parts of yourself worth fighting for to creating the Best Show - it’s the best show - and carving out a space in popular culture, this book tells a unique and unforgettable story.
If you never got to see B.B. King live or haven’t watched a video of a live performance, stop reading this and look one up. Okay, you’re back? Wow, wasn’t that incredible? No one sounds like B.B. King, though countless have tried. Reading Daniel de Vise’s new book, you start to understand where that talent and that musical relatability came from. It shines new light on a legendary figure, reminding readers of all that he overcame to be one of the most important guitar players in American history.
Elese says: Wow, this book is incredible. The blurbs on the back cover from a litany of great writers (Jacqueline Woodson, Marlon James, Brit Bennett) all say it better than I can, however, I will add, read this book, if for nothing else than for Abdurraqib's stunning essay "I Would Like to Give Mary Clayton Her Roses." He packs it all into this brilliant, personal, insightful and ultimately devastating essay about Clayton's backup vocals on the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter." This book should win all of the prizes.
Beaujour and Bienstock tell the story of a decade-long party that produced some of the best records of the 80’s but often went too far down destructive paths. Whether you love the controlled madness of hair metal or hate the gross excess, you’ll find plenty to confirm your biases in this book. It’s about a time that - for better and for worse - happened and won’t come again, but on it’s way out left a tattoo on American culture’s arm.
The best music history books tell you as much about the author as they do the bands, and Kelefa Sanneh’s Major Labels does just that. In the hands of a bad music writer, separating music by genre can be tedious and unnecessary, but Sanneh’s book only uses the classifications to frame the stories. It’s such an interesting look at where these artists stood in popular culture in their time and in their respective scene. This is a great book for anyone looking for context and enlightening discussion about music.
If you loved the film - and how could you not? - then you’ll love the book. The deluxe hardcover edition of Quentin Tarantino’s first foray into fiction is filled with all kinds of fun things sure to please fans of the movie, including behind-the-scenes photos, a poster, even a Mad Magazine parody in all its glory. But all that aside, the book itself provides more backstory to the characters and lets the reader spend more time in this fascinating and exciting world. I loved it!
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s book looks to give credit where it’s long overdue. Focusing on four women who worked in television in the 1940s and 50s, When Women Invented Television is about their fight against the misogynistic, sexist, racist culture of Hollywood to give more voices, faces, and representation to the burgeoning medium. It’s a story of women kicking ass and it rules.
I grew up loving Elvira and I’m lucky enough to live in a world where I can still enjoy her work twenty-five years later. She’s been in the business for so long and has been so consistently wonderful, it’s easy to forget how important she was and still is in the world of horror. Her memoir is full of new information, framing an iconic character in a new light. The best part though is that the book can only be read in Elvira’s voice, with her trademark timing and humor. This whole book was a true pleasure to read and I loved every page.
Shea Serrano returns with the latest in his (and Other Things) series with Hip-Hop (and Other Things). Featuring hilarious and insightful essays about the past twenty-five years of hip-hop and rap, and beautifully illustrated by long-time collaborator Arturo Torres, this book is perfect for any music lover, whether you know all the words to "Get Ur Freak On" or you've never even heard All Eyez On Me. It's so fun to listen to the music while you read these essays. Shea Serrano doesn't miss!