Hilli Levin

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The world of comics and graphic novels may hold stigma as a male-centric genre, but these four new books explore the pains of growing up, moving on and embracing the messy parts of life—all from the female point of view.

Cartoonist and writer Mimi Pond is best known for writing the very first episode of “The Simpsons,” but her foray into the world of graphic novels may quickly overshadow her career’s early years—perhaps deservedly so. In her fictionalized memoir, Over Easy, Pond reflects on the oft-misunderstood 1970s and her waitressing years at Mama’s Royal Café (referred to here as the Imperial Café), which served as a beacon for burgeoning punks and the last wave of bohemians in Oakland, California. Pond’s alter ego is Margaret, an art school dropout itching to supplement her education with some honest, blue-collar life experience. Cue -Lazlo, the messianic manager of the café, who offers her a spot among his mouthy, ragtag staff. The job is grueling, but she toughs it out and taps into a well of self-reliance, eventually making waitress and earning the nickname “Madge.” With casual prose and dreamy aqua watercolor, Pond gets to the heart of the restaurant’s curious allure: hilarious banter between staff and customers, cheap and hearty food, recreational drug use in the back office, the steady stream of staff hookups and hastily organized poetry nights. If the ’70s usually conjures up thoughts of disco, gold chains and general excess, then Pond offers a refreshingly different side of the story.


Illustration from Over Easy, © 2014 by Mimi Pond

LATE BLOOMER
From a different perspective on the coming-of-age tale, we move to the story of a 30-something’s struggle for identity. Anya Ulinich follows up her debut novel, Petropolis, with a text-heavy graphic work, Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel. After her marriage, “a 15-year-long war,” finally reaches its end, Lena Finkle finds herself attempting to make sense of sex and dating as a 37-year-old single mom in New York. What constitutes a flirty text message? Is it wrong to wear the same dress on every date? Can she have a one-night stand? These and other questions swirl in her head as she struggles to stay afloat in the world of online dating. Her trial by fire comes in her relationship with “the Orphan”—a seemingly modest craftsman with a secret inheritance he is loath to rely on. His easy detachment soon clashes with Lena’s desire for dependability and love. She finds herself nursing a year-long heartbreak, during which Ulinich, with equal parts poignant and comic effect, portrays Lena as a tiny, helpless duckling. With a Shteyngart-esque eye for humorously conveying the Russian immigrant experience, especially in her interspersed snapshot comics—“The Glorious People’s Sex Education” and “The USSR ’80s”—Ulinich captures a woman’s earnest search for self between two cultures.

MILLENNIAL ANGST
Similarly understated and a bit bleak is Michael Cho’s debut, Shoplifter (Pantheon, $19.95, 96 pages, ISBN 9780307911735). After getting a degree in English, Corrina Park moves to the big city with stars in her eyes, convinced she’s on track to chase her dream of writing highbrow literature. Instead, she lands a job at a soul-sucking ad agency where she’s been grinding out copy for the past five years. She still doesn’t have any friends outside of work, and it’s all fumbles on her nights out, so she mainly keeps company with her grumpy rescue cat. Her main thrill comes from the occasional bout of shoplifting at her nearest corner store—which is increasingly depressing in the context of Corrina’s self-conscious, kind-hearted demeanor. She’s toeing the line of resigning to this life, until she snaps. During a brainstorming meeting for a perfume aimed at preteens, she realizes the reliable paycheck isn’t worth it anymore, and this whole treading water routine—waiting for her big moment to wander by—isn’t going to work. With lovely two-tone illustrations throughout, this debut nails the feeling of millennial uncertainly and the quest for answers to those questions that arise on sleepless nights.


Illustration from Seconds, © 2014 by Bryan Lee O'Malley

A ROCK STAR’S RETURN
Bryan Lee O’Malley has been an absolute rock star in the comic world since his Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, stuffed to the gills with wit, whimsy and pop culture references, garnered cultish reverence after they debuted in 2004. Now, five years after the series conclusion and a big-budget film adaptation, O’Malley treads similar, yet more grounded territory with Seconds (Ballantine, $25, ISBN 9780345529374). Weighing in at 300-plus pages and with some of the most gorgeous color work in recent memory, Seconds is a titan standalone in the graphic world. Katie, a 29-year-old, scrappy, self-made chef and restaurateur, is preparing to open her very own restaurant. Her talent and charisma have earned her top marks in the city’s dining scene, and she’s the envy of her younger protégé, but her drive often serves as a distraction from her regrets and lost love. When exactly, did she take these wrong turns, and how did she end up having to face this version of reality? After a particularly terrible day unfolds, Katie discovers a single red mushroom that can alter the course of time, and, of course, all hell breaks loose. Katie’s type-A personality can’t handle the power, and she begins an obsessive pursuit of perfection. But the consequences start to creep in, and the restaurant soon becomes the home of a dark and threatening spirit. O’Malley fans won’t be disappointed with this existential fable; he successfully tackles the quarter-life crisis with just enough blunt honesty and self-deprecating wit, and there’s even a “Buffy” reference or two to keep things from getting too heavy.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

The world of comics and graphic novels may hold stigma as a male-centric genre, but these four new books explore the pains of growing up, moving on and embracing the messy parts of life—all from the female point of view.
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National Poetry Month is the perfect time to introduce young readers to the joys of verse and rhyme. These three new picture books—from treatises on treats to a collection of kid-friendly masterworks—are filled with reflection, adventure and just plain silliness.  

TASTY TURNS OF PHRASE
Readers take caution: You might not want to open Deborah Ruddell's The Popcorn Astronauts: And Other Biteable Rhymes without a snack at the ready. This collection of 21 food-themed poems is the perfect treat for pint-size readers. Organized by seasons alongside whimsical watercolor illustrations by Joan Rankin, this collection is brimming with rhyming odes to summer peaches (“the summery sweetness within" and their "flannelpajamaty skin") or ripe fall apples ("Peel it / Slice it / Cinnamon-spice it"). But Ruddell knows her audience, and there’s plenty of playfulness mixed right in, like the mystery ingredients of “A Smoothie Supreme”  ("A whisper of pickle / is what I detect, / with glimmers of turnip / I didn't expect!"). This is an expressive and delectable picture book that begs to be read aloud—it may even help inspire some picky or reluctant eaters.

RHYMES HEARD ROUND THE WORLD
Elizabeth Hammill, a children's bookseller and critic, became intrigued by the influence of nursery rhymes when she became a mother. But during a time when the need and desire for diverse books is strong, it has been almost impossible to find "a wide-ranging collection that sits alongside these Mother Goose favorites and injects fresh life into them," Hammill writes. There’s more to nursery rhymes than “Hickory, dickory dock,” and in Over the Hills and Far Away, she rounds up the most popular and enduring rhymes from around the globe and matches them with brilliant art and illustrations from Eric CarleMo Willems and 70-plus equally talented illustrators. From America’s popular playground cry of, “I scream, / you scream, / we all scream / for ice cream” to South African counting-out rhymes, Latino riddles and Trinidadian clapping rhymes, this beautiful book celebrates diverse voices and the importance of laughter and imagination in every child’s life.  

OBJECTS THROUGH THE AGES
For Poetry Month, it doesn't get much better than The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects. Paul B. Janeczko takes readers on a journey from the Middle Ages to the present with 50 of the world's greatest poems. Simple objects anchor Janeczko’s selected poems, but readers will revel in the power of poetic language as a candle, sword, wheelbarrow and even a birthday card are taken to otherworldly heights. Top-notch watercolors from two-time Caldecott winner Chris Raschka buoy masterpieces by the likes of William Wordsworth, Carl Sandberg, Sylvia Plath and Mary Oliver. And of course, Billy Collins’ titular piece makes an appearance. A rare picture book, The Death of the Hat is a rich but accessible collection that children and adults alike will treasure.

National Poetry Month is the perfect time to introduce young readers to the joys of verse and rhyme. These three new picture books—from treatises on treats to a collection of kid-friendly masterworks—are filled with reflection, adventure and just plain silliness.
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Graduation: a special time when feelings of joy and celebration collide with a healthy dose of sheer terror. All of those hours of hard work have finally paid off in the form of a high school diploma or a university degree . . . but what’s next? How to make it in the real world is a big question with no easy answers. Whether your grad needs some level-headed advice on living well from some of our greatest authors, a few first-job stories or a collection of essays from much-admired leaders, four new books offer plenty of calming wisdom.

Nerves and plenty of other things usually ensure that a graduate will retain little to none of the commencement speech on their big day. Cue Way More than Luck, a collection of 14 of the most inspiring (yet practical!) commencement speeches ever delivered, from influential thinkers and best-selling writers such as Ira Glass, Barbara Kingsolver and David Foster Wallace. Instead of a bunch of feel-good platitudes, these speeches plainly address those creeping fears new grads can’t help but harbor, while championing bravery, empathy and other “existential skills” that have become increasingly crucial for Millennials in our still-unstable professional sphere.

FINDING YOUR FIELD
All of the exams, the hours spent sitting (or sleeping) during class lectures, and the ink and tears spilled over term papers can only prepare a young graduate so much for the lurking inevitable: their first job. Thankfully, journalist Merritt Watts has collected 50 real stories in First Jobs to brace any grad for their dive into the workforce. From pet gravediggers to bar-backs to carnies, these stories are often hilarious enough to drive the jitters away. A short note on the story’s narrator closes each story, and spoiler alert: All of those profiled here are doing just fine.

Ever wonder about Warren Buffett’s early jobs and setbacks? How about Anderson Cooper’s or Hans Zimmer’s? Gillian Zoe Segal has collected 30 essays from a diverse group of today’s leaders and innovators in Getting There: A Book of Mentors, and they don’t shy away from the gritty truths. Buffett would “literally throw up” if he had to speak in front of a group of people until he forced himself through a public-speaking course; fashion maven Rachel Zoe was the scapegoat for her sticky-fingered boss; and Matthew Weiner (the Emmy Award-winning creator of “Mad Men”) waded through seven years of brutal rejection before his script made it onto the screen. Capping off each essay are bulleted lists of “Pearls,” and these bits of wisdom beg to be taken to heart. 

A BIT OF MAGIC
If there’s any writer who has served as an influence on today’s graduating Millennials, it’s J.K. Rowling. And with more than 450 million copies of her Harry Potter books sold worldwide, it’s safe to say Rowling knows a bit about success. But in Very Good Lives, her Harvard commencement speech from 2008, she chooses to address the subjects of failure and imagination. Rowling’s experience at rock bottom as “the biggest failure [she] knew” pushed her to pour all of her energy into her biggest passion—writing. But imagination is just as important for living well, and not only for creative professionals, as it allows us “to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.”

Re-readability and engaging illustrations from Joel Holland make this a perfect gift, and as a feel-good bonus, proceeds from the sale of Very Good Lives will be donated to Rowling’s international children’s charity.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Graduation: a special time when feelings of joy and celebration collide with a healthy dose of sheer terror. All of those hours of hard work have finally paid off in the form of a high school diploma or a university degree . . . but what’s next? How to make it in the real world is a big question with no easy answers. Whether your grad needs some level-headed advice on living well from some of our greatest authors, a few first-job stories or a collection of essays from much-admired leaders, four new books offer plenty of calming wisdom.
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Fall is a busy season in the publishing world, which means plenty of new arrivals are hitting the shelves! For readers looking for a little change of pace—and a more visual reading experience—we've rounded up our favorite graphic novels and memoirs that will bring a little color into these increasingly gray days. 

ADVICE FROM YOUR BETTER SELF
From The New Yorker cartoonist and author of the graphic memoir Cancer Vixen comes this satirical send-up of the New York media world. Self-serving Ann Tenna runs a celebrity gossip site that would make writers at TMZ blush, but a fateful car crash on her birthday leaves her unconscious and clinging to life. In a Christmas Carol-style chain of events, Ann leaves her body and comes face-to-face with her higher self, who takes her on a reflective journey through her most cringe-worthy life choices. Marchetto's laugh-out-loud and out-there tale is filled to the brim with pop culture references and lush artwork, making this one cosmic trip worth taking.

THROUGH THE LENS OF CHILDHOOD 
French author Riad Sattouf chronicles his childhood as the son of a French mother and Syrian father in his playful yet brutally honest graphic memoir. Sattouf was adored and doted on by his father, an academic and firm believer in pan-Arabism and the importance of education for the Arab people. Years living in Gaddafi's Libya—where each citizen was guaranteed housing, but squatters frequently took claim of the Sattouf's various residences and a later stint in Assad's Syria—take a toll on the family's bright-eyed idealism. At first called a little angel for his flowing gold locks, Sattouf is later insulted for his "ugly yellow Jewish hair," and he must come to terms with his feelings of being an outsider in a part of the world his father so badly wants to make theirs.

SUPER STAN
It's almost impossible to have a conversation about the evolution of graphic storytelling without dropping Stan Lee's name at least a few times. One of the most influential creators in the comic world (Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men, to name a few) tells his own story in the unmistakably zippy style he's known for in his new autobiography. Starting from his childhood in a Depression-hit Manhattan, Lee chronicles his first meetings with collaborators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but his moments of pride are balanced by shocking, painful recollections of his personal losses and family struggles. For fans of the Marvel brand and the wide world of superheroes, this is a well-executed autobiography that should not be missed.

RACING TOWARD SHAMBALA
This innovative hybrid is a captivating tale that weaves sections of prose alongside pages of comic panels for an action-packed story. Set during World War I, this immersive read will satisfy fans of classic good vs. evil adventure stories. The globe-trotting action follows an underground group of explorers sworn to seek out and solve the world's greatest mysteries, and in this volume, the Guild must travel to the golden city of Shambala from Buddhist mythology. If you're a fan of Indiana Jones, then this book will satisfy your desire for a little nostalgic fun. 

CLOWNING AROUND
Peruvian-born and acclaimed author Daniel Alarcón is known for his gorgeously rendered prose that draws frequent comparisons to Steinbeck, Nabokov and Roberto Bolaño. In his first graphic novel, he expands upon his short story, first published in The New Yorker in 2003, which follows a young Peruvian journalist in the wake of his father's death. After discovering his father's secret second family at his funeral, Chino is sent on a strange, almost absurd reporting assignment: write a feature on Lima's street clowns. What follows is Chino's tender recollections of his early childhood, interspersed alongside his increasingly sad observations of the poor working clowns. Stark visuals from Sheila Alvarado make this forelorn, moving work of literary fiction come to vivid life. 

Fall is a busy season in the publishing world, which means plenty of new arrivals are hitting the shelves! For readers looking for a little change of pace—and a more visual reading experience—we've rounded up our favorite graphic novels and memoirs that will bring a little color into these increasingly gray days.
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Remember the coloring books you scribbled in as a kid? Have you ever found yourself wishing you had a grown-up version? Adult coloring books have taken the publishing world by storm, and this blockbuster niche is only predicted to keep growing. This season, enticing titles abound, from world-renowned artists and illustrators, titles that welcome you to color in scenes from your favorite literary worlds and more. Sharpen those long-forgotten colored pencils, pick up a fresh pack of markers and get reacquainted with this fun and relaxing activity.

GET LOST AT SEA
Artist Johanna Basford is one of the pioneers of the adult coloring book and has published two worldwide best-selling collections, but her newest is almost as good as finding sunken treasure. The intricate pen-and-ink illustrations of Lost Ocean feature curious sea creatures, exotic fish, shipwrecks, coral reefs and more. Tap into your inner Jacques Cousteau and get coloring!


Illustration from Lost Ocean by Johanna Basford. Excerpted with permission from Penguin Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright 2015, Johanna Basford.

EVERY LITTLE THING COLORING BOOK
Those who are especially enchanted by patterns found on textiles and wallpapers will delight in Payton Cosell Turner's Every Little Thing. These playful designs feature woodland creatures alongside irreverent pieces of pop-culture from the 1980s like boom boxes, burgers and Trapper Keepers. This collection is sure to inspire the use of bright and playful color combinations, and the finished products will be welcome additions to any adult's fridge. 

A COLORFUL, WIZARDING WORLD 
Listen up, Harry Potter fans! Now you can have a hand a making the scenes inside this beloved series come alive with The Harry Potter Coloring Book. Coloring pages feature the grounds of Hogwarts, Snape sitting (and brooding) at his desk, Harry and the gang getting into trouble and so much more. This coloring book is especially perfect for adults and kids to share and color in together. 

Illustration from the Harry Potter Coloring Book. HARRY POTTER characters, names and related indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR. (s15)

THE HIGHLANDS COME ALIVE
If you're looking to take your pencils to a different kind of literary landscape, check out The Official Outlander Coloring Book. Inspired by scenes from Diana Gabaldon's beloved time-traveling romance series, this book features excerpts from her novels juxtaposed with the images or scenes being described. 

OUTSIDE THE LINES, TOO
Sometimes a work of art pulls us in, and we long for a more hands-on way of engaging with it. Souris Hong has just the book for this exact kind of art-lover with Outside the Lines, Too. This collection features pages of art from the Eames Office, Kevin Lyons, Audrey Kawasaki, street artists, photographers, graphic designers and more. If you crave stylistic variation in the pages you color, Hong's collection will deliver while introducting you to a wide range of artists from around the world.

“Shilton's Fleas” by MISTER PHIL. From Outside the Lines, Too by Souris Hong, published September 1, 2015 by Tarcher Perigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright 2015, Souris Hong.

 

Remember the coloring books you scribbled in as a kid? Have you ever found yourself wishing you had a grown-up version? Adult coloring books have taken the publishing world by storm, and this blockbuster niche is only predicted to keep growing. This season, enticing titles abound, from world-renowned artists and illustrators, titles that welcome you to color in scenes from your favorite literary worlds and more. Sharpen those long-forgotten colored pencils, pick up a fresh pack of markers and get re-acquainted with this fun and relaxing activity.
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Spring into April with a new batch of children’s poetry books, just in time for the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. From a “wow”-worthy batch of concrete poems that dance across the page to a poetic guessing game and a touching trip through the seasons, three new collections make for accessible and thoroughly modern introductions to an enduring art.

POEMS THAT POP
Bob Raczka’s newest book, Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems, “uses words like colors to paint pictures.” This playful collection of 21 poems takes inspiration from single words, similar to 2013’s Lemonade, and in the visually arresting style of classic concrete poets like E.E. Cummings or Carl Andre, brings his simple verse to life. Words slash the page in the shape of an electric bolt in “Lightning”; letters seem to thaw and drip into readers’ hands in “Icicles”; and the letters of “Hopscotch” skip across the page in the game’s instantly recognizable layout. But Raczka’s poems aren’t all whimsy. There are plenty of quiet moments where a sense of childlike awe shines through, as in wonderful “Dipper”: “Up here in the sky, / I’m a vessel of stars / my brim overflowing with night.” In today’s highly visual world, Raczka’s poems are a fantastic gateway into the genre.

WHO IN THE HAIKU?
The art of Japanese haiku and silly riddles collide in Deanna Caswell’s Guess Who, Haiku. Readers will love piecing together the clever clues for each animal and insect as each page asks, “Can you guess who from this haiku?” From a dairy cow—“new day on the farm / muffled mooing announces / a fresh pail of milk”—to a loyal dog— "Sitting for a treat / an eager tail smacks the ground / over and over"— Caswell runs through a cast of common critters, and her engaging bite-sized poems are just right for the preschool crowd. Bob Shea provides illustrations in his bold and lively graphic style, which make the big reveal of each mystery animal a pure delight. Caswell ends the book with a helpful note that breaks down exactly what haiku is, how it’s structured and how readers can recognize syllables, encouraging a deeper understanding of each line. Guess Who, Haiku makes a traditional form of poetry into a guessing game that almost feels like a poetic version of Fisher Price’s classic See ‘N Say toy, which is a sure sign that this could become a read-aloud favorite.

CELEBRATE THE SEASONS
The natural world’s seasonal transformations have been inspiring poets for centuries, and Julie Fogliano adds her own inspired collection to the mix with When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons. Beginning on the first day of spring with a cheerful bird’s song “poking / a tiny hole / through the edge of winter,” readers meet a diverse cast of children that explore, climb, swim and frolic their way through the days of all four seasons, and Fogliano devotes about a dozen reflective poems to each, all titled with a specific month and date. Pencil-and-gouache illustrations from Julie Morstad bring a delightfully vintage feel to scenes where wildflowers seem to blossom endlessly, piles of crisp fall leaves beckon and snow gently drifts outside of a window. From lazy summer days that are “hot and thick like honey” to the messy fun of pumpkin carving and the stillness of winter, this collection is sure to be one that little readers will love to pull off the shelf and flip through again and again.

Spring into April with a new batch of children’s poetry books, just in time for the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. From a “wow”-worthy batch of concrete poems that dance across the page to a poetic guessing game and a touching trip through the seasons, three new collections make for accessible and thoroughly modern introductions to an enduring art.

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The late outlaw Johnny Cash and Aussie rock star Nick Cave are two highly influential musicians known for examining the darker themes of life in their songwriting. In new collections of verse, each attempts to balance the scales between love and loss, beauty and ugliness.

NEW VERSE FROM THE MAN IN BLACK
With more than 90 million records sales worldwide, there are few musicians who register even half of the cultural impact of Johnny Cash. Brash and outspoken his entire life—his most iconic photograph features him flipping off the camera—Cash may surprise casual fans with some of the more tender reflections in this posthumous collection of never-before-seen poems and songs, Forever Words: The Unknown Poems. All written in plain language with flecks of Southern dialect, Cash's distinctive voice and wit shine through on each and every page.

This collection jumps back and forth through time, with poems from his teenage years in the 1940s (before his first recordings) through his last eight-line poem, "Forever," written shortly before his death in 2003. With facsimile illustrations of Cash's handwritten pages, this collection is perhaps just as personal as his memoir, Man in Black. Many of these poems and songs are surly and humorous, as with "Don't Make a Movie About Me": "Here's a hex on whoever makes it be, / so don't make a movie 'bout me." Although Walk the Line was met with critical acclaim, Cash skewered the film long before its 2005 release with a drawing that imagines it playing at the "Schmaltz Theater."

In a loving foreword, Cash's son John Carter Cash reflects on the complicated man his father was, and insists that the best way to understand his legacy is through the recordings and writings he left behind: "Now, all these years past, the words tell a full tale; with their release, he is with us again, speaking to our hearts, making us laugh, and making us cry."  

FOR MOTION DISCOMFORT
Once called "the grand lord of gothic lushness" by NME and known throughout his career as rock's "Prince of Darkness," Australian musician and singer-songwriter Nick Cave has carved out his own place in the musical canon with his popular bands the Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds. His third book, The Sick Bag Song, began on the back of a paper airline sick bag during his 2014 tour across North America. With each work bearing the title of the city it was written in, this hybrid collection of prose and poetry opens during a van ride back to Nashville while passing a tragic a road accident: "An angel will unfold its wings and speak into my ear. / You must take the first step alone."

Cave chronicles each of his city stops, weaving thoughts on beauty, disgust, longing and the toll of travel into a piece of road literature that holds its own next to the giants of the genre. Cave mulls over events from American history and the artists that have influenced his own work: Johnny Cash, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, Gertrude Stein. There are no song lyrics here, just a journey that vacillates between jaw-dropping turns of phrase and point-blank confession: "The Sick Bag Song is full of all that I love and loathe, / And all that is inside myself."

The late outlaw Johnny Cash and Aussie rock star Nick Cave are two highly influential musicians known for examining the darker themes of life in their songwriting. In new collections of verse, each attemps to balance the scales between love and loss, beauty and ugliness.

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The nostalgia wave rippling through today’s culture may seem troublesome to some, but music has always been an art form that builds upon and pays homage to what has come before. Five new books chronicle some of the most earth-shaking, history-making artists who changed our cultural landscape. From the story behind the sweet and soulful sounds of Motown to Bruce Springsteen’s long-awaited memoir, each is worthy of a spot alongside any record collection.

THE LEGEND OF MOTOWN
On my first trip to Detroit this year, the only site on my list was the original Motown headquarters. There are many remarkable things to see in that venerable building, but for me, the most astonishing was the size of the garage recording studio where some of the biggest songs in the American musical canon were put to tape: It’s tiny! But that studio is a powerful testament to the magic of Berry Gordy’s larger-than-life empire, and Adam White’s Motown does an incredible job of examining just what happened in the building that housed America’s most influential record label. This beautifully packaged book holds a staggering amount of interviews with the label’s influencers and recording artists along with absolutely stunning photographs from all of the eras and iterations of Motown, from Tamla in 1959 to the opening of Motown: The Musical in 2013. Go behind the scenes with Motown artists like Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson 5, starting with their discoveries, first records and those early days on tour. While this is an all-out celebration of African-American music, glitz, glamour and Motown’s cultural impact, White also highlights the abysmal state of the political landscape during the label’s rise in chapters like “We Don’t Serve Coloured People,” which makes the incredible success, resilience and power of the Motown sound shine that much brighter. 


The Temptations perform their signature hit, "My Girl," in 1965. From L to R: Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Otis Williams, Paul Williams and David Ruffin. Motown Records Archives. Courtesy of the EMI Archive Trust and Universal Music Group.

SATISFACTION SONG BY SONG
Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon sum up the reason why the Rolling Stones are still one of the biggest bands in the world in their introduction to The Rolling Stones All the Songs: “The music of the Stones comes across as authentic because it is the music of a never-ending party, of a categorical refusal to grow old.” Their ambitious tome delivers on the title’s claim, opening with a brief history of the band’s formation in London in 1962 and wading through their entire catalog in a whopping 704 pages. Of course, there’s no pressure to read from cover to cover—fans are sure to go straight for their favorite songs and hop around from there. With fun facts “For Stones Addicts,” standalone “Portraits” of important Stones collaborators like Ian Stewart (the oft-forgotten “Sixth Stone”), along with full details on the writing and recording process as well as the reception of each track, Margotin and Guesdon make what could be a bit of a slog into a rip-roaring journey through the discography of the kings of cool. 

THE FREEWHEELIN' BARD
Is there any songwriter worthier of a sumptuous lyrics collection than the inimitable Bob Dylan? The Lyrics: 1961-2012 is an updated edition of the stunning 2014 volume with new edits supplied by Dylan himself on dozens of his classic songs. Running chronologically from his early Greenwich Village days to 2012’s “Tempest,” this collection is comprised of the lyrics from 31 Dylan albums. Full-page photos and a few facsimiles of his handwritten drafts—there were quite a few interesting changes to “Blowin’ in the Wind”—put his poetic mastery on full display. 

With more than 100 million records sold, Dylan is not only one of our most artful songwriters, but one of the bestselling of all time. A great coffee-table book, this could easily provide hours of study, or you could just grab your favorite Dylan record, put the needle down and read along.

YOU WANT A REVOLUTION?
There have likely been more books written about the Beatles than any other figures in music history, and when the field is this crowded, it’s hard to find a read that stands out. But Steve Turner’s Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year is a wonderfully compelling look into the year that changed everything for the band. By 1966, the hysteria of Beatlemania and the strain of public life had taken quite a toll. After their joyless show at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, George suggested, and the rest of the band readily agreed, that it was time to quit the touring life for good. From there, John, Paul, George and Ringo took control—pushing boundaries in the studio and grappling with more adult issues in their lyrics in order to “stretch the limits of pop.” Turner immerses readers in their lives: the art and media they were consuming, the drugs they were taking, the creative breakthrough they were seeking—all of which resulted in “Revolver,” which Turner argues is the most innovative and compelling album the Beatles ever recorded. A chronology of the year’s historical events and a selection of each member’s favorite songs from the period round out this entertaining study.

A TRAMP LIKE US
Readers, I’ll admit: I am late to the Bruce Springsteen fandom. Maybe it was the macho stage histrionics or his cheesy nickname (“The Boss”) that kept me away. But after my first three-hour Springsteen show, it made sense. His anticipated memoir, Born to Run, is similar to his live shows, inviting you along on an emotional marathon. Herein lies the Springsteen I’ve been hoping to find: raw and poignant with plenty of punk attitude. Some will undoubtedly be surprised by the amount of casually crass and sexed-up passages, but the cheeky Springsteen makes no apologies. Superfans will love the details of his musical beginnings, the fledgling days of the E Street Band and his recording process for each of his records, but he doesn’t leave out the less glamorous details of sleeping rough and scraping by for decades. In passages like his account of seeing Elvis for the first time—“THE BARRICADES HAVE BEEN STORMED!! A HERO HAS COME.”—hearing the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and the life-altering birth of his first child, his writing mirrors his rock ’n’ roll preacher stage-speak. But his true gifts as a writer come through in the quieter passages that lay bare his struggles with deep depression, the scars of his Catholic upbringing and his tumultuous relationship with his mentally ill father.

With high praise for each movement and artist chronicled in the other four books featured here, it’s clear that The Boss may be one of biggest music geeks of us all. Born to Run may not be as lyrical as his friend Patti Smith’s Just Kids, but it’s a haunting and hopeful triumph.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

The nostalgia wave rippling through today’s culture may seem troublesome to some, but music has always been an art form that builds upon and pays homage to what has come before. Five new books chronicle some of the most earth-shaking, history-making artists who changed our cultural landscape. From the story behind the sweet and soulful sounds of Motown to Bruce Springsteen’s long-awaited memoir, each is worthy of a spot alongside any record collection.
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Peer into the lives of two world-changing artists with these inventive new graphic biographies. Each artist made history in their chosen fields, but also transcended their medium to achieve international stardom. Their larger-than-life legacies are now a part of our everyday lives.

FROM WARHOLA TO WARHOL
Nick Bertozzi (The Salon) chronicles the early years of the-one-and-only pop art icon in Becoming Andy Warhol. This blend of historical fiction and biography begins in 1962 with the opening of his Campbell Soup Can show in LA, where Warhol was still a commercial illustrator. Bertozzi’s graphic biography is illustrated in simple black, white and purple pencil by the up-and-coming Pierce Hargan. We peer inside Warhol’s life before he broke through: quiet scenes of family life, nights out at galleries where he experiences painful snubs, glimpses of his romantic relationships and his intense, ever-present drive to create are all laid out in these panels. Fans will appreciate Bertozzi’s scenes of Warhol’s creative process for his anti-film Sleep, his controversial Brillo Box exhibit and the early days of hanging around in his iconic studio, The Factory. Bertozzi does a lovely job of humanizing Warhol by highlighting his mischievous antics and off-the-wall sense of humor, his devotion to his family, his belief in the power of pop culture and his pure devotion to the fine art he was making.


From Becoming Andy Warhol, by Nick Bertozzi and illustrated by Pierce Hargan © Abrams ComicArts, 2016

LONG LIVE THE KING
Philippe Chanoinat’s Elvis is a straightforward chronicle of Elvis’ journey to superstardom that begins with his birth in Tupelo, Mississippi. The text is conversational and fairly minimal, following Elvis through his first recording sessions, landmark concerts, TV appearances, acting career and more–right up to his death in 1975. Fabrice Le Hénaff’s painted illustrations are the true focal point here. His sensational watercolors lend a dreamy, cinematic quality to the book. Mostly painted from existing photographs, Elvis is vivid and full of energy on these pages. The book ends with 15 pages of Le Hénaff’s storyboards, sketches and renderings of Elvis from different periods in his life, and they are a welcomed addition. This graphic biography may not break any new ground on the King’s life like Peter Guralnick’s Last Train to Memphis or Careless Love did, but it is a lovingly rendered book that fans will enjoy all the same.

Peer into the lives of two world-changing artists with two inventive new graphic biographies. Each made history in their chosen fields, but also transcended the medium to achieve international stardom. Their larger-than-life legacies are now a part of our everyday lives.
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Supernaturally tinged stories have long been one of the most popular trends in the realm of teen literature (Twilight, anyone?), and it doesn’t look like it’s dying down any time soon. Thankfully, that means there are plenty of new novels to choose from for your Halloween reading stack. From a team of teenage monster hunters to a modern tale of witchy biker gangs, we’ve got the perfect book to get you in the spooky spirit. 

HERE THERE BE MONSTERS
Looking for a heavy dose of girl power? Cat Winters, masterful author of dark historical novels like The Steep and Thorny Way, has crafted a spooky novel of two Van Helsing-like sisters who fight nightmarish monsters in Odd & True. Odette and Trudchen, or as they prefer, Od and Tru, live on their aunt’s Oregon farm in the 1900s. Od loves telling the younger Tru fantastical stories about magic and their monster-hunting mother—until one day, Od disappears. Two years later, Od returns with weapons and proof that her bedtime stories were far more fact than fiction. The sisters must go on the run from a haunting predator and prepare to fight the demonic beast known as the Leeds Devil. But the demons they must face aren’t all literal, and Winters’ split narratives reveal family scars from very dark places indeed. 

DRACULA RETURNS
In Kerri Maniscalo’s sequel to Stalking Jack the Ripper, young investigators Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell are still dealing with the trauma from their harrowing investigation of the notorious London killer. The two are on a train en route to Romania, hoping for some time to decompress at a prestigious academy, when their peaceful journey is interrupted by cries from an adjoining car. Audrey Rose rushes to the scene and discovers a passenger has been murdered—with a stake to the heart. Could the whispers of the return of Vlad the Impaler hold any truth? When they arrive to find their new school is housed in what used to be Dracula’s castle, the creeping dread sets in, and the vampiric murders start to pile up. Is Dracula actually real, or is this simply a copycat killer bent on terrorizing the town? Maniscalo’s Hunting for Prince Dracula is a winning historical filled with finely tuned details that’s sure to please fans of atmospheric Gothics.

BOOK OF POSSESSION
Melanie Vong is a troubled teen: She’s got some serious anger management issues, often gets into fights with her classmates and doesn’t have much luck with social interaction aside from the time she spends with her Wiccan best friend, Lara. In order to organize her overwhelming thoughts and feelings, Mel decides to follow in Lara’s footsteps and start journaling. When she goes out to buy a new diary, none of the options at the local chain store seem appealing, so she wanders into a used bookshop that just happens to specialize in occult texts. Finally Mel finds the perfect one—a mystical-looking blank book with an intricately embossed cover. She steals it, but each time she tries to put pen to paper, she can’t quite bring herself to scrawl her high school drama into such a special book. Lara suggests using it as a spellbook, or Book of Shadows, and that’s when things start to get seriously weird. New spells start appearing on pages all on their own, and it’s clear that something dark has been unleashed. A great pick for any serious horror buff, The Book of Shadows delivers some serious spooks.

START YOUR BROOMSTICKS
Looking for a bewitching fantasy with a modern twist?T ry Jennifer Rush’s refreshingly original urban fantasy, Devils & Thieves. There’s plenty to love in this action-packed story of a group known as the kindled—those imbued with magical powers—who live separate from the ordinary humans, known as drecks. Eighteen-year-old Jemmie Carmichael has powers of her own, but her unique ability to also sense magic through scent and color—which often results in splitting headaches—keeps her from doing any spell casting of her own. Further complicating her life are her lingering feelings for her best friend’s brother, Crowe Medici, who just so happens to be the leader of the powerful kindled motorcycle gang called the Black Devils. Rush revvs up the drama when Jemmie initiates a new flirtation with a member of the Deathstalkers during the annual Kindled Festival, which brings all of the rival bike gangs to her small New York town. This well-crafted love triangle, coupled with a dangerous mystery involving Jemmie’s father, makes Devils & Thieves a guaranteed page turner that’s perfect for any young reader who can’t get enough of the witchcraft trend.

Supernaturally tinged stories have long been one of the most popular trends in the realm of teen literature (Twilight, anyone?), and it doesn’t look like it’s dying down any time soon. Thankfully, that means there are plenty of new novels to choose from for your Halloween reading stack. From a team of teenage monster hunters to a modern tale of witchy biker gangs, we’ve got the perfect book to get you in the spooky spirit. 

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Literature and music have always made a perfect pair. For those on your holiday shopping list who are equal parts bookworm and audiophile, look no further than our picks for the five biggest music books of the season.

Stevie Nicks has enjoyed quite the renaissance in recent years as a wave of millennials has embraced her witchy aesthetic in a big way. So it’s the perfect time for Stephen Davis to publish Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks, his detailed, albeit unauthorized, account of the songstress and her very public highs and lows. Beginning with her earliest performance with Fleetwood Mac in 1975—a wild, haunting rendition of “Rhiannon” that’s definitely worth a watch on YouTube—Davis paints a vivid and easily accessible portrait of Nicks’ life that’s bolstered by quotes from previously published interviews. From singing in Southwestern saloons with her grandfather at the age of 5 to her meteoric rise after joining Fleetwood Mac and, later, her quest to claim her artistic independence, Davis fills in some lesser-known details in the life of a staggeringly talented musician. Long live the age of Nicks!

(Roy Orbison in his Ford Thunderbird, May 1961, by Joe Horton.
Reprinted with permission from Hachette.)

A LEGEND REVEALED
“Remarkably, the story of our dad’s life has never been told. Not the real story, that is.” And so three of legendary songwriter Roy Orbison’s sons—Wesley, Roy Jr. and Alex Orbison—set out to write The Authorized Roy Orbison. Beginning with the rockabilly crooner’s unexpected comeback, which resulted in the star-studded concert film Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night, the authors then shift back to his humble beginnings in West Texas and follow him through a career that resulted in 22 chart-topping hits. A more authoritative look at Roy Orbison’s life isn’t likely to be found, as this volume contains a trove of hundreds of photos, personal documents and charming behind-the-scenes stories from those closest to him. This is a vital look at a unique trailblazer whose ripple effect is yet to be fully understood.

MAKING A CASE FOR JONI
Bob Dylan may have won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2016, but a compelling argument could have been made for folk icon Joni Mitchell to take the prize. Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell is journalist David Yaffe’s exuberant biography of the talented Canadian singer-songwriter and painter. Yaffe’s straightforward chronicle of Mitchell’s prolific career is a superfan’s account of a woman he greatly admires, but it also illustrates how Mitchell became “the hero of her own life.” Although Yaffe was only able to interview Mitchell a few times, they clocked 12 hours of conversation each time, and plenty of Mitchell’s own asides and commentary are interspersed throughout. Although Reckless Daughter can sometimes feel a bit hurried and sticks to the surface level more than a dedicated fan might like (I could have read far more than two short chapters on her 1971 album and enduring masterpiece “Blue”), Yaffe illustrates just how influential and essential to the fabric of modern songwriting her work truly is. Mitchell’s lovers and male contemporaries—especially the aforementioned Dylan—are all too often at the forefront of musical histories. Mitchell explains that, before she came along, “songs for women were always doormat songs.” But thankfully, the Mitchell in Yaffe’s work is an imposing, resilient yet good-natured genius, treated with the reverence she deserves.

(W)RAP IT UP
When it comes to hip-hop pioneers, Chuck D—a founding member of the politically charged group Public Enemy—should be one of the first names mentioned. Public Enemy exploded onto the scene in the mid-1980s and completely changed the cultural perception of the genre. In Chuck D Presents This Day in Rap and Hip-Hop History, he’s serious about providing a comprehensive account of the genre’s most important moments. He salutes the early “DJs who carried, transported, and played thick record crates full of wax,” kicking off his catalog with August 11, 1973, when DJ Kool Herc played the first hip-hop set in the Bronx. And from there, all of the biggest milestones in hip-hop are rolled out—from De La Soul’s debut release all the way to A Tribe Called Quest’s incredible comeback in 2016. Eclectic artwork from 10 visual artists makes this a perfect book to keep on display.

WALK WITH LOU
Lou Reed will be remembered as one of the most enigmatic figures in rock history. After joining Andy Warhol’s Velvet Underground in 1964, he captivated and challenged audiences with his genre-defying sound. Rolling Stone contributor and Grammy award-winning writer Anthony DeCurtis made the complicated decision to pen Lou Reed: A Life after Reed’s death in 2013, citing their unique working relationship as the catalyst behind this compelling look at Reed’s struggles and triumphs. This is quite a tome, and DeCurtis dives deep, providing details about every recording session and project Reed took on. DeCurtis admits that personal aspects Reed “would have loved to erase, are discussed here in detail,” and even though DeCurtis counted Reed as a friend, “this book does not present him the way he wanted to see himself . . . it presents him as he was. And, I believe, as he knew himself to be.” This will surely come to be the definitive biography of this larger-than-life artist.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Literature and music have always made a perfect pair. For those on your holiday shopping list who are equal parts bookworm and audiophile, look no further than our picks for the five biggest music books of the season.

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