Lynn Melnick’s I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive: On Trauma, Persistence, and Dolly Parton is an extraordinary homage to one of country music’s leading ladies. Melnick’s early life was marked by abuse and trauma, and she fell in love with Parton’s music at age 14. Mixing her personal history with reflections on the singer’s significance as a cultural figure, Melnick creates a moving narrative of female endurance. Parton’s popular tunes, including “Jolene” and “Islands in the Stream,” serve as springboards for the chapters of this inspiring book.
In Unlikeable Female Characters: The Women Pop Culture Wants You to Hate, Anna Bogutskaya explores how our perception of what makes a “likable” woman has changed as more complex female characters have become prevalent in media. Bogutskaya uses tropes such as “the mean girl” and “the shrew” as reference points and celebrates how those misogynist terms have been, in some cases, reclaimed. Bogutskaya’s analysis of gender, sexuality and the power of the media will get book clubs talking as she explores famous figures such as Cardi B and Hillary Clinton.
Emily Nussbaum delivers a shrewd overview of the modern TV landscape with her dazzling collection of essays, I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution. Over the course of the collection, Nussbaum—an unabashed fan of the tube—provides engaging analyses of audience viewing habits and storytelling trends and traditions. She also interviews showrunners and considers the significance of watershed series like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Nussbaum’s lively writing style and gifts as a critic are on full display in this eye-opening collection.
Nerd: Adventures in Fandom From This Universe to the Multiverse, Maya Phillips’ smart, incisive essay collection, investigates the growth of nerd culture and its influence on modern media. Reading groups will appreciate Phillips’ personal yet wide-reaching critiques of cultural touchstones such as Harry Potter, Star Wars and Marvel comics and how they inspire feelings of belonging among fans. Phillips also delves into the complications of her own experiences as a Black woman engaging in fandoms without many Black characters. The evolution of pop culture, hero worship and the impact of fan bases are but a few of the rich themes in this intriguing book.