Anyone immediately transported to a riverside pier by the lyric “So open up your morning light” will love Thea Glassman’s Freaks, Gleeks, and Dawson’s Creek: How Seven Teen Shows Transformed Television. “Today’s teen shows are leading the charge when it comes to progressive, diverse, and creative storytelling,” Glassman writes, but they wouldn’t exist without the seven predecessors she covers in her impressive debut: “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “My So-Called Life,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “Freaks and Geeks,” “The O.C.,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Glee.”

In a wealth of new interviews with creators, writers, actors, crew and more insiders, Freaks, Gleeks, and Dawson’s Creek shares behind-the-scenes details that will delight devoted fans and excited newbies alike. While all of the shows drew heavily from their creators’ own teenage years, Glassman points out the unique choices and approaches that made each iconic. For example, “Fresh Prince” subverted typical sitcom format and “painted a nuanced picture of the Black experience. “My So-Called Life” inspired the first online campaign to save a show, and “Dawson’s Creek” had the first openly gay character in the teen sphere.

While Glassman acknowledges controversies that touched each show, she focuses on the creativity, heart and hard work that led to a groundbreaking era of teen TV. After all, as writer and pop-culture maven Jennifer Keishin Armstrong writes in her introduction, “There is no drama like teenage drama, in life and in fiction.”

This survey of seven teen shows explores how they broke ground with creativity, heart and hard work, paving the way for the genre’s progressive and diverse oeuvre today.

Insider deputy editor Walt Hickey won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Illustrated Reporting and Commentary. His wide-ranging, captivating You Are What You Watch: How Movies and TV Affect Everything makes it easy to see why.

The average American spends three-plus hours a day consuming media. “Across a lifetime,” Hickey writes, “that’s 22 percent of our time on Earth!” No wonder we’re curious about how media affects us. He asserts that, contrary to those who consider our favorite media a “bogeyman, a brain melter, a violence inciter, a waste,” it actually is “complex, fascinating, and often rather good.”

Hickey fascinates as he demystifies pop culture, sharing the outcomes of his experiments and studies. He’s a data journalist, and cheeky and informative visuals—charts, graphs, maps and little photos of famous people’s heads—bolster his pro-pop-culture assertions and illuminate personal stories, such as when he subjected his nervous system to a “Jaws” rewatch to discern which scenes most affected him. Colorful charts like “Movies Make People Exhale the Same Chemicals at the Same Times” bring his research into focus. He notes that when “The Hunger Games” film debuted in 2012, USA Archery’s merchandise sales quintupled. Similarly, the premieres of 1943’s “Lassie Come Home” and 1992’s “Beethoven” were both followed by spikes in the popularity of collies and Saint Bernards.

The author’s keen eye for detail and ability to see connections across genres enliven the narrative beyond theory and talking points. From the WWE to the Tax Reform Act of 1976, Scooby-Doo to geopolitics, Hickey offers a bounty of enthusiasm for our favorite stories.

Pulitzer Prize winner Walt Hickey champions pop culture with a cornucopia of studies, experiments and visuals in You Are What You Watch.

Following on the success of his 2017 memoir, Cured, Lol Tolhurst returns with what he calls a “memoir of a subculture.” Goth: A History is Tolhurst’s compendious exploration of the music, art, literature and fashion that made up the dark side of post-punk. The Cure—which he co-founded as drummer with Robert Smith and Michael Dempsey—is often seen as one of the instigators of the movement, alongside bands like Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Joy Division. Richly illustrated with flyers and photos from Tolhurst’s private collection, Goth is a coffee table book for the discriminating vampire.

Goth was always more than black eyeliner and black clothes; in Tolhurst’s reading, it reflects the bleak social and political context of Margaret Thatcher’s England. As a philosophy, it suggests a melancholic point of view and a willingness to contemplate obsessive love, madness and death. In Goth, Tolhurst catalogs the poets and artists whose work appeals to those who also love goth music. Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar was a massive influence on Tolhurst, as were the poets T.S. Eliot and Anne Sexton. Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is obviously goth, as are the death- and madness-drenched poems of Charles Baudelaire. David Bowie, Alice Cooper and Marc Bolan of T. Rex each have goth elements and were also early influences on Tolhurst.

Inevitably, a good part of this book focuses on Tolhurst’s time with The Cure as the drummer and later keyboardist. (He left the band in 1989). He dwells on The Cure’s three early albums, culminating in the magisterial fourth, “Pornography,” as exemplary goth music. But he is also generous in his assessment of other bands, tracing the continuation of goth music from the post-punk era in England to the Los Angeles goth scene and beyond. Structured as mini essays, Goth can feel disjointed, and Tolhurst at times is repetitive. But fans will find themselves immersed. It’s a beautiful book, full of concert photos, portraits and band flyers. Tolhurst is a passionate storyteller and an elder goth statesman worth listening to.

The Cure’s Lol Tolhurst explores the influences and impact of goth music and culture in an immersive new coffee table book.

The prolific and hilarious Keegan-Michael Key—known for his work in “Key & Peele,” “Mad TV,” “Schmigadoon!” and as President Obama’s “anger translator”—shares his passion and enthusiasm for sketch comedy in the aptly titled The History of Sketch Comedy: A Journey Through the Art and Craft of Humor, co-authored with his wife, film producer Elle Key.

The book, based on their Webby Award-winning podcast, is a wonderful soup-to-nuts compendium of everything sketch. The authors trace its origins from ancient Greece to today’s comedians, and take readers around the U.S. and abroad as they consider influential American comedy schools and highlight the British comedians who are “courageous trailblazers who have influenced comedy around the world.”

Key also revisits his Detroit upbringing, detailing his comedy education in college and on various stages. Aspiring comedians will benefit from the book’s educational elements: With copious examples of (and scripts from) favorite sketches and shows, their creators analyze what, exactly, makes them so funny and memorable. Guest essays from stars like Ken Jeong, Carol Burnett, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tracy Morgan add to the fun, as do tangents about beloved colleagues like Jordan Peele and “one of the godfathers of modern sketch,” Bob Odenkirk. The History of Sketch Comedy is a highly informative and entertaining read that’s sure to inspire instant binge-watching and a groundswell of sketch-centric enthusiasm.

Keegan-Michael Key and Elle Key’s History of Sketch Comedy is a wonderful soup-to-nuts compendium of everything sketch.

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