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Books

Friends premiered almost 25 years ago—and a generation later, helped along by Netflix and syndication deals, the show is as popular as it ever was. In her deeply-reported book I'll Be There For You: The One About Friends, Kelsey Miller examines the complicated cultural history of the show. Miller isn't afraid to dig into Friends' more problematic storylines—Fat Monica, anyone?—but she also examines what it is about Friends that makes it so beloved a quarter-century after it premiered (the answer? Friendship, of course—or, more accurately,...
There is a quote by Edgar Allan Poe that reads, “I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.”It’s one of his most popular lines. Many people might assume it’s from one of his fictional pieces and tweet it without any regard to its historical context. Maybe it’s from "The Pit and the Pendulum"? "The Raven"? This notorious line is actually from a letter he wrote to a fan—a Mr. George Washington Eveleth—dated January 4, 1848. Poe's wife, Virginia Clemm, had died a year prior...
  Days of Awe: StoriesBy A.M. Homes(Viking) With Days of Awe, writer A.M. Homes returns to the style that first launched her career: satirical fiction that casts a critical eye at suburban America and the status quo. This fresh batch of stories, however, is more surreal than Homes’ earlier work, and often drifts into magical realism. In the collection’s strongest work, the title story, a novelist and a war reporter meet at a conference on genocide and embark on an affair imbued with death, grief, and violence...

Witches and witchcraft exist in all cultures and continue to capture our imagination. Don’t feel like going out trick-or-treating this Halloween and would rather stay in and curl up with a book?  Here’s what to read: Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, Book One) by Tomi AdeyemiTomi Adeyemi’s first novel is set in the kingdom of Orïsha, where magic and its practitoners, the maji, have been oppressed by King Saran, a non-maji. Traumatized by the memory of the raids, young Zélie one day realizes her...
  Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ GuruBy Susan Shumsky(Skyhorse Publishing) In 1967, 19-year-old flower child Susan Shumsky met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the man who popularized Transcendental Meditation in the West. Through words, pictures, meditations, and drawings, Maharishi & Me follows her journey through the “heavenly hell” of being his close disciple for a decade. And the life she describes includes a little of what all cults seem to involve: rejection, money, sex, and just a touch of the supernatural. Shumsky rubbed elbows with...
A crazed woman in her underpants, 100 feet tall, rages through city streets, leaving behind a trail of menstrual blood and destruction. Empty bottles and scattered household items threaten revolution and murder. There are lots of bad dreams: Vomiting up teeth, penises that turn into croissants. This is the visceral, over-the-top world of Dirty Plotte, splattered with the figurative guts of comics artist Julie Doucet. The cult series was first published in the early 1990s, ferried around the underground world through word of mouth, the mail, and...
In her newest book of poetry, Shame Is an Ocean I Swim Across, Mary Lambert refuses to hide. Her darkest experiences, her lowest moments, the best and worst pieces of herself—they’re all equally visible. In the opening poem’s first stanza, Lambert recalls, “One time a boy grabbed me in the music room/and kissed my neck in front of everybody./I did not want to be kissed, but I thought I was supposed/to want to be kissed. I did not know what to do./And so I laughed.” Of course, this...
  Night MovesBy Jessica Hopper(University of Texas Press) In her latest book, music critic Jessica Hopper creates a loving portrait of early-2000s Chicago through vignettes that capture the city in all its gritty, weird glory. Centered loosely around the Wicker Park neighborhood, Hopper offers brief but vivid glimpses into her early years in a city she considers home. The book reads as part memoir and part history of a changing city without becoming bogged down in overwrought nostalgia. It’s possible to find the arc of Hopper’s...
When we named Phoebe Robinson the Queen Of All Media at our 25th anniversary party this summer, we weren't kidding: Robinson is a multi-talented multi-hyphenate. She's a podcast host (2 Dope Queens, with Jessica Williams, which is also an HBO special; and Sooo Many White Guys); actor (Ibiza, I Love Dick); screenwriter (Portlandia); essay writer (her 2016 essay collection You Can't Touch My Hair (And Other Things I Still Have To Explain) followed years of blogging on her own site, Blaria); and standup comedian. Her...
Since I'm the queen of crap jobs, Barbara Ehrenreich is a hero to me. Her 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, is something I return to time and again. For those not familiar with Nickel and Dimed, it chronicles Ehrenreich's experiment—inspired by welfare reform in the 1990s—to see if she could survive month-to-month working jobs considered “unskilled labor.” She spent time working at Wal-mart, in a nursing home, as a server and housekeeper and house cleaner. Along the way she found...