RaveSlate... a sweeping, roundtable history, at which Duran Duran sit alongside the Judds, who sit alongside the Minutemen, who sit alongside Rubén Blades, who sits alongside Metallica … you get the picture. It’s also a carefully researched and remarkably ambitious work that immediately takes a place on the shelf of indispensable books about music in the 1980s ... In its best moments, which are frequent, Can’t Slow Down feels like a breakthrough in popular musical historiography. By deemphasizing the boundaries of genre, Matos has constructed a more honest and complete assessment of how pop music is made, circulated, and enjoyed—how it is lived, in other words ... this isn’t to suggest that Can’t Slow Down is a work of overly poptimistic, \'post-genre\' revisionism. If anything, a great deal of the book is about artists negotiating the challenges of market segmentation and radio formats during a time when those structures held tremendous power ... yet while Matos’ writing is infused with real love for much of the music he writes about, he is rightly skeptical of the industry triumphalism that often goes hand in hand with musical nostalgia.
PositiveSlateA hallmark of Perlstein’s work is his blending of political and cultural history, often a tricky balance ... As might be expected from its massive length, Reaganland occasionally sags, and like any kitchen-sink history, it inherently invites quibbles with points of emphasis and omission. Perlstein’s rapid-fire style of chronological narrative is riveting, like the world’s most exciting microfilm scroll, although it can occasionally blur the lines between correlation and causation. It’s not the best book in Perlstein’s series ... If anything, Perlstein deserves credit for his ability to wring two huge and immensely readable books out of such a relatively uncompelling person ... Perlstein’s epic achievement of history has finally come to an end, and I hope that someday Reaganland will, too
RaveSlateAnderson is a great basketball writer...and his material on Harden, Durant, and particularly Westbrook in Boom Town will surely enthrall hoops fans. But Boom Town will also thrill anyone who couldn’t care less about the NBA; at its core, it’s a curious reporter’s portrait of the cultural and civic life of a strange and great city. If you’re a non-Oklahoman, you’ll experience frequent shocks of recognition at the foibles of the modern urban experience; Anderson’s explorations, though, will have you opening your preferred travel app, idly pricing tickets to the Sooner State ... The cast of characters that Anderson has assembled in his book offers an embarrassment of riches, a testament to Anderson’s skills as both a reporter and a historical researcher ... The imaginations of sports and cities reinforce each other rather perfectly, a connection that Boom Town mines for all its possibilities.
Mike Reiss and Mathew Klickstein
MixedSlateIt’s the first book of its kind by a true Simpsons lifer and offers an informative, frequently hilarious, and occasionally frustrating glimpse into the long career of the world’s most famous four-fingered family ... Reiss’ book is stuffed with jokes, many of which are really funny: About two-thirds of the way through, there’s one at the expense of Moe, my favorite Simpsons character, that made me laugh out loud in public. But it never feels like Reiss fully settles on what sort of book he’s trying to write, a behind-the-scenes tour of an iconic show or a personal memoir of a life in comedy writing, with the latter often feeling a bit half-assed ... Springfield Confidential works best as fan service, and I don’t mean that as a dig. Reiss knows his audience, and it’s unlikely that many people will read this book who aren’t already Simpsons obsessives ... Reiss does briefly address the ongoing controversy over the voicing of Apu and does so defensively and poorly ... Mike Reiss wrote the goddamn Simpsons. It can be up to the rest of us to write the great books that the show deserves.
MixedSlateSam Graham-Felsen’s debut novel Green is one of the more charming recent additions to this pile, a heartfelt and unassumingly ambitious book that blends fiction, memoir, and social analysis to lovingly recreate the Hub of Graham-Felsen’s youth, while also directing a well-intentioned if somewhat shaky microscope onto the city’s notoriously shameful racial landscape ...By the book’s end I couldn’t shake the sense that Green is a novel about whiteness written for white people, which isn’t the worst thing in the world—after all, many novels by and for white people never interrogate that whiteness at all. But at a certain point, guiltily obsessing over one’s bystander complicity in the structures of white supremacy becomes just another way of thinking about yourself, and each time the novel seemed to approach a moment of real reckoning, it appeared to lose its nerve. Like a free throw shooter with the yips, the book aims its shots rather than simply taking them. Green is never able to disentangle its critique of the world it inhabits from its nostalgia for it; as such it both illuminates a particular brand of whiteness while also, less fortunately, exemplifying it.
RaveThe AtlanticIn the best full-length treatment of Mitchell yet published, Yaffe follows her from her childhood in postwar Saskatchewan all the way up to a Chick Corea concert last year, her first public appearance after suffering an aneurysm in 2015. Yaffe was granted extraordinary access to the famously standoffish Mitchell, as well as to many of her closest friends and collaborators, including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Joan Baez, David Crosby, Judy Collins, and the late Leonard Cohen. Making the most of his proximity, he pulls off the feat that has eluded so many of his predecessors: He forges an intimacy with Mitchell on her own, uncompromising terms by truly listening to her, as closely and as generously as she’s always deserved ... Yaffe’s greatest accomplishment in Reckless Daughter, stuffed though it is with insightful reporting, is to shed light not just on the artist but also on the art. Yaffe brings a sophisticated and exceptionally careful ear to music that demands nothing less.
RaveSlate...a book like this will always be timely—not merely because its concerns are shamefully perennial, but because it is a work of rare beauty and revelatory honesty ... Between the World and Me is a love letter written in a moral emergency, one that Coates exposes with the precision of an autopsy and the force of an exorcism. Taken as a whole the book is Coates’ attempt to sever America’s ongoing romance with its own unexamined platitudes of innocence and equality, a romance that, in the writer’s telling, 'persists by warring with the known world.'”
RaveSlateThe most significant story that pulses underneath the many taut yarns of Boys Among Men is one of labor. This was a decade in which elite college-age black male athletes—a population that, in terms of value versus compensation, ranks among the most unfairly treated labor pools in modern American society—found a loophole in the Byzantine rules designed to exploit them and worked it until the NBA sewed it closed ... Abrams is a fantastic storyteller, and Boys Among Men unfolds with a broadly chronological structure but with a natural sense for the well-timed digression.