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Rick's Picks

Book Cover for Orange Is the New Black Kerman, Piper
Orange Is the New Black

Nonfiction
As you probably already know, the hit Netflix series is based on the book of the same name by Piper Kerman. Like other exposés of prison life, this one offers compelling details of the incarcerated life and its culture, including the rituals surrounding welcoming new inmates, celebrating birthdays and holidays, the ingenuity of prison-cell cooking, and how the people bond and support one another while trying to maintain a routine that resembles normal life. There are many moments of warmth and compassion among the inmates that help them cope with infuriating commonplace injustices. For viewers of the show, an added layer of interest is the running comparison of how situations and characters from the book were adapted, and largely exaggerated, for the sake of good TV.
Recommended March 2015

 
Book Cover for The Goon Powell, Eric
The Goon

Graphic Novel
The Goon is a big, burly bruiser with wrecking-ball fists, a cap pulled low over his scarred face, and a fierce hatred for any threat that tries to move in on his turf. At his side is his best and only pal, Frankie, a scrawny smart mouth who’s quick with a tommy gun or a knife to the eye. Together, these indomitable misfits lay waste to bloodthirsty monsters, backwoods creeps, greedy gangsters, and plenty of zombies. This over-the-top horror-noir is a campy, violent mash-up of pulp fiction, Tales from the Crypt, and Mad magazine, that is definitely not for the faint of heart or the easily offended.
Recommended November 2014

 
Book Cover for New American Splendor Anthology Pekar, Harvey
The New American Splendor Anthology

Nonfiction Graphic Novel
The New American Splendor Anthology by Harvey Pekar and various artists. This anthology is definitely not new. First published in 1991, it mainly contains comics from the mid- to late-80s. The stories are generally short, autobiographical vignettes about Pekar's working-class life in Cleveland, Ohio. Topics range from dealing with co-workers or traffic, to struggling to maintain relationships with friends and lovers — the usual everyday fascinating stuff. Also included are stories about a few of his appearances as a guest on Late Night with David Letterman. He never seems to glorify or glamorize the events in his stories, and they are written in a very average slang-filled prose which conveys a relatable honesty. The work is definitely dated, but Pekar was a persistent pioneer on the cutting edge of biographical comics, which makes these worth a look. There is a lot to be said about the daily struggles of a man trying to live a fulfilling life in the gritty '80s.
Recommended August 2014