Cultural Criticism

If you’ve ever annoyed a friend by talking too much about the last thing you watched, listened to, or read, these books of criticism can help you keep the conversation going. Thinking with, through, and against the thoughts of someone else can deepen your experience with a work of art. It can also give you even more to say to your friend, who definitely needs your thoughts on the last season of Succession. So grab one of these titles, and go get insightful. 

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Cinema Speculation

Tarantino details his childhood movie-going experiences, many as a small boy watching films, decidedly for adults, with his mother in 1970s Los Angeles. In the process, he brings a master filmmaker’s eye to the aesthetics and techniques of Dirty Harry, Deliverance, and less remembered works of New Hollywood cinema. This title is also available as an eBook/eAudio on Libby. 

Feel Free: Essays

With essays on joy, Facebook, Joni Mitchell, contemporary sculpture, and Justin Bieber, novelist Zadie Smith brings her keen insight and considered prose to an expansive range of subjects. This title is also available as an eBook/eAudio on Libby.  

A Little Devil in America

Poet and essayist Abdurraquib starts this National Book Award Finalist with a one sentence introduction that spans two pages. Alternating between lyric expression and discursive prose, the Columbus, OH native expounds on the history of Black performance and the careers of Josephine Baker, Dave Chappelle, and Whitney Houston. This title is also available as an eBook/eAudio on Libby. 

Meet Me in the Bathroom

Journalist Lizzy Goodman chronicles the New York rock scene of the of the 2000s. Her interviews with members of Vampire Weekend, the Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and other bands capture the chaos and energy of the post-9/11 pre-smart phone era. This title is also available as an eBook/eAudio on Libby. 

My Pinup: A Paean to Prince

A longtime critic for the New Yorker, Als blends memoir and analysis in this brief but dizzying tour through the art and legacy of Prince. From Jamie Foxx’s stand-up to Dorothy Parker’s poetry, Als meditates on Prince’s impacts and influences to explore the artist behind Purple Rain and the nature of desire. 

Orwell’s Roses

Best known for penning dystopian fiction and social criticism, George Orwell also avidly gardened. Solnit explores Orwell’s relationship to flowers and in doing so investigates humanity’s relationship with nature. This title is also available as eAudio on Libby. 

Trick Mirror

Blogger turned New Yorker and Jezebel contributor Jia Tolentino tackles the fraught dilemmas of millennial life. Topics include the tension between authenticity and performance in internet personae and the conflicting goals of optimization and contentment in personal development. This title is also available as an eBook/eAudio on Libby. 


Always opinionated and ever acerbic, the author of American Psycho rails against contemporary moral and artistic discourse, champions aesthetics over politics, and offers engaging analyses of various films, shows, and novels. This title is also available as an eBook/eAudio on Libby.