Somehow, I had never heard of Diana Gabaldon's bestselling Outlander series until the Starz debut of its recent TV adaptation. A friend who's a longtime fan of the books encouraged me to read the first one, and it's a pretty ripping yarn, full of adventure, and with a relatable heroine who's neither a Katniss Everdeen-style badass nor an underwritten pushover. There's romance (and lots of sex), time travel, and history, yet it's mostly free of genre cliche. It's not a great work of literature, but if you're seeking a beach read or just an escape from the seemingly endless stream of awfulness in the news of late, you could do far worse. My recommendation: read the first book (it's addictive enough that it won't take long), then tune into the show, which is a well-made, highly faithful adaptation. The story's fun enough to get drawn into twice.
When Liz Phair released her album Exile in Guyville, a track-by-track takedown of the Stones' casually sexist Exile on Main Street it was a rare look into the life and thoughts of an independent young woman. It's now considered a classic, but at the time, it pissed off (mostly male) music writers so much that Phair was essentially run out of her Chicago hometown. Gina Arnold's 33 1/3 book on the album is less a rundown of the tracks and more of an examination of the death of rock criticism, the rise of third-wave feminism, and music's place in a digital world. It's a thoughtfully written spiritual companion to the album, and the New York Times was right to dub it one of the best books yet in the 33 1/3 series.
Appearances: Booksmith, 9/2
If you're the kind of person who grew up with '90s indie rock like Phair's, you're probably also well-acquainted with the similar revolution in '90s indie film. Much of that effort was spearheaded by Ted Hope, who's currently the director of the SF Film Society, but spent years producing the work of Hal Hartley, Ang Lee, Todd Haynes, Todd Solondz, Nicole Holofcener, and Ed Burns. His new memoir-cum-manifesto, Hope For Film, details all of the effort and insanity that goes into making movies on a shoestring budget, and doubles as a guide to surviving and creating good work in an age of corporate co-opting and tentpole blockbusters.
Appearances: Books Inc. Castro, 8/27