In his new book, The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs (Yale, $28) famed rock historian and critic Greil Marcus flips the tiresome music-history book on its head. Drawing from his years as a progenitor of contemporary rock criticism, Marcus spotlights ten unique songs, revealing their intertwining importance to our culture, politics, and history. Sidestepping the bounds of a chronological timeline, Marcus’s sharp and witty observations trace a web of cultural significance across decades and generations. As he links the likes of Phil Spector to Amy Winehouse. and Beyoncé to Etta James, Marcus’s casual observations provide insightful challenges to all that we think we know about the rock ‘n’ roll genre. Positing that rock predates its own history as the core ideals of rebellion and revolution, Marcus is sure to touch on many ideas you’ve pondered as you’ve listened over the years—and plenty you never knew you would.
As one of the most interesting art books of the season, The Chinese Art Book (Phaidon, $59.95) provides a window into the art of the “world’s oldest continuous culture.” Representing all materials and disciplines, the book, introduced by Colin MacKenzie, senior curator at the Nelson-Akins Museum of Art, serves as a compendium of Chinese art dating back to Neolithic cultures and on to works produced today. Effective in its clean presentation and digestible essays by Keith Pratt, Jeffrey Moser, and Katie Hill, the book contextualizes China’s artistic, cultural, and political history through three hundred singular creations. By presenting ancient funerary masks next to digital video stills, the book’s unconventional approach and aesthetic is compelling and informative for both aficionados of and newcomers to the subject.
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Sheri Fink tells the harrowing tale of a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina in Five Days at Memorial (Crown, $27). Drawing on meticulous research and six years of reporting, Fink explores the ethical and moral dilemmas caregivers faced during the hurricane, and she gets to the bottom of the criminal charges brought against the hospital’s staff for the deaths and euthanization of forty-five patients. From scenes of babies being airlifted to safety to health care professionals administering fatal injections, Fink’s account is a truly disturbing cautionary tale, one that opens a much-needed conversation about America’s large-scale disaster preparedness and how we can move forward.