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BOOKS ISSUE: 25 books from 2011 to check out

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ROCK AND ROLL ALWAYS FORGETS

By Chuck Eddy

Duke University Press

352 pp., paper, $24.95

Chuck Eddy glides through music criticism like a grumpy fanatic. Each article included in Rock and Roll Always Forgets — culled from Eddy's vast back catalogue of music journalism articles, beginning with the early 1980s — is packed with cultural references, touchstones, facts, witty asides, a dash of snark, and acknowledgments of once-obscure acts. Yet, he approaches each band like he's the first to have discovered it. He's a musical anthropologist, but also, archeologist, digging up the remains of musicians past, lest we forget. Take a piece on a Marilyn Manson show, written in 1996. More than simply describing the stage and the crowd (which he does, expertly: "[they] wore too much black makeup, but they didn't scare me — most seemed to be upper-middle-class Catholic school teens from the burbs..."). He wanders near profundity, dissecting Manson's overall persona, his ticks, his own cultural references, and those who came before him, namely Alice Cooper, but a great many more. Most importantly, Eddy alludes to why that all matters in the least. (Emily Savage)

 

TROPIC OF CHAOS

By Christian Parenti

Nation Books

295 pp., hardcover, $25.99

Through historical research and on-the-ground reporting in Kenya, war-torn areas of Afghanistan, and other regions marked by intense conflict, Christian Parenti offers an unusual and compelling analysis of violence through the lens of the environment. Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence teases out the idea that increasingly unstable weather patterns stemming from climate change have fueled conflict throughout impoverished areas of the Global South. In the savannahs of northwest Kenya, for instance, deadly cattle raids have intensified as intertribal warfare heats up in the face of water scarcity. Recurring droughts and floods in Afghanistan have made it exceedingly difficult for farmers raise traditional crops, making them increasingly reliant drought-resistant poppy — the raw ingredient for heroin — for economic survival. Parenti also turns a sharp eye upon the repression, surveillance, and counterinsurgency that first-world nations have employed to combat growing violence in water-scarce, conflict-ridden regions, and calls for a more enlightened approach. (Rebecca Bowe)

 

CAFE LIFE SAN FRANCISCO

by Joe Wolff

Interlink Books

224 pp., paperback $20

Small quirks in this guide to the city's cafes and coffeehouses — the sixth in a series that includes Sydney, New York, and Venice — will let you know its not strictly, strictly for locals. Java Beach is lumped in with more gearhead-oriented Mojo Bicycle Cafe and Ninth Avenue's Arizmendi Bakery is filed under the catchall "Sunset District and vicinity." The introduction's discussion of "San Fran" versus "Frisco" versus "the City" is one that became boring long ago. But those things matter little. In-depth histories of some of your favorite cafes, from Java Beach to Philz' to Caffé Baonecci are lucid looks at the facts and rewards of small entrepreneurship in the city. And Roger Paperno's loving photography of velvet crema and foccacia sheets combines with words to create an ode to the city's third spaces that any caffeine-laptop addict will appreciate in their stocking. (Caitlin Donohue)

 

LIONS OF THE WEST: HEROES AND VILLAINS OF THE WESTWARD EXPANSION

By Robert Morgan

Algonquin Books

497 pp., hardcover, $29.95

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