Collage by Beth Hoeckel.

It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music
Amanda Petrusich
2008, Faber & Faber

Amanda Petrusich’s It Still Moves is the story of American music, told chapter-by-chapter through a road trip across the U.S. It explores the physical locations that inspired the bedrocks of country, folk, and early rock. I’ve never been particularly smitten with the work of Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, or Elvis Presley–or even contemporary country, for that matter, save for a seventh grade infatuation with Taylor Swift–but Amanda’s attentive eye draws me into the history. It Still Moves wasn’t written only through observation of archived public record–Petrusich includes conversations with the people closest to the scenes she describes. Throughout the book, she trains a careful eye on the genuine origins of country music and the artistry of African-Americans (a history that is lost in contemporary country’s disturbingly white image). It Still Moves packs in years of musical history with clarity and a pleasing voice. I can linger over it for hours. —Rachel Davies

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé
Morgan Parker
2017, Tin House

The poems in Morgan Parker’s There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé are bold, lush, and incisive. The opening poem, “All They Want Is My Money My Pussy My Blood,” buoys between humor, rage, and depression, with lines like, “I do whatever I want because I could die any minute. I don’t mean YOLO, I mean they are hunting me.” In “RoboBeyoncé,” the narrator tells the reader, “You can never touch me actually. It’s a quiet, calculated shame.” The poems in this collection are refreshing. I both laughed out loud and cried while reading this collection. If you’re looking for poetry that will move you, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé should be on your reading list. —Diamond Sharp

Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs
Pearl Cleage
2014, Atria Books

Pearl Cleage begins her memoir, Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs, by inviting her daughter to read her diaries. Inspired by her own experience reading her mother’s diaries, Cleage viewed her memoir as a way to give her daughter unmitigated access to her interior world. The prologue sets the tone and the transparency with which Cleage shares her life. The first entry, on January 9, 1970, propels the reader into a world where COINTELPRO is eating away at the Black liberation movement, which Cleage had proximity to. From there, we read entries that address problems with the culture at large, celebrity interactions, and her love interests, all the way through March 30, 1988, when the last entry was written. Between the pages, the reader witnesses Cleage come into her own while remaining a work in progress. —Tayler Montague ♦