Isabelle: The Life of Isabelle Eberhardt

Annette Kobak

Isabelle Eberhardt sought to experience the whole range of life among the Arabs of North Africa. Born in Switzerland from the union between a Russian woman with aristocratic ties and her children’s anarchist tutor, Eberhardt was raised wearing boy’s clothing and schooled in languages. Traveling to North Africa, she dressed as a man, converted to Islam, became addicted to kif (hashish) and took numerous male lovers before marrying an Arab sergeant. Joining a mysterious Sufi sect, she traveled across the desert and documented her picaresque life in numerous letters and journals before her premature death at age 27 in a freak desert flash flood. Isabelle sorts through the legend to capture all of the intricate strands of her short and eventful life. Relying on journals, unpublished letters and records in archives in Switzerland, France and Algeria, Kobak debunks fanciful myths (for example, that Rimbaud was her father) and demonstrates control of such sensational material. While perhaps lacking the poetry of Eberhardt’s own writings, this biography offers an excellent and comprehensive portrait of this legendary figure. JAT

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 268 pages

Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member

Sanyika Shakur, a.k.a Monster Kody Scott

“After pumping eight blasts from a sawed-off shotgun at a group of rival gang members, 11-year-old Kody Scott was initiated into the L.A. gang the Crips. He quickly matured into one of the most formidable Crip combat soldiers and earned the name Monster for committing acts of brutality and violence that repulsed even fellow gang members. When an inevitable jail term confined Scott to a maximum-security cell, he transferred his aggression into educating himself and underwent a political and personal transformation. Written from his cell in solitary… illuminates his evolution from Monster, ‘gangbanging ghetto star,’ to Sanyika Shakur, black nationalist, member of the New Afrikan Independence Movement, and crusader against the causes of gangsterism.”

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 383 pages

Stigmata: A Medieval Mystery in a Modern Age

Ted Harrison

“A 10-year-old black girl in California bled from her palms, feet, right side and the middle of her forehead for 19 days in 1972, until Good Friday, when the bleeding stopped. A Washington, D.C., priest experienced spontaneous bleeding from his wrists, feet and right side in 1991. Since St. Francis of Assissi in the 13th century, ordinary people have suffered spontaneous lesions and bleeding resembling the wounds received by Christ during the crucifixion… Includes a startling analysis of the socioeconomic conditions that might give rise to the emergence of stigmatics at the end of another millennium and interviews with a medical expert on stigmata.”

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 176 pages

The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature

William James

First modern book to treat drugs seriously as part of the religious impulse: conversion, repentance, mysticism, saintliness. Lucid and unorthodox look at spirituality at the turn of the century.

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 576 pages

The Job

William S. Burroughs with Daniel Odier

Important explanations of the experiments, techniques and theories which are usually encoded in Burroughs's fiction are provided in the form of interviews and essays intercut as “a film with fade-outs and flashback illustrating the answers.” The possibilities for drug-free liberation of consciousness are explored through sound cut-ups, porno film loops, subliminals, infrasonic frequencies, riot TV, speech scramblers and the Dreamachine. Burroughs also takes the opportunity to editorialize in plain English about the Family; the pernicious influence of the gentler sex; the CIA; Watergate; love, the word and other viruses; Wilhelm Reich; Korzybski; L. Ron Hubbard; mutation; and Death. SS

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 224 pages

Beautiful Death: Art of the Cemetery

David Robinson and Dean Koontz

“While based in Paris, Robinson roamed the cemeteries of Europe. Over a period of two years he took more than 10,000 photographs of cemeteries, including Père-Lachaise, Montparnasse and Montmartre in Paris, the cemeteries of London and village church yards in England, the Jewish Cemetery in Prague, and cemeteries across France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. He sought out the strange, affecting beauty of tombs, the poignant signs of loss, mourning and separation, and the aspirations to afterlife and reunion in the beyond. In his images we see the fleeting gestures of defiance against oblivion—the claims of the living on behalf of the dead—in the clasping of hands, proffered kisses, fading flowers, beaded wreaths, even where a passerby has rouged the lips of a pining figure carved in stone.” Accompanying text is a meditation on death by best-selling writer Dean Koontz.

Publisher: Penguin
Hardback: 192 pages

Dear Mister Rogers, Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood?

Fred Rogers

Possibly the most underrated thinker of the 20th century, Fred Rogers has been a fixture of children’s television for over 25 years. Dear Mr. Rogers collects the letters from children and their parents along with Mr. Rogers’ responses to the questions and concerns of his television friends. Sincerely believing that every child’s questions are important since they help to form their understanding of the world and prepare them for adulthood, Mr. Rogers never dismisses a question as silly. He answers each question with the simplicity and elegance typically found only in mathematical proofs, Mr. Rogers deals with weighty topics such as death, disease and divorce, as well as lighter topics including “In your younger years did you get a lot of chicks because you were Mister Rogers?” or does Mr. Rogers “poop.” Dear Mr. Rogers also features preaddressed stationery so young readers will better able to write this sage of Pittsburgh. With warmth and inspiration for parents and children, Dear Mr. Rogers offers a thoughtful perspective of childhood, parenting, and life in general. JAT

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 185 pages

Juba to Jive: The Dictionary of African-American Slang

Edited by Clarence Major

An investigation of the chronological cultural and linguistic development and etymology of Ebonics in American history. A thoroughly researched work that can be employed as a subcultural reference text. OAA

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 548 pages

Nico: The End

James Young

Sweat it out with Nico on her too-small tour bus, surrounded by her dysfunctional and wantonly decrepit backup band, her opportunistic, no-talent crew, her bloated, lovesick manager and her wasted, drugsick fans. The Teutonic diva of doom deserved better—”She should play ze Carnegie ‘All,” claimed her French son Ari. Instead, she endured misery and degradation, lugging her dusty harmonium from one art-house stage to another, continually on the verge of kicking as her entourage siphoned off her dope-reserves, underappreciated by reporters wanting only to know about Andy and the Velvets, and overappreciated by a manager who besieged her with embarrassing sex-poetry in between bouts of explosive masturbation in the adjoining hotel room. This is the rock ‘n’ roll adventure as it veers off into old age-void of glamor, romance, myth—but it remains an adventure nonetheless. JT

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 207 pages

Total Television

Alexander McNeil

Total Television is perhaps the most complete guide available on American television. Offering listings on over 5,400 series from 1948 through 1995, this resource provides a treasure trove of fascinating lore and minutiae about TV and, in the process, about American popular culture. Each series listing reports the air dates, the network affiliation, and a summary of the show’s premise and significant cast members. The level of detail is admirable. For instance, it notes that Don Hornsby, the original host of Broadway Open House, died of polio within two weeks of its original airing in 1950; that Barbara Colby of Phyllis was found murdered after three episodes of her show; and that Pick and Pat, which aired briefly in 1949, was the only variety show that regularly featured minstrel acts.
Of added interest is a listing of noteworthy specials, detailed charts showing the prime-time schedules for the networks by season, a summary of Peabody and Emmy award winners, a recap of the highest rated programs from 1949 through 1995, and an index of 19,000 personalities, which will allow the reader to check out the credits of their favorite TV entertainers. JAT

Publisher: Penguin
Paperback: 1251 pages