City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles

Mike Davis

In this already-classic work, Davis, native son of the Southland (Fontana), recounts Los Angeles’ past and present as if it had never been told before, or told truly. The chapters on “Fortress L.A.” and the LAPD alone are more than worth the price of the book. Through his observation of ongoing trends in the Great American Utopia/Dystopia Davis perceives the future of the city, and implies that it will be exactly as you’d expect it would be—sublime, horrible and ludicrous, all in the same breath. The best book ever written on the City of Angels, period—indispensable. JW

Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 480 pages

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

Michel Foucault

A genealogy of the movement with which power subjectifies, encapsulates and controls the individual moving from torture’s spectacular assault upon the body to modern prisons which constrain and normalize the spirit in “peaceful and humane” institutions which nevertheless echo “the distant roar of the battle.”

Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 333 pages

Madness and Civilization

Michel Foucault

“We have yet to write the history of that other form of madness, by which men, in an act of sovereign reason, confine their neighbors, and communicate and recognize each other through the merciless language of non-madness; to define the moment of this conspiracy before it was permanently established in the realm of truth, before it was revived by the lyricism of protest. We must try to return, in history to that zero point in the course of madness at which madness is an undifferentiated experience, a not-yet-divided experience of division itself.”

Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 299 pages

The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination, 1969-1994

Edward W. Said

“Retraces the Palestinian hejira, its disastrous flirtation with Saddam Hussein, and its ambiguous peace accord with Israel… demolishing both Western stereotypes about the Muslim world and Islam’s illusions about itself.

Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 512 pages

Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey

Isabel Fonseca

“Fabled, feared, romanticized and reviled, the Gypsies—or Roma—are among the least understood people on earth. Now a diaspora of twelve million, their culture remains largely obscure… Alongside unforgettable portraits of individuals—the poet, the politician, the child prostitute—this book offers sharp insights into the humor, language, wisdom and taboos of the Roma, tracing their exodus out of India 1,000 years ago and their astonishing history of persecution: enslaved by the princes of medieval Romania; massacred by the Nazis; forcibly assimilated by the communist regimes; and, most recently, evicted from their settlements by nationalist mobs throughout the new ‘democracies’ of Eastern Europe.”

Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 322 pages

Among the Thugs

Bill Buford

What might compel an educated and well-adjusted man to start spending every free weekend with a gang of football hooligans—mere journalistic curiosity, or is it something deeper and more dangerous? This is the strange quandary of Bill Buford, a California native who came to London to start the literary magazine Granta, and began at once to develop an unwholesome preoccupation with that country’s lumpen-prole threat. Who, after all, can resist the pull of a crowd poised for destruction? “‘It’s going to go off,’ someone said, and his eyes were glassy, as though he had taken a drug. ‘It’s going to go off,’ spoken softly, but each time it was repeated it gained authority …“ What’s going to go off? A powder-keg of seething class hatred, empire-envy, racist fury and countless pints of strong English ale. Brittania über alles! JT

Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 320 pages

Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York

Luc Sante

Outlaw urban history from the author of Evidence. Presents the Goodfellas side of the immigrant experience in Old New York, from 1840 through 1919. “There were times,” writes the author, “when this project was new, when my research would get the better of me and I would almost lose track of what year it was outside. At least once, late at night, and under the influence of alcohol and architecture and old copies of the Police Gazette, I staggered around looking for a dive that had closed 60 or 80 years before, half expecting to find it in mid-brawl. This kind of hallucination is not difficult to sustain, even now, on certain empty streets where the buildings are the same ones that were once chockablock with blind tigers, stuss joints and bagnios. An extraordinary number of edifices survive that formerly housed the worst deadfalls in the city, from Kit Burn’s Rat Pit to McGurk’s Suicide Hall. I was instinctively drawn to such places.” Shows where we got the Bowery Boys, the Mickey Finn, Hell’s Kitchen, the “joint,” “dope” and Dixie. Look for the book The Gangs of New York, written in 1929, for more dirty details. GR

Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 414 pages

Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe

John Boswell

“Historian John Boswell, one of our most respected authorities on the Middle Ages, produces extensive evidence that at one time the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches not only sanctioned unions between partners of the same sex but sanctified them—in ceremonies that bear striking resemblance to heterosexual marriage ceremonies. Drawing on sources in a wide range of languages—and on examples that extend from the 4th-century legends of Saints Serge and Bacchus to the ceremonial union of the Byzantine emperors Basil I and Michael III—Boswell boldly reveals how the same tradition that looked askance at all sexuality could also encompass—and at times idealize—loving partnerships between two men or women. Most impressively, he produces actual examples of ceremonies in which such love was formally consecrated until modern times.”

Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 464 pages

Hitler’s Willing Executioners

Daniel Goldhagen

“In a work as authoritative as it is explosive, Goldhagen forces us to revisit and reconsider our understanding of the Holocaust and its perpetrators, demanding a fundamental revision in our thinking of the years 1933-1945. Drawing principally on materials either unexplored or neglected by previous scholars, Goldhagen marshals new, disquieting primary evidence that explains why, when Hitler conceived the ‘final solution’ he was able to enlist vast numbers of willing Germans to carry it out.”

Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 656 pages

The Queen’s Throat: Opera and Homosexuality

Wayne Koestenbaum

Addressing the long-observed affinity between homosexual men and opera, this book combines the many colored threads of this complex and frequently intense codependency. Organized into seven chapters, the broad topic headings include the major theme “Opera Queens,” as well as “The Shut-In Fan: Opera at Home,” “The Unspeakable Marriage of Words and Music,” and “A Pocket Guide to Queer Moments in Opera.” Meditations include the transcendent imagery of opera LP labels—”The two central images adorning the labels of opera records have been the dog and the angel. Bestial. Celestial. When you listen to opera, are your desires doggy or divine?”; and the complex relationship between divas and self-mutilation—”Diva self-mutilation helps the show go on: before a performance, Maria Malibran took a pair of scissors and cut away the blisters around her mouth; Geraldine Farrar told Carl Van Vechten that ‘at every performance she cut herself open with a knife and gave herself to the audience.’” The author also notes that “there’s a bizarre affinity between divas and dismembered anatomies: diva Brigitta Banti died in 1806 and left her larynx, preserved in alcohol, to the city of Bologna; Olive Fremstad’s piano was graced by a pickled human head sliced in half so she could show her students the vocal and breathing apparatus.” While the author has produced a work of both scholarly research and deep introspection, he never forgets to leaven the mix with keen wit. A compelling work of cultural history and literature, this book will appeal to everyone, regardless of sexual persuasion, interested in the meaning attributed to one’s erotic and aesthetic experiences. JAT

Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 271 pages