> Zed Book Club / Pop Goes the Culture

The Star Trek crew, circa 1960s. Photo: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

> Buzz

Pop Goes the Culture

11 books to slake your thirst for the latest clever insights on Star Trek, Whitney Houston, female comedians, pinball games and "the internet's boyfriend," Keanu Reeves / BY Nathalie Atkinson / April 22nd, 2022


From the year that revolutionized rock music and the pioneering women of comedy to the meaning of Keanu and long-awaited philosophical musings of a generational icon, we run down the latest books pop culture aficionados will want to read.

Obsessive Book Buyers: Zoomer editors have carefully curated our book coverage to ensure you find the perfect read. We may earn a commission on books you buy by clicking on the cover image.

1Didn’t We Almost Have It Allby Gerrick Kennedy

A decade after Whitney Houston’s untimely death, the triumph and tragedy of the superstar is explored by Gerrick, a Los Angeles-based music journalist. It’s a thoughtful appreciation that celebrates Houston’s outsized talent while reevaluating the burden she shouldered in her life and work through the lens of recent #MeToo, LGBTQ, and Black Lives Matter movements.


2In on The Joke by Shawn Levy

Levy, who wrote The Castle on Sunset, the bestselling history of Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont, gives pioneering female comics such as Moms Mabley, the trailblazing Black vaudeville comedian, Minnie Pearl, Phyllis Diller, Ethel Merman and Elaine May their due. The former Oregon film critic gives a well-researched and insightful look at the women who carved the path of modern stand-up, and the gender-based obstacles that remain.


3Keanu Reeves: Most Triumphant by Alex Pappademas

There are some culture critics worth reading regardless of their subject matter and, for me, Pappademas – an alumnus of the late, great Grantland who regularly weighs in at GQ and The New York Times, is among them. Lucky for us, his current interest is deconstructing the career arc and popularity of ‘the Internet’s boyfriend’ and Canada’s favourite good guy, Keanu Reeves. (May 3)


4On Quality by Robert M. Pirsig

Since 1974, Pirsig’s blockbuster philosophical trip, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, has inspired generations, sold millions of copies and made its author famous. The U.S. author gave few interviews in his lifetime, even as he privately continued to think and write about the “metaphysics of quality” until his death in 2017. This posthumous collection, edited by his widow, Wendy Pirsig, gathers five decades of unpublished reflections on technology, art, ethics and life from a curious mind. (Apr. 26)

 


5Phasers on Stun! by Ryan Britt

Star Trek commentary is a whole cottage industry of its own, but you don’t have to be a Trekkie (or even much of a fan) to appreciate this American science fiction expert’s entertaining book. Britt’s approachable history delves into the backstories and legacy of the iconic franchise, covering the original 1960s series and the powerful impact of its many iterations, not only on the genre, but on 20th-century pop culture.


6Pinball by Jon Chad

This graphic novel traces the history of the silver ball all the way back to the French court of Louis XIV through to its golden age (and ubiquity) during the Great Depression. It uses evocative illustrative techniques, from traditional panel comics to dynamic spreads and infographics, to bring the pinball machine’s evolution, physics, graphic design, influence on gaming and overall cultural importance alive.


7Pink Flamingos and the Yellow Pages by Bob Hambly

Seventy-five short but vibrantly coloured essays by Hambly, a Canadian designer, creator of the Colour Studies blog and founder of graphic design firm Hambly & Woolley, use trivia and analysis to illuminate how colour shapes popular culture. The origin stories run the gamut from flags and tartan to the psychology behind crayon names and the colour-coding system for plastic bread tags.

 


8Pin-Ups 1972by Peter Stanfield

Third generation rock ’n’ roll” was a catch-phrase of early 1970s pop criticism, and Stanfield, the retired English film and media prof who wrote the book on The Who, offers thoughtful exploration of the post-British Invasion London scene – with performers and rock acts like Iggy, Bowie, Bolan, and Roxy Music – in a seminal year that arguably defined all that came next. (May 17)


9Rise by Jeff Yang, et al.

This is a must-have compendium of 30 years of Asian pop culture history (post-Sixteen Candles to present day) by a trio of leading culture journalists and 80 notable contributors, such as Sandra Oh and Margaret Cho. It educates on, and celebrates, representation, milestones, evolving cultural identities and meaning in music (BTS memes!), politics, food, movies and even sports.


10The New Female Antihero by Sarah Hagelin and Gillian Silverman

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, and Cersei and Daenerys from Game of Thrones, are gloriously disruptive women of 21st century television, and descendants of brassy Murphy Brown. The authors (both professors of English in Colorado) include them in this look at the liberating phenomenon of TV women who reject the status quo and embrace chaos. Smart chapters dissect the tropes of ruthless queens and unlikable “messy” women on shows like Scandal, The Americans, Homeland, Girls, Broad City and Insecure, the female-centric counterparts to Breaking Bad, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Sopranos.


11Ticking Clock by Ira Rosen

Sunday-night appointment TV gets even juicier in this tell-all by a former longtime 60 Minutes producer who spent more than 25 years at the program. He details the insecurities, rivalries and bad behaviour behind the scenes with correspondents such as Mike Wallace, Morley Safer and Ed Bradley. It’s like Mad Men, but about the investigative CBS show that has led water-cooler conversations for decades.


THE SCROLL

American novelist Joshua Cohen wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Netanyahus”The 2022 Pulitzer prizes include this satirical look at identity politics, focused on the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a crucial time in the Jewish state’s history


Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro Among Canadian Authors Recognized in Commemorative Reading List Marking Queen’s Platinum JubileeThe authors are among six Canadian scribes included on the The Big Jubilee Read list.


Queen Elizabeth II’s Aide Reveals Details of Life in Royal Pandemic Lockdown in New Addition to BookAngela Kelly, who's worked for the Queen for 20 years, discusses everything from cutting the Queen's hair to "the light and laughter that was shared ... even in the darkest moments."


New Leonard Cohen Story Collection, ‘A Ballet of Lepers,’ Set for October ReleaseThe collection features a novel, short stories and a radio play written between 1956 and 1961.


Archived Letters Reveal How Toni Morrison Helped MacKenzie Scott Meet Future Husband Jeff BezosBezos hired Scott at the hedge fund where he worked after receiving a recommendation from Morrison. Shortly thereafter, the pair married and Scott helped Bezos launch Amazon.


Prince Harry’s Memoir is Set to Rock the MonarchyFriends say the California-based royal got a million-pound book deal to write "an intimate take on his feeling about the family."


European Jewish Congress Asks Publisher to Pull Anne Frank BookThe Congress says 'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' has "deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust."


Canadian Author Details Anne Frank Cold-Case Investigation That Named Surprise Suspect in Her Family’s Betrayal in New BookAhead of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl' in June, a team that included a retired FBI agent and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure as a leading suspect in revealing her family's hideout.


Man Who Tricked Authors Into Handing Over Unpublished Manuscripts Arrested by FBI in New YorkFilippo Bernardini, an employee of a well known publication house, has been arrested for stealing hundreds of unpublished manuscripts.


Hollywood Legend Betty White Has a Last Laugh in New Biographic Comic BookThe creators of the biographical comic book have released similar books about Hollywood legends like Carrie Fisher, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.


Barack Obama Reveals His List of Books That Left “A Lasting Impression” in 2021Obama's favourite 2021 reads include two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead's 'Harlem Shuffle' and 'Klara and the Sun,' by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro


“Interview With the Vampire” Author Anne Rice Dies at 80 — Tributes Pour in From Stuart Townsend and OthersThe author, who was best known for her work in gothic fiction, died on Saturday evening as a result of complications from a stroke.


Norma Dunning wins $25,000 Governor General’s English fiction prize for ‘Tainna’The Edmonton-based Inuk writer explores themes of displacement, loneliness and spirituality in six short stories


Omar El Akkad wins $100,000 Giller prize for “What Strange Paradise”The former Globe and Mail reporter, who published "American War" to acclaim in 2017, tackles the global migrant refugee crisis in his second novel


South African Author Damon Galgut Wins the Booker Prize For ‘The Promise’Galgut received nominations for his 2003 and 2010 works before finally taking home the prize this year. 


Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Discusses Life, Acting and Aging Gracefully in Newly Discovered MemoirPublishers of the newly discovered memoir say the Hollywood legend wrote the book in the 1980s in response to the relentless media attention he received during that time.


Here’s What You Need to Know About the Toronto International Festival of AuthorsDirector Roland Gulliver lands in Toronto to open his second, much-expanded virtual festival with more than 200 events


Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for Depicting the Impact of Colonialism and Refugee StoriesGurnah, 72, is only the second writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win one of the world's most prestigious literary awards


Miriam Toews Garners Third Giller Prize Nomination for “Fight Night” after Shortlist AnnouncedSophomore efforts from novelists Omar El Akkad and Jordan Tannahill join debut books from Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and Angélique Lalonde


Tina Brown’s New Book, ‘The Palace Papers’, Covers the Royal Family’s Reinvention After Diana’s Tragic DeathTina Brown's sequel to her 2007 release 'The Diana Chronicles' is set to hit shelves April 12, 2022. 


Audible.ca Releases Andrew Pyper’s Exclusive Audiobook “Oracle” For New Plus Catalogue LaunchThe thriller about a psychic FBI detective is one of 12,000 titles now available for free to members


Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen to Release Book Based On Their “Renegades” PodcastThe new book will feature a collection of candid, intimate and entertaining conversations


Prince Harry Will Publish a Memoir in Late 2022Harry says he's writing the book "not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become."


> STAY UP TO DATE

Sign Up for the Weekly Book Club Newsletter