"All television is educational television. The question is: what's it teaching?"
~ Nicholas Johnson, American law professor
The Pine Tar Game: The Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees, and Baseball's... by Filip BondyIn 1983, a two-run homer by Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett was nullified when their rivals, the Yankees, claimed that the pine tar on the bat extended beyond the allowed 18 inches. A fight very nearly ensued, but that was only a teaser for the tantrums that erupted when the call was overturned weeks later. With a fascinating cast of characters and an eye for detail, author Filip Bondy has taken a memorable moment in baseball history and created an "improbably rich and entertaining tale" (Booklist).
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir by Felicia DayKnown to fans of quirky entertainment options like Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog or The Guild, Felicia Day is a violinist, a gamer, an actress, and a writer. Home-schooled until she went awkwardly off to college at the age of 16 (she graduated at 19, still uncomfortable in social situations), Day doesn't offer a standard memoir. Jumping from her personal and professional successes (and setbacks) to her thoughts on creativity, depression, and feminism, Day incorporates images, plays with fonts, and employs a sincere, often humorous voice. Fans will enjoy it, as will readers who have ever felt a bit out of place.
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William FinneganSurfers ahoy! If you can't get enough surfing memoirs (like Peter Heller's Kook) or detailed examinations of surfing's subcultures or history (like Chas Smith's Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell or Peter Westwick's The World in the Curl), you won't want to miss this richly detailed story of William Finnegan's experiences as a lifelong surfer. Whether you're reading this on the beach or the couch, surfers will recognize Finnegan's search for the perfect wave in some of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim by Justin GiffordPimp-turned-insecticide-salesman-turned-bestselling-author Iceberg Slim (or Robert Peck) died in 1992, apparently penniless despite his influence on generations of black writers, hip hop artists, and popular culture as a whole. This biography of the notorious, complicated writer explores (often in Slim's own words) the violence of his early career and the influence he continues to wield, even though many in the mainstream are unaware of him. For more, try Iceberg Slim's 1967's Pimp or 1971's The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim.
Focus on: Television History
VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave by Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and Martha Quinn, with Gavin EdwardsWhen MTV debuted in 1981, the explosion of music videos ignited the careers of various bands and musicians -- and also those of the brand-new VJs. In addition to introducing the videos and interviewing the stars, they were getting to know such artists as Cyndi Lauper, David Lee Roth, and Aretha Franklin. In this behind-the-scenes oral history of MTV's early years, there's plenty of gossip, but also an exploration of the channel's influence on popular culture. For more on life as an MTV VJ, try Kennedy's The Kennedy Chronicles; for more on MTV in the 1980s, try I Want My MTV by music journalists Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum.
Flip: The Inside Story of TV's First Black Superstar by Kevin CookThough he's slid into near obscurity, the man that TIME Magazine called "TV's first black superstar" lives on in our language: Clerow "Flip" Wilson was responsible for American phrases still popular today (like "The devil made me do it"). Having started his comedy career during the age of segregation, Flip performed on the Chitlin' Circuit before appearing on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show...and then on his own television show, where he hosted other entertainers, both black and white. If you're interested in African-American history or entertainment during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, don't miss Flip.
Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece and Mystery! on PBS by Rebecca EatonIn Making Masterpiece, executive producer Rebecca Eaton shares stories from the first 25 years she spent working on both Mystery! and Masterpiece Theatre. PBS fans will delight in her behind-the-scenes anecdotes of Downton Abbey, Sherlock, and other beloved British programs, but this is also the story of Eaton's path to Masterpiece -- and all the less star-studded but equally dramatic work required to make much-loved British programming come to life in the U.S.
Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution by Brett MartinWhy do so many popular television shows seem to have rather anti-heroic male protagonists? And why are these shows so good? In this fascinating assessment of the programs that helped TV (especially cable TV) become a legitimate art form in the last 15 years, author Brett Martin explores the nuance and creativity that distinguishes such shows as The Wire, Deadwood, The Sopranos, and Mad Men. He also shares insights into the complicated personalities of their boundary-pushing creators. Full of both serious commentary and behind-the-scenes info (Martin's a fan of these shows, after all), this is a great read for anyone interested in today's more challenging programs.
From Scratch: Inside the Food Network by Allen SalkinAs many a would-be home chef can attest, hours can be lost to the appealing, dramatic shows found on the Food Network. You may want to spend a few more on this detailed history, published to coincide with the channel's 20th anniversary in 2014. From tiny, obscure startup to billion-dollar juggernaut hosting the likes of Martha Stewart, Anthony Bourdain, and Emeril Lagasse, its story is "one part steamy expose, one part deep-fried human interest, and one part television history" (Kirkus Reviews).
The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes... by Gabriel ShermanFox News is polarizing, but regardless of your political persuasion, this fair and balanced if critical account provides an in-depth look at the powerful and influential Roger Ailes and the conservative news network he launched. From insight into Ailes' management style to the very real ways Fox News has become a force within American politics, The Loudest Voice in the Room helps explain how our current political culture came to be.
Contact your librarian for more great books!