Essential Reads: Fall/Winter 2023

Here are our latest essential reads as we head into the new season.

As ever, these sixteen books offer a general audience a depth of understanding across a wide range of important, often timely, subjects.

Taken together, they represent the unique and diverse output our University Presses offer, and enable a broad readership to learn about, understand and #KeepUP with current news, trends, and issues.

Use the code ESSENTIAL23 for 20% discount on any of our essential picks:

The Last Supper Club

“Deliciously funny, vividly peopled, wise, and big-hearted, The Last Supper Club is a book you will devour in one sitting and wish you could go back for seconds. The memoir takes a behind-the-scenes look at the adrenaline-fueled world of restaurant life, reverently revealing all the care and thought that goes into a meal before the plate is ever lowered before you. If Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter had a love child, it would be this superb book!”—Adrienne Brodeur, author of Wild Game: My Mother, Her Secret, and Me

University of Minnesota Press

Black Enlightenment

Black Enlightenment does not excuse or accuse a monolithized ‘West,’ but rather shows how European theory could not acknowledge its transformation by Africa rising. Unusual and meticulous documentation, brilliant textual readings. Highly relevant to our annihilation of white supremacy.”—Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, author of A Critique of Postcolonial Reason

Duke University Press

Ideal Beauty

“In this scrupulously researched book, Lois Banner brings a novel and insightful approach to the study of film icon Greta Garbo by examining her life and relation to standards of beauty, as well as surfacing previously unheralded issues: those who found her unattractive, the role of “Garbo Maniacs” in her star discourse, her power at MGM, the toll of her hidden illnesses, the place of religion in her life, the celebrity world in which she circulated post-Hollywood retirement. Thus, Ideal Beauty combines biography, film analysis, and social/feminist history in a scholarly yet approachable fashion. A must for all Garbo aficionados.”—Lucy Fischer, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of Pittsburgh

Rutgers University Press

Dear California

This is a book for readers who love California—and for anyone who simply treasures flavorful writing. Weaving together the personal, the insightful, the impressionistic, the lewd, and the hysterically funny, Dear California presents collected writings essential to understanding the diversity, antagonisms, and abiding promise of the Golden State.

Stanford University Press

Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again

“At long last, the pathbreaking novellas by Shigeru Kayama that launched the Godzilla franchise are finally available in English. It was well worth the wait: Jeffrey Angles’s lively translation captures all the action, emotion, and political edge of the original Japanese texts. This engaging volume will be a revelation for Godzilla fans, a rich resource for students of Japan, and a rewarding read for anyone who enjoys classic tales of science fiction and adventure.”—William M. Tsutsui, chancellor of Ottawa University and author of Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters

University of Minnesota Press

Hacking the Underground

“Velho captures the texture of daily living in relation to public transportation (and lack thereof). Hacking the Underground will be of great interest to many, including disabled people, disability activists, allies, designers, planners, and organizers.”— Alison Kafer, author of Feminist, Queer, Crip

University of Washington Press

Home Girls, 40th Anniversary Edition

“It is fitting that Home Girls also reflects and celebrates the difference, among the Black feminist writers, critics, and theorists assembled from the United States and the Caribbean, among Black women of all colors, classes, and cultures.”—Women’s Review of Books

Rutgers University Press

Marx for Cats

Marx for Cats is an undomesticated and indefinable meow de coeur. You can open this book anywhere—it’s a Marxist Choose Your Own Adventure—and come away as unsettled, possessed, and reflective as any transportative encounter with a cat might leave you.”—Jordy Rosenberg, author of, Confessions of the Fox

Duke University Press

My Life in Paper

A complete reshaping of how we view the development and creation of architecture. David Gissen uses his own experiences to demonstrate how we can change the way that disability is conceptualised in architecture and, better still, provides ways in which we can mould our spaces around physical capacity, as a starting point rather than as an afterthought. 

Temple University Press

Not My Type

The first full-length study of Black queer, cis-, and trans-femininity, this is a well-written, crucial study of how creative work offers a challenge to power. Including the music of Janelle Monáe and Kelsey Lu, Janet Mock’s writing for the television show Pose, the fashion of Indya Moore and (F)empower, and the films of Tourmaline and Juliana Huxtable, as well as poetry and novels, Omise’eke Nathasha Tinsley shows how Black femmes, sidelined by liberal feminists and invisible to mainstream civil rights movements, spent the Trump years doing what they so often do best: creating politically engaged art, entertainment, and ideas. This is a passionate and important read.

Stanford University Press

Spymaster’s Prism

A fascinating collection of essays and interviews with writers and musicians which explore the relationships between Music and Literature. Contributors include Michael Chabon, Bob Dylan, Laura Cantrell, Roddy Doyle, Steve Earle, William Ferris, Rhiannon Giddens, Dave Grohl, Jonathan Lethem, Greil Marcus, Rick Moody, Lorrie Moore, The John Prine Band, Richard Thompson, Colson Whitehead and many more.

Potomac Books

The Cactus Hunter

The Cactus Hunters takes us into the fascinating world of succulent collecting. Jared D. Margulies skillfully traces the consequential ways in which people and cacti move one another, remaking possibilities for life, desire, wealth, extinction, and more in the process. This book offers a powerful example of the value of close attention to the entangled lives of plants and their people.”—Thom van Dooren, author of A World in a Shell: Snail Stories for a Time of Extinctions

University of Minnesota Press

The Peer Effect

At a time when interest in multi-species co-existence has never been so crucial and, thankfully, interest in the topic is growing, What is Extinction? offers timely interpretations of how definitions and visions of extinction have changed in the past and continue to change in the present. Examples covered in this important critical theory (of species in critical danger) range from the study of the rise of extreme biopolitics in the Third Reich that attempted to change the meaning of extinction, to the current pursuit of de-extinction technologies.

New York University Press

Who Would You Kill to Save the Earth?

“A crucial contribution to the field of extinction studies. Colebrook’s book challenges philosophy itself, the whole conceptual discourse that frames what ‘we’ call ‘our place’ and how this framing produced a relegated otherness named the ‘more-than-human-world.’ Her book is an efficient and convincing demonstration of the necessity to question our drive to survival.”—Frédéric Neyrat, author of The Unconstructable Earth: An Ecology of Separation

University of Nebraska Press

Who Wrote This?

“There is no question who wrote this—a lesson in itself to the reader. Who but the prolific Naomi S. Baron can bring a linguistic analysis, a philosophical scalpel, and historical breadth to some of the most difficult questions about the very purpose of written language for the future of humanity?”—Maryanne Wolf, author of Reader, Come Home

Stanford University Press

Why Willie Mae Thornton Matters

“This book is an achievement in many ways: in sharpness of language, in brilliance of storytelling. But it is also an achievement in that it affords Willie Mae Thornton the presence she deserves, a presence that outlives and outlasts a history that has never done her justice.”—Hanif Abdurraqib

University of Texas Press

Order any of the CAP Essential Reads with 20% discount, using the code: ESSENTIAL23