My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Continuum, $14.50) by Kirk Walker Graves is interesting. The author actually says this in the book that enough time hasn’t passed to really gauge what the album has done or even means to hip-hop, music or, well, anyone in the grand scheme of things. Arguably the best album West has ever delivered, a book dedicated to it can only say so much if you haven’t interviewed anyone who worked on the project. You can only get so verbose in discussing hip-hop and stay interesting, and this writer pushes that sort of academic style to the fullest in this one.

The Man from Essence (Atria, $25) by Edward Lewis is quietly great. Four African-American males with no working knowledge of the publishing industry founded Essence magazine in 1970. This insider’s point of view is just what anyone who’s ever wanted to own something of his or her own needs. These brothers wanted that too. They found it creating the preeminent magazine for African-American women in America for the last 40+ years. What sort of struggles and successes had to occur to make that happen? Find out inside. Be prepared to laugh and be in awe.


Time of the Locust (Atria, $24.99) by Morowa Yejide is jaw-dropping awesome. A superb debut work of magic realism and finalist for the Pen/Bellwether Prize for socially engaged fiction, this is the book for you, your friends and your book club. From the world of the autistic prepubescent son, to the mother who raises him and the father that sired him, and the situation that connects and separates them all, this story will cause you to look at the world around you differently whenever you look up from it. Read it!

Monster’s Chef (Amistad, $24.99) by Jervey Tervalon is a really engaging read. Think The Big Machine by Victor LaValle with the wisecracking point of view of the protagonist, but add recipes (pretty good ones, actually) to each chapter. What happens is, a somewhat successful chef goes to jail for drug solicitation only to come out and become a celebrity’s chef. But the whole thing goes wrong when he finds a dead body outside his place in the isolated compound. Two guesses how that plays out. This chef is many things, but a killer? Doubt it. So how’s he going to prove it?

Brook Stephenson