What’s Wrong With Fat?

Abigail C. Saguy
Oxford University Press

This intelligent analysis of the way our culture views and responds to our own bodies is nothing short of groundbreaking. Abigail C. Saguy, a sociology professor at University of California, Los Angeles, looks at how we talk about fat, obesity and overweight in terms of frame. In What’s Wrong With Fat? ($29.95), Saguy challenges several ideas of our understanding of weight and overweight, including those that treat it as a problem to be addressed and those that concentrate on attractiveness, an already culturally bound perspective. Saguy brings intellectual and common sense to a discussion that is fraught with emotion, mixed messages and anxiety.

Steampunk: An Illustrated History of Fantastical Fiction, Fanciful Film and Other Victorian Visions

Brian J. Robb
Voyageur Press

Try explaining steampunk to the uninitiated: “It’s got Victorian clothes, and there’s lots of mechanical stuff, but instead of airplanes, there are balloons and dirigibles and airships.” Fortunately, it’s much easier to understand with Brian J. Robb’s lavishly illustrated history of steampunk, which is chockablock with gorgeous drawings, paintings and photographs. Steampunk: An Illustrated History of Fantastical Fiction, Fanciful Film and Other Victorian Visions ($35) is more than a mere primer. Robb starts with steampunk’s roots in science fiction: Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs, who delivered the first speculative fiction of the industrial age. Robb then traces the development of steampunk through 1960s science fiction and reminds us that the term itself was first used in 1987, giving the art and fiction culture a longer pedigree than one might expect. He then deftly shows how steampunk was influenced—and rejected—by cyberpunk; how images of heroines evolved from Victorian-style “damsels in distress” to more empowered, intelligent proto-feminists; and how popular audiences met steampunk in sources as disparate as the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the 1960s-era TV series, The Wild Wild West.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift for a steampunk or artist, or just a great compendium and resource, this illustrated history is hitting on all steam-powered cyclinders.

Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm

Phillip Pullman
Viking Adult

There’s no doubt about Philip Pullman’s ability to write a compelling tale—the His Dark Materials trilogy is proof enough. In Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version ($27.95), he takes old stories as gathered by the Brothers Grimm in the 19th century and retells them in a way that makes them even more gripping for the modern reader. What Pullman has done here is on par with Anne Sexton’s poems based on fairy tales, collected in 1971’s Transformations. He doesn’t shy away from the violence at the heart of these tales and the dark worldview. It’s that worldview, in fact, that is the most timeless thing of all, since we’ve retained the nasty and brutal bits as our culture has evolved.

Just when you think it’s impossible for any additional versions of Stieg Larsson’s runaway bestseller of mystery, violence and sexual sadism to exist, someone proves you wrong. But it’s impossible to begrudge anything to the deluxe graphic novel, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Book 1 (Millennium Trilogy) ($19.99), especially since top-notch Scottish crime and mystery author Denise Mina (The End of the Wasp Season and Field of Blood, to name just a couple) penned the adaptation. She’s got a real knack for it, and the detailed, lush art by Leonardo Manco and Andrea Mutti is perfection—just realistic enough to live in the graphic-novel land between novel and film. Now, how long will it take to convince Vertigo to do graphic-novel versions of more great mystery and crime novels—like, say, some of Mina’s work?

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