33 1/3: Greatest Hits, Volume Two

33 1/3 Greatest Hits, Volume 2 is a sampler of highs and lows from the long-running book series, where music critics riff on their favorite albums. In true rock 'n' roll fashion, the 33 1/3 books diverge wildly in terms of quality and style; some are masterful and definitive (Michaelangelo Matos on Prince, Douglas Wolk on James Brown, Erik Davis on Led Zeppelin), while others just spew maudlin college poetry all over Pink Floyd or Joy Division. The most absurd installment might be the one on Neutral Milk Hotel, a tortuously solemn study of an indie-pop concept album about the Holocaust. ("If Anne were alive today, what would be her favorite band?" -- yeesh.) Naturally, it?s the bestselling book in the series. This anthology excerpts the Neutral Milk Hotel volume, along with 19 others ranging from straightforward making-of documentaries to fan fiction to memoir. The high-water marks are Franklin Bruno on Elvis Costello?s Armed Forces and Hugo Wilcken on David Bowie?s Low -- these may be two of the most written-about rock stars of all time, yet Bruno and Wilcken offer fresh insights. The R.E.M. chapter reveals which microphones they used ("the more proletarian Electro-Voice 635A" instead of "the sportier AKG C 414"), while the Beastie Boys chapter reveals which drugs they were on (pot, ?shrooms). Some writers chronicle the recording sessions, as in Gillian G. Gaar?s remarkably detailed Nirvana chapter; others go for witty personal reflections on the music, like Sean Nelson on Joni Mitchell or Alex Green on the Stone Roses. And for goofball pomposity, there?s the Sonic Youth chapter, which informs the reader, ?The pregnant void waits.?

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.