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Pop Culture Through Seven Books

Some of the most fun I’ve had reading nonfiction were books that were published on the right topic at the right moment. For example, The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman served up a healthy dose of nostalgia and debuted at number two on the New York Times Best Seller list in 2022.

Below are seven new nonfiction books that highlight a moment in American TV, film, music, fashion, or general popular culture.

six book covers

Bring It On: The Complete Story of the Cheerleading Movie that Changed, Like, Everything by Kase Wickman 

The first thing we learn in this book is that movies are entrepreneurial things. They are projects filled with contracts. Funding comes with risk.  Welcome to the business. Screenwriter Jessica Bendinger had a draft for a movie called “cheer fever”. Four years, fairy dust, and 90 days later, she had a director, staff, and a cast. What follows is a behind the scenes look at the real-life Hollywood process that created Bring It On.  

Fashion Killa: How Hip-Hop Revolutionized High Fashion by Sowmya Krishnamurthy 

Krishnamurthy writes about the intersection between fashion and hip hop. The music artists create influences the fashion artists wear. High fashion brands have responded by collaborating with hip hop artists. European and American laws regulating who could wear what gave way to using fashion as a social climbing tool. We discover the 1991 Chanel Hip-Hop collection, meet Karl Kani, and witness the 1980s and 90s collaborations between music artists and clothing designers that have become a part of fashion history. 

The American Way: A True Story of Nazi Escape, Superman, and Marilyn Monroe by Helene Stapinski and Bonnie Siegler 

Jules, an ordinary American and recent immigrant from Germany, happened upon Marilyn Monroe one day in New York while she was filming a movie in 1954. In the series of events that followed, Jules’ film is the only film that survived that night. How did Jules and his family arrive in the US and what happened that night? We first meet publisher (and scoundrel) Harry Donenfeld in 1929 New York. Witness the truth of this tall tale and see the “golden age” of Hollywood through fresh eyes. 

One in a Millennial: On Friendship, Feelings, Fangirls and Fitting In by Kate Kennedy 

Kate Kennedy, podcaster and pop cultural commentator, argues what girls see in their formative years about femininity shapes girls’ perspectives on themselves as women once they’ve grown up. Kennedy defines “millennial” as a person born between 1981 and 1996. References include AOL instant messenger, Lisa Frank products, 10 Things I Hate About You, Saved by the Bell, and Kennedy being “team *NSYNC”. The arguments presented are cathartic but not new.  The sensation of “being seen” with trip down memory lane is enjoyable regardless. 

Wannabe: Reckonings With the Pop Culture That Shapes Me by Aisha Harris 

Harris analyzes and discovers the pop cultural connections that have made her the person she is today. As NPR’s host of Pop Culture Happy Hour, Harris really knows pop culture. We start out in “isn’t she lovely” by connecting the dots between black names and how artists use them in music and tv shows. Then Harris delves into how readers can be critics of black art. Other chapters are titled “Ebony & Ivory” and “This is the IP That Never Ends”.  

And Don’t F&%k it Up: An Oral History of RuPaul’s Drag Race (the First Ten Years) by Maria Elena Fernandez  

In And Don’t F&%k it Up, author Maria Elena Fernandez interviews your favorite names and some of the people who worked behind the scenes to make RuPaul’s Drag Race the hit show the pop cultural phenomenon it is today. The commentary is slated in continuous blurbs throughout the entire book, where speakers reference each other and break down the fourth wall.  

Welcome To The OC: The Oral History by Alan Sepinwall, in conversation with Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage, and the Cast & Crew 

Who knew that the next big thing after 90210 and Dawson’s Creek would come from Josh Schwartz, a blue-collar college kid with a script about a boarding school? Written in a similar fourth-wall breaking manner as “And Don’t F&%k it Up”, “Welcome to The OC” quickly gets to casting, then filming. Read this book to both reminisce and catch up with your favorite 00s teen actors. After The OC, Josh Schwartz went on to produce both Gossip Girl adaptations, Hart of Dixie, Looking for Alaska, Dynasty, The Carrie Diaries, and more.  

Categories: Books and More

Tags: Books and More

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