Good Minds Suggest—Roxane Gay's Favorite Pop Culture Books for Thinkers

Posted by Goodreads on August 5, 2014
Writer and cultural critic Roxane Gay has weighed in on Lena Dunham, Chris Brown, Woody Allen, Michelle Obama, The Bachelor, and what's been going on with Miley Cyrus. Through her enthusiastic and discerning lens, she illuminates pop culture both at its best and at its worst. Published on Salon, The Rumpus (where she was formerly the essays editor), The Wall Street Journal, and many others, Gay also writes fiction, including the recent critically acclaimed An Untamed State, and offers a constant and relentlessly honest commentary on her own life via her blog and on Twitter.

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Many of her personal essays are collected in her new book, Bad Feminist, which discusses her guilty feelings about being a feminist, reading Sweet Valley High as a kid with bifocals, her stint at fat camp, why she loves The Hunger Games, and much more. Gay shares her favorite books that don't dumb down the curious world of pop culture.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
"In American Psycho Ellis uses satire to take on the consumerism and excess of the 1980s, and the novel remains relevant these many years later. Patrick Bateman at once disdains popular culture and very much yearns to be a part of it. There is brand-name dropping and an exceptional scene involving the minute distinctions of business cards and, of course, all manner of bad behavior, not the least of which is Bateman's psychopathology, which may well, Ellis might have us believe, be an unfortunate product of the culture we consume."

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
"Americanah is a beautiful mess of a book. Adichie takes on race, immigration, and emigration, the politics of natural hair, the blogging zeitgeist, interracial relationships, what it means to leave home, and what it means to go back. What truly elevates the novel is not only the incisive cultural critique driving the story forward, but also how that critique is slyly wrapped in a compelling love story that spans years upon years."

Dare Me by Megan Abbott (Goodreads Author)
"The cheerleader is one of the mainstays of our cultural imagination, and in Dare Me Megan Abbott dissects the lives of high school cheerleaders. The book is as engaging as it is terrifying in the intimacy the novel provides. We see how these girls demand so much of their bodies and take pride in the results. They are nakedly ambitious and fierce and dangerous, and no matter what they do, we don't dare look away."

Heat by Bill Buford
"As a culture, we love food so much, we even have a television network dedicated to food. In Heat Bill Buford offers us a glimpse into the swampy chaos of a professional kitchen as he apprentices with Mario Batali at Babbo. Then Buford is off to Europe, where he learns butchery and how to make handmade pasta. Throughout his journey he reveals both some of himself and a lot of why food can be so beautiful, so powerful."

Dispatch from the Future: Poems by Leigh Stein (Goodreads Author)
"I became familiar with Stein's work after reading her enjoyable novel, The Fallback Plan. Dispatch from the Future is an equally strong poetry collection featuring poems with insouciance and strong narrative. Stein has a real ear for tone, and she is clearly a fan of popular culture, weaving her work with references to Rebecca De Mornay and online dating and Facebook and beauty pageants and Banksy. She also brings mythology into several poems, which is so smart because isn't popular culture simply the mythology of our time?"

Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Books for Culture Watchers

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Mahtin (new)

Mahtin insouciance?
Pseud of the week.

message 2: by Susan (new)

Susan American psycho in my humble opinion was fabulous...a peek into a world of privilege and psychosis...

message 3: by LaLa (new)

LaLa Oh i love dispatch from the future so much! i was beginning to think that I alone had read it - perhaps I had even dreamed it - glad to know it's real and I'm sharing it with you!

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