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Weekend Recommendations: Books & Music

Each weekend,’s staff of whackos will wrack our brains to give you interesting and new things to do over the weekend. Books, movies, whatever. We’ll throw them out, you do with them what you will. And hey…if you have something you want to recommend–whatever it is–drop us a line.

Incidentally, we’ve provided links where we can for you to buy the stuff or find out more if you’re interested, courtesy of those Amazon types, in the US, the UK and Canada.

Hey, come on, we can’t be totally selfless in this, can we? Okay, books and music first…

Book of the Week:Everything Bad is Good For You by Steven Johnson. This book puts forward that pop culture (you’re soaking in it) is actually good for us, because it’s more complex than anything your parents or grandparents got in the way of culture and is actually giving us better brains. On the surface, we scoff at this, since we’re freaking surrounded by pop culutre all the live long day running this website, and we haven’t won any Nobel Prizes yet. But still, Johnson makes his case well and does so in a way that you don’t feel you’re reading a science book. Or…maybe you do know it, but because you get immersed in pop culture, you don’t mind as much. Hmmmm. This is out from Riverhead Books. (US)(UK)(CAN)

Audiobook of the Week: Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner & Steven Levitt. It’s amazing what you can learn if you just grab a blender and puree together some data and analysis. Levitt looks at a wide swath of everything, from violent crime to the danger of swimming pools to cheating. Whether you agree with his findings or not, the best part about the book is that it’s very accessible, especially to people like me, who was taught by a rash of terrible teachers that math was an evil, arcane subject that will make your eyes fall out of your skull. This audiobook is unabridged and read by co-writer Dubner, and is available from Harper Audio. (US)(CAN)

Graphic Novel of the Week: Planetary, Vol. 3: Leaving the 20th Century by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday. Yes, the creative team that wound up winning a Chazzie each (even though the title itself wasn’t eligible, sadly) kick much ass when the book ships. For those who are trying to catch up, they can grab this, now in paperback. I love it just because it features one of my favorite moments in comic book history. I won’t spoil it, but it involves freezing cold, a crotch, and a kick. If you’ve read it, especially if you’re a guy, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But basically Elijah continues his quest to take down The Four at the same time we get lovely back story on why things are the way they are. Handled in the UK by Titan Books. (US)(UK)(CAN)

Comic Book of the Week: The Walking Dead #19 by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even go to the comic book store on a weekly basis anymore. So many of my favorite titles have been reduced to parodies of their former selves, that it’s pointless. However, this title continues to kick incredible ass and take twists that I didn’t see coming. Like here where, inside their prison/sanctuary, there’s a coup in the works. And now we have a new character–and this is not a spoiler since it’s on the cover–a chick with a katana and two armless zombies on chain leashes. Yes, read that sentence again if you need to.

Music CD of the Week: Works in Progress by Neil Innes. Yes, it’s that Neil Innes. The musical madman who helped give birth to the Rutles has a new album out, and it’s delightfully all-new but in a way that hasn’t lost all the things that you listen to Innes for in the first place: clever lyrics and arrangements that are both amusing and very, very apt. The opening song alone, “One of Those People,” is enough to make you a believer as Neil sings of trying to be happy with a “constant stream” of crap assaulting him. And “Eye Candy,” as in “Ay-ay-ay, Eye Candy…” is a genius blend of laughing rage at mass media garbage. It’s the perfect album for somebody who’s trapped in the pre-future doldrums of the 21st Century and seeks to escape…oh, wait that’s everybody, isn’t it? Order it from Neil’s website here.