Professor pop culture picks: Nathan Connolly

COURTESY OF NATHAN CONNOLLY
Professor Connolly is a faculty member in the history department.

Blood In the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson

It’s almost too easy to recommend a book that won the Pulitzer Prize. I’d argue, though, that Thompson’s book is underrated. Undoubtedly the definitive treatment of one of the twentieth-century’s most important events, Thompson’s book also represents the pinnacle of historical recovery, meaty and lucid theorization on the nature of labor behind bars, and on the ways in which people attempt to preserve the reformative possibilities of American institutions even as they suffer the most dehumanizing brutality within them. This book reads like a dream and hits like a bus traveling at full speed, loaded with bricks.

 

The Infinity Gauntlet

Written by: Jim Starlin

Illustrated by:

George Pérez & Ron Lima

In the 1990s, this was the first comic book storyline my friends and I wished they’d made into movie. Lo and behold, Marvel Studios is now making that happen. If you want to understand what the last decade of Marvel movies has been leading up to, check out this amazing account of the Mad Titan Thanos and what his attainment of omnipotence means for the fate of the universe. Written before Marvel developed the notion of many different universes (The Multiverse), the Infinity Gauntlet left readers no narrative way out of having to face the possibility of a malevolent and deeply insecure supreme being. The Infinity Gauntlet achieves an incredible balance of being capacious without being convoluted, achieving deepness without being ponderous and getting resolved without falling into cliché.

 

Life of the Infamous: The Best of Mobb Deep

by Mobb Deep

Your favorite hip-hop group’s favorite group. Mobb Deep achieved and preserved a gritty East Coast sound that even Nas could not maintain after the “Bling”-turn in rap music in the mid-1990s. They also kept a high-level of production and pared-back lyrical punch at a time when super-producers like Dr. Dre and DJ Premier, moguls like Diddy, or lyrical gods like Biggie, Pac, Jay-Z and Nas seemed to earn the greatest respect. And then, of course, there was Wu-Tang Clan, who literally needed nine emcees, two New York City boroughs and “36 Chambers” to accomplish what two undersized dudes from Queens were doing at the same time.

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