'Then We Came to the End'
I was an early supporter of this novel -- upon its publication in the spring I ran a Q&A with author Joshua Ferris in this column -- so I was very gratified when critical adulation followed. (Most notably, it ended up being one of the five National Book Award fiction finalists.) Set in a foundering advertising agency during the dot-com-bust days, "Then We Came to the End" is in the vein of "The Office" in that it's a very dryly funny look at cubicle culture. Totally spot on in its observations about ad-industry insanity (and inanity), this first novel is also deeply wise and compassionate about human nature. (For your chance at one of two free copies, e-mail me -- [email protected] -- by midnight EST on Nov. 30. Please put "Then We Came to the End" in the subject line.)
Sensing opportunity after reading my recent column in which I was improbably kind to HBO, the VP of corporate PR at HBO competitor Showtime, Stu Zakim, sent over a care package of Showtime DVD screeners. Which is how I belatedly came to grow addicted to "Weeds," the cult series about (improbably) a suburban California drug-dealer mom played (brilliantly) by Mary-Louise Parker. I'll confess that I've been resistant to the show precisely because of all the hype, but turns out it's been every bit deserved. It's a sad, funny, nerve-wracking, entirely original and frequently flat-out great deconstruction of the suburban American id. And the just-wrapped third season, especially, has been devastatingly effective. (For your chance at one of two second-season "Weeds" DVD box sets, along with full-season box sets of fellow Showtime series "Sleeper Cell" and "Brotherhood," e-mail me by midnight EST on Nov. 30. Please put "Weeds" in the subject line.)
'Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design'
You expect a book about design/culture to be all about the visuals. Refreshingly, this text-heavy book by legendary graphic designer Michael Bierut (of the also legendary global design conglomerate Pentagram) is all about the words -- and ideas. (The only precious thing about it: Each essay is set in a different typeface.) I was rewarded every time I dipped into this elegant, thoughtful compilation of stand-alone essays, many adopted from the "Design Observer" blog, particularly whenever Bierut plumbed the depths of the creative ego ("I Am a Plagiarist," "How to Become Famous"). (For your chance at one of two free copies, e-mail me by midnight EST on Nov. 30. Please put "79" in the subject line.)
With its alphabetical, starkly shot visual lists of all kinds of stylish stuff -- men's sneakers, watches, jeans, T-shirts, etc. -- Antenna magazine transcends the "shopping guide" genre to function as a sort of street-smart design museum on paper. Straying far beyond fashion, this launch title from Harris Publications cleverly includes all kinds of unexpected run-of-the-mill consumer items -- drugstore painkillers, office supplies, toothbrushes -- and presents them in the same deadpan, gallery-like display, which makes the magazine as much a critique as a celebration of consumer culture. The second issue, just out, is even better than the first, which was a Media Guy "Pop Pick" this summer. (For your chance at one of two four-issue subscriptions to Antenna, e-mail me by midnight EST on November 30th. Please put "Antenna" in the subject line.)
'Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time'
Remember analog music, recorded onto cassette tapes? Specifically, mix tapes? This memoir by Rolling Stone columnist Rob Sheffield recalls his music-obsessed, mix-tape-making courtship with and marriage to his wife Renee, who died of a pulmonary embolism in 1997. The book is short, sweet, heartbreaking -- and, in its own idiosyncratic way, a love letter to music culture before the Age of the iPod. (For your chance at one of two free copies of this book, e-mail me by midnight EST on Nov. 30. Please put "Love Is a Mix Tape" in the subject line.)
TEDIOUS CAVEATS: You're not eligible if you're a friend or family member or colleague or my dentist. Some of the items that I'm giving away I've purchased myself; others have been kindly supplied by the publishers (or network). You must have a valid U.S. mailing address -- which I'll request from you by e-mail should you happen to be selected in one of my random drawings -- mainly because I don't want to be mailing stuff overseas. Obviously, no purchase is necessary, though you must have an e-mail account in order to participate. I'll print the names of the winners sometime in December.