One of the juiciest memoirs I've read in a while, this book satisfied all my curiosities about what the art world was really like in the height of ’80s excess (as opposed to what I've always imagined it was like). The book starts with a coked-up Fischl letting his ego run wild in downtown New York, then goes back to a childhood spent doting on an alcoholic mom, and his candor makes the story compelling whether you're a fan of his paintings or not.
• The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013
This is the series you would dream about in a feverish sweat on a sick day when you're asleep on the couch and the TV's on next to you, so the stories culled from mags like The New Yorker and GQ are riddled with collections from a Twitter account that imagines what Seinfeld would be like today (George discovers Banh Mi, Kramer accidentally joins the Tea Party). A chapter called "Best American Tattoo Stories" features illustrations of various tattooed individuals — a writer, a bartender, a Dragon Head of the Chinese Freemasons — and is followed by a postmodern piece by Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan. Think of the BANR series as a literary Short Attention Span Theater, and enjoy.
• French Chic, by Susan Somers
I picked up this book thinking it would be a hilarious Spandex-era Suzanne Somers relic, and was pleasantly surprised to realize that there's a big difference between this book's author and the noted crazy person I'd initially mistaken her for. Simply put: This book is my new bible. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to scour street style from amazingly classy mid-’80s French women who wore oversized sunglasses, layered jewelry, top-knots and boxy jackets back when the rest of us were still into Day-Glo biker shorts and scrunchy socks. Chic.
• Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere, by Poe Ballantine
My novelist friend Greg Ames recommended this book to me. The author is a sort of literary cult hero who's been compared to writers like Bukowski and Kerouac, both of whom I could easily do without (but don't tell my 16-year-old self that, please), and the introduction reads like an induction manual, ending with a somewhat foreboding "Welcome to the Club." Ballantine is a wanderer who moved to a small town in Nebraska and frequently wrote about it in essays for The Sun magazine. When a gruesome death was reported in local news — a math professor was found tied to a tree and burned to death with no real motive or suspects — Ballantine used his familiarity with the town to take up his own kind of investigation. Love and Terror is Ballantine's six-year examination of the case, but it's also a memoir of his eccentric high plains town, its weirdo residents, his Mexican wife and his young autistic son.