Rob Christopher, author of Queue Tips: Discovering Your Next Great Movie, tore through:

Dead Man Upright There’s bleak, and then there’s Derek Raymond. His crime novels are so dark they’re kind of like black holes. Even as he meticulously describes the most horrible things, I can’t look away. He wrote a series of five novels featuring a narrator known only as Detective Sergeant, an investigator in Scotland Yard’s “Unexplained Deaths” department. Dead Man Upright is the last in the series, and although it was written in the early 90s (Raymond died in 1994), it had not been published in the U.S. until this year. Ostensibly it’s about the search for an elderly serial killer; however, there’s very little suspense. Raymond is really more interested in creating a very intense character sketch of a psychopath. What keeps all the grisliness in check is Detective Sergeant’s wonderfully caustic wit. He’s a no-nonsense type with a sharp tongue who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I tore through this book in a few days.

Kelly McGrath, Newberry Library communications and marketing director, learned a lot from:

Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong I bought this book after asking a colleague to recommend a primer on American Indians, something not too scholarly (not always easy at the Newberry) that would give me a good overview and that I could, you know, actually understand. I opened it with some trepidation—five minutes later, I was laughing out loud; ten minutes after that, almost weeping.

With chapters like “The Big Movie,” a searing and hilarious history of the portrayal of American Indians in film and television, and “Homeland Insecurity,” the most astonishing and enlightening page and a half I have ever read, author Paul Chaat Smith uses wit and brutal honesty in his unflinching look at the role of American Indians in the United States.

But if it’s possible to be scathing and gentle at the same time, Chaat Smith is. His mixture of facts, dead-on observations and commentary, and wicked but also patient, eye-rolling humor lead us on a clearer—and certainly more enjoyable—journey toward a better understanding of contemporary American Indian life.

Suzuki Harunobu, Young Woman Jumping From the Kiyomizu Temple Balcony With an Umbrella as a Parachute, 1765, color woodblock print

Carol Fisher Saller, senior manuscript editor at the University of Chicago Press and author of The Subversive Copy Editor, took friends to see:

“Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints” Last week I took houseguests to the Smart Museum of Art exhibit “Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints.” Highly recommended! Two tips: First, if you only have an hour, don’t even try to look at all the prints. They’re so fine and detailed, and there’s so much going on in some of them, if you rush they become a blur. Some of the 18th-century Japanese prints were like snapshots from a soap opera, and the written descriptions were often surprising, so be sure to read them. My favorite was a delicate print of a girl with an umbrella floating—or falling—in midair. The plaque said she was leaping from a high floor of a monastery in a test of love. (Honestly, someone could base a book just on that print.) Second (or maybe first, actually), look for the tiny video screens with headphones where you can see a short demonstration of the wood-block printing technique. I watched it three times, it was so helpful and fascinating.