‘FLANNERY O’CONNOR: THE CARTOONS’ (Fantagraphics, $22.99). Flannery O’Connor drew cartoons? She did, early in her life, before issuing collections like “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” and the prints collected here are droll and strange. One depicts a wallflower at a school dance. She smiles and thinks to herself, “Oh, well, I can always be a Ph.D.”
‘SWIMMING STUDIES,’ by Leanne Shapton (Blue Rider Press, $30). This book — part pointillistic memoir, part lovely art object — is from a former competitive swimmer turned illustrator. She recalls details like the smell of her long-ago situps partner: “Tide, milk, terrier and grape Hubba Bubba.” The winning drawings will please the Maira Kalman fanatic in your life.
‘GET JIRO,’ by Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose, with art by Langdon Foss (Vertigo, $24.99). This is a Tarantino-esque comic book set in a future Los Angeles where chefs rule like crime lords — don’t they do that already? — and customers will kill to get a table. I can’t give away the ending, but I can give away the twisted last sentence: “Love those California rolls, dude!”
‘TALKING PICTURES: IMAGES AND MESSAGES RESCUED FROM THE PAST,’ by Ransom Riggs (It Books, $16.99). Mr. Riggs has combed junk stores and yard sales, raking up evocative photographs that have been cast aside. This collection has a ghostly beauty. Across the top of one black-and-white photo of an aging black woman someone has written, as the old song put it, “Saddle your blues to a wild mustang.”
‘BRING THE NOISE: 20 YEARS OF WRITING ABOUT HIP ROCK AND HIP-HOP,’ by Simon Reynolds, the English music critic (Soft Skull Press, $16.95). This one is actually from 2011, but I like it so much I am shoehorning it in here. It’s a hefty collection of Mr. Reynolds’s best stuff — there are essays about Radiohead, P. J Harvey, the Beastie Boys and many others — which means that it’s very good stuff indeed.
‘THE BEAUTIFUL ANTHOLOGY: ESSAYS, STORIES AND POEMS,’ edited by Elizabeth Collins (TNB Books, $14.99). Like a David Cronenberg movie, this offbeat anthology zeros in on beauty’s dark and complicated side. Another bonus: it mostly features good writers you’ve never heard of.
‘ALIEN VS. PREDATOR,’ by Michael Robbins (Penguin Poets, $18). “My neighbor’s whales keep me up at night./They may not mean to, but they do./I turn on Shark Week, plan a killing spree./I’m all stocked up on Theraflu.” This volume, from a young poet out of Topeka, Kan., is Nabokovian in its ecstatic wordplay.
‘EAT WITH YOUR HANDS,’ by Zakary Pelaccio (Ecco, $39.99). From the chef behind the New York City restaurants Fatty Crab and Fatty ’Cue, this may well be 2012’s best cookbook. It expertly covers the only four food groups that matter: salty, spicy, crackly and fatty. Mr. Pelaccio’s recipe for a “full-fat pork shoulder” is a show (and heart) stopper.
‘NICE WEATHER,’ by Frederick Seidel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24). Mr. Seidel’s new poems, like his old poems, are so crisp and funny and mordant that they deliver a contact high. “Open the champagne,” he writes in one. “There’s too much joy. There’s no stopping.”
‘DRINKING DIARIES: WOMEN SERVE THEIR STORIES STRAIGHT UP,’ edited by Leah Odze Epstein and Caren Osten Gerszberg (Seal Press, $16). Worth it for Elissa Schappell’s essay alone. This book delivers smart women, small glasses and big, dark fun. It makes you wish to pour two fingers of something and utter that strange and underused old toast: “Here’s to the confusion of our enemies.”
December 21, 2012