A Man Called Destruction
by Holly George-Warren (Viking, $28)
This is the book that Alex Chilton fans have been waiting for, said Ben Apatoff in the New York Daily News. Holly George-Warren’s “affectionately written” biography of the rock-legend manqué delves deep into the singer-songwriter’s complex life, including his Memphis childhood and long recording career with the Box Tops, Big Star, and beyond. “Chilton’s anti-social behavior is documented in agonizing detail,” but the author is equally sharp in assessing the enduring strengths of Chilton’s music.
by Hisham Aidi (Pantheon, $30)
Young Muslims around the world embraced Western-style pop long ago and are continuing to repurpose it. In Hisham Aidi’s “meandering” survey of the music a new generation is listening to, many featured artists will be unfamiliar here, said Mythili Rao in TheDailyBeast.com. But readers might be interested to learn that the State Department has worked to harness music’s power in the Muslim world and that Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” was inspired by the Quran.
by John Beckman (Pantheon, $29)
America apparently used to be a lot more fun, said Preston Lauterbach in The Wall Street Journal. John Beckman’s “freewheeling” history of New World–style fun skitters from 17th-century May Day celebrations to Wild West drag balls on its way to proposing that rebellious reveling has always been crucial to the American identity. But Beckman’s lively tour “begins to wane” when he reaches the mid-20th century, and his post-1960s rabble-rousers only suggest a nation in spiritual decline.
The Scarlet Sisters
by Myra MacPherson (Twelve, $28)
Tennessee Claflin and Victoria Claflin Woodhull “might, in the wrong hands, appear to be quirky caricatures out of an episode of Downton Abbey,” said Megan O’Grady in Vogue. But the sisters who founded the first female-owned Wall Street brokerage mounted a campaign for women’s rights that deserves to be remembered for both its sweep and savvy. Author Myra MacPherson captures it all, from the sisters’ “shockingly short” skirts to their “slightly hucksterish brand of charisma.”