Some of my earlier columns this year have been about TV tie-in books or books that were made into TV shows. This time around I will be dedicating a number of columns to an interesting collection of books from Benbella Books known as “Smart Pop Books”.
These books are (according to their official website) “a line of smart, fresh, funny essays on the best of pop culture TV, books and film, with a particular focus on science fiction and fantasy television and literature.”
Since 2003 Benbella Books have published over 4 dozen titles under the “Smart Pop Books” label on topics ranging from Star Wars to Gilmore Girls to the work of Joss Whedon. The writers of these books are New York Times best-selling authors, television writers, psychologists and philosophers. Actually, they are anyone with a love of pop culture who have something worth sharing.
Over the course of the next three weeks, I will provide a list of the “Smart Pop Books” that have been dedicated to a wide array of television shows (dramas, that is) past and present. You just might be surprised by what TV shows have been written about. So, sit back and enjoy the lists:
First let’s start with the FOX musicomedy Glee. The Smart Pop Book entitled “Filled with Glee: An Unauthorized Glee Companion,” includes a guide to putting together a glee club in your own school or community; an index of songs by episode; and the musical biographies of the main and guest actors, including where and when they have worked together before.
Here is the official description of the book: Is Sue the true driving force behind Glee? Who is the real alpha male in New Directions? Why do we really keep coming back to Glee week after week? From its quirky character insights to its inspirational, funny, and touching stories from fellow gleeks, Filled with Glee is the perfect companion for the fan who can’t get enough Glee.
You can get your copy of “Filled with Glee: An Unauthorized Glee Companion” here.
Next up is the fan favorite and critically acclaimed series Friday Night Lights. In the Smart Pop Book “A Friday Night Lights Companion: Love, Loss and Football in Dillon, Texas” the reader can explore the victories and pitfalls of Dillon, Texas – both the town itself and those who live and love there. Because the show is so much more than just a teenage football drama: it is about the struggle to not get trapped in the circumstances to which one is born into. It is about love, loss, and, yes, football.
The official description for the book is: Called one of the best shows on TV by more than a dozen media publications, including Time and Entertainment Weekly, Friday Night Lights is not just one of the most critically acclaimed shows on air, it is also one of the most watchable. Despite its focus on high school football, its masterfully crafted characters and honestly portrayed relationships make its portrait of small town Texas life compelling and relatable in ways that have nothing to do with field goals or touchdowns.
You can get your copy of “A Friday Night Lights Companion: Love, Loss and Football in Dillon, Texas” here.
Next up is the HBO vampire hit True Blood with the Smart Pop Book entitled “A Taste of True Blood: The Fangbanger’s Guide”. The series, based on the best-selling Southern Vampire mysteries written by Charlene Harris, has successfully glamoured millions of viewers and brought vampire-lovers everywhere out of the coffin.
The official description for the book is: With smart and quirky pieces on a range of tasty topics, A Taste of True Blood: The Fangbanger’s Guide gives you something to savor between episodes—and whets your appetite for more. The book also includes a quick reference guide to the show’s first two seasons, with episode summaries and memorable quotes.
You can get your copy of “A Taste of True Blood: The Fangbanger’s Guide” here.
Then there is the Smart Pop Book centering on the hit CW series The Vampire Diaries entitled “A Visitor’s Guide to Mystic Falls: Your Favorite Authors on The Vampire Diaries”.
The book brings together today’s best young adult writers of the supernatural to talk about the first season of The Vampire Diaries: the characters, the storyline, the magic, the town. From a history of the Salem’s witches from whom Bonnie is descended to family therapy for brothers Stefan and Damon, the anthology is guaranteed to keep the show’s viewers entertained—and make them see Mystic Falls, and the rest of The Vampire Diaries, in a whole new way.
You can get your copy of “A Visitor’s Guide to Mystic Falls: Your Favorite Authors on The Vampire Diaries” here.
Up next is the Smart Pop Book for the spy drama Alias. Entitled “Alias Assumed: Sex, Lies and SD-6” the book goes from SD-6 to the CIA, covering topics ranging from kick-ass costumes and multi-colored wigs to family angst and undercover office romance. Alias, with its smart writing and adrenaline-fueled plots, won the hearts of savvy viewers everywhere.
The official description goes like this: This fun, funny essay anthology takes a lovingly tongue-in-cheek look at the world of Alias. Its contributors glean parenting tips (shooting your daughter after years of estrangement is rarely a good idea … or is it?), psychoanalyze creator J.J. Abrams and suggest some surprising possibilities as to Marshall’s true mission, parallels to classic mythology, and the meaning at the heart of the Rambaldi puzzle.
You can get your copy of “Alias Assumed: Sex, Lies and SD-6” here.
Then there is the Smart Pop Book for Star Trek: Enterprise. The title of the book is “Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek”.
The book is for Trekkies and Trekkers alike, who will get starry-eyed over this eclectic mix of essays on the ground-breaking original Star Trek series. Star Trek writers D. C. Fontana and David Gerrold, science fiction authors such as Howard Weinstein, and various academics share behind-the-scenes anecdotes, discuss the show’s enduring appeal and influence, and examine some of the classic features of the show, including Spock’s irrationality, Scotty’s pessimism, and the lack of seat-belts on the Enterprise. The impact of the cultural phenomenon on subsequent science-fiction television programs is explored, as well as how the show laid the foundation for the science fiction genre to break into the television medium.
You can get your copy of “Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek” here.
For the Gilmore Girls fans out there, “Coffee at Luke’s: An Unauthorized Gilmore Girls Gabfest” will make you remember the day back in the fall of 2000 when Gilmore Girls premiered on the WB. Viewers were introduced to the quirky world of Stars Hollow and the Gilmores who had made it their home, mother-daughter best friends Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Coffee at Luke’s is the perfect look at what made the show such a clever, beloved part of the television landscape for so long.
The book covers the following: What are the risks of having your mother be your best friend? How is Gilmore Girls anti-family, at least in the traditional sense? What’s a male viewer to do when he finds both mother and daughter attractive? And how is creator Amy Sherman-Palladino like Emily Gilmore? From the show’s class consciousness to the way the characters are shaped by the books they read, the music they listen to and the movies they watch, Coffee at Luke’s looks at the sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking underpinnings of smart viewer’s television staple, and takes them further into Stars Hollow than they’ve ever been before.
You can get your copy of “Coffee at Luke’s: An Unauthorized Gilmore Girls Gabfest” here.
Moving into the world of way-out-in-space, there is the Smart Pop Book for the fan-favorite series Farscape entitled “Farscape Forever: Sex, Drugs and Killer Muppets”.
The official description for the book is: Science fiction and fantasy authors analyze every aspect of the innovative, action-packed and always surprising science fiction television series Farscape in this innovative and irreverent essay collection. Contributors include Martha Wells on characters Crichton and D’Argo’s buddy relationship, P. N. Elrod on the villains she loves to hate, and Justina Robson on sex, pleasure, and feminism. Topics range from a look at how Moya was designed and an examination of vulgarity and bodily functions to a tourist’s budget guide to the Farscape universe and an expert’s advice to the peacekeepers who, despite their viciousness, never quite seem to pull it off. Fun, accessible, entertaining, and insightful, these musings will appeal to every admirer of this intriguing television series.
You can get your copy of “Farscape Forever: Sex, Drugs and Killer Muppets” here.
Then there is the Smart Pop Book dedicated to the cult-classic, fan-favorite and short-run series Firefly entitled “Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly”.
Firefly’s early demise left fans with a deep sense of loss and plenty of unanswered questions. From what was wrong with the pilot to what was right with the Reavers, from the use of Chinese to how correspondence between Joss and network executives might have gone, from a philosopher’s perspective on “Objects in Space” to a sex therapist’s analysis of Inara, Finding Serenity is filled with writing as exciting, funny, and enthralling as the show itself.
You can get your copy of “Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly” here.
The last book to be covered in this the first part of a three part series of articles on the Smart Pop Books is about the TV series Angel. Entitled “Five Seasons of Angel: Science Fiction and Fantasy Author Discuss Their Favorite Vampire”. The tagline for this book is: “Miss Angel?”
For those who did indeed miss Angel, this collection of essays from fans who also happen to be big name authors and specialists in their fields (including New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Crusie, Last Unicorn author Peter Beagle, Buffy author Nancy Holder, Angel gaffer Dan Kerns, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and many others) explore the constellation of characters and themes created in the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off. Topics include Angelus as the prototypical high school bully, Angel as victim, how Spike fits into Angel, why Jasmine was so scary, a sex expert’s take on Angel’s psyche and Lindsey’s moral center.
You can get your copy of “Five Seasons of Angel: Science Fiction and Fantasy Author Discuss Their Favorite Vampire” here.
In next week’s column some of the TV shows that were written about in the Smart Pop Books series will include (but not be limited to) Veronica Mars, 24, Supernatural, Lost and more.
To find out more about Smart Pop Books, please visit their official website.