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Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Résumé, Ages 0 to 22

MariNaomi

Harper Perennial, $15.99/paperback

MariNaomi was promiscuous starting at a young age: drugs and sex with boys as a young teenager, a runaway before 16. She launched into serious but dysfunctional relationships before most of us finished high school — and then seemed to reach a breaking point of midlife-crisis proportions in her 20s. That's about the gist of her memoir Kiss & Tell, a graphic novel with chapters based on boys she's encountered. For 99 percent of the book we follow her escapades with Jason, Hank, Francis, whomever, before a sudden epilogue in which MariNaomi reaches her best/true self, upon quickly and inexplicably realizing she's created her identity through other people and mostly short-lived romantic exploits. We suppose MariNaomi's relationships, and for that matter, her life, don't lack depth; but her book does. And in the end, that seems as depressing as anything. — Edie Adelstein

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Beautiful Fighting Girl

Saito Tamaki, translated from the Japanese by J. Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson

University of Minnesota Press, $19.95/paperback (Release date: March 25)

Beautiful Fighting Girl is academic reading, firstly. Saito Tamaki, a psychiatrist and author of numerous books on adolescence and pop culture in Japan, delves deeply into the archetype of beautiful fighting girls in anime: their audience (obsessive fans called otakus), their history, their significance in the anime metaverse. To Western eyes, Tamaki's analysis may come off as a defense of the genre, and otakus, but he argues that in the post-modern era (a "hypermediated world"), anime fandom is about far more than social maladjustment, it's about the liquidity of reality and fiction. Pretty heavy stuff, sometimes difficult to follow sans a psychology degree. However, Tamaki's ideas are fascinating, and the points he makes on sexuality prove there's so much more to that realm than even a liberal view would lead you to believe. And it's not perverted. — Edie Adelstein

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Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

Gabrielle Hamilton

Random House, $26/hardcover

The allure starts on the book jacket — an illustration of a severed chicken head and this review by the bullshit-free Anthony Bourdain: "Magnificent. Simply the best memoir by a chef. Ever." Only death could've prevented me from reading this book. Sure enough, Gabrielle Hamilton, with writing talent to match her culinary prowess, delivers a masterful, brutally honest and personal, sexy, dirty, inspiring, sensory-rich and emotional debut. We learn of her colorful and fast childhood; her clueless and clunky foray into restaurants; her culinary refinement and hellish years spent in catering monotony; world travel and writing study; then a naïve but successful plunge into operating New York's Prune restaurant, followed by an odd, semi-functional marriage and kids. Like a perfectly deconstructed food plate, her life is laid bare before each element is reassembled with poignant finesse. — Matthew Schniper

  • Kiss & Tell; Beautiful Fighting Girl; Blood, Bones & Butter

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