• By Dan Kois

  • 1. Nate Cosby, Ben McCool, and Breno Tamura's Pigs A cadre of Cuban sleeper agents sets off on a mission, twenty years after the end of the Cold War, in this stylish monthly series, currently on issue No. 2. Gotta love a comic with the cliff-hanger, "Where the **** is the rest of the President?"
  • 2. Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve No. 12 New stories from the author of Shortcomings, including a tragicomic saga of horticultural experimentation and the weird life of a woman who looks exactly like porn star Amber Sweet.

  • 3. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's SpacemanOrson was created in a lab for experimental travel to Mars. Now that he's back, he has to make a life for himself. Issue No. 1 of this gritty and surprising new series from the creators of 100 Bullets is out this week.

  • 4. Jeremy Haun and Jason A. Hurley's The Beauty What if a disease that made its victims beautiful swept the Earth? That's the premise of a slick comic that's part procedural, part meditation on what beauty means.

  • 5. Ethan Rilly's Pope Hats The life and times of aspiring law clerk Frances Scarland, who navigates an unwanted promotion, drunken best friends, and a surreal superman of a supervisor. The fascinating second issue is out now.

Books Dan Kois's Five Interesting New Books That Explain How Things Are Made
By Dan Kois

  1. Art Spiegelman’s Metamaus On the occasion of Maus’s 25th anniversary, the miraculous comic gets a handsome, thoughtful making-of volume—complete with a DVD-ROM stuffed with archival material.

  2. Sam Benjamin’s American Gangbang A young man travels to California, determined to become a porn impresario, in a disturbing but revealing look at how your pornographic sausage gets made.

  3. Kevin Avery’s Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson The story of one of America’s great seventies rock critics, plus a collection of his work—including his previously unpublished one-sentence Rolling Stone review of Bob Dylan at Budokan: “What, besides God, has happened to this man?”

  4. Brian Selznick’s The Hugo Movie Companion Though mostly meant for kids, this gorgeously designed companion volume is jam-packed with behind-the-scenes goodies—like Dante Ferretti’s set-design sketches—from Martin Scorsese’s sure-to-be-amazing 3-D film.

  5. Joshua David and Robert Hammond’s High Line Two of the visionaries behind Chelsea’s beloved elevated park tell their story in this sumptuously illustrated paperback—part celebration, part tick-tock procedural.

Books Willa Paskin's Ongoing Literary Series You Can Painfully Await Sequels For Now That A Dance With Dragons Is Here
By Willa Paskin

  1. The Magicians The Magicians, the first installment of Lev Grossman's planned trilogy about a newfound wizard's college years, was like Harry Potter with more sex, drugs, and Brooklyn. The sequel, The Magician King, comes out next month and picks up where No. 1 left off, after college, in a magical realm and also Massachusetts. When you've finished both, wait painfully for the next one, which should arrive in approximately two years.

  2. Ibis Trilogy Historical novel Sea of Poppies, the first installment of Amitav Ghosh's planned trilogy about the inhabitants of a ship going from India to Mauritius in 1838, focused on how the motley group of passengers got onboard and included politics, romance, and insights into the opium trade. The sequel, River of Smoke, comes out in September and picks up with the cast of characters in a cyclone. When you're finished with both, you can wait painfully for the next one, which should arrive in approximately three years.

  3. The Passage The Passage, the first installment of Justin Cronin's planned trilogy about a postapocalyptic future overrun by vampires (but in a very well-written way!), clocked in at a little under 800 pages. When you're finished with it, you can wait painfully for installment No. 2, Twelve, which arrives next year.

  4. A Suitable Person A Suitable Boy is Vikram Seth's 1,500-page novel about a huge extended family in India in the early fifties. If you can commit to it (and, if you like comedies of manners, you should), by the time you're done you can wait painfully for A Suitable Girl, Seth's follow-up of sorts set in the present day, which will allegedly be in stores in 2013.

  5. Bas-Lag The excellent fantasy novels Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council by China Mieville are all set in the same highly complex, steampunkish, magical world of Bas-Lag. Though they are not strictly sequels, they do share a globe and a mood. When you've finished all three—and the short story "Jack," which is set there as well—you can wait painfully for the next one, which may never arrive: Mieville refuses to say when, or if, he'll go back.

Books Meg Wolitzer's Literary Moments in Failed Sex

  1. Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra: A Life King Ptolemy XII leaves the throne to his daughter, the great Cleopatra VII, and his eldest son, Ptolemy XIII. They are meant to have sex, for the sake of the dynasty. However, at the time of their marriage, she is 18; he is 10. Cleopatra to her brother: "I didn't know puberty was so important."

  2. Neil Jordan's "The Crying Game" screenplay Talk about your Irish Troubles: Jordan's 1992 gender-shocker leaves Stephen Rea—and the minority of the audience that didn't know the secret—saying to the slinky Jaye Davidson, "I didn't know you had a penis."

  3. Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach This compact, riveting novel of a terrible wedding night and its aftermath could have been renamed "The Honeymoon Killers," after Edward finds his beloved bride, Florence, can't bear to sleep with him. Edward to Florence: "I didn't know you were sexually incompetent."

  4. Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre First she had to survive the hideous Lowood School; then she was this close to finding love with the mutton-chopped Mr. Rochester, except for one impediment. Jane to Rochester: "I didn't know you had a wife."

  5. Hermione Lee's Virginia Woolf She was the brilliant, beautiful, unstable genius; he was the long-suffering husband. Together they were intellectually incandescent, but somehow he couldn't light her fire. Virginia to Leonard: "I didn't know we couldn't just talk."

Guest Sarah Vowell's Favorite Things in History

  1. The Book of Mormon I predict this will go down in history as the greatest religious-themed musical of all time. No offense, Fiddler.

  2. Amy Ryan in The Office and Win Win The only thing she cannot do is be like anyone else.

  3. The New Hawaii Five-0 It portrays the sociopolitical makeup of life in a multiethnic archipelago with humor and actual emotion. Also, cool fight scenes.

  4. "Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis" Not since Ted Koppel retired have interviews been this hard-hitting.

  5. Yogurt I was going to rave about the chicken at Little Owl on Bedford Street, but then I read about that Japanese grandmother who survived on yogurt for nine days while she was trapped in earthquake rubble. As someone with a wheat allergy who is constantly trapped in airports where yogurt is at times the only edible, non-Cinnabon foodstuff, I'm never going to take for granted live active cultures again.

Books Werner Herzog's Required Reading

  1. Virgil's Georgics Virgil grew up as a country boy in Mantua near northern Italy; he knows about farming and raising cattle, so he never explains anything. He names the glory of the beehive, names the glory of the orchid, names the glory of the sheep on the pasture, and also names the horror of the plague invading the stable. It has been very, very important for my film in Antarctica, in colder cities at the end of the world. We were flown in once, and six weeks later we had to have a film. So the cinematographer asked, "How can you explain to any viewer the continent?" and I said to him, in a flash of inspiration, "We cannot explain it. Let's do what Virgil did in Georgics."

  2. The Poetic Edda It has such a depth of mythology and such—it is so laconic. It is like setting rock after rock after rock into the landscape. It's just phenomenal language and has a rhythm in it that is incredible. For musicality of language and storytelling or poetry, it is totally exceptional.

  3. Ernest Hemingway's "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" Hemingway, in his publication The First Forty-Nine Stories, he put it in first place because he knew—he probably knew that was his best. Storytelling, it's just absolutely phenomenal.

  4. The Warren Commission Report An incredible crime story of unbelievable logic. One of those great books where you rush home just to continue reading. It's absolutely beautifully written and the best crime story ever.

  5. ? But it could be, you see, I could add 3,000 more books or 300 more books. It's not these books will make you a filmmaker. It's just a stumbling block.

Books Charles Burns's Publications That Made Him Want to Become a Cartoonist

  1. Robert Crumb's Head Comix I bought this in the "humor" section of the University of Washington Bookstore when it was published back in 1968. I was in eighth grade at the time—the perfect age to have my eyes opened up to the dark new world of sex and drugs and underground comics...uh, comix.

  2. Slash Magazine with Jimbo comics by Gary Panter I discovered Gary's work in the pages of the L.A. punk fanzine Slash in the late seventies. I remember thinking, Oh, okay. Punk comics. I want to do punk comics too. He's still creating work that will kick your ass two times.

  3. Saul Steinberg's The Art of Living My dad owned this book and it was around the house for as long as I can remember. It's filled with amazing ink drawings Steinberg did from 1945–49 and it still feels incredibly alive with humor and invention—a favorite book by one of my favorite artists.

  4. Herge's The Secret of the Unicorn Golden Press published six American translations of Herge's Tintin books in the late fifties and early sixties. My father bought me this book when I was in preschool and I spent countless hours absorbed in it. The format of the book as well as the atmosphere and imagery in the story seeped deep down into the back of my brain and have been holding me captive ever since.

  5. Ballantine Books reprints of Harvey Kurtzman’s Mad comic Originally published as color comic books in the early fifties, these black-and-white reprint collections were parodies of movies, books, and comics written by Harvey Kurtzman and illustrated by artists like Wally Wood, Bill Elder, and Jack Davis. I studied every inch of every panel in these books before I knew how to read and before I had any idea of what any of the cultural references were. I still prefer the black-and-white reprints to the "colorized" version.