MoJo’s Best of Books, Music, Television and Film, 2006

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Just in time for the holidays (and holiday shopping), Mother Jones presents our list of 2006 media favorites. We think you’ll like these books, albums, shows, and movies; act fast, before the War on Christmas ruins the gift-giving season for everyone.

Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America. By Cynthia Carr. A photograph of a 1930 Indiana lynching is the central mystery and motivating force behind Our Town. As Carr tries to figure out what really happened on the night captured in the picture, she uncovers her own family’s shameful history. One of the most fascinating and challenging explorations of race to arrive in a long time.

Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984. By Simon Reynolds. Reynolds convincingly argues that ’80s postpunk was the most fertile and influential musical period since the Summer of Love. Encompassing everything from Joy Division to Gang of Four to the Specials to Talking Heads to (gasp!) Human League—it’s the perfect nostalgia trip for the perennial grad student who still rocks the stovepipe jeans.

The Discomfort Zone. By Jonathan Franzen. The novelist recounts his childhood fears (“spiders, insomnia, fish hooks, school dances, hardball, heights, bees, urinals, puberty, music teachers, dogs, the school cafeteria, censure, older teenagers, jellyfish, locker rooms, boomerangs, popular girls”), awkward adolescence, and adulthood struggle to become a wildly successful writer. Along the way, he discovers bird-watching, which becomes an obsession and his connection to environmentalism.

Pick a Bigger Weapon. The Coup. This Oakland rap duo has been around since the early ’90s, but this album, its first in five years, is the most musically rich. Not that the group has smoothed down its political edge. (Sample lyrics: “War ain’t about one land against the next/it’s po’ people dyin’ so the rich cash checks.”) And don’t miss the catchy pre-apocalyptic slow jam, “BabyLetsHaveABabyBeforeBushDoSomethingCrazy.”

The Information. Beck. Moving past Guero’s cheesier, poppier tunes, Beck offers honest yet fresh melodies without sacrificing the succinct beats we’ve come to expect. And how can you resist an album that comes with D.I.Y. cover art and features the line, “Carry my heart like a soldier with a hand grenade”?

This Film Is Not Yet Rated. Director Kirby Dick goes on an undercover quest to expose the opacity and hypocrisy of the the folks who decide whether to slap a PG, R, or a distribution-killing NC-17 on our movies. For his trouble, he earned a NC-17, but don’t let that scare you away.

For the full list, go here.

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This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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