Decoded (Spiegel & Grau)
I didn't judge this book by its cover, but it sure helped get my attention. Was I clamoring for a Jay-Z memoir? Not so much. But the Warhol "Rorschach" painting on the cover is stunningly beautiful and a surprising choice for the rapper. It also hints at other surprises inside. One of the first things I noticed was that the book includes virtually no photos of Jay-Z, an approach that allows him to focus on a variety of interests and inspirations ranging from the likes of Al Pacino and Dizzy Gillespie to various pieces of printed ephemera and memorabilia. If you're familiar with Jay-Z's music and life, you'll know why an Orphan Annie button, embroidery needles, and a black nationalist flag are among the items. The text is a lively mix of autobiography (many readers will be surprised to learn that he lived in Maryland for a while) and rap history lesson. Best of all, Jay-Z annotates the lyrics to some of his best songs, giving further insight into his motivations and letting readers connect the dots between the songs, his biography, and the culture that shaped both.
The Girl in the Green Raincoat (Avon)
This Tess Monaghan novel was serialized in The New York Times Magazine in 2008. Back then, more than a few readers told me they'd read the first installments enthusiastically, missed a chapter or two, lost their momentum, and never regained it. They'll enjoy this slim volume, which pulls together the entire story. Loosely based on Rear Window, it finds a pregnant Tess on bed rest. But her appetite for Matthew's Pizza and powers of observation remain undiminished. Don't be surprised if you tear through these 150 pages in just a sitting or two. It's much more satisfying than having to wait a week between chapters.