Stories (Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio)

This is a collection of 27 newly published works from several of today’s most highly praised authors, such as Joanne Harris, Tim Powers, Joyce Carol Oates, Chuck Palahniuk and of course, Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio.  All of these tales incorporate some element of fantasy, although this kind is not bound by traditional confines.  Even if you’re not typically a fan of the fantastic or super natural, you will probably find something you like within this compilation of imaginative and page-turning stories. (Buy it on Amazon)

Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack (Nicholas Gurewitch)

A compendium of comic strips from the entire run of The Perry Bible Fellowship series, this comic book includes lost strips and sketches that were not previously published.  Following in the footsteps of Far Side‘s Gary Larson, some of Gurewitch’s strips feature a scientist tormenting his boss who shrunk himself with a shrinkray, children finding an egg in the woods only to see it hatch into a dinosaur, and the personified earth and sun kissing and subsequently engulfing all of humanity in flames.   His strips are ultimately slick, majorly weird, and dripping with irony. (Buy it on Amazon)

This is Your Brain on Music (Daniel Levitan)

Former rock musician and current neuroscientist Daniel Levitan gives an incredibly interesting and in-depth account of what happens in our brains when we listen to music.  He talks about how music affects our brains when it hits our ears, why we listen to it, and how we connect to it.  His discussions are expert and lay-friendly, as he uses examples as complex as Schoenberg and as well-known as the Beatles to illustrate his points. He explores notions such as why we react a certain way to particular combinations of notes and rhythms, and that listening to music involves more unrelated parts of the brain than almost any other activity. (Buy it on Amazon)

Rat Girl (Kristin Hersh)

Rat Girl is a beautifully poignant and thought-provoking memoir from former Throwing Muses front-woman Kristin Hersh.  She really gives the reader a close-up look of what she remembers to be the most significant parts of her late adolescent years, interweaving short fragments of memories from her childhood.  Hersh writes a deeply vivid story of how she perceives music and the world around her while grappling with bipolar disorder and a pregnancy that she discovers shortly after Throwing Muses signs with a major record label. (Buy it on Amazon)

Culture Slightly Off-the-Beaten-Path Books to Add to Your Holiday Shopping List