Utne Reader's library is abuzz with a steady flow of 1,500 magazines, newsletters, journals, weeklies, zines, and other lively dispatches from the cultural front that are rarely found at big-box bookstores, newsstands, or even online. So we share the highlights (and occasional lowlights) of what's landing in our library each week in 'From the Stacks.' Check in every Friday for the latest edition.
A tenacious library marshal shows off some serious action-film moves to track down a rare book thief in Jason Shiga's new graphic novel Bookhunter, published by Sparkplug Comic Books. The unswerving Special Agent Bay does not work alone; he relies on forensic experts, a heavily armed SWAT team, and a very agile Bookmobile to retrieve the book in question -- a valuable 19th-century English bible. After analyzing the masterful forgery left in the stolen book's place, he enlists the help of the American Library Association's 'top profiler,' who pegs the thief as a 'a caucasian bookbinder, age 32-40... She is shy, intelligent and may have a lisp or word repetition stutter. She was a childhood bedwetter.' I won't ruin the ending, but as a librarian I must note that Bookhunter's many hilarious action sequences include card catalogues, reshelving carts, exit gates, and some on-top-of-the-stacks running. Shiga also illustrates my deepest, darkest library fear: that of being squeezed between two rows of compact shelving. -- Danielle Maestretti
In DESIGNER/builder social justice issues are at the forefront of discussions on urban environments. For the July/August issue, Sam Smith of the web magazine Progressive Review critiques the burgeoning smart growth movement in 'Not Too Smart Growth.' Smith argues that smart growth too often tries to impose a new model on an area, unrealistically expecting people to move or adapt instead of improving their current surroundings. While lamenting the past sins of urban planning, including the ways in which communities are undervalued, he emphatically asserts that 'next to economists, no group has been so consistently wrong and harmful to the human spirit as urban planners.' -- Julie Dolan
Started in 2002 as an undergraduate arts and culture project at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Mule draws contributions from Chicago, New York, and China, covering the creative arts largely though interviews and photo spreads. 'We're a regional publication,' the magazine's website reads, 'in the sense that we focus on what's around us as we roam about.' In the biannual's fourth issue, readers can wander among interviews with the likes of jazz musician/composer Philip Cohran (once a sideman for the ethereal jazz musician Sun Ra) and Tim Kinsella, formerly of the 1990s indie band Cap'n Jazz. Along with regular filings from the art and fashion worlds, the issue features profiles of three young American instrument makers. -- Eric Kelsey
The music monthly Seattle Sound enlisted the help of online environmental magazine Grist for an issue devoted to earth-friendly ideas in the land of rock and roll. The package looks beyond the many ways that mainstream acts like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden have cleaned up their acts and touts some of the little guys in the business who have sacrificed financial gain in order to cut their carbon emissions. Minnesota's Cloud Cult, for example, hopes to lead the way to a green revolution in music by using only recycled materials for their albums. The magazine also takes a look at several of the top ecoconscious music festivals, as well as the part some record labels play in the movement. -- Eric Kelsey
The perceptions and realities of Islam are as varied as they are misunderstood, which makes Islamica a valuable new resource in our library. The quarterly international magazine encompasses extraordinarily diverse voices that provide insight and promote discussion on a wide range of issues. The latest edition (#19) profiles 10 such voices in the feature 'Shaping Islam in America.' The visionaries profiled hail from many backgrounds and professions -- one is a novelist, another a humanitarian, another an editor of an online magazine, etc. -- and represent the myriad ways in which faith and work can influence local communities. Their stories reveal tremendous promise in promoting understanding among the country's various cultures. -- Natalie Hudson
In its sixtieth year of publication, Jewish Currents continues to integrate historical and cultural analysis into relevant coverage of Jewish communities. The self-identified 'progressive, secular' bimonthly often extends its lens beyond the United States and Israel, as it does in the July/August issue examining Jewish activism from Australia to South America to Berlin. Philip Mendes calls on Jews to answer their religious duty, or tzedakah, to help the poor and vulnerable by addressing poverty in their communities and at the policy level. -- Natalie Hudson