Book Corner: Pop Culture Picks for Adults

Comic conventions as we know them date back to the mid-1960s, with the San Diego Comic-Con being the largest and best known. But the first convention dates back to 1939, when Worldcon was first held for literary science fiction fans to celebrate the worlds dreamed up by their favorite authors, including Ray Bradbury, opens a new window and Isaac Asimov., opens a new window Comic conventions take a variety of forms; while some feature comics only, many embrace all aspects of pop culture and fandoms. Thousands flock to these events to show off their elaborate (and sometimes racy) costumes, meet the famous faces of film and books, and visit exhibits. Between travel, costumes, exhibit wares, and extras, it can cost a small fortune to attend one of these spectacular events.

Luckily, Central Rappahannock Regional Library has its own CRRL-Con, opens a new window (say “curl-con”) happening on Saturday, May 18 at Howell Branch. Now in its 10th year, CRRL-Con is a family-friendly event with free comic books, authors, performances, a cosplay contest, and more. You’ll be able to purchase books and goodies from our vendors, but CRRL-Con is entirely free to attend and participate in all activities.

For the grown-up pop culture and comic fans, here are some books to get pumped up about CRRL-Con:

Black Nerd Problems, opens a new window by William Evans and Omar Holmon
Evans and Holmon, founders of the website Black Nerd Problems,, opens a new window deliver their witty and insightful pop culture criticism in this essay collection. No topic is left untouched as they discuss everything from anime to ironically high-priced Hamilton tickets. Some essays are straightforward, while others feature high-energy banter between the two authors. The most compelling pieces are those that dive deeper, such one that uses local comic conventions to explore race and another where Holmon uses the sitcom Go On, opens a new window to navigate personal loss.

See You at San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture, opens a new window by Mathew Klickstein et al. Also available on hoopla., opens a new window
Experience the wonder of San Diego Comic-Con, the world’s largest comic convention, through the voices of some of the biggest names in fandom: Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, the Russo brothers, Kevin Smith, and more. This oral history, along with 400+ photos and art, offers a dazzling variety of thought-provoking, often humorous stories that chronicle Comic-Con International and the melding of mainstream American pop culture and comic book culture. 

Cosplay: The Builders, Fans, and Makers Who Bring Your Favorite Stories to Life, opens a new window by Andrew Liptak
Cosplay's history goes deeper than Comic-Con crowds suggest, says journalist Liptak. Tracing its roots to 19th-century costume parties, fueled by Star Wars in the 1970s, and super-boosted by the internet, cosplay is more about community than costumes. Liptak doesn’t shy away from discussing cosplay’s issues, such as tensions between cosplayers and copyright holders, but overall, he approaches the history of cosplay with enthusiasm and positivity. We enjoy Liptak’s excitement when his Star Wars fan group was recruited as extras in The Mandalorian, and admire the cosplay community for their generosity in spreading “magical moments” with organizations such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation. 

Nerd: Adventures in Fandom From This Universe to the Multiverse, opens a new window by Maya Phillips
Fans of the aforementioned Black Nerd Problems will also enjoy Phillips’ sharp collection of essays on today’s social issues as seen through the lens of pop culture fandoms. Phillips grew up on Star Wars, Buffy, superheroes, anime, and Harry Potter. A critic at large with the New York Times, she has written on everything from summer blockbusters to theater. As fandom becomes increasingly mainstream, Phillips evaluates how pop culture, starting in the 1990s, influences people of all ages and what it teaches us about race, gender expression, and more. Everyone from the casual movie watcher to hardcore Doctor Who fan will enjoy this series of essays.

All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told, opens a new window by Douglas Wolk
For this survey of Marvel Comics’ output since 1961, Wolk read every comic book-- an astonishing 27,000 publications containing thousands of interconnected stories and characters. These characters, such as Spider-Man, Thor, and the X-Men, formed the basis for some of today’s highest-grossing movies. Wolk organizes the comic books’ stories and major themes into chapters grouped by time periods aligning with major events of the last six decades of U.S. history. An appendix handily details plotlines and images of notable works.

Rise: A Pop History of Asian American From the Nineties to Now, opens a new window by Jeff Yang, et al.
This vibrant exploration of Asian American influence on entertainment and politics in the last few decades features a mix of comics, essays, interviews, playlists, and more. While the history of Asians in America is complex and fraught with exploitation and exclusion, the authors focus on major moments in pop culture, such as Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl, Disney’s 1998 Mulan, and Fresh off the Boat. Visually striking and engaging, Rise is an essential read for anyone interested in pop culture.

Visit, opens a new window for CRRL-Con details and additional related events, as well as online fun, including trivia, crafts, free online comics, and more.

Tracy McPeck is the adult services coordinator at Central Rappahannock Regional Library. This column first appeared in the Free Lance-Star newspaper.