Last March, the number of Kindle downloads bypassed the quantity of Amazon’s printed books sales. Six centuries ago, Johannes Guttenberg terminated the millennia-long profession of hand copying with his invention of a machine that could print hundreds of sheets per day; another device displaced his in four short years. Things can change just that fast.

Herewith, a selection of three summer books worth purchasing in print for your bookshelf or coffee table -- a review of contemporary political Arabic graffiti, a scholarly study of totalitarian art (and its patterns) and, last but certainly not least, Artnet Magazine correspondent Hunter Drohojowska-Philp's new book, Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s.

Pascal Zoghbi and Don Karl aka “Stone,” Arabic Graffiti, 2011, From Here to Fame, 200 pp., $34.95.

“Aw, perfect,” I said out loud when Arabic Graffiti arrived. The single biggest movement of human freedom in our time is the Arab Spring, a 22-country uprising in which democracy fights to displace theocracy and oligarchy. The bewildered Middle Eastern governments have a leash on most media, including the internet, but one medium remains out of their control: graffiti.

Italian for “scratched,” graffiti appears in pre-history, home-grown and on the loose; it is a despot’s nightmare. Americans, advancing on Nazi Germany, scrawled “Kilroy was here” on anything they could find, and the words so terrified the enemy that Stalin inquired about Kilroy’s identity at Potsdam; the tag is now engraved on the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Soviets tossed union leader Lech Walesa in the slammer, but they couldn’t stop the Solidarnosc (Solidarity) logo from tearing across across Poland, which indicated a loss of Communist control and mounting pressure for the government to accommodate a new Eastern Block economy. The 1980s social provocateur Blek le Rat stenciled political graffiti on walls around Paris, bringing the reality of inequality to the fore of popular consciousness. His hit-and-run stencil-painting method is now commonplace throughout the world.

This photo-essay, co-authored by Lebanese designer Pascal Zoghbi and German tagger Don Karl aka “Stone,” begins unexpectedly with thorough essays on the history of Arabic calligraphy, and brings depth to this last manifestation of the Semitic alphabet writing. The 29 letters of the Arabic alphabet have sounds similar to the 24 letters of the Latin alphabet, and the authors provide a guide for readers who are inclined to pronounce the letters out loud. After firmly establishing that historical context, the book takes us on a graffiti tour of Beirut and Palestine, describing wall writing that ranges from shop signage and workers’ humor -- especially the curious sub-culture of writing marital warnings on trucks -- to political party tags that mark off turf like Los Angeles Street gangs.

Much attention is paid to the graffiti that covered Israel’s newest Wailing Wall -- the Israeli Security Barrier, an emblem of human suffering raw and ubiquitous. My favorite spray reads “CTRL + ALT + DELETE,” a desperate plea that we “reboot” the situation. The book’s final chapters are dedicated to ­­­­­­­­13 graffiti artists who spray in Arabic throughout the world, including eL Seed in Montreal, Mohammed Ali in the UK, and -- my personal favorite -- the duo Native & ZenTwo, who work mostly in Paris. It’s an interesting and pictorially beautiful book. Put it high on your list.

Igor Golomstock, Totalitarian Art, 2011, Overlook Hardcover, 464 pp., $45.00.

Structuralism, in its various stripes, dominated the humanities for decades -- but fell apart because it wasn’t predictive. When a curious light was shined into the Structuralist toolbox, we saw that sentences themselves wandered about. It was with some surprise that I encountered Russian writer Igor Golomstock’s published theory, Totalitarian Art, which puts forth the notion that totalitarian rulers produce a known sequence of heroic images, a sort of monthly paint-by-numbers club for fascists. Since his proof is an abundance of research and hundreds of works in painting, sculpture and architecture, I would place his structuralism in the true-enough category.

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