MixedThe New York TimesPearce illuminates the kaleidoscopic aspects of Shakur’s life ... The oral history format is an appropriate way to convey such a complicated life, but it’s also only as good as its sources, and (as Pearce notes) there are a lot of other Tupac book projects that limited his access. He gamely attempts to turn this into an asset, and sometimes he scores remarkable details...But too many important details (album releases, arrests) are handled in footnotes, and there’s too much reliance on other reporters to flesh out the narrative ... The life of a figure as magnetic and incendiary as Tupac Shakur, though, can’t help being gripping.
Alan Paul and Andy Aledort
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... illuminating ... An oral history is only as good as its sources, and Texas Flood is thorough and far-reaching, with Vaughan’s bandmates, crew and family taking center stage ... If there’s a disappointment in the book, it’s the lack of Vaughan’s own voice. Aledort interviewed him several times during his lifetime, but since those conversations were focused on specific projects, the quotes pulled for Texas Flood don’t leave much impression. Both authors are accomplished musicians and longtime contributors to Guitar World magazine, so occasionally things get a little gear-heavy.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThere have been several previous attempts to tell Redding’s story, and there has been talk for decades of a biopic about this titan of soul. Gould runs up against the same limitations all these efforts have faced: The singer did only a couple of interviews, and there’s a fundamental lack of tension in the life of a person who virtually no one will say a bad word about ... Exhaustive research into Redding’s early years as a performer reveals both his dedication and his uncertain musical vision ... Gould makes a convincing case that, while Redding’s recordings are never less than compelling thanks to his remarkable voice, [Stax label boss] Jim Stewart’s shortcomings held Redding back as a songwriter and repeatedly stymied his popular momentum.
Laura Jane Grace
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe real power of Tranny comes from Grace’s journal entries, which tell the real-time story of a quest for self that winds through addiction, divorce and, ultimately, action to address the agonizing dysphoria. The diaries are painfully repetitive, yearning for a path between shame and wholeness.
Peter Ames Carlin
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...the thoroughly researched and solidly told Homeward Bound reveals many sides of a complicated, ambitious, insecure figure ... his love for Simon’s towering accomplishments as a songwriter is clear. He’s especially insightful examining the colossal Broadway flop of The Capeman.
Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThe troubled, brilliant, oft-mythologized Wilson makes for a particularly intriguing case study, and if his memoir doesn’t add up to a grand unified theory, it does offer some fascinating glimpses under the hood ... The recounting of the big Beach Boys moments in I Am Brian Wilson is mostly rote ... At its best, I Am Brian Wilson has an odd, unpredictable rhythm, looping back to a few touchstone events and jumping back and forth through time with thoughts that aren’t always linear. It’s in the throwaway moments that Wilson fleetingly snaps into focus.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewBeyond the often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking circumstances behind these feuds, though, Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me is really about the allure of our obsessive duality ... Every chapter swings for the fences, especially since Hyden makes clear that he is setting out to challenge any conventional wisdom or unquestioned paradigms. As a result, when he misses, he misses big ... Mostly, though, Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me connects the dots on music history in new and intriguing ways. Hyden reminds us why we invest so much in these competitions, how they help shape identity for so many of us, while never losing sight of how silly they can be.