RaveBooklistThreadgill recounts his key collaborations with many prominent musicians in Chicago, New York, and around the world, and shares his unique perspective on how music is created, taught, and shared. A remarkably eloquent memoir by a Chicago jazz giant.
RaveBooklistThis is an important book not only about perseverance and determination but also about practical things (such as paying for medical bills one can’t afford), and especially about gender bias in health care.
PositiveBooklist[A] fine novel ... Lacey’s tale is a lovely meditation on not only the mysteries of grief and love but also the equally mysterious ways of the creative process.
RaveBooklistCatton’s filmic novel features vivid characters, not all of them likable, and sharp, sizzling dialogue. Themes in the intricate plot include identity politics, national identity, and exploitation by the super-rich. Birnam Wood is tightly wound and psychologically thrilling, and Catton’s fans and readers new to her powers will savor it to the end.
Jennifer Savran Kelly
PositiveBooklistA bookbinder herself, Savran Kelly is also a fine writer, and her debut novel is smooth and involving. Readers of queer fiction will find much to admire here.
Selby Wynn Schwartz
PositiveBooklistExcellent debut novel, an unusual hybrid of fiction and nonfiction ... Inexplicably mesmerizing, After Sappho is a sui generis work of scholarly fiction written in truly poetic and evocative prose.
RaveBooklistWidely entertaining romp ... The book is also a plaint against conformity as he praises songs that stand out for their originality, individuality, and inventiveness. Dylan’s prose is often as vivid as his own lyrics ... This quirky book is not only full of surprises but also a wonderful consideration of contemporary songs by the modern era’s master songwriter.
RaveBooklistThe Leonard Cohen we know from his songs is here, too, in his precocious way of telling a story (especially the ones that touch on physical frailty and the indignity of aging), and, overall, in the intoxicating way his words flow across the page. Cohen was a wordsmith of the first order.
PositiveBooklistA fine account of an important place in gay cultural history.
PositiveBooklistBlackwell is a natural storyteller ... His memoir should be of interest to anyone curious about the backstory of an important record label as well as to readers who enjoy personal accounts of lives gloriously well-lived.
PositiveBooklistHattrick’s descriptions of their and their mother’s symptoms are visceral, even painful to read. Sickness, they note, changes the patient’s notion of time. Part memoir, part medical history, part diary, Ill Feelings is an unsentimental, angry, and ultimately brave account of living with relentless suffering.
RaveBooklistThe 16 writers in this excellent female-focused essay collection evoke the mystery of music with indelible precision ... Some of the most moving pieces are also the most personal ... A fresh and affecting look at women and music.
PositiveBooklistIconoclastic American composer Steve Reich is singular in his own right, and when he is in conversation with other equally iconoclastic composers, conductors, sculptors, musicians, percussionists, and video artists, sparks not only fly, they sparkle ... the best kind of eavesdropping.
PositiveBooklistEliot follows the rough-and-tumble experiences of this maverick with the \'movie-star looks\' to his heyday as the bad boy of country music ... Eliot offers a rich and corrective portrait of an often misunderstood figure.
RaveBooklistA searing, gorgeously written portrait of a young gay boy trying to be true to himself in a place and time that demands conformity to social and gender rules. Many details are specific to Glasgow, but the broader implications are universal. Stuart’s tale could be set anywhere that poverty, socioeconomic inequality, or class struggles exist, which is nearly everywhere. But it is also about the narrowness and failure of vision in a place where individuals cannot imagine a better life, where people have never been outside their own neighborhood ... Stuart has put working-class Glasgow on the literary map.
PositiveBooklistA well-researched dual biography, rich in historical context, presenting two gifted architects who as robust allies utterly transformed the look of American buildings and landscapes.
Charles J Shields
RaveBooklistShields follows the young playwright on her many journeys, from Chicago to Madison to Harlem to Greenwich Village and the Broadway stage. He convincingly argues that if Hansberry had not died at 34 in 1965 of pancreatic cancer, she would have been an \'elder spokesperson\' in the LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter movements. He situates Hansberry among her contemporaries and traces her development as an artist and as a person, drawing on her private correspondence, her personal notes, and drafts of unpublished works. He also offers a rich chronicle of life on the South Side of Chicago, including background to the 1940 legal case, Hansberry v. Lee, that inspired her famous play, and describes her relationships with fellow artists. All who admire or are curious about Hansberry will cherish this bracing and fascinating analysis of a life cut short.
PositiveBooklistKaye’s personal reminiscences about performing with Patti Smith are among the highlights. Part history, part memoir, Lightning Striking is a fat, fun homage to the glory days of rock and roll and is full of vivid and revealing memories and anecdotes.
PositiveBooklist... a sometimes humorous and nearly always irreverent tale about love and aging that is experimental in execution if not quite in theme ... Given that this is an Edmund White novel—his work can often be unpredictable and striking––fiction and real life sometimes overlap, especially when one of Ruggero’s affairs is with White himself. The result is an erotically charged literary romp facing the loss of physical beauty and the inevitable passage of time.
RaveBooklist... lovely ... Her deeply felt memoir, though, is more than a reflection on the loss of a parent. It is about the idea of loss in general...and the passage of time ... But we also find things, and Schulz considers that in fresh and evocative ways as well. The genius of Lost & Found is in its quotidian nature ... Schulz is a wonderful writer, poetic and profound, and Lost & Found is a poignant, loving, wise, and comforting meditation on grief from both a personal and collective perspective.
Rupa Marya and Rajeev Charles Patel
RaveBooklistAs they explore the many aspects of inflammation, Marya and Patel use the body as a useful analogy, given its immune, circulatory, digestive, respiratory, reproductive, endocrine, and nervous systems ... This is a powerful, knowledgeable, and important work about the dangerous connection between health and societal injustices and how it can be resolved.
RaveBooklistHers is no ordinary book about the craft of songwriting but rather a thoughtful meditation by one of the finest practitioners around on what makes a song matter and the hard lessons she’s learned. Gauithier describes her bout with the bottle in painful detail ... This is a treasure of a book as well as a love letter to songs and songwriters and the people who listen to them.
RaveBooklistVirtually no one has written as much about Bob Dylan as Heylin, yet he has more to say ... It’s always been difficult to separate fact from fantasy when considering this iconic songwriter and performer, but, as always, Heylin separates the chaff from the wheat. Full of dizzying amounts of detail and plentiful anecdotes, the result is an exhaustively meticulous but thoroughly entertaining account of the early to middle years of the elusive Mr. Dylan. We may never really get to know him, but Heylin may well have taken us as close as we can get. A must for Dylan fans and for admirers of Heylin’s work and a mesmerizing triumph.
PositiveBooklist... idiosyncratic and poignant ... Writing in a shambolic, conversational style, she describes how devastated she felt after the deaths of her mother and Elvis, the first time she heard Bob Dylan perform, a disturbing encounter with Prince, her struggles with sexism and loneliness, and so much more.
Rickie Lee Jones
RaveBooklist... lyrical ... With gorgeous prose...interspersed with her lyrics, this is as distinctive as she is, a rich, bracing, and candid memoir dancing with the love of language.
PositiveBooklist... [a] thoughtful and gentle first novel ... A lexicographer’s dream of a novel, this is a lovely book to get lost in, an imaginative love letter to dictionaries.
RaveBooklistUnlike most people, Diski refused to look away from unsavory or unpleasant topics. But, then again, Diski was like no other writer. She was fearless, as is evident in this peerless collection. With an afterword by her daughter, Chloe Diski, this is a must for Diski admirers and all essay lovers.
RaveBooklistIn her searing memoir, Emmy Award–winning speaker, writer, and activist Jaouad describes how, diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at age 22, she found herself, as Susan Sontag described coping with cancer, as living in a world divided into two kingdoms: the healthy and the sick ... Boldly candid and truly memorable.
PositiveBooklistDrawn from a wealth of archival material, including oral history transcripts, books, and magazines, Matos’ in-depth look encompasses that landmark year’s hits, stars, and trends and the cultural, social, and financial conditions that helped change the face of popular music. This robust volume provides an abundance of material here for music fans, especially those fascinated by 1980s pop culture, to savor.
PositiveBooklistHe is an expert at identifying and making sense of paradoxes, whether referencing the continuity of generations or the fragility of maintaining relationships ... Bell looks at the world, at the universe, with both childlike wonder and insatiable curiosity. A lovely, poetic meditation on what brings us together.
RaveBooklistIn this fascinating, opinionated, and often insightful look back at her career, Robinson reflects on the deep-seated misogyny, sexism, and ageism in the music industry ... It’s shocking to learn how many famous women were raped or beaten ... It’s not all bleak, though. Robinson finds hope in the #MeToo movement and other cultural shifts.
Jeffrey H. Jackson
RaveBooklist[A] remarkable story of creative courage ... Schwob and Malherbe’s fierce intelligence is on full display ... Exceptional and inspiring.
PositiveBooklist... like life itself, consists of small moments adding up to a gentle portrait of humanity ... Like the Dadaists, Byrne often uses absurdity and humor to make sense of a chaotic world. With its themes of freedom, uncertainty, and inclusivity, American Utopia speaks to the present moment as Byrne calls for seeking common ground despite the world’s miseries.
RaveBooklistThere are many twists and turns in this addictive, immersive, funny, bizarre, silly, poignant, weird, and amazing mix of biography and cultural history ... Many \'glimpses\' will be familiar to Beatles aficionados, but there are plenty of fresh takes, so that even the most knowledgeable fans will revel in the stories that Brown shares ... A must for everyone interested in music and pop culture and a true treasure for Beatles fans.
PositiveBooklistHajdu has fun name-dropping real-life artists ... and making light of academia in the satirical mix. This may remind some readers of Rick Moody’s work (one of his stories takes the form of liner notes), while the enigmatic Geffel has elements of Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, and Lou Reed. Hajdu has created a weird and strangely wonderful fictional evocation of New York’s 1970s and 1980s underground music and art scenes.
PositiveBooklistWhite allows his languid fable to flow slowly and effortlessly ... A fine shaggy-dog story that ranges from the Texas prairie to the streets of Paris and even a convent in Colombia.
PositiveBooklistInventory recalls not only the violence of the place but also the quotidian details of growing up poor, a dreamy kid whose love of books set him apart ... An unsparing look at the Troubles through gimlet eyes.
RaveBooklist... [a] delightful and goofy memoir ... Eccentric, ridiculous, brilliant, and great fun.
Molly McCully Brown
RaveBooklist... searing and ineffable essays ... Brown describes in gorgeous prose her lifelong struggle with cerebral palsy, which has confined her to a wheelchair. At times painful to read, it is equally difficult to put down. The reader feels Brown’s anguish but also appreciates fleeting moments of beauty ... The essays are enlightening on so many levels as she describes situations many of us take for granted ... Brown’s essays can feel like a punch in the gut, but they are beautiful, nevertheless.
PositiveBooklistIn the first in-depth biography of singer and civil rights icon Odetta, Zack offers a thoughtful portrait of an artist who never quite became as famous as she deserved to be, even though her music has influenced generations of musicians ... Zack follows her career from Los Angeles to San Francisco to New York, chronicling how Odetta had to endure not only racism but also sexism. A much-needed biography of a crucial American artist and activist.
RaveBooklistDoyle is an activist, speaker, and best-selling author. Those who are new to her work may be pleasantly surprised to discover how much her powerful personality shines through every page. She is a terrific storyteller: personable, engaging, and likable. Her honesty can be disarming ... A bracing jolt of honesty from someone who knows what she wants to say and isn’t afraid to say it.
PositiveBooklist... echoes of James Joyce...within a defiantly female perspective ... It does the novel no justice to describe its convoluted plot since the pleasure of the book and of Burns’ work overall is falling under its weirdly compelling spell. Little Constructions is as dark and wild as Milkman and yet different, singular. Burns may not be for everyone, but those willing to dive in will most likely enjoy the ride.
PositiveBooklist... wondrous ... Carl also addresses issues of white male privilege, which he unapologetically embraces after being invisible most of his life. Yet he is acutely aware of the toxic masculinity that shapes mainstream culture, from Brett Kavanaugh to the current occupant of the White House, a poison he hopes to transcend. Carl has written a poignant and candid self-appraisal of life as \'a work in progress.\'
RaveBooklistSo does the world need another Elton John biography? So compelling and entertaining is prolific pop music biographer Bego’s portrait that the answer is in the affirmative ... Elton fans won’t want to miss this.
Andrew Grant Jackson
PositiveBooklistThe spectrum is full, from Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon to Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come (film and soundtrack), the outlaw country albums of Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings, on to southern rock, progressive rock, and the Rolling Stones. This all adds up to a many-versed love song to classic rock.
PositiveBooklistBozza has already written a biography of Eminem, so this is a continuation of the story, but it is also a passionate look at the Detroit rapper’s music during the subsequent years ... The author addresses the usual criticism of Eminem as a white man \'in an African American game,\' provides a history of white rap, and considers the singer as a reflection of contemporary America, with all of its divisiveness and flaws ... An expert and thoughtful assessment.
Booker T. Jones
PositiveBooklist... compelling ... This Grammy Award–winning musician, composer, and producer presents his eventful and peripatetic life not in a conventional way but rather in thematic passages that not only capture the passage of time but also the way his mind works ... As entertaining as his tales from the musical front are, it is his social commentary that forms the heart of the book, whether he’s recounting confrontations with racism in the Jim Crow South or living on a horse farm in Malibu ... for all that dazzling success, this is a gentle, low-key recollection.
Neil Young and Phil Baker
PositiveBooklistHis many fans may be surprised to learn that, despite decades of songwriting and performing success, Young considers his campaign to preserve audio quality the most important thing he’s ever done. A feast for audio geeks, but also anyone who cares about the quality of recorded music.
RaveBooklistSome of the biggest names in African American music populate Cohen’s vivid history of soul music in Chicago ... A richly knowledgeable, deeply considered, and important addition to the history of African American music and its impact on Chicago and beyond.
RaveBooklist... a biography as big, bold, and brash as its subject. [George-Warren] captures Joplin in all her frustrating and poignant complexity, not only her larger than life personality but also her insecurities, her bookishness, her intellect, and her \'deep desire for home\' ... An insightful, compassionate, and, ultimately, tragic story of an artist gone too soon.
PositiveBooklistDann follows Bloomfield’s career, playing Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood as well as New York’s Greenwich Village; his role in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band; and playing lead guitar on Dylan’s masterpiece, \'Like a Rolling Stone.\' Despite some annoying errors, Dann makes a persuasive case for how this white kid from Glencoe, Illinois, played a central role in introducing white audiences to urban blues.
PositiveBooklistAfter reading her conversational memoir, readers may still not really know what makes her tick...but it is a start ... She writes candidly about her drug use, the \'madness\' of Blondie’s salad days, and the \'Blondie\' character she played with the then-controversial idea of a very feminine woman fronting a macho rock band.
Carolina De Robertis
PositiveBooklist...[a] luminous new novel ... De Robertis tells their stories with heart and compassion as the women move back and forth between the city of Montevideo and the hamlet of Cabo Polonio ... A literary ode to difference.
PositiveBooklist... sunny ... Given all of these accomplishments, Birch wonders why Lowe is not more well known, asking, \'Why does he remain a cult-throb?\' This enjoyable portrait of a humble artist helps explain the conundrum.
Alan Paul and Andy Aledort
PositiveBooklistAdopting an oral history format, Paul and Aledort have compiled a biography that features a large cast of fellow musicians and admirers ... A must for Vaughan and blues fans.
RaveBooklist...[a] remarkable book ... [Cregan] recalls her own suffering—refusing the \'shame and stigma\' still associated with mental illness and suicide––but also examines the history of depression, or melancholia, as it was called, from Hippocrates to Kay Redfield Jamison as well as the emergence of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and even the origin of the color blue ... Disturbing, powerful, revelatory.
PositiveBooklistApplegate well evokes Beecher’s nineteenth-century milieu while making connections to the present day ... Applegate sympathetically portrays this larger-than-life figure as appealingly human.
Jennifer Berry Hawes
RaveBooklist[Hawes] meets the survivors and family members and tells their stories while also exploring how the broader community was affected ... In a welcome touch, Hawes includes the full text of Barack Obama’s eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, senior pastor at Emanuel and a Democratic member of the South Carolina Senate. With empathy and kindness, Hawes bears witness to one of the most horrific incidents in recent American history.
PositiveBooklistKushins captures the essence of the brooding yet wickedly witty singer ... A straightforward account, including a comprehensive discography, of Zevon’s fascinating creative life cut short by mesothelioma when he was only 56.
RaveBooklist[Hitchens] is effortlessly witty and entertaining as well as utterly rational. Believers will be disturbed and may even charge him with blasphemy (he questions not only the virgin birth but the very existence of Jesus), and he may not change many minds, but he offers the open-minded plenty to think about.
Nicholas A. Christakis
PositiveBooklistBlueprint is a profoundly optimistic work ... Blueprint is a big book and, hence, full of ideas ... A welcome burst of sunshine in a troubled world.
MixedSan Francisco Chronicle...her stories, entertaining as they are, still ring hollow. They are so weird and, at times, disturbing, yet the effect is all smoke and mirrors. While one can marvel at Russell\'s craft and admire her inventiveness (not to mention her wild imagination), the stories, as a whole, can leave you cold and largely unmoved ... The collection also has its charm. The various idiosyncrasies of the characters are often endearing, and it contains plenty of sly humor ...
Russell is a writer to watch, but whether or not one will fully appreciate St. Lucy\'s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves—clearly it is not for everyone—is a matter of personal taste.
PositiveBooklist\"...a thoughtful and oftentimes revelatory memoir of his relationship with the band’s charismatic but troubled leader ... Although much of what is here is well-known—Cobain’s early days in Seattle’s underground music scene, his marriage to Courtney Love, his heroin addiction and tragic suicide—Goldberg was a crucial member of the band’s inner circle and, thus, offers unique insights. He reminds readers that Cobain’s songs often had a feminist subtext and adds, on a personal note, that Cobain told a journalist Goldberg was like a \'second father\' to him.\
PositiveBooklist\" ... erudite ... A fascinating and wide-ranging unpacking of the field.\
PositiveBooklistWhy don’t we know more?\' That is the haunting question at the heart of Brown’s searing account of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which occurred in August 1986 ... In her exhaustive account of the tragedy, Brown profiles people who responded immediately to the accident and residents who were left behind in the contaminated zones while also exploring the environmental consequences. An important endeavor as this nuclear debacle recedes further into history.
PositiveBooklistThough set in the pre-Trump Midwest, the characters and dead-end towns Strom portrays could easily be found now, and he has a sure hand as he addresses such timely issues as identity, sexism, prejudice, drug abuse, conformity, and community from a queer perspective.
PositiveBooklist[An] unconventional and darkly satirical mix of memes, Twitter jokes, Q&As, and tightly written stream-of-consciousness passages ... Doten’s speculative tale is very strange and chilling, subversive and surreal, and disturbingly relevant.
Esme Weijun Wang
RaveBooklistBy describing her own experiences and referring to pop culture, Wang makes the reader feel what it’s like to \'lose\' your mind and its frightening consequences ... An invaluable work.
RaveBooklistVeteran English writer and journalist Connolly...has written a fat, entertaining biography of the restless soul who was John Lennon. Instead of uncovering anything terribly new or revealing, he has done an excellent job of illuminating all the phases of Lennon’s complicated life and career ... A welcome new perspective on an endlessly influential and compelling artist.
Tammy Lynne Stoner
RaveBooklist\"...When we first meet Dara, she is a 19-year-old Texan who has fallen in love with her best female friend, Rhodie. Given that this takes place in 1923, decades before the gay-liberation movement, to say that this presents a problem is an understatement ... so despite being a lesbian, Dara agrees to marry a kindly prison warden ... A lovely debut that addresses race and class, sexuality and identity.
RaveBooklist\"Milkman is a uniquely meandering and mesmerizing, wonderful and enigmatic work about borders and barriers, both physical and spiritual, and the cost of survival.\
PositiveBooklist\"As Campion notes, this is not a biography, nor is it a discussion of the entire Zevon songbook. Rather, Campion focuses on 10 songs and three albums that, in his opinion, best exemplify Zevon’s life and art ... A must for Zevon fans.\
Claire L. Evans
RaveBooklist OnlineFrom COBOL and ARPANET to Silicon Valley and cyberfeminism, women have always played a major role in developing computer technology. Now their collective stories are finally being shared in Evans’ fascinating and inspiring work of women’s history.
PositiveBooklistWhat do you do when you learn that a family member, whom you thought of as different but not that different, has a serious mental disorder? That is the dilemma Allen confronts in her compulsively readable book ... Now, as she tells Bob’s story, she also explores the history of schizophrenia, including the changing attitudes of mental health professionals. A fascinating and important work.
RaveBooklistJones also offers his own thoughtful and insightful commentary throughout, along with fascinating observations from the interviewees ... The closing pages—with Bowie working on both his off-Broadway musical, Lazarus, and his last recording, Blackstar, even as he knows he is dying from liver cancer—are especially poignant. A singular addition to the Bowie bookshelf.
RaveBooklist\"Anecdotes about musicians, including Lennon, Springsteen, and Jagger, among others, abound as well as stories involving some of the magazine’s finest writers and photographers, including Hunter S. Thompson, Ben Fong-Torres, Cameron Crowe, Tom Wolfe, Richard Avedon, and Annie Leibovitz. Drawing from more than 100 hours of conversation with Wenner as well as interviews with musicians, writers, publishers, friends, lovers, and past and present employees of the magazine, Hagan has fashioned a fascinating biography of a controversial figure and the iconic publication he started.\
RaveBookPage...in this fine book that combines memoir and history, Korda describes the coming of the war, the fall of France and the 'miracle' at Dunkirk in the measured tones of a true historian ... In his analysis of Dunkirk, Korda, like most everyone else, is baffled by Hitler’s decision to halt the advance of the German troops on British and French forces stranded on the beach, which essentially allowed the famous 'Little Ships' to rescue countless men, even though a tremendous loss of life preceded the arrival of the boats. It may not have been a victory in the traditional sense of the word, but it was a triumph, nevertheless. Alone is a masterful account of war, resiliency and England’s brave and defiant stand in a time of utter crisis.
RaveBooklistDirt Road is full of unobtrusive observations, touching on such issues as poverty, race, and the potential for violence. Soon after arriving in the U.S., Murdo is smitten by a family playing zydeco music in a small town. In typical Scottish fashion, a lot of what goes on between the grieving father and son is left unsaid. Instead, they turn to their respective modes of comfort: music for Murdo, books for his father. Kelman has written a moving tribute to the unbreakable bond between fathers and sons.
RaveBooklist...[a] highly entertaining collection ... This addictively readable collection includes short and longish essays on musicians Ozzy Osbourne, Eddie Van Halen, Noel Gallagher, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Danger Mouse, and Lou Reed, and athletes Tim Tebow, Usain Bolt, Kobe Bryant, and Tom Brady. But there are also references to Breaking Bad and Harry Potter and a fine piece on Jonathan Franzen. Other highlights include a fantastic interview with the polite yet prickly Jimmy Page and a surprisingly poignant piece on Charlie Brown.