It’s officially Summer Reading time at Eisenhower, the time of year when you can win prizes for reading. Sign up in Kids World or at the Answers Desk with any valid library card to get an awesome tote bag featuring Kevan Atteberry’s friendly, bunny-loving, bass-playing monster, Declan while supplies last.
The theme for this year’s program is “It’s Showtime at Your Library” so we’re recommending books about music and movies to help you get started earning prizes. Today we’re recommending nonfiction books about musicians and the music industry. Look for more Summer Reading posts throughout the summer.
How Music Works by David Byrne
Acting as historian and anthropologist, raconteur and social scientist, David Byrne searches for patterns—and shows how those patterns have affected his own work over the years with Talking Heads and his many collaborators, from Brian Eno to Caetano Veloso. Byrne sees music as part of a larger, almost Darwinian pattern of adaptations and responses to its cultural and physical context. His range is panoptic, taking us from Wagnerian opera houses to African villages, from his earliest high school reel-to-reel recordings to his latest work in a home music studio (and all the big studios in between).
Touching on the joy, the physics, and even the business of making music, How Music Works is a brainy, irresistible adventure and an impassioned argument about music’s liberating, life-affirming power.
Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks’s compassionate, compelling tales of people struggling to adapt to different neurological conditions have fundamentally changed the way we think of our own brains, and of the human experience. In Musicophilia, he examines the powers of music through the individual experiences of patients, musicians, and everyday people–from a man who is struck by lightning and suddenly inspired to become a pianist at the age of forty-two, to an entire group of children with Williams syndrome, who are hypermusical from birth; from people with “amusia,” to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans, to a man whose memory spans only seven seconds–for everything but music.
Our exquisite sensitivity to music can sometimes go wrong: Sacks explores how catchy tunes can subject us to hours of mental replay, and how a surprising number of people acquire nonstop musical hallucinations that assault them night and day. Yet far more frequently, music goes right: Sacks describes how music can animate people with Parkinson’s disease who cannot otherwise move, give words to stroke patients who cannot otherwise speak, and calm and organize people whose memories are ravaged by Alzheimer’s or amnesia.
Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffiel
In the 1990s, when “alternative” was suddenly mainstream, bands like Pearl Jam and Pavement, Nirvana and R.E.M.—bands that a year before would have been too weird for MTV- were MTV. It was the decade of Kurt Cobain and Shania Twain and Taylor Dayne, a time that ended all too soon. The boundaries of American culture were exploding, and music was leading the way.
It was also when a shy music geek named Rob Sheffield met a hell-raising Appalachian punk-rock girl named Renée, who was way too cool for him but fell in love with him anyway. He was tall. She was short. He was shy. She was a social butterfly. She was the only one who laughed at his jokes when they were so bad, and they were always bad. They had nothing in common except that they both loved music. Music brought them together and kept them together. And it was music that would help Rob through a sudden, unfathomable loss.
In Love Is a Mix Tape, Rob, now a writer for Rolling Stone, uses the songs on fifteen mix tapes to tell the story of his brief time with Renée. From Elvis to Missy Elliott, the Rolling Stones to Yo La Tengo, the songs on these tapes make up the soundtrack to their lives.
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop by Jeff Chang
Forged in the fires of the Bronx and Kingston, Jamaica, Hip Hop has been a generation-defining movement. In a post-civil rights era transformed by deindustrialization and globalization, Hip Hop became a job-making engine and forever transformed politics and culture. Based on more than a decade of original interviews with DJs, b-boys, graffiti writers, gang members and rappers, and featuring unforgettable portraits of many of Hip Hop’s forbears and mavericks, this book chronicles the rise and rise of this movement through vivid cultural criticism and detailed narrative.
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
Please Kill Me is the first oral history of the most nihilist of all pop movements. Iggy Pop, Danny Fields, Dee Dee and Joey Ramone, Malcom McLaren, Jim Carroll, and scores of other famous and infamous punk figures lend their voices to this definitive account of that outrageous, explosive era. From its origins in the twilight years of Andy Warhol’s New York reign to its last gasps as eighties corporate rock, the phenomenon known as punk is scrutinized, eulogized, and idealized by the people who were there and who made it happen.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
Before Carrie Brownstein became a music icon, she was a young girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest just as it was becoming the setting for one the most important movements in rock history. Seeking a sense of home and identity, she would discover both while moving from spectator to creator in experiencing the power and mystery of a live performance. With Sleater-Kinney, Brownstein and her bandmates rose to prominence in the burgeoning underground feminist punk-rock movement that would define music and pop culture in the 1990s and redefine notions of gender in rock.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is an intimate and revealing narrative of her escape from a turbulent family life into a world where music was the means toward self-invention, community, and rescue. Along the way, Brownstein chronicles the excitement and contradictions within the era’s flourishing and fiercely independent music subculture, including experiences that sowed the seeds for the observational satire of the popular television series Portlandia years later.
They Can’t Kill Us until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib
In an age of confusion, fear, and loss, Hanif Abdurraqib’s is a voice that matters. Whether he’s attending a Bruce Springsteen concert the day after visiting Michael Brown’s grave, or discussing public displays of affection at a Carly Rae Jepsen show, he writes with a poignancy and magnetism that resonates profoundly.
In essays that have been published by the New York Times, MTV, and Pitchfork, among others—along with original, previously unreleased essays—Abdurraqib uses music and culture as a lens through which to view our world, so that we might better understand ourselves, and in so doing proves himself a bellwether for our times.
The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross
The scandal over modern music has not died–while paintings by Picasso and Pollock sell for millions of dollars, works from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring onward still send ripples of unease through audiences. Yet the influence of modern music can be felt everywhere. Avant-garde sounds populate the soundtracks of Hollywood thrillers. Minimalist music has had a huge effect on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground onward. Music critic Alex Ross shines a bright light on this secret world, taking us from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties, from Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia to New York in the sixties and seventies. We follow the rise of mass culture and mass politics, of new technologies, of hot and cold wars, of experiments, revolutions, and riots. The end result is not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century through its music.
There Goes Gravity by Lisa Robinson
Lisa Robinson has interviewed everyone from John Lennon to Bono to Patti Smith, Eminem to Lady Gaga to Jay-Z and Kanye West. She’s talked nail polish with a 12-year-old Michael Jackson, hosted The Clash at Studio 54, and introduced Lou Reed to David Bowie over filet mignon in a Manhattan restaurant. She helped Elvis Costello and The Clash get their record deals and was there for the punk scene at CBGBs. She was on a private plane with the Rolling Stones during a storm and with Led Zepplin when their manager pulled out a gun. The story of rock and roll from the last 40 years.