Adult Non-Fiction ~ How Music Works

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In case you were feeling a bit of letdown after so many great musical book recommendations a few weeks ago, I’ve got another one for you today. This one for the adult set. (And somehow I failed to get a picture, so thanks to Amazon for the visual.)

It is no mystery that David Byrne (creative force behind Talking Heads) is knowledgeable about the ins and outs of music. Sprinkled with terms such as “sonic landscapes” and “tonal architecture”, his book chronicles the changes in technology and culture that have aided in the evolution of music its composition, performance, and enjoyment (recordings, live concerts etc.) and Byrne’s place in it.

Half of the book holds a general history while the other half contains Byrne’s own personal experiences from his garage band days, as a part of Talking Heads and his various collaborations.  These weren’t quite as interesting because I’ll admit I’m not super familiar with his albums and music so many or the songs and people were unknown to me.  Confession: I skimmed these sections a bit. But I did love some of his insights and could even relate to many of his experiences.

After hearing the song ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ for the first time he said, “The world was suddenly a bigger, more mysterious, and more exciting place—all because I’d stumbled onto some recording.” (94) Oh, how many times I’ve felt that way after hearing a piece of music, sometimes even re-hearing a piece in a way I’d not heard it before. Music can open up a realm of new possibilities and ideas.

He goes on to say:
Music tells us things—social things, psychological things, physical things about how we feel and perceive our bodies—in a way that other art forms can’t. It’s sometimes in the words, but just as often the content comes from a combination of sounds, rhythms, and vocal textures that communicate, as has been said by others, in ways that bypass the reasoning centers of the brain and go straight to our emotions. (94)

Later on he waxes poetic about mixtapes, calling them “pocket-sized audio wonder cabinets.”  I think this is a fabulous term! Obviously I’m a bit partial to the idea of mixtapes and think he summed it up quite nicely here:

The mixtapes we made for ourselves were musical mirrors. The sadness, anger or frustration you might be feeling at a given time could be encapsulated in the song selection. You made mixtapes that corresponded to emotional states, and they’d be available to pop into the deck when each feeling needed reinforcing or soothing. The mixtape was your friend, your psychiatrist, and your solace. (110)

 

The history portions were fascinating, filled with questions to ponder about the nature of music and our relationship to it (some along the lines of “if a tree falls in the wood…”) and showing that the pulse of our world is often a rousing drumbeat.  Highly recommended for anyone at all interested in music.

 

How Music Works book review

How Music Works

Written by: David Byrne

Number of Pages: 352

Publisher: Three Rivers Press, 2017

Age Range: Adult

Rating: 4/5

And just for kicks…

Adult Non-Fiction ~ The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.                                

I mentioned in an earlier post how much I love making personal connections with the books I read and how powerful a tool that can be for readers in general. Any parent who’s ever read a book with their child about potty training or welcoming a new baby to the family in an effort to ease either process along knows exactly what I’m talking about. When a reader sees herself or her immediate world in the story in any way she finds tools to deal with her own conflicts, gains empathy for the character (and the world at large) and connects emotionally in a way that brings that book to life and cements it in her brain and psyche.

I also mentioned how much I loved experiencing bookish adventures tied to the tales I read. Again, just as we create experiences for our young readers through art projects or science experiments or field trips to extend the learning they’ve had through their readings, we can do the same for ourselves. One of my recent book club reads was the perfect example of a natural book extension.

Used booksellers have often fallen prey to scammers, thieves and frauds. That was especially true in the time before advanced technology. An informed collector could scout out a particular tome, give false information, pay with a bad check or stolen credit card and be on their merry way leaving the seller stuck with the bill and no recourse for prosecution. This, obviously is not a phenomenon unique to booksellers but because of the way the book selling community functioned up until recently it was particularly detrimental to them. Unlike art or antiques, books haven’t always been cataloged and valued in the same way. And while many art pieces are one of a kind, most books are created in mass numbers so even something dating back hundreds of years may still have multiple surviving copies making it harder to prove value or track ownership.

On the west coast in 1997, John Charles Gilkey stole his first book using stolen credit card numbers. Over the next few years he amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of rare books from libraries, stores and book fairs across the country.  Book sellers at the time were a fairly independent lot with little communication or cooperation between vendors. Ken Sanders, a victim of Gilkey’s operations, took it personally and took it upon himself to catch the thief. Describing himself as a reluctant “bibliodick,” Sanders revolutionized the used book selling world creating networks of communication, tracking methods, and cohesive communities in order to stop the thefts. A sting operation in 2003, with Sanders front and center, finally brought Gilkey down and saw him put behind bars.

The book is a fascinating look into a milder true crime than we’re usually accustomed to reading about. No sensationalism, no blood, no glory. Just a book lover who took things too far and a book lover who set things at right again. Bartlett spends time with both Gilkey and Sanders, giving us insight into both men’s motives and personalities. We also get a bit of the history of books, publishing, and the passion of collecting. Any bibliophile will relate.

The adventure for me came in visiting and exploring Sanders’ Rare Book Shop here in Salt Lake City and seeing some of the scenes described in the book. Sanders is a product of the beat generation (Edward Abbey was a close friend), an avid naturalist, and above all, a book lover. His shop is naturally a book lover’s paradise filled with crammed shelves and tipping stacks of books everywhere you look. I spent over two hours perusing the aisles and piles before purchasing a copy of The Other Way to Listen by Byrd Baylor and wishing I could afford just one of the items in the locked glass cases.

If you’re ever in town, do yourself a favor and check out Sanders’ shop. In the meantime, check out the book and let me know what you think!

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

 

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

Written by: Allison Hoover Bartlett

Number of Pages: 288

Publisher: Riverhead Books, 2010

Age Range: Adult

Rating: 4/5

 

Ken Sanders Rare Books

Ken Sanders Rare Books

Adult Non-Fiction Book Review ~ The Devil in the White City

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  
As a teacher I was constantly guiding kids to make connections while they were reading. You can connect the text to yourself, other books, or the world around you. Does the book remind you of something you’ve seen or somewhere you’ve been? Something you’ve experienced? Another book you’ve read or movie you’ve watched? A good connection can make any book stay with you for a lifetime and can be key to making a child into a life-long reader. This is the glory of bookclubs and discussions, fandoms, alternate adaptations and more. Your connections being shared with others strengthens the initial connection and helps you to internalize the story, themes, sympathize with the characters and more.
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As an adult with an absolutely horrid memory when I can make connections with a book it helps it stick in my brain a bit longer which is always a plus. One of my favorite ways to make connections is to see the location or subject in person if possible. (An excuse to travel…never a bad thing, right?)
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Several years ago I read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson with a bookclub and was enthralled by the way he told the parallel stories of the architecture, organization, and creation of the vast modern fairgrounds for the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition and the tale of H.H. Holmes, a young doctor, psychopath and serial killer. The advancements and transformation of a swamp to the brilliant White City juxtaposed with the dark, seedy underbelly of those same advancements is masterfully handled and kept me riveted from first page to last. It was one of the books I convinced my husband to read with me after we got married and he was just as enthralled. So much so that when we had some frequent flier miles to use up we planned a trip to Chicago to see the buildings, grounds, and history first hand.
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We spent several days wandering the city, eating amazing food and catching a performance of Hamilton (which was also absolutely amazing, and lead to an interest in the founding fathers and other book readings…the best connections tend to lead to more connections!) But we made a point to visit the fairgrounds (the only original building left has become The Museum of Science and Industry) and study the work of the architects who were so influential to the area.
Museum of Science and Industry
Frank Lloyd Wright spent the first part of his career in the Chicago area and worked with Daniel Burnham (the architect of the Flatiron Building in New York and architect of many of the exposition buildings) who worked with Frederick Law Olmstead (designer of Central Park and planner of the exposition) to bring the fair to life.
Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House
These amazing stairs are located in The Rookery, a building designed by Burnham where Wright worked for years.
Stairway in Rookery
We also sampled the brownies at the Palmer House hotel. They were created there under the direction of Bertha Palmer to be served at the exposition. She wanted a portable snack that women could eat with their gloves on. Deliciously chewy topped with cherry ice cream! (Other foods that were introduced at or evolved from the fair include Cracker Jacks, Shredded Wheat, pancake mix, chewing gum, Cream of Wheat, and Vienna Beef hot dogs.)
Palmer House brownie
It was a fascinating time and an even more fascinating book. I highly recommend both the book and the city! And I’d love to hear about your own book connections and field trips!
Devil in the White City book review

The Devil in the White City

Written by: Erik Larson

Number of Pages: 447

Publisher: Crown, 2003

Age Range: Adult

Rating: 5/5

Adult Audio Books Review ~ Psychological Thrillers

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

I tend to be more of a cozy mystery fan but give me the right mix of psychological thriller and a character I can care about and I’m sucked in. I’ve read a few of the latest buzzy reads (The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl etc.) and while I definitely enjoyed them they were also a little harder for me to read because of the violence, language, sexual content etc. that tended to be so pervasive or over the top that it sometimes took away from the story. (Yes, I get that life is ugly but I don’t need ALL the gory details!) I like my scary movies this way too. Give me a classic edge-of-your-seat nail biter over a twisted bloodbath any day. (Anyone see A Quiet Place? This is what I’m talking about. Such a great movie!) So, I’ve got two recent reads (or rather listens since they were both audio books) for you today. If you like some subtle twists and a classic feel to your thriller I highly recommend the following:

Depressed, alcoholic, heavily medicated Dr. Anna Fox, psychologist, is living alone in the townhouse she formally shared with her husband and daughter who have gone away under the pretense of a separation though she still talks to them frequently. Laid up and extremely agoraphobic after a serious car accident she spends the bulk of her time watching her neighbors through her camera’s viewfinder, playing online chess, watching old movies, or in a chatroom for agoraphobics where she offers her expert advice (though she rarely heeds it herself.)

Anna is highly unreliable and the characters she interacts with don’t come across much better. The cast is relatively small and the stage is reduced to her home and the square where she lives. None of her neighbors are what they seem but no one seems to believe Anna when she sees one of them stabbed to death in their living room. Full of homage to Hitchcock and other noir thrillers, Anna is the classic helpless heroine, handicapped by her situation but making a stand in the final scene. There aren’t a ton of surprises here but there are some twists and moments I didn’t expect and it kept me sucked in from beginning to end.

The Woman in the Window book review

The Woman in the Window (audio book)

Written by: A.J. Finn

Read by: Anne Marie Lee

Number of Pages: 448 (13 hours 41 minutes audio)

Publisher: William Morrow (print) HarperAudio (audio), 2018

Age Range: Adult

Rating: 4/5

 

Recently divorced, Peter Harper is a musician and composer in a creative crisis. He rents a secluded beach house in Ireland in the hopes of rediscovering his muse but it isn’t to be. He spends some time with his mysterious neighbors (who seem to have no traceable past and like to avoid questions) and the local townspeople, including a love interest who runs a shop and hostel in the village. But mostly he spends time alone. Then one night he’s struck by lightning coming home from a dinner party and suddenly he’s plagued by headaches and vivid nightmares that intensify when his children come for a visit. The line between reality and his dreams gets blurred beyond recognition and soon no one knows who or what to believe.

Last Night at Tremore Beach book review

The Last Night At Tremore Beach

Written by: Mikel Santiago

Read by: John Keating

Number of Pages: 320 (9 hours, 58 minutes audio)

Publisher: Atria Books/Blackstone Audio, 2017

Age Range: Adult

Rating: 4/5

 

 

What are your favorite mysteries or scary reads? Any you think I should add to my list?

Picture Book/Audio Book Review ~ Tolkien

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 
How many of you have succumbed to the lifestyle trend that is Hygge? (Pronounced “hooga” it’s a Danish word basically meaning coziness…it involves lots of candles or firesides, fuzzy blankets, books, board games, walks on the beach, connecting with people and unplugging.) There are all sorts of books, pins, articles and whatnot to give you ideas on how to do it with kids, during all the seasons, in small spaces etc. I love the idea of slowing down, being more present and aware and any tips to do it are always welcome.
Well, when I picked up this book I hadn’t realized that’s what I would be getting but I was pleasantly surprised. The author walks us through various traditions, cultures, and habits of the characters of Middle Earth (specifically focusing on the Hobbits of the Shire) and tells us how we would benefit from modeling our own lives after theirs. Everything from relishing the drinking and eating we do (emphasis on the relishing, slowing down, while at the same time doing it with gusto and our whole being and attention) to gardening and being close to nature, walking, staying home more often (yet being open to adventure occasionally to help us be more grateful for what we’ve got), singing regularly and taking naps. He also delves into some advice on how to deal with the Gollums that surface in our own lives, advises us to give gifts on our birthdays rather than to focus on receiving them, and keep a full larder (or at least a pot of tea and some cookies) on hand for any visitors.
I listened to this as an audio book which was read by Simon Vance (who has a lovely British accent which always makes things seem more credible and authoritative…plus it’s Tolkien, you need a British accent for Tolkien. No offense to the author who is American. 🙂 )
It’s full of Tolkien quotes, tidbits and explanations about the who and what of Middle Earth. Anyone who is a mega fan will probably be bored by the references but those with a passing knowledge will find something that resonates even if it’s just that simple reminder to slow down.
Wisdom of the Shire book review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life (Audio book)

Written by: Noble Smith

Read by: Simon Vance

Publisher:  Blackstone Audio, 2013

Number of Pages: 222 (4 hours 47 minutes audio)

Age Range: Adult

Rating: 3.5/5

For those of you looking for a little more information on the creator of the aforementioned Shire or if you’ve got a younger audience you’d like to start introducing Hobbits, Ents and elves to, then this next book is for you.

 

This is a fantastic bio of the father of modern fantasy with bits of magic on every page. The text and illustrations effortlessly showcase the magic and devastation of Tolkien’s life. Both pulling from his experiences and trying to escape them, John Ronald created worlds, creatures, languages, and stories that have become a cultural phenomenon with lives of their own opening the door to other phenomenon such as Dungeon’s and Dragons and Harry Potter.

 

There’s some detailed back matter including author’s and illustrator’s notes providing more details about Tolkien’s life and the creation of the book. There’s also a bibliography and catalog of the dragons that influenced and appeared in Tolkien’s stories. A brilliant and beautiful addition to any home or classroom library, particularly for Tolkien or fantasy fans.

John Ronalds Dragons book review

John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien

Written by: Caroline McAlister

Illustrated by: Eliza Wheeler

Number of Pages: 48

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2017

Age Range: 6-12

Rating: 4.5/5

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

I’ve been a goal/resolution junkie since I was little. I loved the idea of making a list of things to do and finding ways to do better (one day I’ll figure out how to actually stick to all of them, but that’s another post entirely!) My birthday also rolls around this time of year so that’s an added incentive to look back and look forward and see how far I’ve come and where I’d like to go. Naturally I’ve gotten sucked into the self-help aisle of the bookstore more than once or twice and have found some amazing gems that have helped get me where I am today. But with each new year and the chance to start fresh and re-focus on what I’d like to have happen in the coming months I find that picking up a book or two on the topics I’m most drawn to at the moment can give me the direction, motivation, and tools I need to be more successful.

Kind of along the same lines is the idea of participating in challenges or competitions of some variety. There are a lot of great reading challenges out there* and over the years I’ve participated in a number of them, sometimes with a public commitment and follow-up and sometimes on my own. You can read a book from the year you were born, or set in the state or country where you live. You can read books from genres you’re not familiar with or the previous year’s award winners. Or simply set goals for the number of books you’d like to read or the amount of time each day you’ll commit to reading. The possibilities are endless and sometimes it’s just what I’ve needed to get me out of my comfort zone (ie rut) and introduce me to new favorites.

This year my goals are a little more vague. Rather than focusing on numbers or genres I’m going to work hard to commit to sharing the books I read with all of you. I’ve got great plans for this little blog o’ mine and I’m hoping to find more and more of you that I can share with as I come across favorites and standouts and I’m hoping you’ll share with me as well.

What are your reading goals for this year? Any favorite challenges or groups that you return to year after year? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

*Here are just a few of my favorites if you’re looking for something new to try!

Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club

Oprah’s Book Club

The Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge

The Daily Positive’s Winter Book Challenge

Goodreads encourages you to set a goal for the number of books you want to read throughout the year and tracks it as you go.

There are also a bunch on Pinterest that you don’t have to look too hard to find.

Adult Non-Fiction Book Review ~ Braving the Wilderness

Braving the Wilderness Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

Braving the Wilderness

Written by: Brene Brown

Number of Pages: 208

Age Range: Adult

Rating: 4.5/5

For anyone who isn’t yet familiar with Brene Brown’s work, let me be the first to introduce you. You can thank me later. Brown is a research professor, PhD and LMSW who has spent the bulk of her career studying shame and vulnerability. She’s got a couple of fabulous TED talks that are definitely worth your time and if you want a quick overview of her work, start with The Gifts of Imperfection. It’s a fast read but jam packed with lots to think about.  Her overarching theme is that we need to open ourselves up to being vulnerable in order to grow and love and basically live a truly full life. The rest of her books expand (and divert a little, though still heading in the same general direction) the thoughts laid out in TGOI. My favorite by far is Daring Greatly, but they are all fantastic.

In Braving the Wilderness she tackles the idea of vulnerability within our roles in society, particularly calling out the political climate we are currently facing. (Mud slinging, endless bipartisan arguing and finger-pointing are never courageous!) She calls on her readers to find the courage to stand alone and stand for what they truly believe, not just to fall into the mob mentality of agreeing with the groups that are the most vocal or even the most accepting. True belonging isn’t just being a part of a group but being part of a group that accepts you for you who are, your most vulnerable and authentic self. And finding that self is hard but necessary if we want to have any chance of making a difference in your own life or in the world. They’re lofty goals and ideas and she acknowledges the difficulty but she also manages to infuse each book with hope and makes it all seem realistically doable.

While her studies and findings are priceless and pretty groundbreaking, its Brown’s personality, charm, and personal vulnerability that make her works really stand out. She never fails to share personal experiences (negative and positive) to illustrate the concepts she’s teaching and her candidness makes you feel as if you’re sitting on the couch sharing stories with a friend. If you’re looking to make some changes in the new year, start by picking up one of Brown’s books and committing to really internalize just one concept she introduces. I promise, your life will never be the same.