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Book 36

  1. Matheson, Richard — I Am Legend (161 pages)
  2. McCarthy, Cormac — No Country for Old Men (307 pages)
  3. Dexter, Gary — Why Not Catch 21?: The Stories Behind the Titles (213 pages)
  4. Ryman, Geoff — 253 (366 pages)
  5. Wyndham, John — The Day of the Triffids (267 pages)
  6. Kurkov, Andrey — Death and the Penguin (228 pages)
  7. Chesterton, G.K. — Orthodoxy (183 pages)
  8. Gibbs, Christopher H., ed. — The Cambridge Companion to Schubert (334 pages)
  9. Sendak, Maurice — Where the Wild Things Are (48 pages — though only 1 page will count towards my tally)
  10. Hurston, Zora Neale — Their Eyes Were Watching God (215 pages)
  11. Clarke, Arthur C. — Rendezvous With Rama (245 pages)
  12. Clarke, Arthur C. — The City and the Stars (246 pages)
  13. Chesterton, G.K. — The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (205 pages)
  14. Tepper, Sheri S. — Beauty (468 pages)
  15. Slawson, Douglas J. — Ambition and Arrogance: Cardinal William O'Connell of Boston and the American Catholic Church (186 pages)
  16. Belloc, Hilaire — The Great Heresies (166 pages)
  17. Waugh, Evelyn — Brideshead Revisited (326 pages)
  18. Rawicz, Slavomir — The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom (278 pages)
  19. Junger, Sebastian — The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea (309 pages)
  20. Seth, Vikram — An Equal Music (486 pages)
  21. Dubus III, Andre — House of Sand and Fog (351 pages)
  22. Kurkov, Andrey — Penguin Lost (251 pages)
  23. Bradbury, Ray — Dandelion Wine (247 pages)
  24. Bradbury, Ray — Farewell Summer (209 pages)
  25. Doran, Jamie and Piers Bizony — Starman: The Truth behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin (241 pages)
  26. Makine, Andreï — A Life's Music (106 pages)
  27. Barnes, Julian — A History of the World in 10½ Chapters (307 pages)
  28. Chaucer, Geoffrey — The Canterbury Tales (623 pages)
  29. Pushkin, Aleksandr — Eugene Onegin (Vladimir Nabokov, transl.) (351 pages)
  30. Lowry, Malcolm — Under the Volcano (387 pages)
  31. Fadiman, Anne — Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (132 pages)
  32. Grimwood, Ken — Replay (266 pages)
  33. Barrie, J.M. — Peter Pan (246 pages)
  34. Stanislavski, Konstantin — An Actor Prepares (315 pages)
  35. Wolfe, Gene — Peace (265 pages)
  36. Copland, Aaron — What to Listen for in Music (173 pages)

Page count: 9465.

This is another one of those books I've been reading off and on for the past several months. It has sat on my bookshelf for years, and I meant to read it years ago as something I, as a musician, should probably be familiar with.

However, as someone who grew up listening to classical when all my peers were listening to popular music, and having majored in music, this book contained nothing really new to me. It is aimed at the true beginner, those who are interested but have no idea how to approach classical music.

And it accomplishes its task brilliantly.

I opted to go for the full experience instead of skimming through already familiar topics. I listened to recordings of cited works (Thank you, Naxos Music Library!) and played through examples in the appendices. Really, anyone who reads this book and truly wants to understand the concepts discussed needs actually to listen to practical applications of these concepts.

For me this listening was the most rewarding aspect of the book. Sure, I know the principles of ground bass or of theme and variation, but I had never discovered that piece by Monteverdi or that octet by Stravinsky. I was reintroduced to a wealth of beautiful music from Scarlatti and Couperin to Hindemith and Webern. There's an additional, quite comprehensive "List of Recorded Works" at the end that cites further examples to complement each chapter. You can be sure I will take my time to discover (or re-discover, in many cases) some of the gems therein.

The basic structure of the book is as follows. A broad discussion on the basics of music, followed by sections on rhythm, melody, harmony, tone color, and texture. Then a lengthy discussion on structure and form, with chapters dedicated to sectional, variation, fugal, sonata, and free forms, each section further broken down into subsets, such as passacaglia and chaconne in the variation chapter. This is followed by discussions on opera (with amusing, dated observations), contemporary music, and film music, with a final chapter stressing the importance of all three phases (composer, interpreter, listener) of the creative process and tying in with ideas from the opening chapter.

I highly recommend the chapter on contemporary music even if nothing else in this book is of interest to you. I am tempted to copy it out and give it to certain friends. It should be required reading for all lovers of music. In 5-plus pages, Copland the artist and music lover shoves Copland the teacher aside and throws down the gauntlet, saying something all contemporary music skeptics ought to hear. Fascinating reading!

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