December 3rd, 2010

Relax!  Grab a Book!

Book 18

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  1. Ishiguro, Kazuo — A Pale View of Hills (182 pages)
  2. Niven, Larry — Ringworld (284 pages)
  3. Anderson, Poul — Tau Zero (184 pages)
  4. Eisenberg, Bryan & Jeffrey, with Lisa T. Davis — Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results (273 pages)
  5. Andrews, Stephen E. and Nick Rennison — 100 Must-Read Science Fiction Novels (205 pages)
  6. Andrews, Stephen E. and Nick Rennison — 100 Must-Read Fantasy Novels (197 pages)
  7. Niles, Steve and Ben Templesmith — 30 Days of Night (103 pages)
  8. Terkel, Studs — And They All Sang: Great Musicians Talk about Their Music (321 pages)

Page count: 4988.

Studs Terkel is probably best known for his eclectic Chicago radio broadcasts that lasted 45 years. Or perhaps for his efforts to preserve oral histories. But I hadn't heard of him until this book blipped my radar a couple of years ago.

Perhaps it isn't right to call Terkel the author of this books. Perhaps editor is more appropriate. While his personality certainly permeated the interviews and preface, he allowed his subjects to shine. And for the most part, shine they did.

And They All Sang is a collection of interviews with important people in the music industry, from famous opera singers such as Jon Vickers and Marian Anderson, classical musicians such as Alfred Brendel and Andrés Segovia, and composers such as Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein to jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie and folk/gospel/rock legends like Mahalia Jackson, Bob Dylan, Woodie Guthrie, and Janis Joplin.

Terkel's style seems to be to ask a question or make a suggestion, just enough to plant a seed, and then sit back while his guests tell their stories. And what stories! I found almost every interview to be utterly fascinating. Inevitably there were a couple of disappointments — Dylan didn't seem to have much to say (I think he was thrown in for name recognition and because of how important a figure he is), and Terkel told us about Mahalia Jackson and Big Bill Broonzy in the third person instead of using their own words as with everyone else — but they were easily outshone by the other interviews.

The love and devotion Terkel and each of his guests has for music is evident in each interview, and the many varied experiences and outlooks make for very rewarding reading.

Relax!  Grab a Book!

Book 19

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  1. Ishiguro, Kazuo — A Pale View of Hills (182 pages)
  2. Niven, Larry — Ringworld (284 pages)
  3. Anderson, Poul — Tau Zero (184 pages)
  4. Eisenberg, Bryan & Jeffrey, with Lisa T. Davis — Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results (273 pages)
  5. Andrews, Stephen E. and Nick Rennison — 100 Must-Read Science Fiction Novels (205 pages)
  6. Andrews, Stephen E. and Nick Rennison — 100 Must-Read Fantasy Novels (197 pages)
  7. Niles, Steve and Ben Templesmith — 30 Days of Night (103 pages)
  8. Terkel, Studs — And They All Sang: Great Musicians Talk about Their Music (321 pages)
  9. Andrews, Stephen E. and Duncan Bowis — 100 Must-Read Books for Men (200 pages)

Page count: 5188.

Despite a fascinating foreword by Toby Litt, 100 Must-Read Books for Men didn't live up to the same standard as the other two books I've read in this series. I must conclude that Mr. Rennison's contributions in the previous two installments were invaluable and Mr. Bowis just wasn't up to the task.

There were some great, or at least thought-provoking, suggestions in the book. Certainly some things that I've already read, I already own, or were already on my radar. But also a few that sound fascinating that I'd never heard of.

(A brief aside: A colleague recommended a book to me recently as life-changing, one of the best books he's ever read, an immediate must read. Two days later I encountered it in 100 Must-Read Books for Men (and apparently it's also listed in 100 Must-Read Life-Changing Books). That weekend, in Bristol, I encountered it in four different used-book sales. That's just too many rolls of the dice to be coincidence. What are the odds of that! I had no choice but to buy it, right? The book? Luke Rhinehart's The Dice Man.)

However, I found there were just a few too many suggestions for books about football (a.k.a. soccer) or cricket or rock music for my liking. I had expected more Westerns, crime noire, and spy novels, very much in the minority. I was shocked by the exclusion of John Steinbeck and to a lesser extent Dashiell Hammett. But I suppose that's the nature of such books as this.

I probably won't read nearly as many of the entries in this book as in the Science Fiction and Fantasy installments, but overall it's still a useful and mostly enjoyable reference. And I look forward to reading the other two installments I own at some point next year.