Books of 2016, part three

bee balmIn keeping with my resolve to write down every book I read this year, here is the latest installment of “Books I Read in 2016”. For parts one and two, go here and here.

Petty, The Biography by Warren Zanes –   Written by Warren Zanes (formerly of the Del Fuegos, who is also a respected writer these days) about the introverted rock star who prefers to keep his private life out of the public eye. One thing I found interesting – and no, it was not the bit about his heroin habit – was a bit about how when he came out, he was considered part of the punk/new wave movement. As much as I love Tom Petty –  and I do love Tom Petty.  I’m not sure even my husband knew how much I love Tom Petty until we saw him a few years ago and I sang along with just about every song he played – but, I’ve never considered him punk.  I guess I can see it from the angle of what else was coming out at the time, which may explain why Tom Petty has been part of my record collection since I was still buying primarily records.

All The Light We Cannot See  by Anthony Doerr – The story of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy whose paths collide in occupied France during WWII.   It was rather lovely and slightly haunting (but then, aren’t most books that talk about the horrors of Europe at that time?) and hard to put down.

My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South by Rick Bragg –  A collection of mostly previously published essays on various topics held near and dear by Southerners by one of the finest Southern writers ever.  Home, football, BBQ and the art of piddling are just some of the topics Bragg captures brilliantly,humorously and sentimentally.  I love reading Rick Bragg and highly recommend him to those of you who’ve yet to discover him.  He’s one of the few authors that when I read out loud to my husband, he seems to actually enjoy it (rather than his normal humoring me), particularly the essay on ribs, where Bragg says he wants ribs but he also wants washboard abs. One comes with a size 36 waist, the other comes with cole slaw and wet naps.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir by Carrie Brownstein – I know Brownstein from her work on Portlandia, but she was also in Sleater-Kinney, a riot grrrl band. I never really got into the riot grrrl thing – I liked it in theory, but I never really listened to much of it. If I was a bigger riot grrrl or Sleater-Kinney fan, I probably would have enjoyed this more, but I still did enjoy learning about both those things, so there’s that.

Even the Dead: A Quirke Novel by Benjamin Black –  After stumbling “A Death In Summer” and enjoying it, I decided to seek out more of the Quirke books. This is the latest one in the series, set in 1950’s Dublin, where the Catholic Church is always a nefarious shadow.  I think I want to go back and read earlier ones next.

Your Song Changed My Life: From Jimmy Page to St. Vincent, Smokey Robinson to Hozier, Thirty-Five Beloved Artists on Their Journey and the Music That Inspired It by Bob Boilen – Boilen, the host of NPR’s All Songs Considered, covered the influences on a variety of performers, with some interesting answers as to what song changed their life.  Some of the answers? For Smokey Robinson, it was his own “Shop Around”, for Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, one of the two songs he answered with was The Monkee’s “Daydream Believer”. There were a number of  newer artists I’ve not listened to much (that all seemed to mention Nirvana), but fittingly enough, the book closed with the story of Fantastic Negrito, who won the Tiny Desk Concert Contest in 2014. Negrito did not choose a song, but rather an artist as someone who changed his life, and that artist was Prince.  Reading this not long after the passing of the Purple One, of whom I was a huge fan, I found the ending perfect. (It may have left me slightly verklempt.)

Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling – More laugh out loud yet real girl relatable stuff from Mindy Kaling. She’s seriously funny to read and then throws in little nuggets of truth on things like confidence that I fully intend on handing down to my girl. (Her secret includes hard work as well as owning it.)

But Enough About Me: A Memoir by Burt Reynolds and Jon Winokur –   Burt Reynolds tells his story through the lens of the people he’s come across over the years and he lets it rip on how he really feels about them.  He didn’t go too terribly deep though and most of what he said was pretty kind in the long run.  A quick fun read, perfect for pool and beach season.

Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements by Bob Mehr – In “Your Song Changed My life”, Carrie Brownstein named The Replacements “Bastards of Young” as the song that changed her life, saying “…( lead singer Paul Westerberg) somehow summoned the fear of obsolescence that an adult has with the angst and yearning of a younger person.”

I’ve long been slightly obsessed with The Replacements, as my husband will tell you I’ve been on a bit of Replacements kick since sometime in the late 1980’s. I actually made the rare step of purchasing this book for myself, rather than borrow it from the library. I cannot remember the last time I purchased a brand new hardback for myself (that wasn’t a cookbook). I’m not sure I ever have really.  That’s how much of a Replacements fan I am.

The book did not disappoint. They were one of the greatest bands of all time, legendary for their irreverent attitudes, horrible behavior, hardcore drinking and drugs and their never ending ability to somehow get in their own way of success every single time.  They never achieved mainstream success, but the list of bands that wouldn’t exist without them is long. The book wonderfully captures the entire mess of the band from beginning to end and I could not put it down. I read it over the course of a weekend and am still digesting it. I definitely think I’ll be taking a bit of a rock star book break after this, as this one will be hard to follow up. That’s not just because it’s about one of my all time favorite bands, it was just that good, warts and all.

6 thoughts on “Books of 2016, part three

  1. suzicate says:

    I was slow getting into All The Light We Cannot See, but once I got into it I enjoyed it. It was beautifully written, and somewhat haunting as you state.

  2. melissawest says:

    You definitely love the biographies, don’t you? I’d be interested to read Burt Reynolds’ book, if only because I’m old enough to remember his heyday.

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