Really, how many Danielle Steele novels can you read in one summer? If you’re looking for some light, but educational, late summer reading, I have some suggestions. And cheap ones, because, I’ll admit it, I haunt the book racks in the Dollar Stores, Under 5s and Job Lot stores of all varieties. You probably know that books, once they leave the shelves of your local book store, hit the remainder table. Their next stop, before becoming recycling, or door stops, or something, is the Dollar Store. There, for a buck or so, you can find some enjoyable reading now that you’ve consumed that stack of paperbacks that you’ve been toting from beach to beach. Here are a few of my favorite “cheapo” finds.
It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music by Amanda Petrusich is an engaging mix of musicology, history, cultural criticism and travelogue and she follows, quite literally, the threads that make up todays “Americana” music, whatever that is. She dives into that deep river of tradition: Folk, Blues, Gospel, Bluegrass, Country and Rock that feeds today’s thriving music scene. She moves effortlessly from Robert Johnson to Iron & Wine and from Elvis (the King) to Will (Bonny Prince Billy) Oldham. She mixes interviews with the tales of here travels from Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop in Nashville to Mystery Train Records in Amherst. While you may not learn anything new, it is still an enjoyable journey.
Talking about journeys, how about going, metaphorically, to the caves in Greece that spawned one of the genera’s most revered albums. Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell’s Blue Period by Michelle Mercer may be as much about the author as it is about the artist but that’s OK too. There is certainly enough to keep the most rabid Joniphile happy. While the book may start in Greece it reaches back to MS Mitchell’s childhood and reexamines her dalliances with Cohen, Nash, Taylor, et al. This is not highbrow music criticism we’re talking about here. In fact, one reviewer described Mercer’s writing as a kind of “fan-girl gush” but what the heck? This is Joni Mitchell we’re talkin’ ‘bout here!
My last suggestion is a bit of a dark one. It is a work of fiction but is informed by the author’s career as a performing songwriter who you may well have heard on WUMB. His name is Christian Bauman and the success of his book The Ice Beneath You, a novel inspired by his military service in Somalia, caused him to put his guitar aside to spend his time as writer, editor and sometime commentator for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” His book In Hoboken spins the tale of an up and coming singer-songwriter trying to come to grips with a suicide. Not exactly bedtime reading for sure. And that’s all I’m going to say about the plot, except to say that in one memorable scene, two of the main characters visit a large Boston university where at the colleges Public Radio station in the basement of the library building, them meet a large, friendly, white bearded, DJ how interviews them on the air. Though it’s never detailed in the book it is obvious that this broadcaster is also tremendously handsome and quite dashing…. At least in my mind.
If you don’t have quite the luck at Dollar stores, or don’t spend as much time there, as I do, and fulfill your summer reading needs at Amazon.com, let me remind you to visit WUMB.ORG first. If you click on the Amazon logo you find there, a portions of the proceeds of your purchases from Amazon will be donated to WUMB without it costing you anything. That goes for all your back to school shopping as well. Just remember that you have to click on the Amazon logo at WUMB.ORG every time before you shop.
Thanks, and good summer reading.