Alphabooks

My first post is not about music, but I’m the captain now.

My friend Alexa inspired me with her post Books You Should Read, A to Z: A Response to Rookie’s May 9 “Dear Diary”, in which she lists 26 titles with brief and endearing synopses. Brevity being both attractive and elusive to me, I started on my own list immediately upon reading hers, and ended up with much more of a production than I expected.

I hope this is a useful introduction and teaser to my tastes, and maybe next time we see each other I’ll have something a little more on-topic for you.

 

A – The Accidental by Ali Smith – A delightfully flippant, poetic view of a wicked girl from three different angles. Manic, yet laser-focused.

B – The Blue Fox by Sjón – The book jacket describes it as lyrical, and it’s so accurate I wish I could put it to music. The book jacket itself happens to be as beautiful as the story: a man takes care of a girl with downs syndrome who he rescued from a shipwreck. A quick read.

C – On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals by Alan M. Hause and Sarah R. Labensky – The absolute most definitive guide to cooking. Priced accordingly.

D – The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings – A father (played by George Clooney in the wonderful and understated movie) leads his daughters through the final steps of saying goodbye to their mother, who has been in a coma after a boating accident. Infinitely less sad than it sounds. Weirdly joyful overall.

E – Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer – Anything by Foer is worth reading, just to enjoy his fluidity and attention to detail. This book in particular deals with identity and legacy in a delicate and beautiful way.

F – Fixer Chao by Han Ong – A Philippino man passes as Chinese and exacts revenge upon a snobby upper class by overcharging them for bad feng shui (which he never legitimately learned). An amusing plot with serious implications about pretension, judgement, and vindictiveness.

G – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – You just have to. You would always wonder. And the last paragraph makes it all worth it. (The rest is relatively forgettable).

H – How Music Works by John Powell – A fairly exhaustive guide to music from acoustics to the development of notation and more. Easy to understand without being condescending, funny without trying too hard. I want literally everyone to read it.

I – Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer – There is a certain elegance in Chris McCandless, and though his decisions are not to be copied, his spirit is something to be envied.

J – Office Girl by Joe Meno – A twenty-something guy obsessively creates soundscapes and falls in love with a similarly quirky girl. Ironic without bitterness. Like 500 Days of Summer with an equally absent plot, yet somehow better.

K – Never Let Me Go by Kazue Ishiguro – Subtly disturbing. Or, loudly disturbing, and only subtly stated.

L – The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy – A collection of short stories written in plain, but captivating language. Little, micro-plots filled with absurdity and intense emotion. A good book to pick up and put down often.

M – The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten– Real, condensed evidence that Victor Wooten has lost it. Useful lessons about the innateness of music and how to magnify it, sprinkled with nonsense, maybe to keep you on your toes.

N – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Everything you wish a circus was really like. Do not read if you’ve never been to the circus and would like to maintain reasonable expectations.

O – The Once and Future King by T. H. White– Whimsical with immense emotional depth. Most people stop after the first book (it is the most fun), but if you miss the relationship between Arthur and Guenever you’re really missing out. The characters grow up as the book progresses, but maintain a childish core that is beautiful and simple, and whittles the human condition down to its most essential parts.

P – The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – Social commentary that ranges from snarky to scathing. A fine example of allegory: Wilde has one agenda and doesn’t stray for a second.

Q – Quicksand by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki – Written in the late 1920s in Japanese, it has all the charm and quaintness one can only get from a vintage Japenese novel…plus a manipulative, out-of-control love triangle between two women and a captivating but ice-cold man. Disarming and unique.

R – On The Fetish-Character of Music and the Regression of Listening by Theodor W Adorno – Aptly described to me by a professor as “tricky and obscure to the point of nonsense, which is both a frustration and a charm”. In 1938 Adorno tears into light music broadcasting in such a grandiose and timeless way that almost 80 years later, we should all be ashamed of our feeble Facebook rants about Justin Beiber (or whoever it’s cool to complain about nowadays).

S – Southbound: An Illustrated History of Southern Rock by Scott B. Bomar – Bomar rounds up a comprehensive collection of Southern rockers and presents their histories in meticulous, yet easy-to-read detail. An incredibly thorough read. Even within unbiased  journalistic constraints, his passion for the subject is always present, and it’s mind blowing.

T – The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo – Unbearably cute. The whole thing is simultaneously dainty and powerful. It is essentially a very long love letter written for children but beloved by all ages.

U – The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – The saga of Arthur Dent, a jaded and wholly unimpressive human who survives the destruction of planet Earth when his alien friend Ford Prefect whisks him away on a spaceship. A satire of everything in the Universe (literally) from politics to philosophy and more. Probably the funniest books ever written.

V – Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh – An impossibly dense, nearly rapturous narrative of the life of Vincent Van Gogh. It is much more than a dense timeline. As detailed and insightful as an autobiography, but laced with infatuation only befitting a 1,000 page study (full disclosure – I didn’t read the whole thing).

W – Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – Romeo and Juliet with an edge. Joyful and quirky as any good book about zombies should be. Just found out: sequel coming February 17, 2017. We just love bringing things back to life.

X – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer – I know, two by Foer. X is hard. It must be mentioned because the short story embedded within this book about the island of Manhattan is one of the loveliest things you’ll ever read if you take the ten minutes. I honestly don’t remember what the rest of the book was about.

Y – Month of Big Hands by Andrew Morgan – I don’t even know what this book is about, except that it’s written in prose poetry. I got about three chapters in and accidentally left it at home. My cluelessness has little to do with how far I got, or did not get. It’s a great companion to Adorno’s essay in that it’s basically just a showcase of word gymnastics, but they are creepy and wonderful to read. Best read, in my experience, as an impressionist depiction rather than a concrete narrative. (It is listed as Y because I thought maybe I could think of a book that started with “Years” and I figured months was close enough.)

Z – Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No-Bullshit Guide to World Mythology by Cory O’Brien – I have read this book out loud and choked through laughter. I also learned a lot about mythology. Win/win.

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