It’s-Not-Too-Late-Gifts: Best Music Books: 2018

Led Zeppelin

Hardcover – Illustrated. by Led Zeppelin (Artist)

A massive, 400-page coffee table tome, filled with glossy, high resolution shots of the band at their decadent, high-flying best, with annotations written by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and quotes from the late, great John Bonham. (Corbin Reiff Uproxx)

A photographic journey through the band’s entire career, featuring rare and exclusive images, many that have never been seen before. (Andy Burns Sirius XM)

This is the story of the band who defined rock and roll, as seen by the band themselves. (PDN)

“A biography of such gusto and brilliance that it is as pleasurable as informative. Glover illuminates every aspect of Handel’s work and describes the plots and musical distinctions of most of the operas and oratorios so fetchingly that the reader itches to hear and see them. She also brings Handel’s times and most constant collaborators, sponsors, and antagonists to vivid life as she keeps the rather-elusive maestro, who wrote almost nothing about himself, firmly in focus.”
– Booklist (starred)

“One of the most intriguing aspects of this biography is Handel’s relations with members of the British monarchy, who offered continuing financial support for his musical aspirations. Another strength is its description of the cultural and political setting in which Handel worked. Recommended for readers who wish to know more about Handel as an empresario for his own works.”
– Library Journal

An Amazon Best Book of November 2018: Guys, the Beastie Boys wrote a book (or maybe conjured is a better word), and it’s a piece of work. Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz, otherwise known as Mike D and Ad-Rock, present Beastie Boys Book, a rambling and unruly stream-of-consciousness trip through more than three decades of uncensored memories—records, rashes, tours, graphic novels, and playlists. Madonna’s here, as is Guns N’ Roses, Dolly Parton, Johnny Ryall and the Egg Man.

Lest you think this is frivolous, disreputable stuff, Amy Poehler, Wes Anderson, Jonathan Lethem, and National Book Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winner Colson Whitehead stop by with their own contributions. Beastie Boys Book is uncountable things, but overall it’s a box full of love letters to fans, founding member Adam Yauch (who passed away in 2012), the early days of hip-hop, and dirty old New York. It’s a book that can’t, won’t stop giving.

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Christian Science Monitor and Playbill
Sarasota Herald-Tribune Holiday Book Guide

“Affectionate and richly researched. . . . Something Wonderful offers a fresh look at the milieu and circumstances that contributed to the creation of some of the musical theater’s greatest and most enduring treasures. . . . In giving us access to the world that gave birth to them, Purdum’s authoritative and ultimately moving book brings these masterpieces to life with bracing clarity.The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)

Walsh weaves the stories of luminaries who had crucial experiences in Boston—Morrison, Lou Reed, Timothy Leary, James Brown—around the forgotten and often astonishing history of the city when it was old, weird, and grimy.”—Boston Magazine

Astral Weeks unearths the time and place behind the music. . . . A book full of discoveries. . . . A fantastic chronicle.”—Rolling Stone

“Ryan H. Walsh’s new book, Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, takes up Morrison’s sui-generis masterpiece and unearths the largely forgotten context from which it emerged. . . . In documenting the milieu out of which the album came, Walsh also argues for Boston as an underappreciated hub of late-sixties radicalism, artistic invention, and social experimentation. The result is a complex, inquisitive, and satisfying book that illuminates and explicates the origins of Astral Weeks without diminishing the album’s otherworldly aura.”—Jon Michaud,

“Wonderfully oddball.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times Book Review

In Speaking the Piano, renowned pianist Susan Tomes turns her attention to teaching and learning. Teaching music encompasses everything from putting a drum in a child’s hands to helping an accomplished musician unlock the meaning and spirit of the classics. At every stage, some fundamental issues keep surfacing. In this wide-ranging book, Susan Tomes reflects on how her own experience as a learner, in different genres from classical to jazz, has influenced her approach to teaching. She tells us how her performing career has given her insight into what young performers need to know, and how discussions with students have fed into her own practice. She describes the brilliant and intriguing teachers whose masterclasses opened her ears to the many ways in which music can be brought alive and communicated. This is a book to appeal to a wide range of readers – pianists of every level from beginner to professional, piano teachers, musicians of all kinds, and the broader community of music-lovers. In a passionate contribution to the ongoing debate about the place of music in education, Susan Tomes argues that this most inspiring of arts can play a unique role in personal development.

This is a lovely, wise, elegantly written book, filled with tips and anecdotes which could be helpful and encouraging for any pianist, whether a beginner or a professional. Above all it is a book in which one senses constantly the deep love the author has for music itself, for its ability to inspire, touch and, indeed, change lives. STEPHEN HOUGH

Learning to play the piano well is about more than getting the notes right. Drawing on a career in chamber music and teaching, Susan Tomes casts her eye over everything from classic TV comedy to Japanese cherry blossom in an all-embracing exploration of how to make music come alive.

The Ohio poet/critic digs deep into what it means to be American in our moment — and how much music has to do with it. His book meditates on Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Migos, loving Springsteen, being the only black kid at the emo punk show, death and grief. (One section is called, “On Black Grandmothers and the Art of Dying on your Own Terms.”) He sees his idol Springsteen in Jersey — the night after visiting Michael Brown’s grave in Ferguson. He reaches rapture in his ode to Prince’s Super Bowl performance in the rain: “Dearly beloved, when the sky opens up, anywhere, I will think of how Prince made a storm bend to his will.”

This (literally) secret history of the (literally) revolutionary 1980’s East German punk rock scene is a both a cultural revelation and a thrilling read. Drawing on interviews with dissident musicians and unearthed files from the Soviet-backed Stasi police force, author Tim Mohr charts a movement triggered by teens (foremost a fifteen year old girl called Major) that was radicalized by its mere existence in a repressive regime. The music very directly helped foment the mass resistance that felled the Wall, while the collectivist dedication seeded the nascent German EDM club scene, still a subcultural beacon. Inspirational, illuminating, and in terms of fighting totalitarianism with art, timely as hell.

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