Books for the Holidays

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Quiet time around the holidays is perfect for stretching out on the sofa in front of the fireplace with a new book. Here are 10 books that are ideal for that snowy afternoon or as gifts for family and friends:

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Lou Reed: A Life
(Little, Brown), by Anthony DeCurtis. Those who truly transform art give everything they have to leave a mark and shatter norms in the process. Lou Reed made that sacrifice with courage and determination. The singer-songwriter took a chainsaw to formulaic pop in the late 1960s when he co-founded the Velvet Underground. In the process, he helped launch art rock, garage, punk and nearly every minimalist rock movement that followed. Anthony DeCurtis is a long-time Rolling Stone contributor, a deft rock interviewer and a seductive storyteller who delivers perspective, and first-hand insight in this meaty biography. (Go here)

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Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magainze
(Knopf), by Joe Hagan. Say what you will about Jan Wenner and Rolling Stone, the magazine he founded in 1967. Wenner single-highhandedly legitimized rock by hiring serious journalists and critics to cover the music as if it were the opera. Journalist Hagen had complete access to Wenner and his records, which Wenner later said he regretted. Always a sign of a worthy read. (Go here)


This Is: Essays on Jazz
(Outpost), by Aaron Gilbreath. This paperback is just slightly larger than a TV Guide but it’s packed with lyrical and passionate writing about jazz. Essayist/journalist Gibreath has written for a wide range of publications, including Harper’s The New York Times and The Paris Review. There are chapters on Lorraine Geller, Sonny Clark, Lucky Thompson and Jutta Hipp, among others. (Go here)

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Music to My Years
(Amphora), by Artie Kane, as told to Marian Blue and JoAnn Kane. Artie Kane is a top Hollywood studio pianist and organist who has appeared on dozens of albums from 1960 to 1978. He worked most notably with Henry Mancini, John Williams, Quincy Jones and Frank Sinatra. That’s Artie’s organ on Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night album in 1966. Loads of inside stories about favorite recording sessions, recording artists and sidemen. (Go here)

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The Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse
( Farrar, Straus and Giroux), by Rich Cohen. I’m not a Cubs fan, but I am a fan of Rich Cohen. He can write about doing the laundry and I’d buy his book. Rich is a terrific storyteller with a singular voice. Here are the opening sentences of the book’s first chapter: What you want is always out of reach. Sometimes it’s miles out of reach, sometimes you can almost touch it. If you do touch it, you will realize after a week or two that it’s not really what you want, that what you want is still out of reach. This is what I was thinking as I arrived at the press window for the first game of the 2016 National League Championship Series. (Go here)


The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums
(Pantheon), by Will Friedwald. While I don’t necessarily agree with several choices here (Barb Jungr Sings Bob Dylan and God Bless Tiny Tim are here but zilch from Chris Connor, Julie London or June Christie?), the writing, as always with Will, is first rate, especially on Sinatra and Ella. (Go here)

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Florida Soul: From Ray Charles to KC and the Sunshine Band
(University Press of Florida), by John Capouya. For whatever reason, Florida has long been passed over for its impact on a wide range of American popular music. Ray Charles was from Florida. So were James and Bobby Purify. Henry Stone and T.K. records, too. And disco’s sparkle and groove came out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale in the early 1970s before the music’s soul was fully formed in Philadelphia. All of this is captured in John Capouya’s engrossing book on the Sunshine State’s R&B role. John is an associate professor of journalism and writing at the University of Tampa. (Go here)

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Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, the Early Years 1926-1966
(Chicago Review), by Kenneth Womack. The first volume of an in-depth two-volume look at the life, work and influence of the Fifth Beatle, written by a Beatles authority. Up until now, all we had was Sir George’s own skimpy memoir (Go here)

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Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs fo All Time
(Sterling), by Ray Padgett. Nineteen hits that were covers of originals and the stories behind how they came to be, by a writer who hosts Cover Me, a blog devoted to cover songs. (Go here)

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Experiencing Big Band Jazz: A Listener’s Companion
(Rowman), by Jeff Sultanof. Seminal are evaluated in detail recordings chosen by Sultanof, a composer, arranger, conductor, writer, and historian. (Go here)



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