A couple months ago (probably even longer than that), I took this photo with the ambitious idea to do full reviews of all these books, which I had read around the time of taking the photo. Maybe one day I’ll get around to doing a full review of at least one of these, but in the meantime, here’s a little about each:
When You Are Engulfed in Flames, by David Sedaris: David Sedaris is one of my absolute favorite writers, so my expectations are always high. This one doesn’t disappoint, with more thoroughly entertaining short stories written with Sedaris’ trademark (not to mention often imitated, never duplicated) wit.
Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt: McCourt (who also authored A Monk Swimming, one of my favorites) recounts his years as a teacher in New York City. There’s something affectionate–yet never precious–in his recollections and something quietly inspiring for someone like me, who loves teaching.
Too Fat to Fish, by Artie Lange: With his recent suicide attempt and departure (temporary?) from the Howard Stern Show, I’m a little sad thinking about Artie as I write this. This book, a memoir, offers some insight into Artie’s upbringing and delves a little deeper into how the loss of his father has affected him. Don’t let that lead you to believe this is a heavy book, though-quite the contrary. Artie is hilarious on the air and on stage, so it’s no surprise that his humor translates so well in print. I read TIm Russert’s excellent Big Russ and Me a year or so ago and noticed a lot of parallels between Artie’s story and that of the late host of Meet the Press. Seriously.
Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain, by Charles R. Cross: I gave this book so many chances, but the overload of details was too much for me–it made the story dawdle. Obviously, the author spent a lot of time researching his subject, but for someone as fascinating as Kurt Cobain, this biography–well, at least the parts I got through–fell short.
Raising Hell, by Ronin Ro: This book came via a recommendation from Skillz, after I asked for book recommendations on twitter. The book wasn’t easy to find, but I lucked out when I found it for a dollar on Amazon.com. This book is a must read for anyone interested in hip hop history and/or the music business. It’s amazing that these three young (it’s easy to forget how young they were since they seemed to always look a little older than their actual ages) men from Queens became musical icons. Ro includes so many interesting facts throughout the book, yet manages to tell the story in a clear and inviting way. I will say that Run (or, as he’s more recently known: Reverend Run) does not come out of this story smelling like roses.
Sugarless, by James Magruder: This “coming-of-age” novel about a young gay man in the midwest in the 1970s is endearing, hilarious, and smart. Magruder is a Baltimore-based playwright and dramaturg, but this is his first novel. I’m not sure if it’s gauche to say that a book would make a great movie, but with a main character you really want to root for, along with Magruder’s exquisite way with details, it was easy to envision this wonderful story on the big screen.
City Kid, by Nelson George: I’ve been reading George’s writing on music for as long as I can remember. More recently, I’ve greatly enjoyed his “Soul Cities” series in which he visits different cities and explores their musical legacies and food scenes. (Traveling, music, and food? Yes, please.) In City Kid, George offers a glimpse into his life, chronicling his ascension into the upper echelon of music criticism. I think the earlier years of this part of his career and life are among the most interesting in the book. While City Kid is about George, it almost feels like New York and music are two other lead characters, certainly informing and shaping–in no small parts–what he does and who he is.