Monday, December 7, 2009

I was recently asked to offer up some reading suggestions to Smith alumnae, to be published in some forum sponsored by the Smith Friends of the Library (any friend of the library is a friend of mine, as they say). Here's what I gave them, short and sweet:

I like to think that I read more about music than 99.9% of the population (unfortunately, I often find myself reading more about music than listening to it). That may or may not be true, but I am never without a book to read, and most of what I read is music-related. Here are three recent titles I’ve read that should satisfy readers with a general curiosity about music.

1. Robin Kelley, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of An American Original. One of the most preeminent current historians of African American life and culture writes a biography about one of the great jazz musicians of the twentieth century. Kelley had unprecedented access to Monk family archives and the evidence shows throughout this impressive work.

2. Jon Savage, The England’s Dreaming Tapes. One of England’s best music journalists, in the early 1990s Savage wrote England’s Dreaming, the near-definitive account of the Sex Pistols and British punk rock in the 1970s. This book presents transcripts of many of the original interviews that Savage did for his earlier work. As much an oral history of 1970s England as a book about punk, it is full of great stories and details you won’t find anywhere else.

3. Elijah Wald, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music. Don’t be dissuaded by the deliberately provocative title. The subtitle is more accurate: this is an effort to rethink the history of pop from the late 19th century to the present, by a journalist and historian who has remarkable command of such a broad subject.


  1. i wrote a small thing recently involving thelonious monk because i'm about to write a paper on his influence on a playwright.

  2. Hi Isabella - never a bad thing to have Monk on the brain. I played the version of "Epistrophy" that you posted this past semester in my jazz history class, it's always been one of my favorites.