Here are some books I've enjoyed in the past few months, and some that I hope to get back to another time. To paraphrase I-think-it-was-Groucho-Marx, I've been not reading so many books lately that I haven't had time to get around to not reading these. (These are all Amazon referrer links, for crying out loud. Hit me--I need the money.)
Books I've read recently:
Michael Jackson: Unauthorized
, by Christopher Anderson. Combine this with J. Randy Tarraborelli's fairly fawning Michael Jackson: The Music and the Madness
, and the sum might be something resembling a fair treatment. (Skip Freak! Inside the Twisted World of Michael Jackson
--it's pretty bad.) Anderson's book is from '94, after the first molestation allegations but before the current crop.
The Hungry Gene: The Science of Fat and the Future of Thin
, by Ellen Ruppel Shell. It's not quite as good as Greg Critser's Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World
, or for that matter Eric Schlosser's wonderful Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
, but it's still a very worthwhile read for people interested in the topic, and perhaps more even-handed than the other two titles I mentioned.
Growing Up Fast
, by Joanna Lipper. Besides its obvious utility to teenagers as a birth-control device, this is a poignant and well-written piece of journalism. It's got a blurb from Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, whose Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx
is another very good book along similar lines. Another blurbist compares it to Winesburg, Ohio
, and Nelson George (who also wrote a book about Michael Jackson) compares it to 8 Mile
. What kind of book has blurbs from Nelson George and Naomi Wolf? A good one. And speaking of Eminem:
Whatever You Say I Am: The Life and Times of Eminem
, by Anthony Bozza, is the best book I've seen about the man. I have little doubt that it's the best one ever written. That's small praise, certainly, and I'm waiting on an interlibrary loan of White Noise: The Eminem Collection
, a critical anthology edited by Hilton Als and Darryl A. Turner, which looks like a strong contender for the title. On the other hand, I feel confident that Byron 'Big Naz' Williams' Shady Bizzness : Life as Marshall Mathers' Bodyguard in an Industry of Paper Gangsters
is even worse than Frank Alexander's Got Your Back: The Life of a Bodyguard in the Hardcore World of Gangsta Rap
. At least Alexander spells 'gangsta' right. The bodyguard memoir isn't what I'd call a rich literary genre.
Ghetto Celebrity: Searching for My Father in Me
, by Donnell Alexander. Wonderful, lyrical autobiography from the man who wrote 'Why Black People Are Cooler than White People,' anthologized in both Step Into a World: A Global Anthology of the New Black Literature
(edited by Real-Worlder Kevin Powell) and the Might magazine collection Shiny Adidas Tracksuits and the Death of Camp and Other Essays
(full-text in the first link).
Songs in the Key of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation
, by Mark Anthony Neal. There's no getting around it--I think Neal is brilliant. While I'm at it, I'll also recommend his What the Music Said: Black Music and Black Public Culture
, and Joan Morgan's When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: My Life as a Hip-Hop Feminist
Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye
, by Michael Eric Dyson. Dyson rocks my socks. Not long ago, I plugged his Tupac book, Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur
. This book is even better. While I'm on the subject, David Ritz's Marvin Gaye bio, Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye
, is still the canonical one, but the recent Trouble Man: The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye
, by Steve Turner (not the guy from Mudhoney), is also very good. I'll also mention Nelson George's Where Did Our Love Go: The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound
, while I'm thinking about it. George is all over this thing.
Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers and Emo
, by Andy Greenwald. I'm as comfortable on the emo-bashing bandwagon as the next guy, but this is a good read--more sociocultural criticism than music journalism, and that's fine with me. Read it for a much better understanding of what emo means and only a slightly better impression of what it sounds like.
Hollywood Animal: A Memoir
, by Joe Eszterhas. Do you like Joe Eszterhas? You'll likely also enjoy his American Rhapsody
. Do you like sleazy tell-all Hollywood memoirs? Allow me to recommend Robert Evans' The Kid Stays in the Picture
(there's also a documentary
, and why isn't Kid Notorious
on DVD?), and Julia Phillips' You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again
and Driving Under the Affluence: The Secret of My Excess
. Along similar lines, there's also Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood
, which I've read, and his recent Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film
, which really belongs in the next list.
Books I hope to read soon:
Nanocosm: Nanotechnology and the Big Changes Coming from the Inconceivably Small
, by William Illsey Atkinson. My body of knowledge of nanotechnology, alas, could also be described with the phrase 'inconceivably small.' One of the blurbs compares Atkinson to Richard Feynman
. Which reminds me--there ought to be a website that keeps track of who's writing blurbs for whom. That's a network I'd like to see diagrammed.
Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror
, by Richard A. Clarke. There are a lot of library patrons on the hold list for this one--I'm going to bump myself to the back of the list and let them have a shot at it.
Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence
, by Rosalind Wiseman. Supposedly a large part of the impetus behind Mean Girls
, and it's gotten mostly excellent reviews besides. In the same vein, I also keep meaning to read Rachel Simmons' Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls
Against Love: A Polemic
, by Laura Kipnis. I like a polemic (I also like polenta). Kipnis is the author of Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America
, which is up there with Nadine Strossen's Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex and the Fight for Women's Rights
among the best books about pornography I've read.
Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina
, by David Hajdu. (Not to be confused with James McManus' Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs and Binion's World Series of Poker
, as if anybody would. But if you like that book, you may also enjoy Ben Mezrich's Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions
.) I have no idea why I haven't read this yet, just like I have no idea why I haven't read Larry 'Ratso' Sloman's On the Road with Bob Dylan
(he's also written a few other Dylan books, and Reefer Madness: A History of Marijuana
), or seen Mickey Jones' Bob Dylan - World Tour 1966: The Home Movies
. I am reminded of a lame expression about so many books and so little time. How does it go again?