A Note-worthy Meeting

Participants from five divisions at Williamsburg Regional Library gathered for a meeting about books with musical themes. The thematic format is a great way for us to identify books that our patrons might enjoy, and this theme was a goldmine. We discovered several excellent titles that everyone-reads-the-same-book groups would never consider.

cello-suitesCela led off with The Cello Suites: J. S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece. While this title might sound dull, the subject is not. Bach was underappreciated in his lifetime, leading to the loss of many works, and a legacy of music rediscovered in strange places. Casals brought the Cello Suites to prominence while building the solo repertoire for his instrument, but his career was interrupted by the politics of the Spanish Civil War. It’s a great story that author Eric Siblin tells well.

Cheryl went searching for a favorite read from long ago and was delighted to really-the-bluesdiscover it still in print. 1946’s Really the Blues by Mezz Mezzrow and Bernard Wolfe is classic nonfiction about the development of jazz in 1920s and 30s Chicago. Mezzrow was a fringe figure on the edge of jazz, but he rubbed shoulders with Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Paul Whiteman, Bix Beiderbecke, and gangland figures like Al Capone. Written with an ear for jazz slang, this book tells harrowing stories of drug use and prison time along with trailblazing tales of early jazz and Mezzrow’s mixed-race marriage in a time when that just wasn’t done.

Connie had a collection of books about the stories behind famous songs, including works by Ace Collins (Stories behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas; The Stories behind Country Music’s All-Time Greatest 100 Songs, etc.) and Tim Morse (Classic Rock Stories). Along with being fun, these books are a font of material for Connie’s work in developing programming for seniors. Music lovers, teachers, or pop culture fans should give them a look.

struts-and-fretsSusan had two young adult novels. In Jon Skovron’s Struts and Frets, quiet protagonist Sammy plays guitar and writes songs for a band led by a bullying lead singer who scares him. His grandfather is sinking into dementia, his best friend is a girl who he’s in love with, and the battle of the bands is coming up. Skovron mixes teen issues, music, and humor in an entertaining debut.

K. L. Going’s Fat Kid Rules the World is the tale of Troy, an unaccomplished, fat (6′ 1″, 296 lb.) African-American kid who lives in the shadow of a demanding father and standout brother. Considering suicide, he’s saved by an intervention from Curt, a gifted guitar player and singer who has developed a drug problem. Curt recruits Troy to be his drummer in a new band, and together the two begin to help each other overcome their problems.marrying-mozart

Gail was also in the mood for fiction, and found Stephanie Cowell’s Marrying Mozart. It’s historical fiction about Mozart’s encounters with the Weber family, beginning in 1777. Introduced to the impoverished family through their music copyist father, Mozart was inspired in different ways by each of the four daughters. Adding to the fun, the book takes a scenic tour through Mannheim, Salzburg, and Vienna.

sleep-when-im-deadFinally, I brought I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon. I’ve been a Zevon fan since seeing him play back in the 90s, but was nervous to read about the man. Zevon had an alcohol problem (and was a violent drunk) in his early years. Sober, he developed sex addictions and discovered that drinking masked OCD behaviors. With or without drink, he was hard on those close to him, alternating between kindness, demands, and distance. But Zevon was never dull and his songs showed both musical skill and a gift for storytelling. Nobody knew Zevon completely, but ex-wife and lifetime friend Crystal Zevon compiled dozens of oral interviews into a cohesive biography, and what contributors: Carl Hiaasen, Stephen King, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, and Billy Bob Thornton are among those who Zevon counted as friends.

This theme was a real hit parade for our group. What books would you have brought to the table?

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

1 Comment on "A Note-worthy Meeting"

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  1. atodd@phpl.info' Alex says:

    I really enjoyed “The Violin Maker” by John Marchese. It follows Sam Zygmuntowicz (yes, I had to look that up again) as he makes a violin for Eugene Drucker. It also gives a very interesting history of violins and tries to determine what makes (made) the great violins such as Stradivarius so special.

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