Posted in Staff Picks

Staff Picks

Best Book Covers of 2016

The expression ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’ is right. It is not a good idea to prejudge the value of something or even someone simply by outward appearances.

Tiger
But being humans, we like to make quick assessments. The Caveman probably did not think, ‘Does that tiger really look hungry or is he just curious.’  He judged the book by the cover, tiger stripes.

So, book covers are important. They create a brand for the title and draws our attention. It is the first, maybe not the fairest way, to judge a book. 

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Staff Picks

Crunch Time: Train up at the library

Learning isn’t always easy

Ever had the dream of an exam or project due and you’re not at all prepared? Maybe you’re not even a student anymore but the dream still lingers.

Why is that? Maybe it’s just human nature to want to do or learn something that challenges us. There can be some anxiety in learning something new because, by definition, you have to start from a place of not knowing.

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Staff Picks

Entertaining Your Thanksgiving and Holiday Guests

Conversation has lagged. The turkey needs another hour. Your brother-in-law is late. How do you entertain your guests during the little ‘quiet’ nothing-to-do but wait times.

Play charades? Keep busy? I think we should respect the quiet times. In fact, a little down time might re-energize the crowd for charades later. I think I found at least one solution.

Last Thanksgiving I checked out books and magazines from the library.

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Staff Picks

Everyday I Write The Book: Memoirs by Rock Stars

As a fellow musician and voracious reader, rock star memoirs are a pretty intriguing proposition to me. But for many years, with few exceptions, the books that fit this description tended to be either hastily (ghost)written and white-washed or trashy tabloid fodder. Since the 2004 publication of (future Pulitzer Prize winner) Bob Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One, however, more music legends have signed lucrative book deals and delivered forthright, funny and well-written autobiographies that offer incredible perspective on their music and the personal circumstances that influenced it. Best of all, many of these musicians have also agreed to read an unabridged audiobook themselves, so listeners can be sit back and be regaled by stories from the same voices that sang so many timeless songs. Here are some of my favorites:

Life

Life by Keith Richards
(also available as an audiobook)

Keith Richards has been synonymous with rock and roll excess and debauchery for almost as long as the Rolling Stones have been around, so initial reports of his memoir were greeted with skepticism: how much could this guy possibly remember? Perhaps that's why Life is such a revelation. The decadent anecdotes are there, of course, but so are whimsical stories about his early life as a Boy Scout, vibrant descriptions of his first times hearing favorite blues musicians, detailed accounts of the origins of some of the Stones' most iconic riffs, touching tales of love, friendship and loss, and an uncommonly incisive commentary on his often-fraught working relationship with Mick Jagger. It's simply essential reading, not just for Rolling Stones fans, but for anyone inspired by a life lived without apologies. (The audiobook is read by Keith for about a chapter, after which he presumably went to have a smoke and never came back. The remainder is narrated by noted friend and acolyte Johnny Depp.)

Who I Am

Who I Am by Pete Townshend
(also available as an audiobook)

During the heyday of The Who, there was no more lucid and eloquent public spokesman for rock music than Pete Townshend. But after the band's initial breakup in 1982, Townshend began working as a literary editor at Faber and Faber and began insisting he never really intended to be a musician at all. Who I Am captures this seeming disconnect perfectly. The explosive chemistry of The Who onstage and off and the development of Townshend's songwriting, culminating in such classic rock operas as Tommy and Quadrophenia, are described in exhaustive detail. But so is his traumatic childhood, the wildly unorthodox training he had in art school, the pressure to be a good husband and father while being a rock star, and the substance abuse that nearly killed him. Casual Who fans might balk at the extreme amount of detail given to relatively unsuccessful solo projects and his reticience to be associated with his former band during the final half of the book. But Townshend's candidness and dry, self-deprecating sense of humor make for an absorbing read.

Waging Heavy Peace

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young
(also available as an audiobook)

The mercurial nature of Neil Young is well-documented (just ask Crosby, Stills or Nash) so it's not surprising that Waging Heavy Peace takes a non-linear journey through his past. As a musician, he recalls the birth and breakup of Buffalo Springfield, late nights in the studio with Crazy Horse, the ins and outs of his signature guitar Old Black, and the lawsuit he incurred in the 1980s for making albums "uncharacteristic" of his previous work. But Young is an equally passionate environmentalist, audiophile and model train enthusiast, and the book goes into detail about various projects he has spearheaded in those fields as well. But it's not just a book about the capricious whims of a rich rock star; Young's devotion to his sons Zeke and Ben, both of whom were born with cerebral palsy, is admirable and seem to keep him grounded and humble. This is a book that requires some adjustment to constant restless digressions, but if you're already a Neil Young fan, chances are that won't be much of a deterrant for you. (The audiobook is read by Keith Carradine, although Neil himself narrates the sequel, Special Deluxe.)

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello 
(also available as an audiobook

Like Neil Young and Bob Dylan before him, Elvis Costello took a stream-of-consciousness, non-chronological approach when writing his memoirs, resulting in a narrative that sees the author as a Beatles-obsessed kid stealing his dad's 45s on one page, and sitting across a writing table from Paul McCartney on the next. It will come as no shock to anyone familiar with his songs that the man born Declan MacManus is a witty and engaging writer, although the cruel streak that once ran through his lyrics has been somewhat tempered by time. Costello obsessives will cherish his in-depth discussions of songs spanning the entirety of his career (many of which are collected on a companion soundtrack album) and tales of his many collaborations, but at the heart of this book is his relationship with his father, noted bandleader Ross MacManus. Costello recalls his father's success in the music business with pride, his failings as a husband and father with empathy, and his 2011 death in harrowing detail. The result is a multi-generational viewpoint on listening to and creating music as a way of life.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
(also available as an audiobook)

Before she joined forces with Fred Armisen spoofing Pacific Northwest hipsters in Portlandia, Carrie Brownstein recorded and toured relentlessly with Sleater-Kinney, a seminal band who transcended their origins in the riot grrrl movement to become one of the finest rock bands of the modern era. Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl traces Brownstein's path from navigating a turbulent childhood and adolescence to finding direction and community in punk and indie rock to facing the sexist condescension of rock journalists to the exhaustion and health issues that lead to Sleater-Kinney's indefinite hiatus in 2006. The book concludes with a chapter about Brownstein's stint volunteering at a Portland animal shelter, a heartfelt and ultimately heartbreaking denouement that sets the stage for a triumphant Sleater-Kinney reunion. Brownstein's writing vividly captures both the feeling of liberation through music and the anxiety and fatigue which can often affect touring musicians.

Staff Picks

Time for a Switch at Nintendo?

The time has finally come. After months of waiting and waiting, Nintendo finally pulled the NX out from behind its massive curtain of secrecy, and revealed the Nintendo Switch.

The upcoming console slated for release currently in March 2017 has had one of the most bizarre marketing strategies I've ever seen, and so far it appears to be paying off. By not talking about it at all for months, rumors theories have been flying around in their place, and resulted in the most talked about game system announcement I have seen in a long time.

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