Spotlight On: Feelin’ the Music

Minneapolis, as you know, is a great music town! (#SaveOurStages) So it’s no surprise that books and events about music are super popular at Magers & Quinn. Shoppers love our music sections, from hip hop to country to rock & pop. Check out these new titles and staff selections for some gift inspiration:

New and Notable:

She Come By it Natural by Sarah Smarsh, $20
Far beyond the recently resurrected “Jolene” or quintessential “9 to 5,” Parton’s songs for decades have validated women who go unheard: the poor woman, the pregnant teenager, the struggling mother disparaged as “trailer trash.” Parton’s broader career–from singing on the front porch of her family’s cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains to achieving stardom in Nashville and Hollywood, from “girl singer” managed by powerful men to leader of a self-made business and philanthropy empire–offers a springboard to examining the intersections of gender, class, and culture. 

Infused with Smarsh’s trademark insight, intelligence, and humanity, She Come By It Natural is a sympathetic tribute to the icon Dolly Parton and–call it whatever you like–the organic feminism she embodies.

Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, $9
Sounds Like Titanic tells the unforgettable story of how Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman became a fake violinist. Struggling to pay her college tuition, Hindman accepts a dream position in an award-winning ensemble that brings ready money. But the ensemble is a sham. When the group performs, the microphones are off while the music–which sounds suspiciously like the soundtrack to the movie Titanic–blares from a hidden CD player. Hindman, who toured with the ensemble and its peculiar Composer for four years, writes with unflinching candor and humor about her surreal and quietly devastating odyssey. Sounds Like Titanic is at once a singular coming-of-age memoir about the lengths to which one woman goes to make ends meet and an incisive articulation of modern anxieties about gender, class, and ambition.

The Way of Bach by Dan Moller, $26
Dan Moller grew up listening to heavy metal in the Boston suburbs. But something changed when he dug out his mother’s record of The Art of the Fugue, inexplicably wedged between 16 ABBA Hits and Kenny Rogers.

In The Way of Bach, Moller draws us into the strange and surprisingly funny world of the composer and his scene. Along the way, Moller takes up such questions as, just what is so special about Bach’s music? What can Americans–steeped in pop culture–learn from European craftsmanship? And why do some people see a connection between Bach’s music and God? By turns witty and thought-provoking, Moller infuses The Way of Bach with insights into music, culture, and philosophy alike.

Silences So Deep by John Luther Adams, $23
A memoir of a composer’s life in the Alaskan wilderness and a meditation on making art in a landscape acutely threatened by climate change. In the summer of 1975, the composer John Luther Adams, then a twenty-two-year-old graduate of CalArts, boarded a flight to Alaska. So began a journey into the mountains, forests, and tundra of the far north–and across distinctive mental and aural terrain–that would last for the next forty years. Whether describing the travails of environmental activism in the midst of an oil boom or midwinter conversations in a communal sauna, Adams writes with a voice both playful and meditative, one that evokes the particular beauty of the Alaskan landscape and the people who call it home.

The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey, $27
The global icon, award-winning singer, songwriter, producer, actress, mother, daughter, sister, storyteller, and artist finally tells the unfiltered story of her life.

Look, Mariah Carey IS Christmas, therefore Mariah Carey’s first memoir IS the platonic ideal of a Christmas present.

Music: A Subversive History by Ted Gioia, $32
Histories of music overwhelmingly suppress stories of the outsiders and rebels who created musical revolutions and instead celebrate the mainstream assimilators who borrowed innovations, diluted their impact, and disguised their sources. In Music: A Subversive History, Ted Gioia reclaims the story of music for the riffraff, insurgents, and provocateurs. Gioia tells a four-thousand-year history of music as a global source of power, change, and upheaval. He shows how outcasts, immigrants, slaves, and others at the margins of society have repeatedly served as trailblazers of musical expression, reinventing our most cherished songs from ancient times all the way to the jazz, reggae, and hip-hop sounds of the current day.

Staff Picks from the music section:

Porcelain/Then It Fell Apart by Moby, $1
I actually wasn’t much of a fan of Moby’s music before reading these. The first book, Porcelain, chronicles his years of living rough and trying to become a professional DJ. The second book, Then It Fell Apart, chronicles his years from finding himself an overnight sensation, struggling with substance abuse, the epiphany that made him a vegan, freaking out David Lynch, and becoming friends with David Bowie. After reading some of these stories, I’m legitimately surprised Moby is still alive. —Holger

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, $18
If you like weird art, read this book.If you make weird art, read this book.
If you desperately want to become an artist but you’re afraid you won’t cut it, read this
book.If you like off-beat narratives about living statues, communal housing, imposter
syndrome, & giving the finger to the music industry, read this book.
Lastly but so not leastly: If you have trouble asking for help, READ THIS BOOK. —Kathleen

My Own Devices by Dessa $16
Dessa’s prose is thoughtful, prolific in subject matter, and consciously quixotic. Fans
of her music won’t be disappointed – “My Own Devices” is a carefully crafted rumination
on this musician’s very unique life. —Kathleen

Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith, $15
2016 was a fraught year for Patti Smith that saw not only the election of Trump but the deaths of some close friends, but also some profound experiences accessed through travel and music/literary work. Contemplative, lovely, melds dream state and reality with stunning effect. I think it’s as good as M Train, though everyone might not agree. Might be a happier read for some, now that we are saying goodbye to Trump’s presidency.

Got to Be Something Here: Rise of the Minneapolis Sound by Andrea Swensson, $23
Essential book on the 60’s/70’s soul/R&B scene in Minne that gave rise to Prince. Recommended to any and all customers shopping for a Twin Cities music fan. —Mary W

Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes on A Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib, $16
This book is very good. Hanif’s love letter to his favorite hip-hop crew. It’s about ATCQ and hip-hop, but also about growing up, friendship and finding your crew. Small format and cool, minimalist design make it very giftable.—Mary W

The Rap Year Book by Shea Serrano, $18
Mega-popular cultural critic and Twitter star Shea Serrano writes about movies, TV, and more, but it was his music writing that launched him to bestseller status. Shea chronicles the evolution of hip hop, selecting a song from each year 1979 to 2014 that represents where the art and culture of rap was in that moment. With his characteristic passion, humor, and amazing illustrations by frequent collaborator Arturo Torres, The Rap Year Book is an essential guide to the genre. —Annie

Jay-Z: Made in America by Michael Eric Dyson, $24
Long before you could find classes on hip-hop in colleges around the country, Michael Eric Dyson was teaching a course on Jay-Z’s work. Dyson presents a succinct overview of the artistry, hustle, and influence of one of America music’s most enduring cultural icons. For anyone interested in American music, culture, or lyrics, this little book would make a great stocking stuffer! —Annie