I like to make lists. I don't always accomplish everything on the list, but there's something so satisfying in the accomplishment of making out the list in the first place that I don't really mind. As I surveyed my bookcases last night, trying to wedge new treasures from my library's recent booksale onto already-packed shelves, I realized that the shelves' ratio of books I'm intending to read to books I've actually read is alarmingly high. It's probably always been this way, and I've just never paid attention to it.
Still, the books I'm intending to read are books I'm excited about, so I decided to make a list of the Top 5 I want to read this summer, before my daughter arrives. These will be my parenting manuals -- after all, how can I expect to educate my kid properly on the subtleties of the early 80s hardcore & indie rock scenes, the ways in which popular culture can make her smarter, her English musical heritage, and the direct lineage from Iceberg Slim to Ice-T without having read...Our Band Could Be Your Life
, by Michael Azzerrad -- Though I was (and still am) very fond of the larger alt-rock acts of the late 80s & 90s, my knowledge of the bands that inspired them is pretty spotty. My husband, Marcus, was given a copy of this book for his birthday a few years ago by a friend who made an accompanying mix CD featuring songs by all the bands featured in the book -- so I can listen & read at the same time. Pimp
, by Iceberg Slim
-- I picked this up in a yellowing paperback edition for the lordly sum of $0.50 (okay, I just noticed that my keyboard lacks a cents symbol. How long has this
been going on?) at last week's Friends of the Library booksale. Widely regarded as the progenitor of Street Literature
now made so popular by authors like Nikki Turner, Carl Weber, Sister Souljah, Sapphire, and Triple Crown Press, Iceberg Slim is also the namesake of at least two famous rappers, Ice Cube and Ice-T. (Extra Credit: The Ice Opinion
, the memoir of Ice-T, author of the controversial song
"Cop Killer", who now plays a cop on TV
. Oh, the irony is thick! I hope a new edition, with an updated epilogue, is forthcoming, because I really, really want to know how he arrived at point B from point A.)Everything Bad Is Good For You
, by Steven Johnson -- I've been fascinated by this book's premise -- that today's popular culture is so complex that it's actually making us smarter, more critical thinkers -- since I read an excerpt of it in the NY Times Magazine in April. I pre-ordered a copy, and it's been sitting on my bookshelf since it arrived. Britpop!
, by John Harris -- Marcus is English, and I'm an Anglophile, so naturally, we listen to a ton of music from this era (roughly 1995-1999 -- acts like Blur, Elastica, Pulp, Oasis, et al.) at our house, and based on the explosions of laughter and incredulity coming from Marcus's side of the bed as he read this book a few months ago, it's a meticulously researched trashy, debauched, fascinating portrait of a particular time & place. Ergo, a must-read. (Extra credit, related only in the sense of it being trashy, debauched, and un-put-down-able -- finish reading The Dirt
, Neil Strauss's oral history of Motley Crue.) Marcus reports that it was particularly fun to read about a period he lived through; it's a more personal experience than, say, reading a Neil Young biography, because he remembers buying all the singles as they came out, and following the Damon Albarn-Noel Gallagher
feud in NME
as it progressed to cartoonishly absurd rhetorical heights.Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
, by J.K. Rowling -- no explanatory annotation necessary, I think.
What are your Summer of Pop must-reads?