Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life by Jonathan Gould"(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay." "These Arms of Mine." "Try a Little Tenderness." Even if you don't think you know Otis Redding, you most likely know his songs. And fans will know that 50 years ago, Redding performed at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, bringing him to a much wider audience. But by the end of the year, Redding's life had been cut short by a plane crash. This detailed biography, which traces Redding's short life and career, is "fabulous" (Library Journal).
Smart Baseball: The Story Behind the Old Stats That Are Ruining the Game, the New Ones... by Keith LawIn Smart Baseball, ESPN senior baseball writer and statistical analyst Keith Law takes on traditional baseball stats and explains why new ways of analyzing baseball are better than the old, inefficient ways many fans are familiar with. From weighted stats to who should or shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, Law makes compelling (and often entertaining) arguments that are sure to prompt plenty of inter-inning discussions among fans.
Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World by Rob SheffieldThere are plenty of biographies and histories of the Beatles as a group and as individuals; this is something different. Rob Sheffield, author of Love is a Mix Tape (and creator of many actual mix tapes) instead offers an homage in many acts. In essays that reflect on why the Beatles became so popular (and why they still resonate today), Sheffield focuses on the emotional connections we make to music. If you grew up with the Beatles or your parents passed on their love to you, Dreaming the Beatles will be a treat.
This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey SidibeOscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe starred in Precious and now has a role in the popular television show Empire, but this book is really about Sidibe herself rather than her accomplishments on screen. Raised by a subway singer and a polygamous father, she is open about her sometimes strained relationships with her parents, the expectations her family had of her when she met with some success, and even her embarrassing fanfiction writing. Read it for a well-written biography of a confident, insightful young woman -- who just happens to be a star.
The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy WebbA superstar songwriter in the 1960s and 1970s, Jimmy Webb shares his path to the high life. The son of an Oklahoma preacher, Webb arrived in L.A. a teetotaler (which didn't last long), and ended up being the youngest inductee into the National Songwriters' Hall of Fame. Frank and sometimes gossipy, this memoir drops names left and right, making it an excellent choice not only for Webb's many fans but for those interested in the machinery of music-making in the '60s.
Great Books You Might Have Missed
I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie AjayiBlogger and activist Luvvie Ajayi is obsessed with pop culture (witness her blog, awesomelyluvvie.com, taking on everything from the Met Gala to House of Cards) -- but she's also interested in the ways that people interact with each other. The essays collected here range from topics like social media etiquette to why things like racism, homophobia, and misogyny haven't yet disappeared. Witty and insightful, these essays might make you laugh, but they'll also make you think.
Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story by Nigel CliffAt the height of the Cold War, a young pianist from Texas wowed a Moscow audience and won the first International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition -- though Russian officials were reluctant to give the prize to an American. His win, at a tense time in the two countries' histories, is the center of this book, which details both Van Cliburn's passionately musical life and the drama of the Cold War. Cold War buffs and music history aficionados alike won't want to miss this "rousing" (Kirkus Reviews) life story.
Fields of Battle: Pearl Harbor, the Rose Bowl, and the Boys Who Went to War by Brian CurtisEver since 1902, the Rose Bowl has been played on New Year's Day in Pasadena, CA -- except for one year, when the bombing of Pearl Harbor forced officials to move the game (played between the Oregon State Beavers and Duke's Blue Devils) to Durham, NC. In this fascinating history, author Brian Curtis tells the story not only of the game itself, but of the lives its players went on to lead, especially on the battlefields of World War II. For fans of Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken, this is worth a read.
The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil GaimanNeil Gaiman is already a bestselling author; can you imagine what will happen now that his epic novel American Gods is airing on TV? This, however, is his nonfiction, a collection that mixes cultural and literary criticism with thoughts on art, music, and the origins of science fiction and fantasy. (He also staunchly defends reading, libraries, and librarians.) Erudite and witty, reading Gaiman's essays is almost like having a dinnertime chat (we wouldn't really know, but we imagine he'd be a great tablemate. We might be biased.).
Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker's Journey by Harlan LeboWritten in commemoration of Citizen Kane's 75th anniversary, this book describes how Orson Welles -- a movie-making neophyte -- won unprecedented control over the film. It also explores the roles of Welles' collaborators, discusses who really deserves credit for the script, and traces William Randolph Hearst's efforts to prevent the film's release. Though many other books on the subject exist, this one has been called "a gold mine for fans" (Kirkus Reviews).
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