Gift guide: Get lost in booksWritten by Toledo Free Press Staff Writers | | email@example.com
‘Music and Myth’ covers Beatles track by track
Beatles fans got an early Christmas present this year when iTunes began offering the Fab Four’s entire catalog online. You are now able to pick and choose which classics you need to download to flesh out your collection. Now, for real fanatics, comes ”The Beatles, The Music And The Myth” (Omnibus Press, $14.95). Authors Peter Doggett and Patrick Humphries claim it is the “ultimate overview of the Beatles’ recordings,” covering the release of every album, track by track. The book is certainly that. Unfortunately, it is mostly just that, a listing of tracks with comments. It begins with “Please Please Me,” The Beatles’ first full-length album from April 1963 and covers everything from that historic release to “Love,” the Cirque de Soleil production for the Las Vegas stage in 2006.
Any Beatles fan can tell you about the outcry over the meaning of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” which is included in this book, and that’s part of the problem with “The Beatles: The Music And The Myth”; there’s not much new for fans to discover while reading the short items on each song. With more than 2,000 books about The Beatles available, it was bound to get to the point where there just wasn’t anything new to say. In fact, I believe every Beatles book ever written has pointed out that “Yesterday” was originally titled “Scrambled Eggs.” The songs have been reviewed, studied and parsed so often that in some cases you can only remember the critique and not the joy you felt when hearing them for the first time. There are a few gems hidden in the book, like the surprise vocals near the end of “Paperback Writer,” but those are few and far between. Even the photographs, which dot the 190 pages, seem too familiar. I swear I had some of them on the old collectable cards we all bought back in the day.
If you’re a true Beatles fanatic, put the book on your Christmas list just so you can brag to your friends that you have all the Beatles books. But if you’re looking for a gift for the Beatles fan in your life there are better options out there this Christmas season, including gift cards for iTunes. — Fred LeFebvre
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following leter was received Dec. 8: “Authors Peter Doggett and Patrick Humphries claim it is the “ultimate overview of the Beatles’ recordings,” your reviewer says of the newly published ‘The Beatles: The Music and the Myth.’ As one of the ‘authors’ of this book, I can assure you that I claim nothing of the kind. This book is simply a repackaging of material that was written twenty years ago, and to which the publisher now holds the copyright, allowing them to reprint it as often as they like. The first I knew about the publication was when a friend told me it was in the shops. So I would like to suggest that anyone who wants to buy a book about the Beatles for the holiday season should look elsewhere – for example, at my own ‘You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After The Breakup,’ published a few months back by HarperCollins. Best wishes, Peter Doggett, Fareham, England.”)
Book offers dawning of the ‘Dead’
The first time I came across the book “All My Friends Are Dead” (Chronicle Books, $9.95), I immediately judged it by its cover. Being a comic strip artist, I was drawn to the simple and childlike illustration of the dinosaur on the front cover. The dinosaur’s expression is one of humorous surprise. It is drawn beautifully with thick, uneven lines and solid color. It reminded me of some of the children’s books I read growing up or have read to my own kids.
On each page are simple, cartoon-style illustrations of all kinds of characters that respond to the issue of mortality — namely the mortality of their friends of a like kind. We hear from everything from dinosaurs, trees, the elderly, socks, chickens, snowmen and more. And each have their own humorous quip on the subject of the inevitable.
The illustrations are wonderfully created, funny and complement the writing ideally. Yet, I didn’t necessarily find myself laughing out loud as did others who had commented on the various blogs I read after the fact.
To see if perhaps I had missed something, I shared the book with my wife to get her reaction. She has always been exceedingly honest and upfront with her opinion — which I can count on when it comes to my own work. I gave her little indication of my take on the book. Within a matter of seconds she was bursting out with a laugh here and a snicker there. It was the kind of laughter one tries to hold back because somewhere inside you wonder if it’s okay to be laughing at something that’s even mildly morbid. But there it was, the objective opinion I was looking for.
“All My Friends Are Dead” is not for everyone, especially children or those who lean away from dark humor. But its creators, Avery Monsen and Jory John, who write the “Open Letters” comic for Toledo Free Press Star, have developed a loyal and growing following. Many people on several blogs have indicated that they love this children’s book for adults, which is referred to as “both the saddest funny book and the funniest sad book you’ll ever read.” Some even going as far to say they are buying multiple copies to give as gifts to their friends … who obviously, are not dead. — Jeff Payden
‘Star Wars’ universe parsed in trio of new books
As the last traces of the “Star Wars” universe on film fade before a generation’s exposure to the animated “Clone Wars” television series, more attention is being paid to analyzing and chronicling the six-movie series.
Last year brought the epic 1,232-page “Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia,” which spanned three hardcover volumes, magnificently captured the minutia fans love, and was outdated by the time you unwrapped it, as the mythos grows with new “Star Wars” books, comics and TV episodes nearly every week.
This year, “Star Wars” fans will be happy with any or all of three new books that keep the hardcover collection growing.
For the fan of the visuals, “Star Wars Art: Visions” (Abrams, $40) offers 175 pages of stunning interpretations of all six films, from such master illustrators as H.R. Giger, Moebius, Alex Ross, Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo, Jamie Wyeth and 100 others. From cubist impressions of Boba Fett to an intimate look at Aayla Secura, the large-format spreads offer new and progressive interpretations of pop culture’s most familiar sci-fi/fantasy characters.
If you are limited to choosing one of these books this season with your gift card, “Visions” is the one.
“Star Wars: Year by Year, a Visual Chronicle” by Ryder Windham and a number of LucasFilm experts (DK Publishing, $50), is the ultimate argument-settling source. By placing the entire “Star Wars” experience in day-by-day context, from creator George Lucas’ birth in 1944 to the December 2010 release of the book “The Sounds of Star Wars,” the series is at once elevated to its important place in film and pop culture history and relegated to its proper place as entertainment alongside historical events ranging from the Iranian hostage crisis to the earthquake in Haiti.
There are enough facts, myth-buster factoids and never-before-seen illustrations to keep a “Star Wars” fan reading until the book is undoubtedly updated.
For the tech geek on your shopping list, “The Sounds of Star Wars” (Chronicle Books, $40) offers an inside look at how Academy Award winner Ben Burtt created the distinctive and endless sound effects for the films. Darth Vader’s breathing was a variation of Burtt hissing through scuba gear; the Millennium Falcon’s whoosh comes from World War II-era racing planes.
The book comes with an external speaker, a headphone jack and 250 recorded sounds from the movies. It’s interesting from a tech standpoint, but lacks the visceral and trivial thrills of “Visions” and “Year by Year.”
For the fan who no longer collects “Star Wars” action figures but still keeps them safely tucked away in the attic or basement, any or all of these books will keep The Force going strong well into 2011. — Michael S. Miller
Cookbooks stir up mixed batch of recipes
At first glance, Sandra Lee’s “semi-homemade” recipes may seem like taking normal convenience foods and just doctoring them up. If you look a bit deeper into her two latest cookbooks, you’ll find more than that.
“Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade: The Complete Cookbook” (Wiley, $29.95) says it contains “1,001 easy everyday recipes for ‘the way we cook today’.” But a beginning cook, when trying to make the “Mint Meringue Kisses,” found that the egg whites were not stiff enough, and the end result was “Mint Meringue Discs.”
The “Chocolate-Butterscotch S’mores” turned out just as they looked in the cookbook and tasted great.
Pasta is a favorite in our house, but the “Mexican Style Macaroni and Cheese” was a disappointment since it was basically boxed Kraft Mac and Cheese cooked then tossed in the oven to melt additional cheese; the additional oven time made it over-cooked. The “Four-Cheese Macaroni” was closer to a scratch recipe and is one that will be made again.
“Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade: Comfort Food” cookbook (Wiley, $19.95) is “149 feel good favorites.” The “Ravioli Lasagna” was tested twice, once in the slow cooker as the recipe called for and once in a regular oven. I’d recommend making it in the oven, the slow cooker made the ravioli almost too soft.
“Slow-Cooked Greek Chicken” is a recommended slow cooker recipe, with or without the olives. It was good over both orzo and rice.
The additional information in “The Complete Cookbook” is handy. There are diagrams showing how to set a table for different types of dinners and some decorating ideas that we used for Thanksgiving.
I’d recommend either cookbook for someone just starting out cooking or for someone who might want to try some different recipes that do not require a high level of cooking skill. — Aubrey Birukow
An all-business look at Christmas
At first glance, Bruce Kluger and David Slavin’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas, 21st Century Edition” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $9.99) appeared to be a fun, well-illustrated, lighthearted Christmas book. Though clearly meant more for the 21-and-over crowd, the book looked ripe to be a conversation piece on the coffee table this holiday season. One would expect a quick, easy read with a few laughs.
Unfortunately, that’s not quite what Kluger and Slavin supply with their satire on Christmas and big business.
This book, which appears to be little more than a thick magazine, is much more time-consuming than anticipated. The illustrations, of which there are many, actually slow the reader down considerably as most require time for study and interpretation. Many illustrations are fictitious memos sent within this polar enterprise, which are extremely monotonous.
However, many of the laughs to be had from this book (which are surprisingly infrequent) actually come from these distractions, rather than the story itself, which is told in rhyme, keeping with the tradition of the original children’s story.
To their credit, Slavin and Kluger have produced a surprisingly plausible representation of big business, especially merger/acquisition activity common on Wall Street. Of course, the story, of a nephew scheming to seize the North Pole from Santa Claus, is somewhat exaggerated.
This does little to help the fact that, as a piece of coffee table literature, this book is a less-than-stellar choice. With language that is inappropriate to print here and several questionable illustrations – the coup de grace being an extremely suggestive mock cover of Maxim Magazine featuring Mrs. Claus’’ face plastered on the body of a scantily clad model — make this material definitely unsuitable for younger eyes.
Those with no small children and $10 to spare might enjoy this book, given a preference for crude jokes and political incorrectness. — Dock David Treece
Book ‘translates’ rap lyrics
“Understand Rap: Explanations of Confusing Rap Lyrics You and Your Grandma Can Understand” by William Buckholz (Abrams Image, $12.95) is a fun read and a guaranteed conversation starter. While there are no racial overtones to be found, reading what a rapper has written then reading what it means to the ‘un-hip’ takes great advantage of cultural dialogue differences.
Despite being limited in size, this book is certainly worth the 20 minutes or so of read time, and potential hours of re-read time. Without a doubt, the sterile, clinical explanations of the rap lyrics are the best part of the book. Imagine Wilfred Brimley explaining to you what Notorious B.I.G. meant when he said “Get Swiss-cheesed-up” and you’ll start to get an idea of what this book is like.
Compartmentalized into topics such as money, drugs and alcohol, insults, cars, sex and relationships, crime and weapons, fashion, skills and pride, people and places, “Understand Rap” covers the most popular topics found in rap music.
While this paperback is an extension of understandrap.com, created by Buckholz, it is limited in scope. The focus on popular rap lyrics omits explanations from some of the biggest rappers, rap groups and hall-of-fame-worthy artists. Sadly, there were no explanations for any Talib Kweli or Scarface bars; Bun B and Cypress Hill are missing and there is no mention of Kid Cudi or Drake rhymes.
The book is a great stocking stuffer for music fans. The dry humor found in the textbook tone of the explanations are only funny if you can picture grandma explaining what Lil’ Wayne meant when he spouted “I’m comin’ with a gun like Nintendo.” — Mighty Wyte
Book offers encyclopedic overview of ‘Lost’
Who is the smoke monster? What is the incident? What is the island? What do the hieroglyphics mean? From the simple to the existential, “LOST Encyclopedia” (DK Publishing, $45) has the answers.
The compendium of facts and mythology from the hit ABC show aims to be a guide to all the details and characters. It succeeds and is the perfect gift for any Lostie or even the casual fan.
Co-authors Paul Terry and Tara Bennett worked tirelessly to compile the 400-page encyclopedia from A to Z — Aaron Littleton to Zoe.
“‘LOST Encyclopedia’ was by far the most consuming project I’ve ever done,” Bennett said in a recent interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “It was a lot of work.”
Bennett, who has already written 12 books, spent 10 months working on “LOST Encyclopedia.” A typical book would take about three to four months to complete, she said.
Both authors worked together for five and a half years on LOST: The Official Magazine. Executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, both of whom wrote the foreword, liked the idea of an encyclopedia, and something that would focus on the mythology, Bennett said. They asked Terry if he wanted to work on the book, and he then asked Bennett if she wanted to join him.
“When you’re writing the mythology, it’s huge,” Bennett said. “Paul and I had to shed every bias and really align our writing to what the show’s opinion was. Our point of view was their point of view.”
“LOST Encyclopedia” was created in collaboration with ABC and is the first and only official comprehensive guide to the show. More than 1,500 photos, including maps and artifacts from the show, are used throughout the book. For example, the blast door map and charts of the island provide insight and a closer look at fleeting moments from the show. Graphics include Sawyer’s nickname hall of fame and Desmond’s back and forth timeline.
“We researched the heck out of this,” Bennett said. “We wanted to get it right.”
The authors wrote the smallest entries first and worked their way up to the largest entries, which include main characters like Jack Shephard and John Locke, Bennett said. They started working on the book in November of 2009, before Season 6 began in January of 2010. They finished the book in August, she said.
“It was grinding, but (Terry) was the best cheerleader and partner,” she said. “We knew we had to have a higher standard and we wanted to deliver to the fandom.”
Mission accomplished. — James A. Molnar
British music journalist Paul Lester explains why the woman named Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta deserves her own biography: She’s driven the world completely gaga.
He writes in the book “Looking For Fame: The Life of a Pop Princess” (Omnibus, $17.95), about the loads of work and failure that went into making the woman also known as Lady Gaga.
The book is a perfect gift for any Gaga fanatic. It showcases her artistic motives and rise to fame, while also giving a glimpse into her dark, drug-filled past.
Lester’s easy-to-read biography is full of fun facts like how Gaga was taught at the same New York City private school that Paris and Nicky Hilton attended. The book also reveals that she came up with her stage name with a fellow producer after the Queen song “Radio Ga Ga.”
But the book’s most gripping chapter, “Dance in the Dark,” gives a detailed account of her days experimenting with various drugs. In this chapter, Lester describes what Gaga calls her “coke years,” before her friends and family intervened. Lester quotes Gaga calling it “one of the most difficult times,” but also said they were pivotal for her to experience since it allowed her to become the star she is today.
“Looking For Fame” has a British twist. According to the book, Gaga was more famous overseas when she first began her career. The main sources Lester cites are British tabloids and newspapers, as well as the BBC program “Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.”
The book explains the birth of her “disco stick” (a term made famous in her song “LoveGame”) and the meanings behind many of her off-the-wall outfits. It also gives a perfect description of the Haus of Gaga, the team of artists who help plan her performances.
Any Gaga fan would find enjoyment within the pages of this book. The chapter names being Gaga references like “The Fame,” “Boys Boys Boys” and “So Happy I Could Die,” give a treat that only the truest fans can appreciate.
One interesting fact the book points out is even though she’s only recorded one full-length album and an eight-track EP, the Lady has already changed pop music. — Matt Liasse
Book offers sex tips from Rock stars
“I walk around assuming that people I’m interested in would not be interested in me,” says Danko Jones, one of 23 rockers interviewed for the book, “Sex Tips from Rock Stars” (Omnibus, $19.95)
Like Jones, musicians interviewed were remarkably willing to share opinions (and vulnerabilities) in response to questions posed by author Paul Miles. The format, fully comprised of direct quotes, worked well, allowing the reader inside access to this personal conversation.
Stars such as Andrew W.K., Jimmy Ashhurst of Buckcherry, Lemmy of Motorhead and Bruce Kulick of Kiss join two dozen other rockers in contributing to the book.
“Sex Tips from Rock Stars” aims to give you access into the sexual world of rock stars, to serve as an entertaining “sex manual.” Miles’ explains that celebrity status attracts people who are “primed to please” (i.e. groupies) giving rockers a “sexual world that others can only dream about,” the reason he believes that detailing their sex lives will serve as “self-help” for readers.
But as a professional sex therapist, I must point out that (unless you only seek one-night stands) a partner with the sole mission of pleasing you is not likely to ensure deep sexual satisfaction.
In fact, it usually ensures the opposite.
In my sex therapy practice, when a man reports low sexual satisfaction, quite frequently his partner has been engaging sexually to please him rather desiring to connect sexually with him. But he doesn’t want favors in his relationship. He wants to be wanted.
Further, excessive focus on pleasing a partner distracts a woman from experiencing her sensation and emotion in the moment, the most common underlying reason when sex in a relationship feels like a “chore” rather than desirable.
And if sex is a chore for a woman, then no one is happy.
But then again, if many (many) raunchy details of a rocker’s life sound appealing, this book will make you happy.
And down in the detail are nuggets for better intimacy, too.
Amidst questions regarding breast enhancement and rare fetishes, rocker Chip Z’Nuff offers sound advice, “Spend quality time … that’s what we all want. You see an old couple out there and they are holding hands and hanging out together, that’s what everybody wants if you think about it.”
“Sex Tips from Rock Stars” aims to be “part rock biography … and part self-help.” Regarding rock biography, this book delivers, oozing with private details generously shared by these rockers.
But if you want effective sexual self-help, then I recommend you grab a copy of Paul Joannides’ expertly written, lively, respectful, and informative, “The Guide to Getting it On.” — Lori Hollander
Tags: All My Friends Are Dead, Aubrey Birukow, Avery Monsen, Dock David Treece, Fred LeFebvre, James A. Molnar, Jory John, Lady Gaga, Lori Hollander, Lost Encycolpedia, Michael S. Miller, Mighty Wyte, Omnibus Press, Real Intimacy, Sandra Lee, Sex Tips from Rock Stars, Star Wars, The Beatles, Twas the Night Before Christmas 21st Century Edition, Understand Rap