Our booksellers share some of their favourite books of the moment…
Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever by Will Hermes
Reviewed by Matthew O’Donoghue
In the four years between 1974 and 1978 the music scene in New York contained the kernels of at least two new musical forms, a series of musicians that would dominate the sound of the eighties and beyond, and the return of at least one musical behemoth. Drawn together by low rents, which were the result of the cities failing infrastructure and escalating crime rates, these musicians set New York ablaze against the tail end of the US counter-culture. By 1978 Springsteen had released Born to Run, Patti Smith had released Horses, Grandmaster Flash had set up his block parties, Talking Heads had released Talking Heads: 77 and Blondie had released Parallel Lines.
More than just a chronological run through the music of this era this book is a virtual hymn to the power and the sacrifice, the fear and the love, the hope and the hate of New York as lived by a generation of rockers, rappers, high-lifers and low-lives. 1, 2, 3, 4!
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Reviewed by Brechtje Snellen at Waterstones Cardiff
OH MY GOD! I started reading this and could not stop until I had finished. And now I’ve finished I want to read it again and figure out what I’ve missed!
This book is best read without any knowledge about plot. Therefore, I will not comment on the plot. The plot is irrelevant. What is relevant is however, is how it made me so devastated and horrified and left me wondering. I want to read it again and look for clues. I want other people to read it so that I can discuss it.
But most of all, I just want to read this book again for the first time, and experience that moment again when I realized…
Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes
Reviewed by Patty Dohle at Waterstones Witney
Oh the joy when I heard this gem had finally been translated into English! A bestselling phenomenon in mein Fazerland since its publication in 2012, it had tickled my curiosity since I first heard about it, and delighted me when it was gifted to me by the ‘rents last Christmas. A novel about Adolf Hitler waking up in a 2011 Berlin car park, rescued by a newsagent who thinks him a hilarious and scarily convincing impersonator and promptly introduces him to some media fellers who, in turn, jump on the chance to line their pockets and boost the ratings by giving him some air time.
It’s obviously funny seeing Hitler in his 1940s mindset interact with the contemporary age, similar to seeing Socrates and Billy the Kid stumble their way through 1980s mall strip California in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but at the same time it scathingly satirises an increasingly dumbed-down, historically uninformed or indifferent multimedia generation that is too distracted by reality TV, sensationalist headlines and Facebook likes to see the danger the “born again” Fuehrer really poses.
Take from this book what you will. I, for one, both enjoyed and pondered it. Thoroughly.
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
Reviewed by Dan Lewis
I don’t want to read a business book; I’ve no interest at all in doing so. None at all. In fact, you’re marginally more likely to get me to read a football book, and I have absolutely no interest in football. And yet, here I am recommending that you read a business book. Why? Because this is something special.
Ed Catmull – one of the founding members of Pixar – someone who I don’t just admire but am actively jealous of, has written a book explaining how he has achieved what he has and how I might too? How could I not read this book?
Creativity Inc. is as charming, joyous and truly inspirational as a Pixar film. It’s packed with anecdotes, tips and techniques which leave you feeling that you too can (and should) lead a team to create something magical. If your mind makes more sense of stories than spreadsheets, this is the only business book for you. Read it. Change your life. Change the world. I’m itching to get started.
Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie by Jon Ronson
Reviewed by Leilah Skelton at Waterstones Doncaster
I once saw Frank Sidebottom leaning up against the side of a Sheffield theatre, furtively smoking during the interval at his own show, ‘headless’, and half-shielded by the night. I found that I didn’t know where to look; I didn’t want to spoil the illusion of Frank Sidebottom by seeing the man, Chris Sievey, beneath that bizarre papier-mâché façade. I’ve always thought that when the truth of an illusion is exposed, a little of the magic dies.
This short book, however, retains a lot of that magic – it being more of an insight into Frank the character than Chris the man. It is a touching little tribute, and written with much genuine affection and respect for this cult hero who remained always somewhere on the outer fringes of fame. Jon writes of his experiences with the Frank Sidebottom Oh Blimey Big Band with much wit and humour. I couldn’t help but smile throughout it.
Frank fans will love this. Those eager for a deeper insight can turn to Mick Middles’ Frank Sidebottom: Out of His Head, but this – Jon Ronson’s quiet salute to an enigmatic hero – was perfect.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Reviewed by Emma Prince at Waterstones Chichester
I found myself craving a nightlight after reading this, it is utterly absorbing and the author has succeeded in balancing suspense and horror in equal amounts. Bird Box reminded me of stormy evenings, hiding behind pillows whilst trying to watch various Japanese psychological horror films and the unravelling of the narrative had the same impact on me as Miki Nakatani’s fear inducing Ringu film franchise. The author cleverly omits any solid description of the terror that drives the victims of this narrative to perform such horrific acts, allowing the reader to conjure up their own unsettling imaginings of the creatures that stalk this novel.
In spite of minor niggles, this novel is an astonishing debut filled with easy-flowing prose, eerie discoveries and mind-tingling terror. I genuinely struggled to second guess what direction the story would take and the instances of gore, intensified by deep descriptions based on touch, sound and smell, are savage adding further to the fear factor Malerman injects into his novel.
Film rights have been sold, and a director already set for this novel, I can’t say that I intend to watch it on the silver screen as I would likely never be able to sleep again!
Berlin: City of Imagination by Rory Maclean
Reviewed by Kerry Meech
Whilst Paris may be the city of love and New York the city that never sleeps, Berlin has forever been a city of turbulence and contradictions. Indeed, for many visitors to the city (myself included) it is difficult to put into words exactly why the city holds such an allure over us and continues to draw us back time and time again. However, in Berlin: City of Imagination Rory Maclean sets out to do just that.
Each chapter focuses on the characters who have come to be forever associated with Berlin. Alongside the usual suspects (Bowie, JFK, Isherwood, Dietrich, etc), Rory also brings to life those who may be lesser known, such as the story of Lilli Neuss or the thousands of Vietnamese who fled to East Berlin before the fall of the Wall. It is in these chapters that Rory’s gift for storytelling comes into its own, where lack of historical records have called for him to use pursue other avenues; recording first-hand accounts and recollections by Berliners in order to bring cold facts to life.
By combining historical facts with techniques of the novel, Rory has managed to produce both an illuminating historical portrait of the city, as well as a worthy tribute to one of the greatest cities in the world. Indeed, from now on whenever someone asks me why I feel the need to visit Berlin every 4 months I shall point them in the direction of this book.