Don’t Panic

Neil Gaiman

In this highly entertaining biography (a young) Neil Gaiman profiles the life of Douglas Adams with a particular emphasis on the many versions of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
Features interviews with Adams himself and many of his collaborators over the years. Also includes unused snippets of TV and radio scripts, the original pitches for Hitch-Hiker’s and more.
Gently aping Adam’s style Gaiman manages to make all of this into a very enjoyable package.
I wouldn’t recommend buying it at anything more than cover price but it’s worth the read.

Rating: B+



Bob Gendron

This entry in the 33⅓ series covers The Afghan Whigs estimable 1993 release Gentlemen.
After brief but well constructed introduction to the band members it seemed to me that it became rather by-the-numbers when talking about the recording of the record. The section talking about the individual songs held nothing new and was where the author’s personal opinions began to overwhelm the factual content.
As for the part of the book dealing with the book’s reception after release and it’s lack of sales is chock full of biases about the music industry (Gendron seems to really not get why a difficult to classify album about messed up sexual relationships might not have sold in the early 90s) and is less than even handed when talking about the fallout.
It was worth borrowing from the library. I’d be rather disappointed if I’d paid money for it.

Rating: B


Fear of Music

Garry Mulholland

The follow up to This is Uncool is Mulholland’s choice of the greatest albums since Disco and Punk (the original was just singles).
This book is very similar in style to This is Uncool. It’s tone is much angrier and (to me as someone who was on message boards during the poptimism/rockism thing) it’s a more political than personal in some choices this time around.
I’ve docked it point for the off tangent ranting in some entries and for the rather bleak view takes of even the best music in the final few choices.
It’s a cheap and interesting read for any pop music nerd in your life.

Rating: B


This Is Uncool

Garry Mulholland

In this collection of reviews Mulholland picks the best singles from Punk to the Milennium.
Of course this is a highly subjective thing but writes persuadingly on the worth of Pop in general and specifically on critically derided musical genres like Disco.
I vehemently disagreed with some of his opinions (mainly about your more earnest 80’s rock acts) but learned enough to want to listen to a whole lot of music that I’d never even thought of checking out before.
It’s super cheap right now second hand but for the sake of your wrists don’t buy the hardback like I did!
If it matters I bought this because it came highly recommended by Kieron Gillen.

Rating: B+


Scrappy Little Nobody

Anna Kendrick

Kendrick’s short memoirs are entertaining but never particularly revealing (unless you’re surprised to learn that a twentysomething has taken some recreational drugs).
The best parts are about her early days as a child actor breaking into Broadway and the sacrifices her family made to get that to happen.
I would have been disappointed by this book if I had paid full price for it. At a discount it was worth it.

Rating: B-


Wishful Drinking

Carrie Fisher

Only a few days ago I nearly bought a physical copy of this book in a bargain bookstore.
Since I’ve just a had a big clear out of books I didn’t want to start adding new books to my shelves.
Imagine my delight when I saw it pop up in the Kindle Daily Deals on Amazon. Especially because I had a credit that meant I could get the book for nothing!
Wishful Drinking is a book adaptation of Fisher’s successful one-man show of the same name.
It’s a mostly hilarious, occasionally moving piece of autobiography. The best parts are when she talks about her family and her battles with mental illness but it’s never less than entertaining.
Given it’s stage show origins it’s not surprising that it’s a little on the short side but it’s still very much worth reading – especially if you can pick it up at a bargain price.

Rating: A-


Blossom: What Scotland Needs To Flourish

Lesley Riddoch

BlossomI’ve been over preoccupied with the independence referendum of late. I’ve always taken a keen interest but it’s taken an obsessive edge in the last couple of weeks.
I decided that I was getting trapped in the same old self-referencing group of commentators online (because the mainstream press is beyond hopeless and not a source that any rational adult would use in this debate) and that I needed to expose myself to a different point of view.
Riddoch uses history, personal anecdote and old-fashioned journalism to expose what she sees as the underlying problems facing Scotland.
It’s a surprisingly enjoyable read given it’s nature and I certainly found it enlightening – especially when she talks about the consequences of our feudal past.
I personally think she underplays the potential problems with some of the solutions she favours and oversells the benefits of social activity in the countryside but it is hard to resist a vision of a much less centralised Scotland with empowered local communities and with land ownership moved out of the hands of the very few.
If you think that there’s nothing much wrong with our country as it stands then I suspect that this book will only infuriate you. If, like myself, you despair at the feeling of powerlessness at the heart of contemporary politics then there’s lots of food for thought to be found here.

Rating: A-


Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

Jenny Lawson

Lets Pretend This NeverHappenedLawson’s autobiography is incredibly funny, occasionally moving and nearly always faintly disturbing.
I really don’t want to spoil anything for you. I wholeheartedly recommend this book unless you have no taste for dark humour or you’re incredibly squeamish.

Rating: A