Thursday, 26 February 2015

Tim Castleman, "8 Hour Bestseller" (2015)

Subtitle: "How to Write Your Bestselling Book in Record Time."

I will write notes someday. For now, consider these:
1. Wouldn't completing a best-selling book in record time make you a little suspicious as an author?
2. Is this the question I'm really trying to answer, or should I be asking: "How can I write my best book in record time?" Perhaps, "how can I write the best book possible without wasting time?"

My short-term summary, however, is that the strategies laid out here could likely be conceived by most people with some critical skills and a cup of coffee. The book serves a purpose, I suppose, but reads more as proof of the author's theory that a profitable self-published and self-marketed digital book doesn't have to be particularly informative or insightful, as long as it has a concerted and well-crafted marketing campaign.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Steve Miller, "Detroit Rock City" (2013)

Subtitle: "The Uncensored History of Rock 'n' Roll in America's Loudest City".

The most interesting aspect of this book is its format. Miller has compiled a sequence of direct quotations from well-known rockers, support players, club owners, commentators, and hangers-on of the Detroit rock, punk, and garage rock scene, from the 1960s to the 2000s.

If you're a fan of the Stooges, MC5, Ted Nugent, etc., Detroit Rock City will give you some intriguing insights into how these groups evolved, how they were perceived by their peers, and how they influenced following generations of Detroit players. By the time Miller gets to testimony of figures from the early 1980s, however, the names, relationships, and value begins to overlap and mush together. This confusion may just as much reflect my own musical interests as it does the content. Perhaps if you're a fan of the Gories, the sections on the '80s and '90s will turn your crank. I suspect that the reader that will read this full book with rapt attention is rare indeed, and very likely would have to have lived in Detroit, played with the bands involved, or at least have similar experiences of playing crappy clubs, living in dives, and scarfing down shameless volumes of drugs and alcohol.

David Kirby wrote a very fair review in the Wall Street Journal (because that's where you should go to get your reviews of books about rock'n'roll, right?).

If you're interested in Detroit, you might also visit my notes on Charlie Duff's 2013 Detroit: An American Autopsy.

Monday, 9 February 2015

R. J. Smith, "The One: The Life and Music of James Brown" (2012)

In progress.

Smith's prose sparkles with enthusiasm for Brown's music, her performative abilities, and his capacity to read an audience. Suggesting that Brown based his opinions on his respect for the person making the over the merits of the argument itself, Smith offers what is perhaps too simple an explanation to reconcile Brown's apparently contradictory, often unpredictable positions on socio-political issues.

The book does give insights into some of Brown's noteworthy excesses, particularly his violence and misogyny. His mother left his life very early, and only returned to it when Brown was successful. Even once she was back in his life (in however minor a presence), he would claim that she had in fact died when he was a boy. His father was distant, and Brown came of age in a violent, unpredictable environment that rewarded bluster backed up by fists, knives, and guns. He served time in jail as a young man, an experience that couldn't help but harden him.

You can read Janet Maslin's positive review of the book in the NY Times.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Kim Zetter, "Countdown to Zero Day" (2014)

Zetter, a senior writer at Wired magazine, has done the nearly impossible: she has written an interesting, information dense, sometimes compelling case study of Stuxnet, a computer virus dubbed as the first digital weapon.

Zetter's story is told primarily from the perspective of the code analysts who discovered and 'unpacked' Stuxnet. She certainly offers the kinds of insights and jargon that I suspect those familiar with programming and code-breaking will enjoy, while couching her commentary in enough technological and political history to make it approachable for the intelligent general reader.

In progress.

You can read an excerpt here, courtesy of Wired.