My reading has slowed down quite a bit because I’ve been reading so much non-fiction lately. I’m going to try to jump back into fiction so I can speed through some books. I also loaned my Nook to a friend at work so she could read a book on it, so that halted my reading of The Rules.
My Coursera Introduction to Improvising class is kicking my butt and taking so. much. time. At least I’m almost done with week 3 of 5. I’m determined to make it through, but wow do I suck at this. It’s discouraging. I just spend 30 minutes trying to record this week’s assignment, but they all stunk too much, so I decided I’ll try again tomorrow and for now I’ll just eat ice cream.
I also went to a couple of cool public library events this week. I went to a beer tasting event that was promoting a book by a local author about New England beers, and then I went to the public library book sale on Saturday morning. I guess I wasn’t in a book buying mood, because I only walked away with 6 new books.
Finally, I know I keep talking about Birchbox, but I got an extra box for free this week! I received a box with Salma Hayek’s new Nuance line, and I’m stoked about it.
Published by Harper
Released February 26, 2013
Where I got it: ARC received from publisher Rating:
Description (from Goodreads):
Over the past six decades, Burt Bacharach’s legendary songwriting has touched millions of devoted listeners all over the world. In Anyone Who Had a Heart, Bacharach steps out from behind the music to give an honest, engaging look at his life–from his work with Hal David, Dionne Warwick, Elvis Costello, and many others to his tumultuous marriages and the devastating fate of his beloved daughter.
Anyone Who Had a Heart is the story of a man who has always expressed his deepest feelings through his music. Filled with the emotional power that defines Burt Bacharach’s most unforgettable songs, his memoir offers a candid backstage look at show business as well as the personal struggles of an artist whose incredible body of work has earned him a unique position in the American cultural landscape.
Even if you don’t immediately know who Burt Bacharach is, you most likely know his music. Who can forget the timeless rendition of the song What’s New, Pussycat? by Carlton Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air? Or the scene in There’s Something About Mary when Close to You is being played, right before Ben Stiller zips up his “frank and beans” in the bathroom. Bacharach is part of our cultural vocabulary, and he had an incredible 70+ top 40 hits to prove it.
I don’t often read memoirs, although I’d like to read more. This one seemed interesting to me because I had an idea of what Bacharach must be like, after listening to his music for so long. I was totally wrong. Bacharach’s voice comes through loud and clear, and I didn’t always like what I heard. Memoirs are largely dependent on the person they’re representing, and early on I didn’t think I’d like this book. The reason was Bacharach’s callous talk about women in general, as well as the women that were in his life. He came across as a womanizer and a cad. I hated whenever he called a woman a “dog” to indicate that he thought she was ugly, or how he casually talked about cheating on his wives and girlfriends.
At a point, though, the book transitioned to be less about his romantic escapades and more about his music, which is where I got sucked in. It details how he was the pianist, arranger, and conductor for Marlene Dietrich, and traveled the globe touring with her.
I loved reading about how he met and began working with Dionne Warwick, who became famous singing the songs written by Bacharach and his songwriting partner Hal David. She had the perfect voice for these songs, and really made them iconic. Too bad Bacharach, Warwick, and David all fell out of favor with each other and embarked in a circle of lawsuits. They made up later, but missed out on a lot of potential years of more hits.
Even better were the songs that I didn’t realize Bacharach wrote. For example, Baby It’s You, which was recorded by The Beatles. I also didn’t connect him with That’s What Friends Are For or Neil Diamond’s Heartlight, both songs that were the foundation of the soundtrack of my earliest years (I was born in the early ’80s).
It was great reading about the instrumentation Bacharach would use in the studio, like five (count ‘em, FIVE) pianos playing on the recording of Tom Jones doing What’s New Pussycat?, or the amount of takes he would make the musicians do to get the perfect take. He’d have them do it over and over again, but when Herb Alpert recorded This Guy’s In Love, Alpert insisted that they didn’t need anymore takes because the first take was perfect, and it turns out it was. He also talks a lot about how musicians were irritated by his use of complex meters and time signatures in his music, but he wrote the song that wanted to be written without forcing it into 4/4 time. This comes across when you listen, because with the exception of songs like Promises, Promises, the melody flows so gently that the transitions in time signatures is hard to detect by most ears, which is a real testament to Bacharach’s songwriting.
I also had fun reading about the writing of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, because it was my favorite song in the whole world when I was a kid. Really.
While I wasn’t in love with Bacharach (he loves himself enough already), I am still in love with his music. I enjoyed getting insight into this aspect of music history, and am glad Bacharach’s still with us. He talks about future projects, and you have to admire a guy who is still working so hard in his mid-80s. This is worth the read if you love the songs. Buy it on Amazon Add it on Goodreads
The idea of the “hop” is that a whole bunch of blogs plan different giveaways, then link up to make it easier for visitors to find and enter them. This hop runs from Thursday, May 16, 2013 to Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The winner will be announced on the Rafflecopter form on Thursday, May 23, 2013.
The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks on over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.
And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot-searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.
What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion-along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.
Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams
Published by Random House
Released February 26, 2013
Where I got it: ARC received from publisher at ALA Midwinter 2013 Rating:
Description (from Goodreads):
In the spring of 1999 the heads of the world’s largest processed food companies—from Coca-Cola to Nabisco—gathered at Pillsbury headquarters in Minneapolis for a secret meeting. On the agenda: the emerging epidemic of obesity, and what to do about it.
Increasingly, the salt-, sugar-, and fat-laden foods these companies produced were being linked to obesity, and a concerned Kraft executive took the stage to issue a warning: There would be a day of reckoning unless changes were made. This executive then launched into a damning PowerPoint presentation—114 slides in all—making the case that processed food companies could not afford to sit by, idle, as children grew sick and class-action lawyers lurked. To deny the problem, he said, is to court disaster.
When he was done, the most powerful person in the room—the CEO of General Mills—stood up to speak, clearly annoyed. And by the time he sat down, the meeting was over.
Since that day, with the industry in pursuit of its win-at-all-costs strategy, the situation has only grown more dire. Every year, the average American eats thirty-three pounds of cheese (triple what we ate in 1970) and seventy pounds of sugar (about twenty-two teaspoons a day). We ingest 8,500 milligrams of salt a day, double the recommended amount, and almost none of that comes from the shakers on our table. It comes from processed food. It’s no wonder, then, that one in three adults, and one in five kids, is clinically obese. It’s no wonder that twenty-six million Americans have diabetes, the processed food industry in the U.S. accounts for $1 trillion a year in sales, and the total economic cost of this health crisis is approaching $300 billion a year.
In Salt Sugar Fat, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter Michael Moss shows how we got here. Featuring examples from some of the most recognizable (and profitable) companies and brands of the last half century—including Kraft, Coca-Cola, Lunchables, Kellogg, Nestlé, Oreos, Cargill, Capri Sun, and many more—Moss’s explosive, empowering narrative is grounded in meticulous, often eye-opening research.
Moss takes us inside the labs where food scientists use cutting-edge technology to calculate the “bliss point” of sugary beverages or enhance the “mouthfeel” of fat by manipulating its chemical structure. He unearths marketing campaigns designed—in a technique adapted from tobacco companies—to redirect concerns about the health risks of their products: Dial back on one ingredient, pump up the other two, and tout the new line as “fat-free” or “low-salt.” He talks to concerned executives who confess that they could never produce truly healthy alternatives to their products even if serious regulation became a reality. Simply put: The industry itself would cease to exist without salt, sugar, and fat. Just as millions of “heavy users”—as the companies refer to their most ardent customers—are addicted to this seductive trio, so too are the companies that peddle them. You will never look at a nutrition label the same way again.
When I first saw this book at ALA Midwinter, I knew it was going to be a must-read for me. I’m fascinated by insider stories about corporate greed, and I’ve been trying to lose weight after noticing extra pudginess in the last year. I’m also a sucker for well-written non-fiction. Salt, Sugar, Fat sounded like a book written just for me at this stage in my life.
I found Moss’s writing to be engrossing and readable, just what you want in non-fiction. Although we know he has a particular point of view, he’s able to see things from the food manufacturer’s points of view from time to time, like when they show him how awful the food would taste if they took out most of the salt. At the same time, Moss hammers home the point that most of the executives in these companies don’t eat the food they produce, just like many executives in the cigarette companies don’t smoke (Philip Morris also owns Kraft).
It’s eye opening to see how much marketing and lab work goes into making foods as pleasurable and addictive as possible. Moss shows at one point that a mother he sees buying her kids breakfast bars would be better off buying them Oreos, which are actually better nutritionally. Parents are deceived into buying certain foods for their families, thinking they are doing the right thing, without knowing how bad those foods actually are.
If you have any concern about what you’re eating, I recommend this book. You might not change how you eat after reading it, but you’ll at least have the information to make your own decisions. My mind was blown multiple times, like when I learned about the massive amounts of milk fat the American government is shelling out money to store, all because the dairy industry doesn’t want to decrease output in response to a shrinking demand. If you find that interesting, this book is for you.
I didn’t do a ton of reading this week, but I was able to read the final Sookie Stackhouse book. I’m sad to see the series end, but I could see myself reading them all over again. And she ended up with the guy I was rooting for all along
I’ve been working on a Coursera class I’m taking, which is Introduction to Improvisation. It’s kicking my butt because I’m a total beginner at jazz improv, but I’m hoping eventually it will get me to the point where I actually feel confident enough to take a solo in my swing band.
I also received my monthly Birchbox in the mail! I’m liking the stuff in the box, except for the eyeliner since I don’t wear eyeliner. I just never got the hang of it and don’t like how it looks on me. Otherwise, though, nice box this month. And the pen writes in pink
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