Chasing Chopin, by Annik LaFarge

Staff Pick


I fell in love with this elegantly-written book from the moment I began reading an advance copy several months ago. Whether or not you are a classical music expert, it is worth joining LaFarge on a wonderful journey that begins with her personal experiences as an amateur pianist and goes on to illuminate Chopin as a man and composer, explain the technological evolution of the piano, and offer a modern-day appreciation of Chopin’s music in shaping history and culture over the past few centuries. A review in The New York Times calls Chasing Chopin a “charming and loving new book.” Making the reading experience even richer is that Lafarge has assembled a wonderful companion website, with links to relevant pieces of music that can be listened to chapter by chapter.  

Chasing Chopin: A Musical Journey Across Three Centuries, Four Countries, and a Half-Dozen Revolutions By Annik LaFarge Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501188718
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Simon & Schuster - August 11th, 2020

The Indispensable Composers by Anthony Tommasini

Staff Pick

“What’s the big deal about Mozart? About Verdi?” That’s what Anthony Tommasini sets out to answer about his list of The Indispensable Composers (Penguin Press, $30). Tommasini, the chief classical critic of The New York Times, expands on the essays he wrote for his 2011 Top Ten Composers series. Those articles elicited 1,500 impassioned reader responses, both for and against Tommasini’s choices as well as for the project itself (conductor Leon Botstein: “dangerous and despicable”: composer Nico Muhly: “a horror”). But Indispensable is a worthy updating of the “introductory” music books of the past; it is neither pedantic nor rigid in its approach. Tommasini engagingly mixes short biography, insightful analysis of key works, and anecdotes from his years as a piano student and teacher, critic, and concert-goer. Starting with Monteverdi, Bach, and Handel, and ending with Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Bartók, Tommasini takes us through the lives of seventeen composers, and the reasons their works still move us—whether in recordings from generations ago, or in fresh interpretations by today’s young soloists and ensembles.

The Indispensable Composers: A Personal Guide By Anthony Tommasini Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594205934
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Penguin Press - November 6th, 2018

Beastie Boys Book by Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond

Staff Pick

The best part of Beastie Boys Book (Spiegel & Grau, $50) is that it's basically a giant Beastie Boys song: wild, unpredictable, and unimpeachably cool—a big, party to which we've all been invited. Just as the Beasties themselves perfected the art of sampling, so too does their book, mixing the Beasties's rise to fame with contributions from the likes of Amy Poehler and Colson Whitehead. There's even a cookbook! Founding members Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz and Michael "Mike D" Diamond gift us with a hilarious recounting of their journey, giving us a tour of hardcore punk and hip-hop scenes of '80s New York City and their initial superstardom with License to Ill, and their subsequent reinvention with their later albums. We get appearances from the likes of Run-DMC and Public Enemy—plus a wonderfully insane story featuring Bob Dylan. At its core, however, Beastie Boys Book is a tribute to the late, great Adam "MCA" Yauch, who endowed the Beasties with both their craziness and their consciousness. As you turn the final page, you'll have a smile on your face and a lump in your throat, and will immediately want to go on the whole ride again.

Beastie Boys Book By Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812995541
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House - October 30th, 2018