I’ve been listening to Tom Moon’s reviews on NPR for years, and his open ears have led to a new spin on the suddenly ubiquitous 1,000 (fill in the blank) books. 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die: A Listener’s Life List (Workman, $19.95) is perfect for music beginners who are taking first steps into new genres, for hardened, cynical music nerds who want to argue with every choice, and for veterans wishing to try new vistas. Going alphabetically, ignoring genre borders, Moon finds classics and hidden gems near and far: the page-turning juxtapositions alone—Brahms/Braxton; Memphis Minnie/Menuhin; Shangri-Las/Shankar—give you an idea of how wide a net he has cast.
John Adams started his musical career early in idyllic New Hampshire: he was playing clarinet in bands and orchestras, composing, and conducting as a teenager. Over the last twenty-five years, he’s written some of the iconic works of modern music: Shaker Loops, Harmonielehre, the operas Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, Doctor Atomic, and the oratorio El Niño. In his memoir, Hallelujah Junction (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26), Adams describes his early life and influences, finding his “voice” on the West Coast, and details his works and collaborations. The writing is as felicitous and inventive as his compositions. (Nonesuch Records has released a companion 2-CD compilation of his works, also titled Hallelujah Junction.)
(This book cannot be returned.)
Country Music: The Masters (Sourcebooks, $49.99) is a love song by Marty Stuart, the great country singer, to the extraordinary figures that make, and have made, country music America’s music. From the moving final portrait of Johnny Cash to photographs of Little Jimmie Dickens and Merle Haggard, you have an invaluable document. There are pictures of Elvis Presley’s guitar and of Minnie Pearl’s hat; you can see the handwritten lyrics of Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Everywhere you look there is something that adds to your knowledge of the history of country music and its contributors. Also included are a CD containing 21 songs and a DVD of a music video of Stuart’s “Dark Bird.”