Features First Person

You Sing I Write’s Summer Reading Playlist

Photo Credit: Wendy Hu

I think most of us agree that summer is the best time of year. Outdoor music festivals, beach time and vacations, who wouldn’t love it? I’ve been reading some great music memoirs and on the road novels that I think every music enthusiast would enjoy. Read below for my complete list. If I left any books out that you think I should pick up, definitely let me know in the comments!

Between a Heart and a Rock Place

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Pat Benatar’s new memoir, “Between a Heart and a Rock Place.” A compelling read, Benatar is completely honest about what it was like dealing with record label, Chrysalis, the obstacles she faced as a female and how she overcame each to become the well-respected artist she is today.

My favorite quote: “Rock and roll is really about following your passion with no apologies. Following that sound in your head that only you can hear.”

For my complete review, click here.

But Enough About Me…A Jersey Girl’s Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous

This is my absolute favorite book in the world. Written by fellow Jersey girl and former Rolling Stone writer, Jancee Dunn, her memoir takes you behind the scenes of working at one of the most respected music magazines and what it’s like to interview A-list musicians and celebrities. Each chapter begins with tips Dunn has learned along the way, whether it’s what questions to ask to warm up the interview subject or one of my favorite titles, “How to Approach an R&B; Artist When You’re the Whitest Person in the Western World.”

My favorite quote: “The second I stepped through the doors of Rolling Stone as a real employee, I wanted to shake off my old personality like the rigid husk of a cicada. But how could I cultivate a new, hip persona when I lived with my parents in a New Jersey suburb and wore black leggings as pants?”

Cassette From My Ex

Last year, I covered the New York launch party of “Cassette From My Ex.” A collection of 60 essays about relationships and mixtapes from musicians, magazine editors, VJs and more, the book is packed with comical and poignant tales of first love, friendship and heartbreak. The stories are relatable and at many times, bittersweet.

My favorite quote: “We made each other tapes because we believed that music articulated what we could not otherwise express.”

Read a more in-depth review here.

Falling Is Like This

A few weeks ago, I attended a book reading by Kate Rockland. For those of you who have always wondered what it’s like to date a rock star, Rockland fills us in through her main character, Harper Rostov, who falls for Nick Cavallaro, a punk rocker from New Jersey. The novel, set in the East Village and New Jersey, is a colorful and humorous account of Harper and her whirlwind affair with the rock star every girl dreams about. [Cough: John Mayer?]

My favorite quote: “Being punk isn’t about wearing a black armband with a skull on it or listening to certain bands. It’s about being revolutionary inside your soul. Being different from everyone else and not giving a shit.”

Read my take on the night of her book reading here.

Off the Bus and On the Record

If you were curious as to what exactly happens during an interview, this is the book for you. Complete with 22 candid interviews by teen journalists, the encounters remind me of how I got my start. Not exactly the interviews you’d read in Rolling Stone, the rock stars open up completely to the teens. You also see firsthand how awkward some interviews can be when the reporter accidentally says the wrong title of the album or how to deal with bands who ramble and don’t answer the question asked of them.

My favorite quote: Pete Wentz talking to the interviewer, Zac: “You got, like, a VJ-esque quality. You could be a VJ. Honestly, I’m putting it in that if I ever have to write a recommendation for you or anything, call me  up for a reference.”

Zac:  “Ok, I’ll put, ‘Pete, Fall Out Boy, recommends me for a VJ position.'”

Pete: “By then I’ll probably be a garbage man and you can’t even put Fall Out Boy. They call me up and I’ll be like, “I remember when I was in a band! It was awesome!”

What books are you reading this summer? If I left any out that you’ve enjoyed, let me know!

Features News

Book Review: “Cassette from My Ex”

Do you remember your first mixtape? Whether you made or received mixtapes in the past, Cassette from My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves will surely strike up some nostalgia. Edited by Jason Bitner, Cassette from My Ex contains a collection of 60 essays about relationships and mixtapes from musicians, magazine editors, VJs and more. Packed with comical and poignant tales of first love, friendship and heartbreak, the stories are relatable and at many times, bittersweet.

At the New York launch party, Bitner informed the audience of the origins of the project. After finding an old suitcase filled with 60-70 cassettes in his basement, one tape stood out. It was a mixtape he was given junior year of high school by his first girlfriend. Instantly transported back to January of 1991, Bitner realized if he held onto the tape for so many years, he surely couldn’t be alone. Thus began Cassette from My Ex.

Joe Levy (editor of Maxim), Claudia Gonson (pianist/drummer of The Magnetic Fields) and Michael Hearst (musician and writer) provided insight into their mixtape days. The panel debated the mixtape process with Bitner, who hosted the evening. Whether it was spending countless hours tracking the tape to perfection or delicately designing the artwork to accompany the tape, all agreed that nothing was more satisfying than sitting on the floor with their record collection and crafting the perfect mixtape. Move over iTunes playlists; let’s bring back the mixtape.

From the hilarious hand-me-down tale of a woman who discovers two of her boyfriends dated the same woman, Melissa, who made them both the same mix (a huge don’t in the mixtape world) to the heartbreak of learning of an ex’s suicide, each story is written from the heart and begs the reader to turn the page and discover the story behind the next mixtape.

“We made each other tapes because we believed that music articulated what we could not otherwise express,” Ben Greenman wrote in his essay, “Sorrowful, Standing.” Vincent Chung seemingly agreed in his write-up, “Snowball’s Chance in Hell.” “To me, receiving mixtapes isn’t about discovering new music expertly mixed with sweet transitions. They simply have to encapsulate the author’s personality, and the cassettes were always ideal in their imperfections.”

Cassette from My Ex will surely find you laughing and when finished, in search of your old mixtape, or possibly inspire you to make one for someone else. Either way, Jenny Reader said it best. “Times change, people change, but the tunes that become entwined in the fabric of your life? That’s as gritty and real, and as unchangeable, as it gets.”