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1971 - David Hepworth

Englishman David Hepworth is an expert when it comes to the subject of music and his bold theory in this fascinating read is that the year 1971 was the most creative and influential 12 months in the history of Popular Music. Arguably, it spawned 100 crucial albums from George Harrison to Marvin Gaye, Led Zeppelin to Carole King and Hepworth details the amazing procession of creativity with a multitude of inside stories and anecdotes about these musicians.

Example; the late Bill Withers’ classic album “Just As I Am” was recorded in only 9 hours – about the time it takes to soundcheck the drums in today’s studios. Possibly the most entertaining music book I have read!

HE'LL BE OK - Celia Lashlie

 So here we are in close quarters, many of us having to deal with our teenage boys like never before.

As a former prison manager, researcher and author, the late Celia Lashlie takes us into the ‘mysterious world’ of young men and reveals how we as parents (and especially fathers), can best bring out the potential of our sons whilst helping them through what can be a very difficult and even dangerous time in their lives.

Celia conducted a famous initiative called The Good Man Project, visiting 180 classes of boys around NZ and the lessons she learned were the basis of her advice on what makes a ‘good man’ in the 21st century. It is a wonderful book, written in a calm, confident, no-nonsense tone without preaching or judgement. Highly recommended.

UP IN THE OLD HOTEL - Joseph Mitchell

I’m a big fan of the Big Apple and it pains me to see her suffering so badly right now.

Joseph Mitchell was a legendary writer for the New Yorker magazine and the stories he contributed between 1943 and ’65 about his beloved New York are all here, written in a wonderful old-world style.

Saloon-keepers, cops, Italian restaurateurs, bums, oyster fishermen and construction workers who built the Empire State are the unlikely heroes of this book and he treats them as such, with curiosity, respect and precise detail. A charming book from another time.

FRANK (THE MAKING OF A LEGEND) - James Kaplan

It’s no secret that I love Frank and so I was eager to read what was touted as one of the better biographies on the man.

Frank was the best known entertainer of his time but few really knew him. Kaplan gets in behind the legend and exposes just what made Sinatra such a phenomenon and does it with such authority that you come away with a new outlook. And it’s not all rosy.

Frank changed the way people listened to popular music because he brought such a personal touch to his work. His mother’s overpowering influence on him, his turbulent upbringing, his voracious appetite for the fairer sex and his fall from grace and popularity all forged the Kid from Hoboken with the incomparable voice. Bada-bing! 

BOY SWALLOWS UNIVERSE - Trent Dalton

 This is the first book from Sydney journalist, Trent Dalton and on this offering, he has a very promising future.

It is an autobiography and it is both dark and brutal, beautiful and magical. Dalton and his little brother (who chooses to be mute) are raised by a loving mother who sadly cannot cope and the siblings are sent to live with their Dad in the wild west of working class suburban Queensland.

It’s a world filled with drug-dealers, alcoholics, thugs and little Aussie battlers. But most of all, it’s a love story and as you ride it’s whirlwind of strange and sometimes hilarious events, you can’t help but be captured by the revelation that every lost soul can be found again and bad can eventually become good. A very special book.

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW - Amor Towles

 Set in Moscow, 1922, this story revolves around the house arrest (or rather hotel arrest) of a Russian aristocrat, Count Alexander Rostov, during the tumultuous Russian Revolution.

Accustomed to the privilege and luxuries of his former life, Rostov is now forced to live in the attic of the grand Hotel Metropole and must learn to appreciate the simpler things of life whilst all the time preserving his dignity, intelligence and spirit. It becomes apparent that the Count is an exceptional human being, blessed with a remarkable eye for detail and a comprehensive knowledge of food, wine and the arts.

Then he meets 9 year-old Sofia and his life is changed forever. Towles has written a modern masterpiece here and each page is filled with wit, charm, and most of all, the enduring importance of human compassion.