Reader’s Notebook, 1/11/18

Two books down already for 2018.


Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World – Rob Sheffield
Oh no, another book about the Beatles?!?! That was my first thought when I saw that music critic Sheffield was releasing his take on the Beatles last year. My initial plan was to skip it even though I was a fan of his earlier books. But seeing this land on several Best Of lists made me reconsider.

Not a bad decision.

While Sheffield doesn’t dredge up any new details about the Fab 5 we didn’t know before, he does place them into a different context. Specifically, he views them through the eyes of Gen X, especially those on the back half of our generation who came of age well after the Beatles initial domination of pop culture had passed. Sheffield argues that the Beatles were in fact at their most culturally significant and influential in the 1990s, when new music was being created free of their direct shadow for the first time ever. Brit Pop, most notably, was a direct evolution from and new interpretation of everything the Beatles had done 30 years earlier. Also in the 90s came the Anthology and 1 releases, which both sold in massive numbers. Combined, that meant the Beatles were, arguably, the most significant music act of the 90s.

That may be a stretch, but I enjoyed reading Sheffield as he got there. Born in 1966, he grew up on the Beatles and is fanatic about their history. As he goes through the life of the band he ties individual songs and albums to both the band’s broader history and to cultural touchstones of Gen X.

This is not the book to read if you want to know every detail of the recording of each album or a deep dive into the band’s final days. But it is a fine book to read if you love the band, already have some knowledge of their history, and want to tie their story to our generation’s.


Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living – Nick Offerman
Good, clean fun here. This serves mostly as a memoir for the actor/comedian/woodworker/whisky drinker most famous for playing Ron Swanson on Parks & Recreation. It is hilarious and worthy of your time and effort.