Book Reviews

Here you’ll find reviews of books about music that I’ve read, and think are worth your time. Like the ‘Recommended Reading’ portion of the webpage, it will not deal strictly with Disney music, but address books about music in general.

Anatomy of 55 More Songs: The Oral History of Top Hits That Changed Rock, Pop and Soul by Marc Myers

Link to Good Reads Review

Anatomy of 55 More Songs by Marc Myers is a fun read that provides a behind-the-scenes look at the stories behind some of pop music’s biggest hits. Each song is briefly introduced by Myers, who provides some historical context for the artist and the period of the career when the hit was written. From there, the story is turned over to the musicians, producers, and writers who brought the songs to life. 

The book’s biggest strength also happens to be its weakness. Not every songwriter/musician is a storyteller. Some of the stories are deeply engaging and anecdotal, while others seem to stick to a fairly dry recounting of the facts. As a musician, it was fascinating to hear some of the technical details about how the songs came together (with information on production techniques, musical progressions, key changes, and more). Still, some of this may be of moderate to low interest to the average reader.

It’s definitely worth a read for anyone interested in popular music in the second half of the 20th century, covering a wide variety of genres, with some of the world’s biggest superstars and some artists who are lesser known to the general public.

Declassified: A Low-Key Guide to the High-Strung World of Classical Music
by Arianna Warsaw-Fan Rauch

Link to Good Reads Review

Part guide and part memoir, author Ariana Warsaw-Fan Rauch sets out to demystify classical music for wary listeners by explaining some of its nuances, while also providing an insider’s look at what it is like to be a classical musician. With a light and slightly wry tone, she alternates between telling the story of her own personal journey as a musician and providing a sort of beginners guide to the somewhat foreboding world of classical music (which, as she explains, is not really a genre at all, but a sort of catch-all term that covers centuries of music written in a wide variety of styles). 

Rauch has a clear love for the subject matter that comes across on every page, and her sense of humor keeps the book from ever becoming dull. There were numerous times during the reading of the book that I found myself laughing out loud or grabbing my wife and making her listen to passages. 

Her portions discussing the various periods of classical music, as well as the recommended listening section, and the “How to Listen” segments are enlightening and are expressed in a way that is easy to understand, and her passion is infectious. If any critique could be aimed at the book, it’s that its subtitle and description may lead a reader to be surprised at the number of autobiographical asides contained within. These portions do less to help a reader understand classical music than they do to give an idea of what it’s like to be a classical music performer. However, they’re written so engagingly that it’s hardly a critique at all. 

Four out of Five Stars – Highly Recommended