A charming and informative must-read for music lovers, with a personal touch for fans of ’60s folk and roots music.

RAISED BY MUSICAL MAVERICKS

RECALLING LIFE LESSONS FROM PETE SEEGER, LIGHTNIN’ HOPKINS, DOC WATSON, REV. GARY DAVIS AND OTHERS

Professional musician Greenhill recounts his musical history with his idols in this debut memoir.

Anyone who knows folk and blues music from the late 1950s onward will likely be jealous of Greenhill’s experiences. His father, Manny, was a concert promoter, and a who’s who of luminaries would stay at the family house when they came to town. The young author was already in love with music after his mother, Leona, took him to see Paul Robeson perform a children’s concert. Family friend Pete Seeger helped solidify that love and got him started playing guitar. From then on, he soaked up knowledge at every turn, learning from legends. For instance, Odetta taught him how to slide up the neck for a ringing E7 chord, and the Rev. Gary Davis instructed him on how to wrap his thumb around the neck for a thicker C7 chord (which he helpfully illustrates with a photo of the finger position for aspiring guitarists—one of many attractive photos that accompany the narrative). The family moved from Brooklyn to Boston, and Greenhill fell into the Cambridge folk scene frequented by Taj Mahal, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. He became a professional musician and toured the country, living in New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles. Over the course of this book, Greenhill employs a wonderful, elliptical approach to storytelling, following experiences with particular performers over the course of a chapter and not following a strictly chronological course. The stories are very personal and engaging. For instance, Greenhill writes about how Lightnin’ Hopkins rudely spat out the eggs that Greenhill’s mother cooked for him (he found them too runny); the 16-year-old author saw this act as “transgressive” and “wild,” and it coincided with the teen’s taking his driver’s test, which he saw as another form of freedom. There are some technical explanations that guitarists will appreciate more than laypeople, but they never detract from the overall story.

A charming and informative must-read for music lovers, with a personal touch for fans of ’60s folk and roots music.

Pub Date: April 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-578-64445-5

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Hillgreen

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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