The following books are recommended by guests, interns, and one of our owners:
Cameron is a local teen, longtime loyal BOTS customer and worked as our intern this year.
Guy is one of our regular customers with extensive knowledge of, and appetite for, alternative music history.
Rod co-owns Books on the Square with his wife, Merc.
"Joel Selvin’s exhaustively researched new book, Altamont asks if order can emerge from disorder. The answer is ‘no,’ particularly if disorder is wound up on speed and bad LSD and is packing a gun. This very interesting books examines the infamous rock festival that occurred at the Altamont speedway
in late 1969. The colossal arrogance of The Rolling Stones and blithe ignorance of Gram Parsons rub against The Hell’s Angels’ increasing discomfort with having to play cops for a bunch of wealthy hippies. Dozens of mysterious people make promises and claims, none of which are fulfilled. At the end, 4 people are dead."
"Elijah Wald’s Dylan Goes Electric!, on its surface, explores the events leading up to and including the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where Bob Dylan and his band played a raucous three song set of rock & roll tunes. Folk purists were scandalized by Dylan’s ‘rejection’ of tradition. The sheer volume coming off the stage stunned everybody else. Wald’s book is a fun and unsentimental read that partially deflates many of the overblown myths obscuring the event. The most interesting sections intelligently address the conundrums facing music fans in the 1960s. In the late-50s and early-60s, it was easy for some to differentiate between ‘serious’ folk music (Pete Seeger, Ewan MacColl, Odetta) and frivolous ‘pop’ music (The Kingston Trio, Frankie Avalon, rock & roll.) By 1965, many attendees of the folk festival had to be noticing that the most popular music on the radio (The Beatles, Motown, Bob Dylan) was also the most musically and sonically adventurous. Battle lines were drawn unconsciously. Dylan Goes Electric! is a cool book, and serves as a nice companion piece to David Hajdu’s Positively 4th Street."
"The first I’d ever heard of Jon Fine was in an old issue of Forced Exposure. Steve Albini, the famously opinionated recording engineer, was griping about how Fine’s band, Bitch Magnet, had credited him as a ‘producer’ on their record, despite his specifically asking them not to. If you have ever heard of Forced Exposure, Bitch Magnet or, more likely, Steve Albini, there is a solid chance you will enjoy Your Band Sucks. The autobiography situates itself in the collegerock-transitioning-to-indie-rock environs of the 1980s and early 1990s. Pockets of undergraduates (this writer included) across this great nation zealously followed bands like Naked Raygun, Big Black, Laughing Hyenas, Squirrel Bait, Volcano Suns and Sonic Youth. This was way before Nirvana hit, so these penniless musical ensembles nourished themselves on a bizarre form of earned obscurity. Jon Fine’s book examines how his band, Bitch Magnet, achieved a very specific form of success, one not easily measured by the outside world. If you were there, listening to your local college radio station and buying the latest releases from Homestead and SST, you might very well dig Your Band Sucks. Also worth mentioning, local heroes Six Finger Satellite and Peter Prescott figure prominently."
"It’s pretty cool that John Lydon’s (second) autobiography is called Anger Is An Energy. First off, the book spills a whole lot of ink on the fascinating Public Image Limited, the wildly contrarian combine Lydon assembled after The Sex Pistols expired. The title, Anger Is An Energy, comes from “Rise,” which is likely PiL’s best-known song. Secondly, John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) has virtually bottomless reserves of crankiness, which makes this book a whole lot of fun. Constitutionally incapable of letting even the most well concealed instance of hypocrisy go unnoticed, our pugnacious hero throws shots from beginning to end. It’s stunning and refreshing. Over the course of the hefty volume, Lydon retires some old anecdotes (Richard Branson asked him to join DEVO) and unearths some odd nuggets (Malcolm McLaren wanted Charles Manson to produce The Sex Pistols’ proposed second record from his cell.) Johnny expounds on his love of esoteric reggae, displays unexpected affection for Duran Duran, Alvin Stardust and Status Quo, and fires deserved bile in the direction of Jimmy Savile.This book would make a great companion piece to Viv Albertine’s fantastic Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys!"
"NPR host Diane Rehm’s memoir On My Own bravely deals with the difficulties she faced once her husband of fifty four years died in 2013. Rehm resists white washing their often challenging marriage while surveying what connected them--their children and times cooking, gardening and walking. Their wrenching decision to place John in an assisted living facility once his Parkinson’s disease made home care too challenging and then their shared frustration that John could not choose his manner and timing of his death have ironically given Rehm a new focus once she retires. Once John is gone, Rehm must make sense of her old life and construct a new one. She does this by talking with dear friends who share how they negotiate widowhood and by remaining committed to the familiar and comforting routine of work. Her writing is most intimate and inspiring when she reveals her own guilt, loneliness and sadness. The reader joins Rehm as she grieves but also witnesses Rehm’s imagining a new and different existence."
--Reviewed by Lisa Peck
"The title of this book is chosen to convey the wonder that lies in our brains. Dr. Ropper, a distinguished neurologist who deals with some of the most difficult neurological cases in the Boston area, focuses on what the patient’s brain can tell us about what ails it. While he continues to prescribe the usual physical tests, he adds extensive conversations with the patient as a key element in diagnosing the underlying causes and in prescribing effective treatment. I found his approach to be compelling and his candor to be exceptional — even including cases where errors contributed to unsuccessful outcomes. I believe that readers of this book will be excited by the insights that it provides into personal, teamwork approaches for treating persons with brain diseases."
--Reviewed by Rod
"Nimona began as a weekly comic online. Slowly, what began as a humorous look into the lives of a villain and his shapeshifter henchwoman transformed into a full length graphic novel packed with action, tragedy, and occasional jokes about sharks. The book takes place in a medieval-sci-fi setting where a supervillain named Lord Blackheart battles the seemingly heroic Institution and its champion, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin (no typo, no lie). When a shapeshifter named Nimona shows up in Blackheart’s lair asking to be his sidekick, her abilities will put the conflict on a more destructive course… I normally read graphic novels very quickly, and Nimona is no exception. However, the book fits a lot into it’s short length. The jokes are riotous, and even when the plot takes a more serious turn, the writing’s quality never suffers. Even from the very beginning of the book, it is clear that Blackheart is not a very villainous villain, and the reversal of good guy and bad guy makes for interesting reading."
--Reviewed by Nazareth
"There are 2 types of people in this world. The Reds, the color of their blood, are fighters and workers living in poverty. The Silvers, who have silver blood, possess powers that let them be the rulers of the reds. But what happens when Mare, a born Red, possesses a power that enlightens all the Silvers. Mare must learn to know her true self and her true love. With 2 princes vying after her she must learn to follow her heart without getting herself killed. Will she show the world who she really is or will she conform to the future laid out for her by possessive Silvers? Filled with romance, plot-twists, and secrets, this book will keep your hair on end through every page. This is what happens when you defy all stereotypes and bleed your own blood. Best for ages 13 and up."
Cameron, Book Seller
Books on the Square—Providence, RI
"Kim Gordon was the bass player and, later, guitarist in Sonic Youth. In addition to being a celebrated musician, she is a writer, fashion designer, filmmaker and actress, among other things. Girl In A Band allows Ms. Gordon to detail how art and creativity have influenced her perspective on the world. The readable and smart book has a quiet European vibe -- Girl In A Band is described as a memoir, rather than her autobiography – and seems to emulate the French New Wave films so admired by Ms. Gordon; there is no linear quality to the book. Chapters about her childhood in Los Angeles abut passages describing fetid Manhattan of the 1980s. The powerfully observant Gordon avoids clichéd rock star anecdotes and concentrates on how profound the role of art – both hers and others’ -- has been. She has a remarkable eye for architecture and a sophisticated understanding of fine art, particularly painting. Recommended for people who don’t like to take things for granted."
"A prequel to the popular A City of Thousand Dolls, this is a wonderful book is filled with lots of plot twists, thrills and of course romance. The main character Mara is a trained protector and you follow the journey of how she looks for her lifetime charge, the person she protects no matter what, even if it costs her life. She meets a boy as well as a princess who both help Mara realize her true-self and her purpose. Fall in love with this breathtaking novel and believe in the power of friendship and love. Recommended for fans of magic, suspense, and romance. Best for ages 13-17."
--Reviewed by Cameron