The Song Machine

song machine

Title: The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Machine

Author: John Seabrook

Summary: Have you ever wondered why the music on the radio all sort of sounds the same? This book will tell you why…and basically, you can blame Sweden. Author Seabrook investigates the way most pop music is made today: by armies of technicians individually responsible for each element of the tune, from melody to lyrics to the all-important hooks that grab and keep the listener’s attention. The science of modern song craft is explored in-depth, with details about the rise of Scandinavian hit-makers like Max Martin (who has produced more number 1 hits than anyone besides George Martin, who worked with the Beatles), the type of artists who thrive under the guidance of super-producers, the fate of the session musicians who have been replaced by computer beats, and what the digital future of music means for record labels, artists and the listening public.

This book will resonate with anyone who loves music, especially those who love (or love to hate) today’s top hits and hit-makers including Katy Perry, Rihanna, Taylor Swift and the Weeknd. It’s a great choice for anyone looking for something a little different to read this winter season.

Who will like this book?: Mature readers who are interested in the mechanics of music production. Non-fiction fans who like reading about contemporary topics.

If you like this, try this: How Music Works by David Byrne. Decoded by Jay-Z. For younger readers: Learn to Speak Music by John Crossingham. For a perspective on this trend from a different era: Rhythm Ride: A Roadtrip through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

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A Wicked History

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Title: A Wicked History biography series

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Summary: Sometimes it’s good to be bad. This short biography series highlights the lives and deeds of some of the cruelest, most driven, terror-inspiring leaders of world history. Fast-paced and fact-filled, these books are perfect for those days when you are in the mood for a quick non-fiction read.

Learn about familiar baddies like Stalin, Robespierre and Attila the Hun, less famous tyrants like Cixi, Empress of China and Tomas de Torquemada, leader of the Spanish Inquisition, and even maybe-not-so-wicked-after-all rulers like Catherine the Great of Russia and Genghis Khan. These books are a great introduction to different periods in history without being overlong…or boring.

Who will like these books: Readers interested in learning about history and famous people. Anyone looking for a short biography for school or for fun. Wicked people looking to find inspiration for their future evil deeds…(kidding!)

If you like these, try these: For a more inspiring bunch of short biographies, take a look at Character is Destiny by John McCain. Off With Their Heads: All the Cool Bits in British History by Martin Oliver. A Cartoon History of the World by Larry Gonick.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Character is Destiny

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Title: Character is Destiny: Inspirational Stories Every  Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember

Author: John McCain with Mark Salter

Summary: Yes, it’s that John McCain. Before the senator from Arizona ran for president in 2008, he co-wrote this book of short biographies highlighting the lives of remarkable people who, through their lives or actions, changed the lives of hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people. Each entry in the book pairs up a heroic figure with a particular virtue – George Washington is the representative of self-control, Pat Tillman is the model for citizenship, Mark Twain is cited for humor – and describes how each person exemplifies that trait.

The authors go out of their way to select people who you might not have heard of, or may not get the chance to learn about in history classes. You will be as moved and inspired learning about Wilma Rudolph, Viktor Frankl, Edith Cavell and Aung San Suu Kyi as you will in reading about more familiar names such as Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Theodore Roosevelt. A wonderful and thought-provoking book – no matter what your political persuasion is.

Who will like this book: Readers who like to be inspired by true stories. People who like biographies, but don’t feel like slogging through an entire full-length book.

If you like this, try this: More short, true, and often inspirational stories: I Thought My Father Was God, edited by Paul Auster. Listening is an Act of Love, edited by David Isay. The PostSecret series. 

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian