Staff Pick

“What’s the big deal about Mozart? About Verdi?” That’s what Anthony Tommasini sets out to answer about his list of The Indispensable Composers (Penguin Press, $30). Tommasini, the chief classical critic of The New York Times, expands on the essays he wrote for his 2011 Top Ten Composers series. Those articles elicited 1,500 impassioned reader responses, both for and against Tommasini’s choices as well as for the project itself (conductor Leon Botstein: “dangerous and despicable”: composer Nico Muhly: “a horror”). But Indispensable is a worthy updating of the “introductory” music books of the past; it is neither pedantic nor rigid in its approach. Tommasini engagingly mixes short biography, insightful analysis of key works, and anecdotes from his years as a piano student and teacher, critic, and concert-goer. Starting with Monteverdi, Bach, and Handel, and ending with Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Bartók, Tommasini takes us through the lives of seventeen composers, and the reasons their works still move us—whether in recordings from generations ago, or in fresh interpretations by today’s young soloists and ensembles.

The Indispensable Composers: A Personal Guide Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594205934
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Penguin Press - November 6th, 2018

Staff Pick

The best part of Beastie Boys Book (Spiegel & Grau, $50) is that it's basically a giant Beastie Boys song: wild, unpredictable, and unimpeachably cool—a big, party to which we've all been invited. Just as the Beasties themselves perfected the art of sampling, so too does their book, mixing the Beasties's rise to fame with contributions from the likes of Amy Poehler and Colson Whitehead. There's even a cookbook! Founding members Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz and Michael "Mike D" Diamond gift us with a hilarious recounting of their journey, giving us a tour of hardcore punk and hip-hop scenes of '80s New York City and their initial superstardom with License to Ill, and their subsequent reinvention with their later albums. We get appearances from the likes of Run-DMC and Public Enemy—plus a wonderfully insane story featuring Bob Dylan. At its core, however, Beastie Boys Book is a tribute to the late, great Adam "MCA" Yauch, who endowed the Beasties with both their craziness and their consciousness. As you turn the final page, you'll have a smile on your face and a lump in your throat, and will immediately want to go on the whole ride again.

Beastie Boys Book Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812995541
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Spiegel & Grau - October 30th, 2018

Staff Pick

Originally a featured column on the music website Mass Appeal, this collection of photos, outtakes from over one hundred photo shoots, interviews, and essays, is a stunning visual and textual anthology of the history of hip-hop. Contact High (Clarkson Potter, $40) covers the music’s early years up through today’s alternative hip-hop artists, featuring Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, N.W.A, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, and many more, all superbly edited by Vikki Tobak, a journalist, former producer, and founding curator of FotoDC's film program.

Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop Cover Image
By Vikki Tobak, Questlove (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9780525573883
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Clarkson Potter - October 16th, 2018