What Am I Reading – Chapter Thirty-Nine

Hi Everybody!

I hope everyone’s having a great October so far. I sure have! My job as an archivist will become permanent very soon. I’m also getting my cosplay ready for Youmacon! Even though I have a lot on my plate, I still managed to find time to read some new books. They are some pretty darn good books that I’d love to show you right now!

Let’s begin with the first title!

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich asks what we owe to the living, the dead, to the reader, and to the book. A small independent bookstore in Minneapolis gets haunted by the shop’s most annoying customer from November 2019 to November 2020. Tookie – an Ojibwe woman who landed a job at the store after spending 7 years behind bars that she survived through lots of reading – must solves this mystery while trying to understand all that occurs in that city during a year of grief, astonishment, isolation, and reckoning.

So far, I think it’s good, but I’m not sure what to fully think of it. In fact, I had a hard time summarizing the plot, for there’s nothing and everything happening at the same time. That’s why I used quite a bit from official description.

Here’s where I will start. Tookie is a flawed, but fascinating character. She’s quick to judge, and some characters see her as too snarky, impulsive, and overprotective. At the same time, she can be funny and brutally honest. I especially love how she critiques the book title trends in recent years. I can understand where she’s coming from, yet I’ve done face palms after reading about some of the things that she did.

Additionally, there’s a lot going on in this book, and I’m not even halfway through it. So far, it’s a ghost story and a reckoning on Native American identity through the eyes of an indigenous woman who doesn’t even know her own real name. And, I haven’t even got into the pandemic portion of the book, but once I do, I will have some thoughts.

Louise Erdrich not only wrote the novel, but also narrated the audiobook. She has recorded audiobooks for 5 of her novels including The Sentence and her award-winning book The Night Watchman. I can see why she would want to narrate herself. Tookie could become an unlikeable character if voiced by the wrong actor. Erdrich balances Tookie’s snark and sincerity, especially when the character upsets her niece Hedda after she asks about the father of the latter’s child. Although the other people in the story don’t have much vocal distinctions, Erdrich makes them sound real as if one has met them in real life.

Even though I’m not entirely sure what to think of The Sentence so far, I’m intrigued and look forward to seeing how the plot unfolds.

And now, here’s the second and final book in this chapter!

The Number Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal the History of Pop Music by Tom Breihan is exactly what it sounds like. Breihan has analyzed every number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 since its current inception in 1958 in his “The Number Ones” column on Stereogum, and he’s still in the early 2000s. In this book, he takes 20 of the songs that hit number one on that specific chart and reveals how significant they were in shaping music trends. He looks at the historical context surrounding them and how they played a pivotal role in chart history. Breihan features the greatest pop artists of all time like The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Prince, and he gives musicians who never hit #1 like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and James Brown their due as well.

Long story short: when I was working as an Adult Librarian in Clarkston, Michigan, I was in charge of maintaining the music CD collection. This meant adding items to and removing them from the shelves as well as keeping up to date on the latest music news. One day, while I was looking at the news for the day, I came across “The Number Ones” column as Breihan took a look at Paul Anka’s 1974 number 1 song “You’re Having My Baby” (that’s not one of the songs analyzed in The Number Ones book). After reading his snark-filled, but fully analyzed review of the ditty, I knew I had to read more.

This is all to say that I’ve been a fan of Breihan’s column for a few years, and when he announced that he was going to put out a book about the 20 most important #1 hits on the Hot 100, I knew I had to read it. I was so determined that I managed to obtain an advanced reader’s copy, for the book will be out on November 15.

So, what I feel about it so far? It’s pretty good. He leaves no stone unturned when analyzing these tunes, even when they are seeped in controversy. For example, the success of “The Twist” by Chubby Checkers mainly came by because its presentation had be diluted enough for a white audience in the early 1960s. In addition, the tone, in which he writes this book, is similar to that of the column, which is filled with snark and deep love for pop music.

I can’t wait to read more of The Number Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal the History of Pop Music very soon!

We have now come to the end of the thirty-ninth chapter of “What Am I Reading?”

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Published by emilymalek

I work at a public library southeast Michigan, and I facilitate two book clubs there. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, play trivia and crossword puzzles, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

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