Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mama Shepp's Family Recommends...

Introducing "Mama Shepp's Family Recommends...," a new feature I'm planning to be posting every other week. With my reading down this year, and with a family of readers, I thought it was time to call in the troops. From teenagers to retirees and all manner of tastes in books, I'm hoping to be able to bring some books to your attention that are also new finds for me.

When I floated the idea of this to my family, my uncle was quick to reply so he's up first.

"A few days ago I touted to you a three volume work of historical fiction about the Haitian revolution by an author named Madison Smartt Bell. Yesterday I finished another book that demonstrates the versatility of this author. The title is "Anything Goes". This is about a blues band traveling from nasty dive to nasty dive from Key West to New Hampshire--the kind of music and venue that used to appeal most to me. Some of it will make sense only to a musician but even those of us not so called should appreciate the evolution of the narrator, a guitarist/bassist named Jesse, and the relationships among a succession of band members. The creative process seems as difficult as life on the road and perhaps only slightly more rewarding."

I like the cover of this one--it makes me think of the legend of bluesman Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at a crossroads in exchange for musical genius.

The publisher has this synopsis:
The only taste of life Jesse has known in his twenty years is bitter: his mother disappeared before he could talk, his father never got over being left, and Jesse's presence seems only to kindle his father's anger. Jesse's talent is for music, which has given him a livelihood and a home as a bass player in a bar band called Anything Goes. Band life offers the opportunity for the dregs of experience (hangovers, mildewed hotel rooms), and the antics of his band mates (all of them older than he is; some of them wiser, some not) offer more schooling in hard knocks." Anything Goes tells Jesse's story over the course of a year, during which he finds his life slowly being tempered by the unexpected: by a dad who wants to make up and be part of Jesse's life; by a female lead singer who suddenly makes the band sound a lot better than they have any right to be; and by the confidence Jesse begins to feel in his own musical talent.

When I pulled up the Barnes and Noble site to get a picture of the book, I was very surprised by the variety of books that Bell has written. In addition to historical fiction (including the trilogy about the Haitian revolution) and fiction, Bell has also written books about the writing process and published short story collections.

What's your family been reading this week?


  1. Brilliant idea.
    Co-opt family members to ease the blogging load.
    I see the Cats won their round 1 game.

  2. What a lovely idea. And I totally agree with the image on the cover being reminscent of Robert Johnson! (and thrilled to know there are other of his fans out there!)

  3. Your post had me thinking about my dad, who I'm sure would be the first to recommend something as well; I have an idea that he'd push for anything by Dean Koontz, whose books he just adores. My dad would probably take over my blog!

  4. Music is my other passion besides books, so I'm always interested in books that deal with it. Will keep this one in mind!

  5. This is a great idea for a feature! Looking forward to checking out the family's picks! I wish I had some people I could draft into service . . .

  6. Lisa, This is such a great idea! I'm jealous, Bill reads business books (boring) and Andrew reads mostly study materials these days but he is an avid reader.

    I love this new addition.

  7. This is a fabulous idea!! I love to see what your family recommends. This books sounds very interesting. Lemme check it out!

  8. This is a great idea, Lisa! Anything Goes sounds like an interesting book--I love the cover. I admit I'm especially interested in Bell's book about the Haitian revolution. I'll have to look for both this and that one.