As a proud GenX librarian, I had no choice but to crowd surf head-on into former Nirvana and current Foo Fighters band member Dave Grohl’s big-hearted and name-dropping memoir. Starting with his accident-prone childhood (“We always joked that the doctors at Fairfax County Public Hospital (in Virginia) were on a first name basis with me”) and first crush (“Sandi…Ice-blue eyes, feathered blonde hair, and a smile so blinding it could have charged every Tesla from Brentwood to Beijing, had Teslas existed in 1982,”) Grohl takes us through his young adulthood as the drummer for the touring punk band Scream, to his big break being asked to join Nirvana, and into his slow but steady climb to rock star royalty as the lead singer and founder of the Foo Fighters. Though I enjoyed reading the numerous celebrity connections Grohl made on his way to the top, (Iggy Pop, Tom Petty, Paul McCartney, Joan Jett and Barak Obama are just a few) the best part of the book by far are Grohl’s rambling reminiscences of his time touring with Scream. Just seventeen years old, Grohl dropped out of school with his mom’s blessing and started touring across the United States, Canada and Europe on a shoestring (and sometimes starvation) budget in a beat up van with his equally talented and broke bandmates. Playing the famed CBGB‘s one night when he wasn’t even legally old enough to enter, and crashing on a friend’s cousin’s living room floor after a raucous post-show party the next, Grohl spins an intoxicating On the Road -esque musician’s odyssey that feels like it could have only happened in the pre-Internet late 80’s. The text is peppered with photos of Grohl’s quirky and fun postcards to his mom, which also make his story seem sweetly quaint as texts and emails have replaced letters and postcards. This is totally one to read with your parents, as long as you don’t mind them pulling up Nirvana Unplugged and getting all nostalgic on you.
Ray Carney is a small-time furniture salesman just trying to get by, who is constantly tempted by the easy payday of the criminal life in this fascinating historical fiction by Colson Whitehead. Ray knows that if he wants to keep his little family safe and prosperous in 1960’s era Harlem, he needs to focus on his day job–owning and running a respectable furniture store that caters to middle class Black families. But he keeps being pulled into his after-midnight job–fencing stolen goods that his ne’er-do-well cousin Freddy occasionally drops in his lap. Despite Ray’s guilt about sliding into the hood lifestyle that characterized his shifty father’s life, this situation works just fine, until Freddie’s smart mouth pulls them into a questionable job that could not only expose Ray’s criminal side to the world, but could have fatal consequences for them both. Full of crackling period dialogue and unexpectedly interesting fun facts about (wait for it) couch fabric and furniture advertising, this story of crime, family and revenge is lots lighter than Whitehead’s last two novels and darkly funny. Harlem Shuffle blends a top notch plot with a richly atmospheric stetting that ensures you’ll not only be highly entertained, you’ll also learn something.