Open Phones: What Should Brian Read and Listen to on Vacation?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A pile of music books on the Soundcheck bookshelf. A pile of music books on the Soundcheck bookshelf. (Michael Katzif / WNYC)

It's a summertime tradition: Brian leaves for vacation this afternoon -- what recent book should he read while he's out? We'll also take suggestions for music to listen to, and play some of the suggestions that have already come in. Post your picks below -- remember, recent books and music only.

→ UPDATE: Thanks for the great music suggestions -- listen to the playlist below!

Brian's Recent Songs Vacation Playlist from blshow on 8tracks Radio.

Comments [48]

Mikhail from Mount Kisco NY

Nicholas Wells is a really brilliant indie singer songwriter. His album, Something To Believe In is totally brilliant

His covers of Billy Joel and Carly Rae Jepsen are a must-hear

Jul. 26 2013 08:41 PM
Edgar from East Harlem

For those cool summer nights.

Mazzy Star

Fade Into You

Blue Light

Into Dust

Have a good vacation.

Jul. 25 2013 09:32 PM

"Strange Rebels" by Christian Caryl.

Jul. 25 2013 06:25 PM
Michele from NJ

Music I am currently totally besotted with - Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo Melody Magic. This has got to be the most perfect vacation music.

Jul. 25 2013 03:34 PM
barbara from los angles from los angeles

Brian, you should read 'Plantanimus'"Awakening" by Joseph Armillas published a couple years ago: it's a great science fiction tale that takes place on future Mars, Earth and Plantanimus, an exotic planet in a distant galaxy(it's part of a trilogy) that is an easy read and full of unexpected twists and turns. It will keep you on the edge of your seat!

Jul. 25 2013 02:59 PM

Kanye's new album Yeezus album for sure

Jul. 25 2013 02:16 PM
Nikki from Bloomfield, NJ

I recommend Brian read "FatherMotherGod" by Lucia Greenhouse. It is an autobiographical novel about a girl growing up in an affluent family whose parents practice Christian Science. No other family members practice it and, from an early age, Lucia begins questioning the religion and its blatant contradictions. It moves on to some sad and touching moments that force her to come to terms with, move through, and eventually away from Christian Science. A well written first novel from a woman who lost a great deal, became stronger for it, and was brave enough to share her story.

Jul. 25 2013 02:11 PM
Carol from East Village

Plantanimus Trilogy by Joseph M. Armillas:

Book 1) "Plantanimus 'Awakening'" is a gripping tale that takes place in the 27th century on Mars, Earth, and Plantanimus, a planet devoid of animals but inhabited by sentient plant life. The story is like a melody you can't get out of your head. It has everything - visions of the future, love, murder, political intrigue and depictions of intelligent alien species.

Book 2) "Plantanimus 'Return to Mars'" - the Martian psychic, genius protagonist rescues Mars from an evil fascist organization from Earth.

Book 3) "Plantanimus 'The Gulax War'" coming soon; has more information.

These books would make great movies - they're every bit as exciting as "Star Wars."

Jul. 25 2013 12:49 PM

And for the music and listening categories, I would recommend some of the gems in the Piano Jazz archives: [1][2]

Perhaps my absolute favorite, of the PJ shows I've heard thus far, is the one featuring Stephane Grappelli, the late legendary jazz violinist:

The chemistry between McPartland and Grappelli in this 1989 recording, the spontaneity, the enthusiasm that both artists exude, are all exceptional. Together, they make for a truly delightful, "hour of conversation and improvisation".

Featured on the home page now is the 1997 session with Dave Brubeck

[1]The Piano Jazz site obviously needs to be updated:
"Jazz legend Marian McPartland continues to showcase the world's top musicians on NPR's longest-running jazz program."

It has been at least two years now since Marian McPartland recorded a new show and at least a year since the announcement was made that she would not be returning.

[2] Unfortunately, it seems that the only option for listening to these archived programs is streaming them, which requires the dreaded, proprietary, commercial, vulnerability-laden, resource-hogging monstrosity known as Adobe Flash. Pity one can't simply /download/ the files and listen on the player of one's choice, as one can for the Brian Lehrer, Leonard Lopate and other WNYC shows.

Jul. 25 2013 12:32 PM
Mat from Harlem


So good.
Soundtrack-y, world, post-rock, folk, spooky, fun stuff!

Jul. 25 2013 12:30 PM
tony brower from Meridale

To the guy who suggested that you/we listen to Laura Mvula's Make Me Lovely


And thanks for announcing it. She's wonderful.

Jul. 25 2013 12:11 PM

Howzbout nuttin?

Vacation might be a good time for a media break. Shut off the TV, the radio, the e-reader, the smart phone, the MP-3 player, etc. Visit interesting places and really pay attention.

Jul. 25 2013 12:04 PM
J-Mac from Annandale, NJ

Brian, a suggestion for your mixtape. The latest album by the Joy Formidable called "Wolf's Law". Power pop from Wales. The song "This Ladder Is Ours" is a good place to start, but the whole album is great!

Jul. 25 2013 12:02 PM

Non-fiction: Sonia Sotomayor's memoir
Fiction: Curtis Sittenfeld's Sisterland
Music: Yosvany Terry's Today's Opinion, Kiran Ahluwahlia's Aam Zameen, Bombino's Nomad, Bassekou Kouyate's Jama Ko, Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel's Hey Hey It's . . . the Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti's Mature Themes, Eleanor Friedberger's Personal Record, Dent May's Do Things, Daniel Romano's Come Cry With Me

Jul. 25 2013 11:59 AM
Marion from chinatown

not sure you can get delivery of his cd before you take off (unless via download?), but Adam Fisher is a cellist...
here's his Klezmer take on "Autumn Leaves"

Happy trails,

Jul. 25 2013 11:57 AM
Mia from Manhattan

For music: The Devil and the Diamond album by Matuto

Jul. 25 2013 11:56 AM

This is not a book but is a pamphlet. The literature of the Temple of the True Inner Light.

Jul. 25 2013 11:56 AM
Leanne Staples

Nathaniel Rich's novel Odds Against Tomorrow. It's about New York City and a mathematician of catastrophes. It's a great read and both funny and dramatic. “The way other people fantasize about surprise inheritances, firts-glance love, and endless white empyreal pastures, Mitchell dreamed of an erupting supervolcano that would bury North America under a foot of hot ash.”

Jul. 25 2013 11:55 AM
Sam from Astoria

Brian! I have your book! It's called "The Gone-Away World" by Nick Harkaway. Kind of a coming-of-age, World War III, kung fu, mime troupe etc. It's one of my all-time favorite tour reads along with "Kavalier and Clay", "Children of the Arbat", and "American Pastoral." It does take place in other countries with some interesting political situations. Harkaway is actually the son of John le Carre and this is his first novel. It's great.

Also I can plug to you my album from last summer, "Escape from Society." Mike Pesca wrote the words to one of the songs. Check it out! Have a good vacay.

Jul. 25 2013 11:55 AM
Damon from Manhattan

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie meets all of those qualifications!

Jul. 25 2013 11:55 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

Listen: My Bloody Valentine "M B V," Daft Punk "Random Access Memories" and Thee Oh Sees "Floating Coffin."

Read: "Saga" (comics or trade paperbacks) by Brian K. Vaughn, "Why Does the World Exist?" by J. Holt, "Unorthodox" by Deborah Feldman.


Jul. 25 2013 11:55 AM
Tom from upper west side

Neil Gaiman's amazing, short new novel, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane." Great for adults of all ages!!!!

Jul. 25 2013 11:54 AM

'Shall We Play That One Together?: The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland' by Paul deBarros

I haven't read this myself but I heard the author interviewed by Jazz from the Archive's Dan Morgenstern. (Jazz from the Archives is produced by Rutger's University and airs Sunday night's from 11:00 PM to midnight on WBGO(.org), 88.3 FM.)

Offhand, given the limitations of "recent" and an actual /book/, as opposed to web-only material, this is what I would recommend.

Jul. 25 2013 11:54 AM

Cloud Atlas

Jul. 25 2013 11:54 AM
Sharon Russo from Manhattan

"The White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga meets all of your criteria for fiction. It's about five years old now, so maybe you've already read it. It's set in India, and the narrator is quite funny. It's also a short, breezy read--perfect for vacation. Yet it's also serious and literary: a satire about what it takes to succeed in India these days. Features motifs of the West/America, religion, and animals.

Jul. 25 2013 11:54 AM
Mia from Manhattan

For light but side-splittinh humor: The Book of the Irish Mammy

And for something longer and deeper and set overseas, the massive novel Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra. It came out a few years ago, but it will submerge you in the life of a Bombay cop and the mafia don he's pursuing. And Chandra's website has a full glossary of Bombay slang.

Jul. 25 2013 11:53 AM
Bret from Manhattan

"The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards"
Starts out in the US then international for the second half. Excellent writing, characters who will echo folks you know from NYC, and some surprises that really help the reader to understand the depths of the narrators persona. A breakout first novel for the author. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Jul. 25 2013 11:53 AM
Kelly from Brooklyn

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is amazing... really well-written, sharply, wryly funny, kind of like Catch-22 meets Kurt Vonnegut. The best book I've read in a long time.

Jul. 25 2013 11:53 AM
Robert Gomes from Chelsea

"Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter
A time-spanning romantic mystery that travels from a small Italian port town to current LA and old LA, and you'll end up very moved. Life, death, and love.

Jul. 25 2013 11:51 AM
Julie from NYC

"The Death of Bees", by Lisa O'Donnel. Brilliant, dark, funny book, about 2 sisters whose druggy parent die, and how the 2 survive. Set in Scotland, so meets that requirement. Have a great vacation, Brian.

Jul. 25 2013 11:51 AM
Beatrice from Ft. Greene

I second Saga--it's a great read! Also, would recommend The Interestings. Takes you right back to summer camp.

Jul. 25 2013 11:50 AM
Tom Crisp from UWS

You can't do better than Collum McCann's TRANSATLANTIC -
reading it now and it's everything you want. Set in the US, Ireland and over the ocean between us, with stories set in the 19th through 21st centuries.

Jul. 25 2013 11:50 AM
Bo Young from Granville

I forgot to say why: Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it. Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius—a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions.

Jul. 25 2013 11:49 AM
Guy from NYC

Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son.
Blurb: The novel Brian just described.
Bang. Done.

Jul. 25 2013 11:49 AM
Anne Marie Rivard from Montreal

Brian - I suggest you read The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner - moving, beautiful and a great portrait of being an artist in 70s NYC. Read while listening to Mississipi John Hurt. A great mix.

Jul. 25 2013 11:49 AM
Linda from Jersey Shore

I love this question and every year I copy the list and keep it with me when I need a new book to read.
Here is my offering this year.
The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson.
Crazy, scary, and coupled with HBO's VICE in North Korea. it's fascinating

Jul. 25 2013 11:48 AM
mr nyc

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner is one of the most original novels I've read in a long time.

Jul. 25 2013 11:48 AM
Bo Young from Granville

The Swerve: How The World Became Modern

Jul. 25 2013 11:47 AM
Michael D from Manhattan

As far as music goes, Camera Obscura's new album Desire Lines.

Jul. 25 2013 11:47 AM
Reggie Damien from Columbus, Ohio

This book is just getting the buzz it deserves. A short, witty satire--easy to read--about an absurd and hypocritical character in an absurd and hypocritical world. Very immaginative. I have it on Kindle from Smashwords. A lot of fun for $2.99, but I think also available in paperback. DADDY-AN ABSOLUTELY AUTHENTIC FAKE MEMOIR by Andrea Troy

Jul. 25 2013 11:20 AM
Joshua Koerner from Westchester NY

One Minute to Midnight -- A new account of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Childhood's End -- Classic science fiction
Mad in America -- a journalist looks at the mental health system
The Immortal Life of Henretta Lacks -- one of the best nonfiction books ever
Under the Banner of Heaven -- gripping history of the Mormon Church
Going Clear -- Scientology, its history and relationship to Hollywood

Jul. 25 2013 11:16 AM
Elaine from Beautiful downtown Bal'more

Brian: we'll miss you! Besides your reading list, you forgot to ask us what earth-shattering news you will miss while on vacation!

Read "The Prime Ministers" by Yehuda Avner. A behind the scenes, insider's account of 4 Israeli prime ministers. Gripping account and a unique perspective of history.

Jul. 25 2013 11:07 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I recommend Poor Richard's Almanac by Benjamin Franklin. I also recommend it to every member of Congress, but many of them can't read.

Jul. 25 2013 11:06 AM
Jodie from NJ

The new Gogol Bordello album - Pura Vida Conspiracy - is amazing. It's more serious than previous albums, but still makes me want to dance around the house.

Jul. 25 2013 11:04 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

I recommend that Brian read the Hamas Charter of 1988 - the same year that Pan Am 103 was bombed.

Jul. 25 2013 10:31 AM

Published last year, Valerie Hansen's The Silk Road: A New History is a fascinating, deeply researched, and myth-breaking book about the trade routes between East and West. It's filled with insights, e.g., silk wasn't the major or most prized commodity. Paper was--and its initial value was not in the service of writing, but for wrapping packages.

And for something completely different: try the crime novels of Jo Nesbo, which are set in Oslo. They're totally engrossing, and far more satisfying than those of Nesbo's late fellow Scandinavian Steig Larsson.

Jul. 25 2013 10:19 AM

Ender's Game - so Brian can be disappointed like the rest of us when the producers/creative team on the movie muck it up! It's a two-day most.

There also could be a segment in it...Should the movie be 'boycotted' just because the author's (Scott Card) personal view on gay marriage (and other topics) is out of step with that of so many of his readers.

How aligned should you be with an originator's politics in order to enjoy their work? I say none but I would wager that this audience has some interesting arguments in favor.

Jul. 25 2013 10:15 AM
Ed from Larchmont

He should read:

'Righteous gentiles : how Pius XII and the Catholic Church saved half a million Jews from the Nazis' by Rychlak, Ronald J., Dallas, Tex. : Spence Pub. Co., 2005.

An eye-opener.

Jul. 25 2013 05:55 AM

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