“It’s So Easy”* (Buddy Holly Reading Spree, Book 2)

Remembering Buddy: The Definitive Biography of Buddy Holly by John Goldrosen and John Beecher

This book is a must-see, if only for the pictures: there’s a photo on nearly every page. Since I always am photo-hungry when reading nonfiction, I was well pleased by this book. One thing I noticed: this book doesn’t cover anything too personal, and it certainly doesn’t address anything that would put Buddy Holly in a bad light. If you’re looking for hagiography, this just may be your best bet.

Nonetheless, the authors interviewed many of the insiders from back in the day, so the text is sprinkled with wonderful anecdotes. This book also satisfies my reference librarian geek-out need for additional resources: there are appendices that list all known recordings by Buddy Holly, all recordings featuring vocals or solo instrumentals by Buddy Holly, all recordings by other artists featuring Buddy Holly as an instrumentalist or backing vocalist, and all tour dates and locations (many of them in Iowa!) I love this stuff!

*I grew up hearing Linda Rondstadt’s cover of this song, which I confess I never liked. However, the Buddy Holly & the Crickets original is fantastic! The way he sings the word “doggone” reinforces my view that this word is grossly underused and should be brought back into common parlance. I’m doing my part in the cause: Please see: “I Read It Against My Will” and “Booking Through Thursday: The Numbers Game.”

A Thing for Buddy Holly

This year is the 50th anniversary of the much-too-early death of Buddy Holly (at the tender age of 22), and I’m having a mini-obsession. Being from Iowa, I grew up knowing that the plane carrying Buddy, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson) crashed in a cornfield near Clear Lake. I’ve always felt bad about that—that the crash took place in my home state. And as a person who swears by the safety of small planes, it’s disturbing that such a crash took place at all. I grew up hearing bits of stories—myths, I believe I would call them—about an alleged gunshot having been fired in the airplane, and I’m glad some of the books about Buddy Holly address that question. (And, I believe, debunk it.) With so much of the talk focused on his death, I was eager to learn more about his life and his music.

The thing that happened when I began reading the first Buddy Holly book is that I found that I needed to check out a CD of his music to hear the songs I didn’t know so well: such as “Rave On” and “Not Fade Away.” And then I found a 2-CD set that contained even more songs, and the fantabulous Buddy Holly Memorial Collection (3 CDs in that bad boy, including the devastatingly beautiful undubbed versions of some of the apartment recordings made shortly before his death). And then my friend—right there in the middle of book club when I confessed my Buddy Holly crush—produced her boxed set of The Complete Buddy Holly. (I hang with a very good crowd.)

And—yes, it gets even better—I also tracked down a very fine documentary produced by Sir Paul McCartney himself: The Real Buddy Holly Story, which contains live footage of Buddy Holly & the Crickets!!

And—no surprise here, I suppose—somewhere along the line, I just plain fell in love with Buddy Holly.

Here’s the first installment of my Buddy Holly reading spree.

Midwestern Mystery

Eleven Days by Donald Harstad

The debut in a heck-of-a-good mystery series set in— don’t run away, now— Iowa. I’m here to tell you these two things: First, Iowa can be darn interesting when you get past your preconceptions. (Sort of interesting, anyway. Yes, I’m from there, so I have to say that— but I also have a whole new appreciation for Iowa-ness now that I’m in exile. : ) Isn’t it strange how that happens? But really, Iowa has all kinds of hidden virtues, and I’ve seen it surprise and delight non-Iowans many a time. So give Iowa a chance, people!) And, second, this mystery is just plain excellent. Carl Houseman is a deputy sheriff in eastern Iowa, and he’s faced with a strange new situation: a satanic cult has taken hold in the area, and all hell’s broken loose. (bad pun, intended) Houseman is a bit of an anomaly— a fictional police detective who is happily married. I just have to like it. Author Harstad himself worked as a deputy sheriff in northeastern Iowa (Clayton County, for those who appreciate such details), so he knows his stuff inside and out. And, happily for us, the man can write. If you’re a fan of Craig Johnson, you’re apt to like Donald Harstad, too. I sure do.

A Parent’s Love

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

There are certain books that are best listened to, and for me, this is one of them. I started reading the novel twice, convinced I would love the book (it was set in Iowa and had a Civil War connection) – but I could not get past the first few pages. Finally, in desperation, I checked out the audiobook. Bingo. Narrator Tim Jerome made the story come to life. The story is told by John Ames, an elderly Iowa minister in the 1950s, who is writing to his young son, to tell him the family stories he would have told him if he were to live to see his son grow to adulthood. He tells the story of his abolitionist grandfather, his own courtship of his much younger wife, his efforts to preach sermons that convey truth, and his struggle to control his jealousy of a younger man who appears to be stealing the affections of his wife and son. This book is filled with longing and pain and hope – and with tremendous love.

I Love the Presidents

Hugh Sidey’s Profiles of the Presidents: From FDR to Clinton with Time Magazine’s Veteran White House Correspondent by Hugh Sidey

I love the presidents. I think they’re fascinating, and I never tire of reading presidential biographies. This great compilation by journalist Hugh Sidey is an appreciation of the presidents, written in lovely prose by a fellow who could truly evoke the sense of who these men really were, as national leaders and as human beings. The book is filled with photos that capture moments of each man’s presidency, and the thing I like best about the photos is that often they capture the small moments: LBJ holding his dog on his lap while they both howl (joyously, it seems), and Ford laughing with his daughter before a reception. Hugh Sidey was one of a kind. And… he was an Iowan.