Read? What am that?

The year in rock books which isn't such an oxymoron, really

Perhaps the single most entertaining rock book of the year (after DeCurtis', but we're talking intentional entertainment here). Sideman extraordinaire Kooper unleashes a lifetime's stories about all manner of music-industry silliness and perfidy, and he savors the telling of each.

How-to book that's actually helpful: Confessions of a Record Producer by Moses Avalon (Miller Freeman)

This pseudonymous effort provides considerable wit and wisdom on this festering snake pit of a bidness. It covers all the basics--from record companies to how not to get too screwed by them--in plain language and with rock-and-roll attitude. Like Kooper's book, it will talk you out of even thinking of entering the biz, but it will entertain you in the process.

How-to book that's no help at all: Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting by Jimmy Webb (Hyperion)

More than 400 pages comprising an "indispensable guide to a fascinating process" from the man who gave us "Up, Up and Away."

Best multi-media package: Orbitones, Spoon Harps & Bellowphones: Experimental Musical Instruments by Bart Hopkins (Ellipsis Arts)

A California musicologist combines a lavishly illustrated book with a 16-track CD chronicling all manner of homemade instruments and the music that's been made with 'em. Includes contributions by everyone from Tom Waits and the Aphex Twin to Leonard Solomon (inventor of the majestic bellowphone) and Colin Oford (master of the mouthbow).

The "Yeah, sure, Eddie Murphy didn't know 'she' was a 'he,' either" award: Truly Blessed by Teddy Pendergrass and Patricia Romanowski (Putnam)

Heaviest, man, heaviest award: The Portable Henry Rollins by Henry Rollins (Villard)

Allow me to quote one untitled poem in its entirety: "She was raped by her uncle / Her father left home / For another man / She is confused / She is sixteen."

First runner-up: Grown Up All Wrong: 75 Great Rock and Pop Artists from Vaudeville to Techno by Robert Christgau

(Harvard University Press)
The "dean of American rock critics" can be amusing, insightful, and/or ponderous in his 150-word Consumer Guide capsules. In the essays collected here, he's just ponderous.

Second runner-up: A Night Without Armor: Poems by Jewel (Harper Collins)
"In my belly is a gold fish / I swallowed it and kept it there / I sing to it, and can feel it wiggle / when it especially likes the tune / Brahms makes it do back flips of glee."

And, finally, a note of special recognition...
Who Neil Strauss was in bed with back before his recent Jewel cover story in Rolling Stone: The Long Hard Road Out of Hell by Marilyn Manson with Neil Strauss

(Regan Books)
He only got in a hot tub with the Antichrist Superstar; in Rolling Stone's year-end cover story, Mr. Strauss brags of falling asleep next to Jewel (in a just-pals way, of course). Hey, Neil: How long before the Jewel book contract? And will you continue to write about her in The New York Times? And speaking of Manson--is he jealous? Or is he too busy doing the S&M thing with Spin editor Craig Marks? Just wondering.

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