Music isn’t enough

Some of you already know that I’m a huge reader. We’re talking like a book a week, pretty much every week. I love reading and I always have. So much of what I think/feel/know about the world has come from books. Some might say that books are a bloodless substitute for life, but I disagree. What other medium allows you to really get inside someone else’s mind and see the world the way they see it?

CHE posted a comment last week asking for a good book blog, and I wish I had one to recommend. I used to read Danyel Smith’s blog to get up on new books, but since she’s stopped blogging I haven’t found a replacement. I’m sure there’s some fantastic book blogs out there, though, so feel free to drop links in the comment section.

For the past few years, I’ve been reading a lot of hip-hop generation novelists—writers who translate the hip-hop sensibility into fiction. [1] There’s something so satisfying about reading stories that explore the specific realities of our generation, that look at what it feels like to be alive—to come of age, to struggle and love and chase dreams—in the midst of these chaotic, technology-driven, increasingly unstable days and times.

I thought I would pass on some titles to those of you c-boys on the lookout for a good read. Here’s some of my favorites:

Danzy Senna Caucasia. The story of a biracial girl growing up in Boston post-Black Power era, whose family is torn apart by racial tensions.

Paul Beatty The White Boy Shuffle. A scathing satire of American race politics. Absolutely stunning writing.

Danyel Smith Bliss. Bliss perfectly captures the heaven and hell that is the music industry—what it feels like to inhabit this intoxicating, dysfunctional, insular little island that floats in the centre of mainstream culture. This is my favorite book from the last couple of years, by far.

RELATED: Read my review of Bliss.

Adam Mansbach Angry Black White Boy. This comic novel follows the journey of white hip-hop fan Macon who, after years of being down with hip-hop culture, flips out and starts robbing other white people. At turns hilarious and profoundly troubling, the novel serves as a meditation on hip-hop culture and its enormous influence on the psyches of white suburban youth.

Gautam Malkani Londonstani. Londonstani weaves together the Pakistani immigrant ethos with British slang and American hip-hop swagger. A truly global novel about finding identity in the midst of colliding cultures.

Martha Southgate Third Girl From the Left. This intergeneration novel explores the lives of three black women: Tamara, an aspiring filmmaker, her mother Angela, a retired Blaxploitation actress, and her grandmother Mildred, a survivor of the Tulsa race riots.

Zadie Smith On Beauty. This review says it best.

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[1] Before all the street lit fans get all up in arms, let me just say that I’m not ignoring the genre. I’ll get to that in another blog. Urban lit authors, holler at me.

P.S. While I’m on the subject of books, let me send a big shout out to my editors at Pound Magazine, Rodrigo Bascunan and Christian Pearce. Their book Enter the Babylon System: Unpacking Gun Culture from Samuel Colt to 50 Cent just dropped!

  • OG Frank

    Here are some of my favorites:
    The Godfather By Mario Puzo
    The Sicilian By Mario Puzo

  • OG Frank

    Here are some of my favorites:
    The Godfather By Mario Puzo
    The Sicilian By Mario Puzo
    From Pieces To Weight By 50 Cent
    G-Unit!

  • The DJ Formerly Known as N-CREDIBLE

    Pimp by Icebergslim

    It Was Written (LP) by Nas

  • http://dronkmunk.blogpsot.com dronkmunk

    Clockers – by Richard Price. Real street novel from one of the writers on the Wire. In fact, a must-read for any wire fan who does like to read.

  • derfla the hus’la

    power broker: Robert caro

  • alleyeCNtower

    I’m reading ‘Enter the Babylon System’ now, and it’s mind-blowing. Rodrigo is on the CBC tonight, you coming thru, Tara?

    I also highly recommend LAbrynth by Randall Sullivan & Russell Poole. The LAPD gotta pay for what they did to Biggie Smalls.

    oh, and 50 Cent’s book is the best thing he’s ever created, seriously! ‘From Pieces to Weight’ is an amazing read, much better than his debut album, and the movie

    hip hop heads gotta read more
    gaining knowledge is the path to gaining power

    hope to see you tonight, Tara!

  • EReal

    Im not big on fiction books. Im more of a non-fiction fan. I like actuallity if you get my meaning. The only fiction books I’ve read lately are all Tim Dorsey books and they’re funny as fuck, mostly because I live in florida.

    I have “Respect the Jux” in the mail now, Im lookin forward to that.

    1 hunned.

  • http://www.xxlmag.com/?cat=29 noz

    “What other medium allows you to really get inside someone else’s mind and see the world the way they see it?”

    Rap.

  • http://87northmusic.com The Biz

    Tara check this one out, this is written by a very good friend of mine. It tells the story you like to read on the Canadian perspective.:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1419630075/ref=sr_11_1/104-0024165-8259149?ie=UTF8

  • Heat_Seeker

    What about us “c-boys” who are looking for naked pics of you, tara??

  • paul

    ahhh tara your missing out on life i feel sorry for u

  • thoreauly77

    only a book a week, tara?! you mean having two blogs, being the (seemingly) only writer at pound, managing a bartending gig now and again, and writing your own book all at the same time prevents you from reading more than one book a week? tsk tsk.

  • http://www.jimiizrael.com the izza

    Bliss is a’ight, but it isn’t anyone’s favorite book from any year, Tara. C’mon now.

  • Elijah

    A classic Noz response there. (and I mean that in a good way)

    This is probably bad, but the only rap-related book I’ve read are “Yes Yes Y’all” an oral history of rap’s first decade, and “Rakim Told Me”. Not that I have an “older rap was better” fetish, but there’s something to be said about hearing things in the OGs’ words.

    Oh, and my girl wants a copy of Iceberg Slim’s “Pimp” as a Valentine’s present. Now that’s the perfect woman.

  • http://whocareswhatpeoplethink thecollinb

    Chuck Palahniuk writes pif…it’s def not hip hop but if you have a sense of humor about the ills of everyday life you should check his shit out…esp Haunted

  • http://madison.com/post/blogs/emcees hastings

    consider reviewing Hokum up here–pretty sure Beatty threw a Lord Finesse verse in there

  • crimson

    “Fortress of Solitude” by Jonathan Lethem.

  • Eman

    I prefer the Donald Goines books I think everyone one of those are better then watching a movie. I mean it aint hip hop but enough Mcs talk about him so the influence is there. I just read John Grishams Innocent man and to everyone who thinks injustices only happed in urban cities read that book you wont trust the judical system again.

  • let the game begin

    try hill harper’s letter to a young brother Ta it’s really good

  • jacquez
  • Combat Jack

    Tara, check out Walter Mosley’s new joint “Killing Johnny Frye”. It’s not Hip Hop, nor his usual crime noir fare, however, what it is is hot and steamy, and is garaunteed to take you there!

  • mannyworld33

    The DJ Formerly Known as N-CREDIBLE Says:

    January 29th, 2007 at 9:33 am
    Pimp by Icebergslim
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    CO-SIGN!! THAT BOOK IS CRAZY AND THE COVER IS GOLD AND PURPLE, STR8 PIMP SHIT!

    OH YEAH AND COLDEST WINTER EVER(DUH) & SATIN DOLL ARE GOOD READS.

  • DEEZ NUTZ

    Anything Donald Goines

    whore son
    black girl lost
    never die alone ect…

  • Bobo D

    It ain’t hip-op book, but its one which I’ve found is still relative to how society has, is and could be screwed up. 1984 by George Orwell(It was actualy written in WW2).
    Heres the online version
    http://www.online-literature.com/orwell/1984/

    There is a blog on this site I’ve never checked out myself since I’m no Tara(no disrespect).

    http://www.online-literature.com/forums/blogs/

  • Hannah Smith

    “For the past few years, I’ve been reading a lot of hip-hop generation novelists—writers who translate the hip-hop sensibility into fiction.”

    Bitch – yeah, I called it – are you either:

    1. 12 years old?

    2. Inane?

  • Incilin

    Can you please stop titling blogs “isn’t enough” haven’t we seen that enough already. I mean I like the post, but please stop doing that. It’s getting really tacty.

  • SilverBack Gorilla

    Books are like women, no matter how many good ones I have, I still want more.

    “…read big books, got big guns..
    so yeah I blow ya’ mind in more
    ways than one…”

    -Silverback Gorilla

  • extra penis

    WHITE BOY SHUFFLE is that crack, the great american novel

  • wize93

    The Bible. It’s gangsta, for real.

  • che

    hey, I wasn’t expecting a whole a post in response to my question lol, thank u though, and if you haven’t already tara, you HAVE to read blue/orange by joe penhall.

    http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Orange-Joe-Penhall/dp/0413752704

  • EReal

    “I just read John Grishams Innocent man and to everyone who thinks injustices only happed in urban cities read that book you wont trust the judical system again. ”

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    That would imply that you would have had to trust the Judicial System at one time.
    Never.

    1 hunned

  • gunner kaufman

    Im feeling you on everything except Adam Mansbach ABWB. Felt not only was it a waste…but he really borrowed heavily from PAUL BEATTY….bothered the crap outta me…..serious waste of time

  • derfla the hus’la

    try Hill Harpers letter to a young brother Ta good read.

  • yoprince

    TUFF – Paul Beatty
    UPSTATE – Kalisha Buckhanon

  • Belize

    Down these mean streets by Piri Thomas…great read mam!

  • http://www.xxlmag.com chillywilly da3rd

    books are the devils playground even more than hip hop books are the most mind warping shit ever if we actually read books boy would they be scared of us

  • stay brown

    Not to nitpick, but the characters in Londonstani weren’t Pakistani immigrants, at least none of the main characters anyways.

  • http://www.myspace.com/belizeanbway Belize

    lol @ noz

  • karim_amir

    hey tara, glad to see someone blogging about books on a hip hop site. londonstani isnt exactly about pakistani kids in london though, its just south asian kids in general (despite the title). but hey, cool that you liked it…

  • blaQ

    The Bible…by far the best selling book of all time. i bet 90% of you havent even read it…go figure