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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.


[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!

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