Joe’s Jukebox: Explore Classic Albums with “33 1/3”

Sometimes I’m so fascinated by an album that simply listening to it isn’t enough: I also have to read about it. And sometimes merely reading reviews or blog posts about it isn’t enough to satisfy me, either. Sometimes I need to read an entire book about that album. Which is why I’m so grateful for Bloomsbury’s “33 ⅓” book series, in which each book is dedicated to one notable musical album. 

I have been in love with these books ever since the series started getting published all the way back in 2003. So far I have about 15 of these books in my personal library at home, and I eventually want to read all 154 titles in the series– plus any other titles that’ll be published in the future. Because while some of these books may be better than others, I’ve never been disappointed reading a single one of them. I always learn new things about the albums they cover, I always discover new things in the music that I hadn’t heard before, and I always gain a deeper appreciation for the musicians who made them.

Not only do the books in this series cover a wide variety of musical artists, genres, and eras, they’re also written by a wide variety of authors. As you might expect, many of them are by experienced music critics and journalists, like Douglas Wolk, who’s written for publications such asThe Village Voice and Rolling Stone, and who wrote a 33 ⅓ book on James Brown’s Live at the Apollo. But some of the books are written by actual musicians, like the one on Lou Reed’s Transformer by indie rocker Ezra Furman. And some are even written by acclaimed novelists, like the one on Talking Heads’ Fear of Music by Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude.

As I said earlier, there are over 150 titles in this series, but for now we’ve got about a dozen here in our print collection. In addition to the books I just mentioned, we’ve got the ones on Neil Young’s Harvest; the debut album by The Velvet Underground & Nico; The Beatles’ Let It Be; Radiohead’s OK Computer; Led Zeppelin’s fourth album (one of my personal favorites in this series); The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street; The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds; The Ramones’ first album; R.E.M.’s Murmur; and one of the most recent additions to the series, on Carole King’s Tapestry.

If you love reading about music, I insist that you check out at least one book in this series about an album you dig. You can find them here at the Livingston Library among our Indie collection, nestled by the fireplace between our Travel books and our Graphic Novels. And of course, if you want to listen to any of the albums covered in this collection, you can borrow them from Hoopla Digital or through various BCCLS libraries using the links above.

Until next time, remember: The band in Heaven, they play my favorite song; play it once again, play it all night long…

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