Everyone loves to check out other people's bookshelves. Here is mine for your perusal. This also gives me the perfect opportunity to share a bunch of my favorite writers and show off some of my favorite tchotchkes.
1. Starting with the musical instruments... this one is called an otamatone. Invented by the Japanese art unit, Maywa Denki, the otamatone is an electronic instrument played by running your fingers along a touch-sensitive strip on the stem. It creates a theremin-like glissando, to which you can then add a wah-wah effect by squeezing the mouth open. See it played in this video.
2. These knockmen wind-up toys are also by Maywa Denki. See them demonstrated here.
4. Spinning choral top, given to me by Nelly Reifler. When the top gets going, it creates a beautifully disturbing series of minor chords. Nelly's beautifully disturbing collection of short stories, See Through, is also on the shelf.
5. Unusual-creature stuffed animals! The axolotl was given to me by my editor at Chronicle Books, Melissa Manlove. Thanks, Melissa! I purchased the slow loris while visiting the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC, last year. And the tardigrade was made by a talented crochetist (is that a word?) who runs an Etsy shop called Zombigurumi Love.
6. The Paris Review Book: Of Heartbreak, Madness, Sex, Love, Betrayal, Outsiders, Intoxication, War, Whimsy, Horrors, God, Death, Dinner, Baseball, Travels, the Art of Writing, and Everything Else in the World Since 1953. Proud to say I actually had the chance to work with the great George Plimpton. My band, One Ring Zero, performed with him at Central Park SummerStage just a few weeks before he passed away. Such an amazing guy. Did you know he wrestled Sirhan Sirhan to the ground when RFK was assassinated? Crazy.
7. Mary Roach's Bonk and Packing for Mars are must-reads. Pooping in space! In fact, you should read everything by Mary Roach. She rules! Her next book, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, comes out next year. Can't wait!
8. Remember the mixtape? Cassette from My Ex by Jason Bitner is a collection of stories and soundtracks of lost loves. Great stuff. And to boot, there's a story in there by yours truly.
9. Here I have the almost-complete collection of works by Rick Moody. My favorite of the bunch is Demonology. Incidentally, yesterday was Rick's birthday. Happy birthday, Rick!
10. Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay won the Pulitzer Prize for good reason. Around the same time, I asked him if he would be willing to write lyrics for my band. Unfortunately, he was too busy and sent a very nice rejection letter... which I immediately set to music. After all, they're his lyrics.
11. When I first moved to New York in 2001, the McSweeney's publishing house was based in a tiny store just a few blocks away from me in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I quickly became friends with them, and between 2001 and 2003, One Ring Zero was essentially the "house band" for McSweeney's, meaning we played at just about all of their literary events. It was a ton of fun. During this period I collected lots of McSweeney's books.
12. Paul Auster also lives in my neighborhood, and for a while we worked together on several projects. Many of his books live on this shelf. Oracle Night is one of my favorites.
13. An orange cat figurine! My nephew, Felix, made it for me when he was nine. It's Sculpey, I think?
14. One Ring Zero toured with Jonathan Ames when his book Wake Up, Sir! came out. We performed with him at Powell's, actually. For some reason I don't have Wake Up, Sir! in my collection, so I'll point out The Extra Man instead. It helps to have a lime-green book.
15. Not only is Neil Gaiman a talented writer, but he also has 1,773,661 followers on Twitter. Good lord. Fragile Things is a fantastic collection of his short stories and poetry. He also kindly mentions One Ring Zero in the intro... therefore, I shall mention him here, on the Powell's blog.
And with that, I've concluded my week of guest blogging on the Powell's website. It's been a blast. Thanks for having me! Thanks for reading! Now go buy some books.
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Michael Hearst is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and writer. He is a founding member of the band One Ring Zero, whose albums include Planets and As Smart As We Are, and his solo works include Songs for Ice Cream Trucks and Songs for Unusual Creatures. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Books mentioned in this post
Michael Hearst is the author of Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth's Strangest Animals