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Lisa's Picks

I work at Powells Technical Books by day and play, write, and sing music at night. I also have two sons to raise and a couple of dogs to keep happy. My reading interests vary as much as my personal life does. Here are some of the books I like best.
Making Music

How To Make and Sell Your Own Recording: (revised) 5th Edition by Diane Sward Rapaport
I lead a double life: one as a bookseller and assistant manager at the Tech store, and the other as a songwriter, guitar playin' honky tonk musician. Well, the great thing about my job is that my two lives can collide on occasion – and often enough it's because of a great book. Independent recording is a challenge, and Rapaport offers up useful information on how to prepare before actually hitting the studio floor (including the costs).

Listen to He's Alive! from Lisa Miller and the Trailer Park Honey's Lipstick and Beer.
She also tackles the hows and wherefores of graphics, packaging, manufacturing, copyrights, publishing, marketing, taxes, and financial planning. (You'll even find worksheets in the back to help you figure out your financial woes.) How to Make and Sell presents guidelines for finding distribution, understanding a recording contract, sampling laws, and so much more. I found it useful in so many ways. I've recorded two CDs on my own and have learned that there is so much more to the process than just the recording of the music. You need to plot your next steps, have the money to promote your work, and understand your rights. I strongly suggest this book for anyone in, or aspiring to be in, the business of music. Yee haw!


Southern Fried Fiction

Crazy in AlabamaCrazy In Alabama by Mark Childress
Playing in a band there's a lot of "hurry up and wait." When the club owner wants the sound check at 7pm and you don't go on until 11pm, there's plenty of time to read. Playing honky tonk music leans me toward books that take place in the South. One of my recent favorites is Crazy In Alabama. The story of P-Joe and his Southern family during the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement (P-Joe's loony aunt has decapitated her husband, put his head in a Tupperware bowl for freshness, and is headed to L.A. to audition for The Beverly Hillbillies) is both hilarious and moving. Mark Childress is a great writer. He takes you into the mind of the young P-Joe, a witness to his aunt's wrongdoing. He also allows you the privilege of listening in on the rants and raves of P-Joe's crazy aunt, who has a special talent for narrowly escaping danger – and the law – while continuing an ongoing dialogue with her dead husband's head.

Elvis, Jesus and Coca ColaElvis, Jesus and Coca Cola by Kinky Friedman
I love Elvis. Actually, I love people who love Elvis. They fascinate me. Especially those who stand in line for hours to visit Graceland. And those who have shrines to the King. They are my people. (When I was a kid I really wanted my middle name to be Marie rather than Margaret so I could be Lisa Marie. One of the first songs I ever learned to play on guitar was "Heartbreak Hotel.") I also love Kinky Friedman and his always entertaining, twisted, alcohol and drug induced mystery novels. Elvis, Jesus and Coca Cola is a great Kinky Friedman tale. It includes all his best characters: his cat, and a whole lotta Elvis impersonators. The puns are endless and the mystery is as intriguing as always. It's only when you read a Kinky Friedman book that you have the pleasure of seeing things from a radical Texas Jew's point of view. And he loves Elvis and his followers as much as I do.


Web Guides that Don't Suck

Creating Killer Web SitesCreating Killer Web Sites by David Siegel
Okay, I admit, I have a web site (for my band), and I also admit that I did not build the web site myself. I had lots and lots of help from many different sources, including this great book. I highly recommend it for anyone planning on building a web site for a business. The illustrations alone are enough to keep you turning pages. The examples are helpful, and the text is very readable. The chapter on form versus function is incredibly useful. I don't know about you, but I've been to many poor web sites with too much pointless animation, cumbersome scrolling, and frustrating links that take you nowhere. If only they'd used this book! Check it out.

Web Pages That Really Suck: Learn Good Design by Looking at Bad Design by Vincent Flanders and Michael Willis
Speaking of really bad web sites, you won't find a better guide to what makes a bad web site than this. It's based on the award winning site, WebPagesThatSuck.com. I'm a visual learner; I sponge up information best when I'm given good visual examples of what I need to know. This book is perfect for me. It's a lot of fun to check out some of the really putrid sites – like our Mayor Vera Katz's or the Pepsi site that has so many plug-ins it's close to impossible for the average Joe to even access. It's helpful to read why the authors feel these web sites suck (although you'll formulate your own opinions). The book offers a great way to learn what mistakes you don't want to make when building your own web site and, conversely, what you want to include in order to make your site a successful one. In the age of e-commerce and home-based business, this book is a must-have.


Miscellaneous Science

Tesla: The Lost Inventions by George Trinkaus

"Electric power is everywhere, present in unlimited quantities and can drive the world's machinery without the need of coal, oil, gas or any other fuels." Nikola Tesla

I never was great at science in school (in fact, I think I often fell asleep during the slide projector presentations on mold and frog dissecting), but I remember getting more involved when we witnessed the wonders of the Tesla Coil. I tried to find out more about Tesla, but there didn't seem to be anything available. Well, many years later, after being hired here at the Tech store, I was very pleased to find several books on Tesla, as well as a series of books on his patents and inventions.

High Voltage Press, a tiny little publisher here in the Northwest, publishes several of these Tesla pamphlets. The information included in these little gems is hard to come by. Tesla's work and research was suppressed for many years; much of his work was quite revolutionary. This nice little publication not only includes his patents but also interesting little tidbits about Tesla himself (and some of the trouble he got himself into). Tesla was fascinated by the power of resonance and built mechanical vibrators to induce man-made earthquakes. He was quite successful. During an evening walk through Manhattan, he attached one of his battery-operated, alarm clock-sized vibrators to the steel beam of a building under construction. He adjusted the vibrator to a suitable frequency and set the building shaking and quaking, as well as the ground beneath his feet. He later boasted that he could shake down the Empire State Building and that a larger-scale resonant vibrator could split the earth in half! The more you read about this guy, the more you can see why his work was suppressed.

Other related titles of interest would be: Tesla: Man Out Of Time by Margaret Cheney and Dr. Nikola Tesla Bibliography by John Ratzlaff and Leland Anderson.

Insect LivesInsect Lives: Stories Of Mystery & Romance From The Hidden World edited by Erich Hoyt and Ted Schultz
I'm not really big on bugs (too many of them in one place give me the creeps), but I believe in facing what you fear, so I read Insect Lives. What a great book, chock full of entertaining factoids, illustrations, fascinating and humorous tidbits, and poetic writing on insects from sources as diverse as the Bible and The Far Side. One of my favorites: May Berenbaum comparing the sex lives of insects and humans. It's not much of a stretch. In a sick kind of way, I enjoyed the pain chart for bites from wasps, bees and ants. The scale goes from the paper wasps bite (no pain) all the way to the traumatically painful spider wasp sting ... ouch!! Yup, stay away from those spider wasps! I was also sickly fascinated by insect cuisine. Brazed Beef with Caterpillar. How about Stag Beetle Larvae on Toast? Mmmmmm, yummy! Even if you're not a bug enthusiast, the book is quite entertaining – and chock full of bugs!


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