Welcome to Conrad's recommendations! Conrad started bookselling in 1976 for Gilman Street Bookstore in Madison, (a Marxist bookstore that paid him in books rather than money, something the owner and he both found hilarious). Then Conrad started working at Schwartz Bookshops in March of 2001 and has been working in books since. He doesn't really have a favorite genre or even a favorite book or author, but there are plenty of those that he likes a lot. Right now he's reading Beyond Earth, a science book about the colonization of space by humans in the not too distant future: what holds us back, what it will take, and where we can go (not Mars or the Moon, as they don't have atmospheres).
Check out what Conrad has been reading below!
Maximum rock and roll played at warp speed with lyrics more screamed than sung took punk into a new direction, one driven by utter and total rage. To the new bands emerging in the Eighties, the first generation of punks had grown complacent: sold out making disco music (Blondie), or folded (Sex Pistols), or morphed into the very thing they had once rebelled against (bands playing in massive arenas). Punk now adopted a very self-conscious stance against the right-wing corporate power grab of the Reagan years. Groups like Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, and Bad Brains roared onto the scene and challenged the old guard in ways that reinvigorated rock and roll's angry, uncompromising challenge to the status quo. You want the Eighties? This is the Eighties!
The cutting edge of alternative rock was... Athens, Georgia?!? Well, yes: Athens, Georgia proved that a vibrant, influential, and ongoing local music scene could happen almost anywhere. The B-52s, REM, and Widespread Panic (among others) exploded out of this sleepy college town to rattle the smug cages in New York and LA. In doing so, the bands and their communities mapped out strategies for creating local artistic, social, and political alternatives to the cultural hegemony of the coasts. Here is that history told by a direct participant, in a in-on-the-ground-floor style that keeps the pages turning.
When the Beastie Boys first broke, a lot of people thought they were just another gang of NYC white boys usurping the latest trend out of Harlem or the Bronx and calling it their own. "Fight For Your Right to Party" seemed to sum up everything wrong with youth who had abandoned the idealism of the Sixties for the narcissism of the late-Seventies and Eighties. In the early Eighties, Sugar Hill Gang's “Rappers Delight” or Blondie's “Rapture” was the only exposure most white listeners had to rap/hip hop, and even they knew Blondie wasn't exactly the real thing. Most were too indifferent to care. Then, along came Run DMC playing with, of all things, Aerosmith, and suddenly rap was everywhere. Many people were still huffing and puffing about beat boxes as cheating and sampling as really cheating and bemoaning the fate of real musicians at the hands of these musically illiterate thieves. Around this time the Beastie Boys morphed from a fledgling hardcore-punk band into the first white rappers of note. This doorstop of a book tells their story, mostly in their own words (or those of the two surviving members: Adam Yauch died in 2012). The Beasties speak in voices that evolve as their story unfolds: they sound like high school kids when writing about themselves as teens, and grow more eloquent as their story advances, (sorta Joycean, kinda), which is actually a good thing. This also mirrors the evolution of their lyrics from the predictably misogynistic drivel of their first efforts, to a total renunciation of such later on. Throughout, we are delighted by their self-deprecation, their brutally honest, snarkily irreverent takes on the scene around them, and always their always entertaining banter. You would expect no less from people who have made a living turning a phrase.
"Javier Marias mused that the typical soccer fan partakes in sport as a weekly return to childhood: full of wonderment, and enthralled by heroes engaged in contests with no gray areas, only clear winners and losers. Juan Villoro replies: "In his or her lesser moments, the football fan is an ogling imbecile, mouth full of pie, head full of useless information." This is a sports book that appeals to the cynical temperament of the most jaded fan (so I loved it, of course). God is Round explores with a jaundiced and unblinking eye the players, fans and history of the world's most popular obsession. Villoro revels in the telling details, for example the notoriously histrionic and melodramatic Argentine great Diego Maradona (author of what is considered by many to be the greatest goal ever scored - 'the goal of the century' - and also the most infamous cheat ever perpetrated - 'the hand of God' - both in the same game): "On the island of the pitch, Maradona showed exemplary humility; away from it, he exploded like a dramatic supernova". Sports writing doesn't get any better than this." --Conrad
"Here is yet another magnificent work from the pen of the great Japanese novelist. Less soaring and magical than 1Q84? To be sure. Less epic and tortured than The Wind Up Bird Chronicle? Yes. But this is every bit the equal of Norwegian Wood or Kafka by the Shore, and that's saying a lot. This settles nicely into a body of work that will inevitably lead to a Nobel Prize for literature in the not too distant future. And, yes, I said much the same thing about Marias, and I'll stick with that too. For these are the towering literary giants of our time, and their new works are to be awaited impatiently, welcomed warmly and relished with quiet intensity, for they are works of genius. " --Conrad
The nix (or nisse) are Norwegian house spirits that usually live in your basement. For the most part they ignore you and you ignore them, but if you do something to tick them off: say spill water on their feet or betray their trust in some seemingly insignificant way, they will haunt you and your descendants for generations. Minor actions lead to major repercussions. Small decisions made on the spur of the moment double back to torment us years later, and become the overwhelming forces that shape the quality of our life.Such is the spirit, and the choices, that come to haunt three generations of Andressons: Faye, her son Samuel (who she abandoned when he was eleven) and her father Frank, who made a poor choice as a young man in Norway in 1940, and has been paying the price ever since. This family, as unlikable as they are, as pathetically inept at life as they are, will keep you entranced as the 600+ pages fly by, and you resist the temptation to skip ahead. You will devour this book.
"I plowed through this book in one day, and I'm not a fast reader. It's not that it's a short book, although at 320 pages, it isn't exactly a doorstop either. And it's not that I couldn't put it down, I didn't read it in one sitting, but I kept coming back to it. What it is: unsparing, no-nonsense prose, redolent of the voices of Wisconsin; a study of the vicissitudes of friendship and love, betrayal and redemption, and the magnetic draw of home; a paean to the lives of the common (and not so common) folk of our state." --Conrad
Bottom of the Sky is a riff on mid-century American science fiction by a well-informed aficionado. Anything less could have easily slid into satirical, sneering condescension, but here it is handled with affection and care. Certainly 1950s Science Fiction, with its inane plotting, gawdhelpus moralizing, and simplistic 'science,' is a stationary target for mockery, but Fresán gives us a stylized homage to a richly imagined world that acts as a handy prism for viewing the one we live in now. Bonus points if you catch all the famous science fiction writers making disguised appearances throughout.
Josh Frank discovered a long-lost screenplay written by Salvador Dali for the Marx Brothers. How nuts is that? The film was never produced. Why not?!? Now it has been transformed into a graphic novel. The story is surreal (of course), sprawling, and hallucinatory, and demands a careful reading, as there is a lot packed in. Given the application of Dali's paranoiac critical techniques and the scripting for the freewheeling mayhem of most Marx Brothers, quite possibly this movie never could have been made. But it works perfectly well as a graphic novel. Leap into the lunatic mind of the great Surrealist master creating for the most anarchic of comedians, and see where (or even if) you land.