Hive Asks: What Did You Read This Year? — Rock Lit

In the spirit of year-end lists, we wanted to know musicians’ favorite books of 2012. But since we also know that musicians generally have no sense of time, we expanded that idea to encompass any literary work these artists read during the year – regardless of when it was published. Everyone from Tegan and Sara’s Tegan Quin to up-and-coming rapper Angel Haze to Bad Religion rocker Brian Baker weighed in with a selection and offered some insight as to why their selection is the most compelling read of year. Now you’ll have a slew of books to peruse during the holiday break.

Chad Harbach, The Art Of Fielding

How did you come across the book?

“Sara [Quin] suggested it in one of her ‘Sara Reads’ blogs, I believe. Then I saw it on my e-reader as a featured book.”

What about it did you find compelling?

“I loved the story. Something about college aged kids, living at an Ivy League school, set in the Midwest, playing sports and dealing with school, family, love and life in general is just so appealing. Perhaps because it is such a stretch from my own life – I didn’t go to college and was never particularly good at sports. I just ended up being completely taken with the story and the writing and the characters. The book stayed with me a long time.”

Did it influence your music?

“I think I take in a lot about writing in general when I’m reading. I find structure and narrative very fascinating. I like the escape that I get from reading. I like how focused my brain has to be. It’s impossible to be distracted when you’re reading… So I guess books are an escape and don’t often influence my writing but they do offer a break from writing so they probably do provide a great service when it comes to my writing.” –Tegan Quin, Tegan and Sara

Roberto Bolano, 2666

How did you come across the book?

“I was introduced to it by my good friend [author] Mark Z Danielewski.”

What about it did you find compelling?

“It starts and ends about a writer called Archimboldi and is about women going missing in Santa Maria in Mexico. It’s actually five books in one. The way Bolano writes he takes you on these weird long detours, and there’s absolutely no sense of resolution to any of his books that I’ve read [and] I find that incredibly compelling. I felt like I learned quite a bit about the plight of women going missing in Mexico, too.” –Simon Neil, Biffy Clyro

Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

How did you come across the book?

“I’ve always been a collector of books in an offhand sort of way. On tour one of my favorite things to do is to find a used bookstore and wander through it looking for something that stands out. I think at 34 I’m still hoping to have that Never Ending Story moment that explodes my world… I found this old dusty copy of Something Wicked in a used bookstore in New Orleans and it just called out to be picked up.”

What about it did you find compelling?

“Bradbury wrote about childhood as if he had never left it – or more accurately as if it had never left him. In this book he perfectly conveys the emotional excitement I felt as a boy, that feeling that the world was enormously beautiful and full of wonder and yet had the potential to be terrifying… The other thing I love about Bradbury is that he understood what fear really is and how to create it. There’s nothing over the top here, just a perfectly eerie and thrilling build throughout.”

Did it influence your music?

“There is a dark sort of hopelessness and fear that this book stained with me. I’m sure that came out in the music somewhere although I can’t point to anything specific.” –Brendan Ekstrom, Circa Survive

Sandy Rogers, Bimini Twists

What about it did you find compelling?

“It’s a short fiction about the life of a fly fishing guide in the Florida Keys. The frustrations, the love of chasing tarpon, bonefish and permit, and the sacrifices one makes to follow an extreme passion and addiction to flats fishing… I typically don’t read fiction, but all of the titles I choose to read are along the subject matter of fly fishing and man eating cats found in central South America and Africa.”

Did it influence your music?

“Maybe not this book in particular but the passion I have for fly fishing has always influenced the music I write. There are many parallels in the two worlds for me.” –Pete Adams, Baroness

Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

How did you come across the book?

“I am an avid reader of Murakami. My favorite is Kafka On the Shore.”

What about it did you find compelling?

“I always enjoy the obscure and all encompassing reads. A book that forces you to use your imagination [and] to think. That propels you to re-read certain paragraphs and phrases.”

Did it influence your music?

“My album title, Ornamental Egos, was a spawn off a specific thought that 1Q84 provoked.” –Audrey Napoleon

Emma Donoghue, Room

What about it did you find compelling?

“The story – and the fact that it was told mostly from the point of a five-year-old boy. It also showcased the various problematic forms of psychological issues that he had as a result of what he’d been through… It doesn’t at all [compare to what I usually read]. I like books that are more scientific and knowledgeable.” –Angel Haze


Bob Mould, See A Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody

How did you come across the book?

“I picked it up at Book Soup in Hollywood. It’s one of my favorite bookstores in Los Angeles.”

What about it did you find compelling?

“I love reading musician’s autobiographies. I seek them out. Being a musician in a touring rock band can be crazy and it’s always interesting to read about other people’s experiences. It helps puts things in perspective. I’ve actually read this one twice. Bob Mould is so honest and not only shares his intimate thoughts on being in a band, but also opens up so much about his personal life.” –Nikke Monninger, Silversun Pickups

Terrence McKenna, True Hallucinations

How did you come across the book?

“I’ve been a fan of Mckenna’s lectures and philosophy for a long time. I try and read one of his books every few years to keep my imagination and courage to explore strong. He is a far out radical dude.”

What about it did you find compelling?

“This book has a way of exciting my mind and growing its perception of the world. If I ever find myself in a place where life becomes boring, it is good to remember that I’ve just stopped searching and need to start back up again. Reading a book like True Hallucinations can remind you of the importance to take journeys and come face to face with the infinite enigma, like God or aliens. Reading it puts you in the right state of mind to be open to the imagination of mankind, in all its hilarious disguises.”

Did it influence your music?

“Absolutely. As an artist I’m always searching for muses. It could be love, death or boredom. Any of those will do. Boredom usually leads me to a place where I am reaching out for something deep and unknown and it is good to read books about inspiring people who were in that same damned spot.” –Nik Fackler, Icky Blossoms

crimethINC, Work

How did you come across the book?

“We have a bookstore in Minneapolis called Mayday that sells underground, political and independent books. I shop there when I’m looking for nonfiction.”

What about it did you find compelling?

“Well, I’ve always been a fan of crimethINC as a collective. So I was already ready to check it out. It’s about the way our money system works, with a slant towards anarchy.”

Did it influence your music?

“Yes. So much so that I got permission from crimethINC to include a short version with every copy of my newest record [We Don't Even Live Here].” –P.O.S.

Patti SmithJust Kids

How did you come across the book?

“Last Christmas I got at least three copies of it so I was meant to read it.”

What about it did you find compelling?

“Of course her story is unbelievably compelling and the first take accounts of New York during the artistic and cultural rise of so many artists gathering at the Chelsea hotel, etc let us be the fly on the wall that we’d want to be. Her prose is poetry really, and her life is true art in everyday action. She was compelled to express daily in multiple art forms and remains revolutionary in all she does. The deep friendship and love and connection she shared with Robert Mapplethorpe is inspirational.”

Did it influence your music?

Just Kids was like a kick in the ass of inspiration for me – a much-needed example of the beauty and creation, struggle, heartache and triumph of one who creates every moment. She lives art.” –Rachael Yamagata

Donald Ray Pollock, The Devil All The Time

How did you come across the book?

“I live in Washington, D.C. and there’s still something called an independent bookstore here. There’s a store called Politics and Prose, which I think is pretty well known in literary circles. It’s a community bookstore and whoever buys for them is much smarter than I am. So I go there and I use their suggestions. This was suggested fiction.”

What about it did you find compelling?

“It centers around small town life in a Rustbelt, go-no-where town. It’s beautifully written and it’s just right up my alley. It’s scary and it’s thought provoking, which is the best piece of fiction… I’m a sucker for historically fiction of any kind and I have a soft spot for history that resonates because I can see variants of it in photographs. This had all the bells and whistles because it starts out at the end of World War II. It’s the kind of thing I like to read as escapist fiction.”

Did it influence your music?

“Well, in a sense it does. The slice of life in the Rustbelt in 1939 kind of books do inspire me. It’s not as germane to Bad Religion in a sense, but I listen to the music that was made during that time and I’ve been on lifelong journey to be able to play that kind of stuff in an authentic manner. So it appeals to my musical sense in that manner. I’ve very interested now in pre-1950 American folk music. Reading a book is a companion to that soundtrack so it does inspire me a lot.” –Brian Baker, Bad Religion

Yann Martel, The Life of Pi

How did you come across the book?

“Just heard about it from a friend. He said it was ‘Next level bro’ so I was like ‘OK bro’ let’s go.”

What about it did you find compelling?

“I love psychedelic shit. This book has major magic tendencies combined with some serious survivalism grit that appeals to me.”

Did it influence your music?

“This book helped inspire a new song of mine called ‘Good 4 It’ off my new album. The song is about basically being stranded and in need of help after you’ve seen and been through some truly gnarly events. Although for me it’s a night of heavy drinking I’m complaining about and for Pi it’s almost a year stranded in the ocean on a tiny lifeboat with a Bengal tiger.” -Ricky Reed, Wallpaper

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