100 books like Straight Life

By Art Pepper, Laurie Pepper,

Here are 100 books that Straight Life fans have personally recommended if you like Straight Life. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Sam Mitrani Author Of The Rise of the Chicago Police Department: Class and Conflict, 1850-1894

From my list on why takes on the police miss the real problem.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of history at College of DuPage, a community college outside of Chicago. Growing up in New York City and rural Vermont in the 1980s and 1990s around people who questioned everything made me think a lot about how and why the social world is organized in such an obviously unjust and irrational way. I have tried to understand the development of this organization ever since.

Sam's book list on why takes on the police miss the real problem

Sam Mitrani Why did Sam love this book?

This might seem like a strange choice since this book is not directly about policing. But it shows in a powerful and direct way how inextricably bound policing is with the basic organization of this society.

Despite the controversies currently surrounding Hayley’s depiction of Malcolm X’s life, the book retains its power to express Malcolm X’s cutting critique of every one of this country’s justifications for its brutal criminal justice system. No one who engages with it can believe that police exist simply to deal with some criminal element in society.

But the book also shows how impossible it would be for this society to somehow “defund” the force used to keep under control the millions of people who, even with all their talents, this society can find no place for.

By Malcolm X, Alex Haley,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Autobiography of Malcolm X as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF TIME’S TEN MOST IMPORTANT NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement. His fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream, gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time. The Autobiography of Malcolm X stands as the definitive statement of a movement…


Book cover of Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems

Robert Pinsky Author Of The Sounds of Poetry: a Brief Guide

From my list on that were composed by ear.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a poet, my main gift is related to my first ambition, to be a musician. I like to talk, I like to listen, I like the sounds of words and I like to hear (for example) what Emily Dickinson and William Butler Yeats have to say.

Robert's book list on that were composed by ear

Robert Pinsky Why did Robert love this book?

Williams, late in his life, can look out the window or at the newspaper and open his mind and eye and breath to catch the truth of the thing in verse-music.

Very early in his life, he memorized a lot of poems, so as a New Jersey improviser he didn’t have to think about the sounds. He composed as an athlete runs, jumps, throws, etc. I can hear him.

By William Carlos Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This collection makes available work of one of our greatest American poets in the last decade of his life. The first section, Pictures from Brueghel, contains previously uncollected short poems, while the second and third parts are the complete texts of The Desert Music (1954) and Journey to Love (1955), originally published by Random House. In these books, Dr. Williams perfected his "variable foot" metric and achieved full mastery of the "American idiom" which was his lifelong first concern. Among the poems of this period is the long "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" which W. H. Auden has called "one of…


Book cover of The Bean Eaters;

Robert Pinsky Author Of The Sounds of Poetry: a Brief Guide

From my list on that were composed by ear.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a poet, my main gift is related to my first ambition, to be a musician. I like to talk, I like to listen, I like the sounds of words and I like to hear (for example) what Emily Dickinson and William Butler Yeats have to say.

Robert's book list on that were composed by ear

Robert Pinsky Why did Robert love this book?

When Brooks says “ballade” or “blues” she speaks with the authority of one who can hear—can allude to music without needing to copy it.

Composing the sounds before the record-keeping act of merely writing the words. She doesn’t need the added music of actual song: she embodies the music in the sentence-sounds. (And the harmonies and discords and rhythms of speech.)

By Gwendolyn Brooks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Bean Eaters; as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. To ensure a quality reading experience, this work has been…


Book cover of The Art of the Heist: Confessions of a Master Thief

Robert Pinsky Author Of The Sounds of Poetry: a Brief Guide

From my list on that were composed by ear.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a poet, my main gift is related to my first ambition, to be a musician. I like to talk, I like to listen, I like the sounds of words and I like to hear (for example) what Emily Dickinson and William Butler Yeats have to say.

Robert's book list on that were composed by ear

Robert Pinsky Why did Robert love this book?

Like most calm, ordinary, cautious people, I enjoy movies and books by and about reckless, clever criminals.

Myles Connor, rock star and felon, may or may not know all about, or played a role in, the famous art theft from Boston’s Isabella Gardner museum. He talks an extremely good game.

By Myles J Connor, Jenny Siler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Art of the Heist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“One of the most beguiling criminal memoirs ever written. . . . A rare gem of a book.” — T. J. English, New York Times bestselling author of Havana Nocturne

How did the son of a decorated policeman grow up to be one of Boston’s most notorious criminals? How did he survive a decades-long feud with the FBI? How did he escape one jail sentence with a fake gun carved out of soap? How did he trade the return of a famous Rembrandt for early release from another sentence? The Art of the Heist is a roller-coaster ride of a…


Book cover of What It Is: The Life of a Jazz Artist (Studies in Jazz)

James Kaplan Author Of Sinatra: The Chairman

From my list on jazz through the stories of jazz musicians.

Why am I passionate about this?

Now it can be said: three decades ago, when Vanity Fair assigned me to write a profile of Miles Davis to accompany an excerpt of his about-to-be-published memoir, I presented myself as a jazz expert — when in fact my enthusiasm for the music far outweighed my knowledge. But in the years since I’ve learned a lot about America’s great art form, in part through researching my Frank Sinatra biography — Sinatra worked with many important jazz musicians — and now in working on my latest book, about Miles and two of the geniuses who collaborated with him on his historic album Kind of Blue, the saxophonist John Coltrane and the pianist Bill Evans.

James' book list on jazz through the stories of jazz musicians

James Kaplan Why did James love this book?

Saxophonist, flutist, and jazz educator Dave Liebman (born in 1946) was the son of two Jewish Brooklyn schoolteachers, who envisioned the same life for him — all the more so after he contracted polio at age nine. Much to their dismay, Liebman had different ideas. Because he couldn’t play sports, he nourished a passionate interest in music, first taking piano lessons, then moving on to his real interest, the saxophone. A strong student with an interest in history, he might have followed his parents’ wishes and become a teacher — until the night, at age 16, he took a date to the New York jazz club Birdland and heard the saxophone giant John Coltrane for the first time, and realized the one and only thing he wanted to do with his life.

Written in the form of a dialogue with the jazz writer and musician Lewis Porter, What It Is…

By Dave Liebman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What It Is as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dave Liebman is one of the leading forces in contemporary jazz. Prominently known for performing with Miles Davis and Elvin Jones, he has exerted considerable influence as a saxophonist, bandleader, composer, author, and educator. In addition to his recent recognition as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, he has received the Order of Arts and Letters from France and holds an honorary doctorate from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland. He has mentored many of today's most notable young jazz musicians worldwide and is a prolific writer on jazz.

In What It Is: The Life of a Jazz…


Book cover of Sonny Rollins Plays the Bridge

John Micklos Jr. Author Of Raindrops to Rainbow

From my list on recent picture books with a message.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have written 60 books over the past 20 years. My titles include picture books, poetry books, and dozens of nonfiction books covering a wide range of history and social studies topics. My picture books deal with concepts such as counting and colors. I enjoy rhyming and wordplay and conveying ideas in simple terms. 

John's book list on recent picture books with a message

John Micklos Jr. Why did John love this book?

A talented saxophone player, Sonny Rollins left a successful performing career at age 29. He believed he could improve his craft by constant practice, and he found a unique place to do so—the Williamsburg Bridge that connects Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York City. Inspired by the sights and sounds of the city, Rollins played his heart out. Gary Golio’s lyrical text captures the rhythm and flow of Rollins’ saxophone, while Ransome’s vibrant watercolor and collage artwork provides a perfect complement to the text. Back matter offers further information about Sonny Rollins’ life and career and about the Williamsburg Bridge. 

By Gary Golio, James E. Ransome (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sonny Rollins Plays the Bridge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

James Ransome's glorious art celebrates jazz icon Sonny Rollins and how he found an inspired spot to practice his saxophone when his neighbors complained.

Sonny Rollins loved his saxophone. As a teenager, he was already playing with jazz stars and making a name for himself. But in 1959, at age twenty-nine, he took a break from performing-to work on being a better, not just famous, musician. Practicing in a city apartment didn't please the neighbors, so Sonny found a surprising alternative-the Williamsburg Bridge. There, with his head in the clouds and foghorns for company, Sonny could play to his heart's…


Book cover of Raise Up Off Me: A Portrait of Hampton Hawes

Paul Austerlitz Author Of Jazz Consciousness: Music, Race, and Humanity

From my list on scholarly reads on jazz.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a scholar as well as performer of the African American creative improvised music usually called jazz, my attunement to this art form resonates with its historico-cultural matrix as much as with the sounds themselves.  These books distinguish themselves for being well-researched and rigorous.  They are the real deal, doing justice to the heart as well as the intellect of this  art form.  


Paul's book list on scholarly reads on jazz

Paul Austerlitz Why did Paul love this book?

Pianist Hawes is an under-sung master of the early bebop period. This supremely readable narrative tells the story of how he met and played with Charlie Parker already in his teen years, painting a picture of how jazz musicians lived in the heyday of the bebop revolution. A fun and informative book.  

By Hampton Hawes, Don Asher,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Raise Up Off Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hampton Hawes [1928–1977] was one of jazz's greatest pianists. Among his peers from California the self-taught Hawes was second only to Oscar Peterson. At the time of his celebration as New Star of the Year by downbeat magazine (1956), Hawes was already struggling with a heroin addiction that would lead to his arrest and imprisonment, and the interruption of a brilliant career. In 1963 President John F. Kennedy granted Hawes an Executive Pardon. In eloquent and humorous language Hampton Hawes tells of a life of suffering and redemption that reads like an improbable novel. Gary Giddins has called it "a…


Book cover of Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times

David W. Stowe Author Of Swing Changes: Big-Band Jazz in New Deal America

From my list on the social history of jazz.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up hearing jazz thanks to my dad, a big swing fan who allegedly played Duke Ellington for me in the crib. My father couldn’t believe it when I developed a taste for “modern jazz,” bebop, even Coltrane, but he never threw me out. Fifty years later I still love to play jazz on drums and listen to as much as I can. But along the way, I realized the world might be better served by me writing about the music than trying to make a living performing it. I had the great privilege of studying jazz in graduate school and wrote about big-band jazz for my first book, which helped launch my career.

David's book list on the social history of jazz

David W. Stowe Why did David love this book?

Everyone knows that jazz is intimately and inextricably linked to Africa, but no book does a better job of breaking down just how strong this relationship is. Pianist Randy Weston and bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik are pretty well known, but Kelley uncovers lots of fascinating new material on both musicians and their transnational connections. Drummer Guy Warren and vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin were new to me and both turned out to have incredible backstories. Kelley is as compelling on the jazz scenes of Cape Town and Lagos as he is on the more familiar haunts of Chicago and New York. It was such an exciting historical moment, with one African nation after another breaking free of their colonial subjugators. The jazz world was bursting with creativity. Anything seemed possible. Kelley knows the jazz world inside and out and writes beautifully.

By Robin D. G. Kelley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Africa Speaks, America Answers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, pianist Randy Weston and bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik celebrated with song the revolutions spreading across Africa. In Ghana and South Africa, drummer Guy Warren and vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin fused local musical forms with the dizzying innovations of modern jazz. These four were among hundreds of musicians in the 1950s and '60s who forged connections between jazz and Africa that definitively reshaped both their music and the world.

Each artist identified in particular ways with Africa's struggle for liberation and made music dedicated to, or inspired by, demands for independence and self-determination. That music was the wild, boundary-breaking…


Book cover of Music is My Mistress

Lilian Terry Author Of Dizzy, Duke, Brother Ray, and Friends: On and Off the Record with Jazz Greats

From my list on to welcome you to the magical world of jazz.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lilian Terry’s background is quite out-of-the-ordinary. Born in Egypt in 1930 to Maltese and Italian parents, she undertook academic studies in Cairo and Florence. Terry studied classical piano until age 17, developing an interest in jazz in her early teens. She participated in a variety of ways with jazz in Europe, beginning in the 1950s. As a singer, she was an active performer and recording artist. At the same time, she produced radio and television shows for Italy’s RAI network, and this activity led to some of her encounters with major figures of American jazz. Seven of these interactions (most of which spanned decades) are the subject of Dizzy, Duke, Brother Ray, and Friends.

Lilian's book list on to welcome you to the magical world of jazz

Lilian Terry Why did Lilian love this book?

I have three main reasons to love this book: a) it is brilliantly written by Ellington himself; with his gentle-ironical sense of humour and his intention to put down on paper his magic musical world for the entertainment of all generations to come. b) I was fortunate to be “adopted” by him during the last nine years of his life, when “Uncle Eddie” would dictate to me any subject that came to his mind and I would make sure he had his copy, for later use in his book. c) to the last days of his life he was a constant inspiration; as a generous human being and as a universal musician.

By Edward ‘Duke’ Ellington,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Music is My Mistress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

}Music is my mistress, and she plays second fiddle to no one. This is the story of Duke Ellingtonthe story of Jazz itself. Told in his own way, in his own words, a symphony written by the King of Jazz. His story spans and defines a half-century of modern music.This man who created over 1500 compositions was as much at home in Harlems Cotton Club in the 20s as he was at a White House birthday celebration in his honor in the 60s. For Duke knew everyone and savored them all. Passionate about his music and the people who made…


Book cover of Good Vibes: A Life in Jazz

Donald Clarke Author Of Billie Holiday: Wishing On The Moon

From my list on jazz biographies & autobiographies (from a jazz lover).

Why am I passionate about this?

I started buying records 70 years ago. I worked in a car factory for a decade, then landed a job in publishing, having written a couple of magazine articles, and finally got a chance to do what I was born to do: write about my favorite subject. Music has been the most important thing in the world to me ever since I heard the hits of the 1940s on the radio, playing on the kitchen floor while my mother did the ironing. I believe music is a mystery, more important than we can know, in every way: intellectual, psychological, emotional, philosophical. That is why it is such a big business, even if the business itself is often less than salubrious.

Donald's book list on jazz biographies & autobiographies (from a jazz lover)

Donald Clarke Why did Donald love this book?

Terry Gibbs played vibes (vibraphone) with several of the most famous big bands during the Swing Era, than formed his own small groups, then led big bands himself starting in 1956. Steeped in Swing, he also held his own with the modernists. Perhaps his most amazing accomplishment was putting together his Dream Band, which recorded at least 68 selections, arranged by all the best arrangers in the business, in four different clubs in Hollywood, mostly in 1959. It was a 'dream band' because although the big band era was over, all the best musicians on the West Coast wanted to play in this one because the music was so much fun. Gibbs was in his 90s when his book came out; he knew how lucky he had been, and his book is full of joy and love.

By Terry Gibbs, Cary Ginell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Good Vibes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Terry Gibbs, legendary jazz vibraphonist and bandleader, was 12 years old when he kicked off his career as a professional musician, winning first place in an amateur performance. Born and raised in the heart of Brooklyn and possessing tremendous musical talent, Gibbs learned the ins and outs of bebop from pioneers like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Bud Powell. In 1959 his ensemble, later dubbed The Dream Band, became the toast of Hollywood. Four decades, 65 albums, and 300 compositions later, his story is one of great substance-his foot-tapping music, revolutionary. Good Vibes is a rollicking autobiography that tracks jazz…


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