What Happened, Miss Simone?: A Biography

511X3eW8EiLWhat Happened, Miss Simone?: A Biography by Alan Light (Crown/Archetype, 2016) 

Inspired by the critically acclaimed Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?, an intimate and vivid look at the legendary life of Nina Simone, the classically trained pianist who evolved into a chart-topping chanteuse and committed civil rights activist. 
From music journalist and former Spin and Vibe editor-in-chief Alan Light comes a biography of incandescent soul singer and Black Power icon Nina Simone, one of the most influential, provocative, and least understood artists of our time. Drawn from a trove of rare archival footage, audio recordings and interviews (including Simone’s remarkable private diaries), this nuanced examination of Nina Simone’s life highlights her musical inventiveness and unwavering quest for equality, while laying bare the personal demons that plagued her from the time of her Jim Crow childhood in North Carolina to her self-imposed exile in Liberia and Paris later in life.

Harnessing the singular voice of Miss Simone herself and incorporating candid reflections from those who knew her best, including her only daughter, Light brings us face to face with a legend, examining the very public persona and very private struggles of one of our greatest artists.

“[Nina Simone’s] willingness to speak her mind shines out of every page of Alan Light’s biography.”
The Times (UK)

“A probing account of Simone’s inner struggles…Far from detracting from her civil rights heroism, it makes that achievement all the more astonishing.”
The New York Review of Books

“Simone was a genius. Her triumphs and troubles share the stage in Light’s pitch-perfect biography, What Happened, Miss Simone?.”

Alan Light has been one of America’s leading music journalists for the past twenty years. He was a senior writer at Rolling Stone, founding music editor and editor-in-chief of Vibe, and editor-in-chief of Spin magazine. Light has appeared as a music and culture expert on numerous television and radio programs, and is currently the director of programming for Live from the Artists Den, a concert series on PBS. He has been a contributor to the New York Times, The New Yorker, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, Elle, and Mother Jones and has won two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards for his work.

Light is the author of The Skills to Pay the Bills, an oral history of the Beastie Boys; The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah”; and cowriter of the New York Times bestselling memoir by Gregg Allman, My Cross to Bear, and Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain.

The Cannabis Manifesto by Steve DeAngelo (North Atlantic Books 2015)

51yaSmfaDGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Cannabis Manifesto by Steve DeAngelo (North Atlantic Books 2015)

With medical marijuana now being recognized as a major healthcare issue, the question is no longer whether cannabis will be legalized, or even when it will be legalized. The most important and pressing questions at this point are: how will it be legalized? How will it be regulated and marketed, by whom and in what manner? In THE CANNABIS MANIFESTO, longtime activist Stephen DeAngelo charts a clear, well-reasoned course to bring cannabis responsibly into the mainstream of American life. He looks beyond the question of if and when to examine the real challenges facing society as it brings this heretofore illegal substance out of the shadows.

Stephen DeAngelo is a longtime cannabis activist – arguably the national political leader of the $22.5 billion annual cannabis industry – and is the founder of the largest medical cannabis dispensary in the world, The Harborside Health Center, based in the Bay Area. DeAngelo has been featured by The New York TimesFortune MagazineThe Washington Post, CNN, The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, BBC, and many others. His creation of a model medical cannabis dispensary coupled with his extensive knowledge as a lifelong activist make him one of the most respected speakers in the cannabis and hemp industries.

Critical Praise

“In The Cannabis Manifesto, Steve DeAngelo has written what amounts to the Declaration of Independence for Cannabis.”—Sara Davidson, author of Loose Change

“Steve DeAngelo is the earliest pioneer of socially responsible and patient- and community-centric cannabis distribution. If you are wondering if medical cannabis might help you or a friend or family member, or if you have questions about medical cannabis, or if you’re just trying to figure out what this issue entails, let this book be your guide.”
—Willie L. Brown, Jr., 41st mayor of San Francisco

“Steve DeAngelo is the kind of devoted activist who normally would get hospitals and schools named after him, if he had been advocating something more mainstream. He is articulate, fiercely tenacious, and lives by his own principles, in life and in business. But as our recent history has shown, he might have something more important than a monument—a victory.”
—Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me

“A pioneering voice in the movement to liberate the cannabis plant and those who rely on it for health and wellness, Steve DeAngelo shares his vision for a more just world in this forward-thinking manifesto.”
—Aaron Smith, executive director of National Cannabis Industry Association

“Steve DeAngelo has been an icon in the cannabis movement and industry for a very long time. I don’t know that there’s anyone on the planet right now that possesses Steve’s level of business savvy and knowledge of the cannabis plant. When Steve offers up his wisdom, people should listen and try to soak up as much knowledge as they can. I know I do. The Cannabis Manifesto is a book that every cannabis enthusiast should have on their bookshelves.”
—Johnny Green. editor of the Weed Blog

“By willing into existence a lab to test the cannabis provided to patients by his dispensary, Steve DeAngelo jump-started the CBD era in America.”
—Fred Gardner, managing editor, O’Shaughnessy’s clinical journal

“Steve DeAngelo says what needs to be said in this bold and thoughtful manifesto.  He’s a role model for budding cannabis entrepreneurs who understand the unique relationship of this nascent industry to the broader struggle for freedom and justice in America.”
—Ethan Nadelmann, Founder and Executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

” There’s no greater authority in the United States on marijuana and the laws surrounding it than Steve DeAngelo.”
—Morgan Spurlock, Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker, producer, CNN’s Inside Man

“Finally, an intelligent public discourse about cannabis. Steve DeAngelo, with his huge heart, brilliant mind, and activist spirit, has created in The Cannabis Manifesto an invitation to a promising paradigm shift.”
—Ricky Williams, NFL professional, Heisman Trophy winner

Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries


Unique portraits of legendary characters along South America’s mountain spine, from Charles Darwin to the present day, told by a master traveler and observer.

The Andes Mountains are the world’s longest mountain chain, linking most of the countries in South America. Emmy Award–winning filmmaker and author Kim MacQuarrie takes us on a historical journey through this unique region, bringing fresh insight and contemporary connections to such fabled characters as Charles Darwin, Pablo Escobar, Che Guevara, and many others. He describes the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, where people’s lives depend entirely on a reed that grows there. He introduces us to a Patagonian woman who is the last living speaker of her language, as he explores the disappearance and sometimes surprising resiliency of indigenous cultures throughout the Andes. He meets a man whose grandfather witnessed Butch Cassidy’s last days in Bolivia,tracks down the ballet dancer who once hid the leader of the brutal Shining Path in her home, and hears a harrowing story from the school teacher who gave Che Guevara his final meal.

Through the stories he shares, MacQuarrie raises such questions as, where did the people of South America come from? Did they create or import their cultures? What makes South America different from other continents—and what makes the cultures of the Andes different from other cultures in South America? Why did Peru’s Shining Path leader Guzmán nearly succeed in his revolutionary quest while Che Guevara in Bolivia so quickly failed? And what so astounded Charles Darwin in South America that led him to conceive the theory of evolution? Deeply observed and beautifully written, Life and Death in the Andes shows us this land as no one has before.

Kim MacQuarrie is a four-time Emmy Award–winning filmmaker and award-winning author who has lived and worked all over the world. Educated in the US and France, he lived for five years in Peru and spent some of that time living with a recently contacted tribe in the Amazon jungle, only 100 miles from Machu Picchu. He is the author of The Last Days of the Incas, as well as three illustrated books about Peru. He currently divides his time between the US, Peru, and Thailand. Visit him at KimMacQuarrie.com.

Critical Praise

“MacQuarrie writes smartly and engagingly and with a sense of populist enthusiasm about the variety of South America’s life and landscape.” –Tom Zoellner, The New York Times Book Review

“The human history that has shaped South America is dramatically re-created in this rich account of iconic Andes characters, from Pablo Escobar and Hiram Bingham, to Che Guevara and Butch Cassidy.” –National Geographic Traveler

“This is a well-written, immersive work that history aficionados, particularly those with an affinity for Latin America, will relish.” –Library Journal Review

“Richly detailed….deeply felt…thoughtfully observed.”   – Kirkus

Dylan Goes Electric!

Dylan Goes Electric!Dylan Goes Electric! Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties by Elijah Wald (Dey Street/ HarperCollins, July 2015)




In Dylan Goes Electric!, Elijah Wald explores the cultural, political and historical context of this seminal event that embodies the transformative decade that was the sixties. Wald delves deep into the folk revival, the rise of rock, and the tensions between traditional and groundbreaking music to provide new insights into Dylan’s artistic evolution, his special affinity to blues, his complex relationship to the folk establishment and his sometime mentor Pete Seeger, and the ways he reshaped popular music forever. Breaking new ground on a story we think we know, Dylan Goes Electric! is a thoughtful, sharp appraisal of the controversial event at Newport and a nuanced, provocative, analysis of why it matters.

“A great work of scholarship, brimming with insight – among the best music books I have ever read.” —John Harris, The Guardian

“Devastatingly smart analysis . . . Wald is a remarkably sharp and graceful writer, capable of drawing extraordinary connections between artists, genres, and cultural moments. There’s simply no one better when it comes to unpacking not just the mechanics of American music, but the mythology of American music.” — Amanda Petrusich, author of Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records


The Lost Treasures of R&B: A D Hunter Mystery by Nelson George

LostTreasures2 coverThe Lost Treasures of R&B: A D Hunter Mystery by Nelson George (Akashic Books 2015)

With gentrifying Brooklyn as the backdrop, D works to unravel various mysteries—both criminal and musical—while coming to terms with the failure of his security company and the ghosts of his childhood in “old Brooklyn.” Like its predecessors The Accidental Hunter and The Plot Against Hip HopThe Lost Treasures of R&B uses pop music as the backdrop for a noir-flavored big-city tale.

“This is a fine mystery and [protagonist] D Hunter is as world weary, yet steadfast, as Philip Marlowe, Spenser, Dave Robicheaux, or Easy Rawlins. A definite yes to purchase for both mystery and African American collections.”
Library Journal (Starred Review, Pick of the Month)

“Nelson George’s smooth security-guard-turned-detective, a.k.a. D, scours a demimonde as glamorous as Chandler’s Los Angeles . . . D Hunter is destined to become a classic.”
—Mary Karr, author of The Liars’ Club


Another Little Piece of My Heart

22529400Another Little Piece of My Heart by Richard Goldstein (Bloomsbury 2015)

In 1966, at the age of twenty-two, Richard Goldstein approached The Village Voice with a novel idea. “I want to be a rock critic,” he said. “What’s that?” the editor replied. It was a logical question, since rock criticism didn’t yet exist. In the weekly column he would produce for the Voice, Goldstein became the first person to write regularly in a major publication about rock as a serious art form. From his unique position in journalism, he saw and participated in the full arc of events that shaped culture and politics in the 1960s. He toured with Janis Joplin, spent a day at the Grateful Dead house in San Francisco, and dropped acid with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. He was present for Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the student uprising at Columbia, and the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention. He was challenged to a boxing match by Norman Mailer and took Susan Sontag to her first disco. Goldstein developed close relationships with several rock legends –– Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, to name two –– and their early deaths came as a wrenching shock, fueling his disillusionment as he watched the music he loved rapidly evolve from a communal rite to a vast industry and the sense of hope for radical social upheaval fade away. ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE OF MY HEART is the intimate memoir of the writer as a young man with profound ambition. It is also a sweeping personal account of a decade that no one else could provide –– a deeply moving, unparalleled document of rock and revolution in America.

“A deeply felt and largely compelling portrait of an age that indelibly marked everyone who took part in it. Indispensable for understanding the culture of the sixties and the music that was at its heart.”

Kirkus (starred review)

Going into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man

GoingIntoCityHC cover finalGoing into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man by Robert Christgau (Dey Street/HarperCollins 2015)

One of our great essayists and music journalists, the Dean of American Rock Critics, leads a heady tour through his life and times in this atmospheric, visceral memoir—both a love letter to a New York long past and a tribute to the transformative power of art.

Lifelong New Yorker Robert Christgau has been writing about pop culture since he was twelve and getting paid for it since he was twenty-two, covering rock for Esquire in its heyday and personifying the music beat at The Village Voice for over three decades. Christgau listened to Alan Freed howl about rock and roll before Elvis, settled east of Manhattan’s Avenue B forty years before it was cool, wit-nessed Monterey and Woodstock and Chicago 1968 and the first abortion speakout. He caught Coltrane in the East Village, Muddy Waters in Chicago, Otis Redding at the Apollo, the Dead in the Haight, Janis Joplin at the Fillmore, the Clash in Leeds, Grandmaster Flash in Times Square, and every punk band you can think of at CBGB.

Listed in Oprah’s O Magazine December 2015 Top Ten Reading List

“To read Going Into the City is to spend hours in the company of a completely sui generis critical mind, one that’s not only encyclopedically knowledgeable about mid-to-late 20th-century pop culture but capable of lapidary prose, astute insight, and savage wit.” — Slate

“An intellectual autobiography that beautifully captures what it feels like when a cultural experience trapdoors you into a new life.” — Grantland

Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth

Billie HolidayBillie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth by John Szwed (Viking 2015)
Published in celebration of Holiday’s centenary, the first biography to focus on the singer’s extraordinary musical talent. Drawing on a vast amount of new material that has surfaced in the last decade, critically acclaimed jazz writer John Szwed considers how her life inflected her art, her influences, her uncanny voice and rhythmic genius, a number of her signature songs, and her legacy. WINNER OF THE 2016 JJA JAZZ AWARDS PRIZE FOR BEST JAZZ BOOK OF THE YEAR

Revelatory. . . Szwed’s book is one of the most briskly revealing pieces of jazz biography that I’ve read.”

Richard Brody, The New Yorker
[Szwed] offers a portrait of Lady Day as artist and mythmaker rather than tragic victim . . . . As with the best of Holiday’s music, this elegant and perceptive study is restrained, nuanced, and masterfully carried out.”
—Kirkus (starred review)

Let’s Go Crazy


Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain (Atria Books 2015)

2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Purple Rain, the hugely successful film and soundtrack album by the Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Prince.  A fictionalized version of Prince’s own life story, the film would make over $80 million at the box office; the album sold over a million copies in its first week and blasted to Number One on the charts, where it would remain for six months and eventually sell over 20 million copies worldwide.  The work won Grammys and an Oscar, and permanently altered the rules and definitions for rock, funk, and pop music, and its impact and influence have never waned.


“Thoughtful and illuminating… [Mr. Light] is a fine companion for this journey through one song’s changing fortunes.”  –The New York Times



I Only Read It For The Cartoons

Richard_Gehr-I-Only-Read-It-For-The-CartoonsI Only Read It for the Cartoons : The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists by Richard Gehr (New Harvest 2014)

Available for the first time to The New Yorker’s one million-plus readers: a volume dedicated to the individual careers of the magazine’s cartoon superstars.

Widely considered to be the pantheon of single-panel cartooning, The New Yorker cartoonists’ styles are richly varied, and their personal stories are surprising. For example, did you know that Arnie Levin is a seventy-three-year-old former Beatnik painter with a handlebar mustache and a back decorated by Japan’s foremost tattoo artists?

Gehr’s book features fascinating biographical profiles of such artists as Gahan Wilson, Sam Gross, Roz Chast, Lee Lorenz, and Edward Koren. Along with a dozen such profiles, Gehr provides a brief history of The New Yorker cartoon itself, touching on the lives and work of earlier illustrating wits, including Charles Addams, James Thurber, and William Steig.

“Gehr is sure to delight any New Yorker fan with this look at the pantheon of cartoonists… the book, brimming with New Yorker history and the idiosyncrasies of its contributors, is successful at what it sets out to do—provide a first-of-its-kind paean to some of the magazine’s most consistently popular contributors.” —Publishers Weekly