Game of Tomes

Is there a more delicious kind of anticipation than knowing you'll have time with a good story?  Wait, don’t answer that!  Just consider three books about music I read recently that might entertain as you laze in the warmth of the sun.

   The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny

The Da Vinci Code meets John le Carré in this mildly gripping novel.   A monk is murdered in the mysterious, cloistered Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, deep in the remote forests of Quebec.   The brothers are world-famous (ironically so, since they’ve taken a vow of silence) for their popular recordings of Gregorian chant. There is something about the quality of their voices that enchants.  But when their choir director is found murdered, the world enters. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec are sent to find out which of the monks were capable of killing, and why.  The answer has everything to do with the mysterious power of music.   (St. Martin's Press, 2013)

   The Student Conductor by Robert Ford

I couldn’t put this down.  A young, aspiring conductor arrives in Germany. It’s 1989, and there’s a lot of falling in this excellent book: the falling walls of East Berlin, the falling boundaries between teacher and student, and a falling in love for the protagonist, Cooper Barrow.  He seeks out an elderly German conductor named Karlheinz Ziegler to be his mentor as he tries to restart a serious career. But when he meets a beautiful oboist recently defected from East Germany, he’s derailed by confusion and guilt.  Music is hard to write about, but author Robert Ford’s descriptions of the art form are elegant and moving.  (Penguin Books, 2003)

   The Virtuosi: Classical Music's Great Performers From Paganini To Pavarotti by Harold Schonberg

I borrowed this from college friend Gerry Szymanski, and I’m not sure I ever returned it.  (Sorry Gerry!) This entertaining book is perfect for the beach, since it’s laid out in forty discrete sections, one for each subject: Jenny Lind, Sergei Rachmaninoff, the castrati, Adelina Patti, and Lauritz Melchoir and others, plus a digression on travel, the Industrial Revolution, tenors, illness, and money.  Details about finances, clothes, and sex make for fascinating reading, and bring these legendary performers down to earth.  (Vintage Books, 1988)

So what's on your list?