Jimi Hendrix

The Book of the Week is “Jimi Hendrix” by Sharon Lawrence, published in 2005. This ebook is the biography of the world-renowned guitarist.

Hendrix suffered numerous hardships and deprivation in his childhood. Born in 1942, he was shuttled among various relatives, including his alcoholic father– divorced from his mother when he was 9; she died when he was in his mid-teens. He developed a passion for music, which was his one solace.

By the mid-1960’s, he had formed a band with two other musicians, and they were touring and recording on an unusually rigorous schedule. This prompted them to resort to partaking of pills, marijuana, hashish and LSD to mitigate severe sleep deprivation and stress.

Hendrix was afforded the opportunity to meet or play music with many other rock stars of his generation. Due to his incredible talent, he experienced tremendous fame very suddenly. Unfortunately, he was too passive and nice. Read the book to learn the details of how Hendrix fared after he allowed numerous greedy, manipulative and ungrateful people to enter his life.


The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

The Book of the Week is “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, published in 2009.

This ebook is the inspiring autobiography of a boy born in 1988 in Kasungu, Malawi. He grew up on a farm where corn, tobacco and pumpkins were grown and livestock was raised. The people there believe in witchcraft, but his father believed God protected his family from it because they were Presbyterian. Nevertheless, he wrote, “Sadly, our country’s constitution doesn’t have a clause that protects us from witchcraft.” He recounted incidents in the single-digit 2000’s in which people were put on trial for witchcraft and when deemed guilty, heavily fined.

In the mid 1990’s, entertainment in the “trading center” near Kasungu consisted of “… a thatch hut with wooden benches, a small television, and a VCR” on which to watch movies.  The author and his friends played a game they called “USA versus Vietnam.”

The Malawians celebrate their independence from Great Britain on July 6. Throughout his childhood, the author was a fan of the MTL Wanderers, aka the Nomads, a professional soccer club– the enemy team of the Big Bullets, in the Malawi Super League. He listened to the games on Radio One on a battery-operated radio. There was only one other radio station, Radio Two. Both were run by the government. The author wrote, “Only 2% of Malawians have electricity, and this is a huge problem.”

Read the book to learn of the extreme hardships Kamkwamba and his family faced with respect to famine and his education, and learn of his ingenuity, resourcefulness, persistence and industriousness in doing a project that was eventually noticed by people halfway around the world.

The Good Life… – Bonus Post

This blogger enjoyed the short ebook, “The Good Life According to Hemingway” by A.E. Hotchner, published in 2010; a compilation of Hemingway’s utterances.

He claimed that there are no new literary themes. The same themes have been repeated since time immemorial: “…love, lack of it, death and its occasional temporary avoidance which we describe as life, the immortality or lack of immortality of the soul, money, honor and politics.”

On going to the zoo: “I don’t like to see the people making fun of the animals, when it should be the other way around.”

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

The Book of the Week is “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” by Crystal Zevon, published in 2007. This is a biography of singer/ songwriter/ guitar player, Warren Zevon, written by his ex-wife.

Born in 1947, Zevon started partying like a rock star in his teenage years. He and fellow musicians partook of a variety of controlled substances, including marijuana, acid and hash. Warren later became addicted to alcohol and prescription painkillers. Philandering was a lifelong part of Zevon’s persona. Nevertheless, he was well-versed in what developed nations consider “the classics” in literature and in classical composers. As an adolescent, he was afforded the opportunity to meet Igor Stravinsky.

The many people interviewed for this ebook who drifted in and out of Zevon’s life all said he was immensely talented at writing imaganitive song lyrics. However, the reason most of them had a relationship with him that was rocky, or permanently severed, was due to his temperament when he was drunk, or his taking offense at a remark they made. He would ignore their communications for weeks or months.

At times, Zevon could utter witty lines, such as a) the title of this ebook, and, b) in the author’s recollection, “I can’t eat on an empty stomach.’ He’d down a little more vodka and we’d go have breakfast. Of course, every afternoon we spent hours in the cocktail lounge…” Sometimes, his self-destructive tendencies were insane, such as when she observed him playing darts in his bedroom; absent a dartboard. “There were all these holes in the wall… they were knife holes. He was lying in bed throwing a knife at the wall.” He also suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder, for which he received no treatment. Various of his residences were a disaster.

The songs Zevon became most famous for include “Werewolves in London” and “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” Read the book to learn about a) his music career making albums; b) his composing music for movies; c) playing in the band on a prominent TV show as a fill-in musician; and d) whether he was able to turn his life around and repair his severed relationships with his family, friends and colleagues.

From Raft to Raft

The Book of the Week is “From Raft to Raft” by Bengt Danielsson, originally published in 1960.  This ebook recounts the suspenseful stories of two voyages of a small group of men on a raft in the South Seas.

The author found he enjoyed the seafaring life, so he met up with his older brother to live it. In late 1956, their thrill-seeking led them to engage in the ultimate survival challenge by teaming up with a few other men to attempt to sail from Tahiti to Chile in a raft they built themselves, like Thor Heyerdahl had done in 1947. Danielsson described how they fared on that trip and a second one, and related an element crucial for survival at sea when things go wrong:  “Our safety depended… on agreeing and co-operating fully, and if, for example, Jean and Hans refused to take watches [do a shift navigating] the end would be disaster for us all.”

Another aspect of a sailing expedition was that if untoward things happened and the crew members decided to express their dissatisfaction through a mutiny, the captain usually had an ace-in-the hole. He could remind his men that there were documented laws vesting him with the authority to severely punish them when they got back to shore. Unfortunately, although he was put in charge by the captain who had fallen ill, Danielsson was on an informal sojourn, so he had no power to threaten his underlings with any consequences if they went on strike.

In the late 1950’s, nautical navigation and wireless-radio technology left a lot to be desired. Their supplies rapidly dwindling, the men tried to head for the closest South Sea island they could. At one point, it was actually fortunate that prevailing winds pushed the men’s raft away from a particular island called Starbuck. For, unbeknownst to them (which the author found out later)–had they landed there, they would have encountered unbearable screaming of seabirds, extreme heat and blinding sunlight.

Read the book to learn how the men fared on their journeys.