Whether you’re spending your summer lounging on the beach or – like me – curled up in a darkened room praying for it to end, you’ll need a good book to read. If you’re looking for suggestions here are six great books by ukulele players. Some are ukulele related, some music related, some just excellent reads.
If you’re looking to improve your ukeing rather than your mind this summer I can highly (and self-interestedly) recommend Ukulele for Dummies and – for more advanced players – Ukulele Exercises for Dummies.
If you can recommend any other ukulelist authors or any good reads leave a comment.
Jim Tranquada and John King – The ‘Ukulele: A History
You can read my review of this book here. But the tl;dr version is: “It’s the best ukulele I’ve read. Buy it if you care at all about the history of the instrument.”
If you’ve heeded my previous calls to read this book you’ve got two follow ups:
– Another posthumous book co-written by John King this time with Tom Walsh: The Martin Ukulele: The Little Instrument That Helped Create a Guitar Giant. It’s only just come out and supply is limited. Amazon recently let me know I could expect mine sometime around the end of October.
– If you’re looking to fill in on wider Hawaiian history Sarah “off of This American Life” Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes. It’s informative, humorous and occasionally snarky. And it finishes up with a thought provoking comparison of IZ’s take on Over the Rainbow with his Hawai’i ’78.
Charlie Connelly – Our Man in Hibernia: Ireland, the Irish and Me
As well as being a ukulelist and a top bloke Charlie Connelly is one of my favourite authors. If you’re into Bill Bryson’s understated humour and sharp observations you have to check out his books. They’re all great but the account of the move to his ancestral homeland of Ireland Our Man in Hibernia is my fave.
If you’re more into audiobooks then Charlie’s are a no brainer. Most of his books have been adapted for BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week and Attention All Shipping was voted second best audiobook of all time after Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Jem Roberts – The True History of the Blackadder
Speaking of Hitchhikers, ukulelist, Cilla coverer and historian of British comedy Jem Roberts is currently writing a guide to the Hitchhiker galaxy. While he’s working on that you should check out his guides to I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and Blackadder. Just in time for you to get the Prince George references on Twitter.
Sylvie Simmons – I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen
Sylvie Simmons has been one of the top music journalists since the seventies. She’s interviewed the most important musicians of the last 40 years for all the rock magazines that matter.
Her latest book is a biography of Leonard Cohen. She’s been promoting it with performances of Leonard Cohen songs on her uke. Thus becoming the first person in history to do a ukulele cover of Cohen song that isn’t Hallelujah.
Mark Wallington – The Uke of Wallington
After his blues band couldn’t get a gig Mark Wallington took refuge in the one place where musical ability is never a bar to performance: ukulele open mics. The Uke of Wallington tells of his trip around the country playing his uke at every open mic he could find.
This one was also a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. They clearly hold ukulelists in high regard.
Vincent Cortese – Roy Smeck
Official Wizard of the Strings Roy Smeck was a master of the ukulele and an unsung hero of music. Vincent Cortese sets the record straight with a biography of the great man. Cortese was a student of Smeck so he can offer personal reminiscences as well as a thorough history.
Have I missed someone out? Let me know in the comments.