My littlest and I were at the library for story time last Wednesday, and I had to return a movie, and the drop slots are right there by the “used books for sale” shelves, so it’s really not my fault.
Of course I had to sidle over, to see if there was anything interesting for sale.
Of course there was. There almost always is.
Within seconds, I found a book I wanted, but I didn’t buy it right away – give me some credit. After all, as I’ve mentioned, my to-be-read collection at home now encompasses nearly two shelves of a bookcase. You do not NEED another book, I scolded myself. You put a moratorium on yourself last week, remember?
So the boy and I went into the kid’s room, where they were doing a special program on the Chinese New Year, which involved them singing songs in Chinese, which I didn’t understand, which gave me plenty of time to think about the book waiting outside on the sale shelf.
I already knew I’d love it. I never buy a book unless I’m reasonably sure it’s going to be really good – and this was one that I was positive was going to be really good. As my boy listened to a fable about how the Chinese assign an animal to each year, I pulled out my checkbook and wrote out a check for one dollar. After story time was over, I dropped the money in the box and collected my new book.
Five minutes later, while waiting in the preschool car line, I started reading it.
Half a page later, I was in love with it.
It’s called Piano Lessons: Music, Love, and True Adventures. The author is Noah Adams, who was the long-time host of NPR’s All Things Considered (he now runs the station’s national desk.)
I used to listen to All Things Considered during my afternoon commute in Atlanta, and I loved the stories Noah told; loved the way they were written, and his rich, distinctive voice (although, the way he said his name, it sounded like it had just one syllable – until I picked up this book, I thought his name was “Nole.”)
Piano Lessons follows Noah’s fifty-first year of life, during which he bought a piano (a Steinway!) and then resolved to learn to play it. A lifelong music lover, he had already interviewed countless musicians on his show, and had been to many concerts. He gives anecdotes from interviews with famous pianists, and mixes in some history of the instrument. He writes about trips he took during his year of learning, and how hard it was to find time to practice, sometimes, and how the process could be so discouraging and so rewarding, at the same time.
Admittedly, part of the reason I loved this book was because I am a pianist, so I understood everything Noah wrote about the technical aspects of learning to play. And, like most of the pianists Noah has interviewed, I adore a “real” (hammer and strings) piano and dislike playing any kind of electric keyboard. This book is largely a love letter to my chosen instrument.
I’m quite sure, though, that this book would appeal to almost anyone, musical or not. Noah is a marvelous writer – he reminds me of E.B. White, a little (and if you’ve read my previous post on White, you know what high praise that is.) He has a similar charming, effortless tone that is part natural talent, and part “lots and lots of practice.”
Piano Lessons is a smallish book, and was an easy read – a few scattered evenings for me. It was so interesting, and so delightful, that I set aside all the other books I’m in the middle of, so I could read it straight through.
I love it when that happens.