A flashy and knowledgeable foray into boy-band fever.

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  • Rolling Stone & Kirkus' Best Music Books of 2020



A music journalist examines the cultural mystique of boy bands.

Since her early 20s, Sherman has been an exuberant fan of One Direction (currently on an indefinite hiatus), and this giddy fandom background and loyalty informs a vivid report on the history, influence, notoriety, and cultural impact of boy bands. In the opening timeline, the author lays out a century’s worth of pop evolution, which complements her discussions of foundational origins, “commandments” (“Apologies for the sacrilege, but if you’re into boy bands, you’ve already converted into the most persuasive spiritual practice there is”), and the archetypes (“heartthrob,” “bad boy”) common among such groups as New Edition, New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, the Jonas Brothers, and *NSYNC. With splashes of color and illustrations befitting her buoyant subject, Sherman profiles these groups and other prominent male ensembles, highlighting their histories, defining moments, and lyrical messages—and, for the most part, objectively evaluating their impact on pop-music culture and society. While not a definitive history, the author does cover lesser stars in the boy-band firmament, such as 98 Degrees and Dream Street. Superfans who grow weary with Sherman’s pop history lesson will find entertaining diversions in numerous sidebars, including the “Style Watch” section, which examines dress codes and fashion trends inspired by the bands. Recurring themes throughout the narrative are the manipulation and exploitation suffered by most of the bands, courtesy of swindling managers and sketchy founders like Lou Pearlman. In a particularly relevant section, the author chronicles the meteoric rise of BTS and the K-Pop explosion, illuminating how these groups both reflect and influence cultural changes in South Korea. Though the book is unabashedly enthusiastic, Sherman takes her subject seriously (even when many members of the bands did not). In the final chapter, the author offers a respectful nod to the future of the genre, spotlighting the notable groups that have sprouted up in the last decade. One of Kirkus and Rolling Stone’s Best Music Books of 2020.

A flashy and knowledgeable foray into boy-band fever.

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-6891-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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