Gary Giddins

The jazz maven and author on three soul-stirring reads.

One of the most distinguished voices in jazz writing, Gary Giddins was for nearly three decades the author of the legendary Weather Bird column in the Village Voice. The author of studies of the lives and work of Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, and Bing Crosby, his latest book — titled, simply, Jazz — tells the story of the music he knows so well. Here, Gary Giddins shares three favorite reads.

Books by Gary Giddins


By Thomas Mann

“Published, astonishingly when Mann was only 26, this was the first great 20th-century novel and the capstone to the 19th-century generational saga, rigorous with historical and psychological details; it hasn’t the cache here of The Magic Mountain or the inspirational bravura of Doctor Faustus, but it’s a true page-turner — every page gripping and enlightening.”

Lost Steps

By Alejo Carpentier

“First published in Cuba in 1953, Carpentier’s masterpiece vies with Mann’s Doctor Faustus as the best novel written about music. A composer leaves New York to search for primitive instruments in a South American land-before-time jungle, and the deeper he goes the more he understands the tenuous structures on which music, culture, and modern life are built.”

Pandora in the Congo

By Alberto Sanchez Piñol

“Piñol’s second novel, published in Spain in 2005, appeared in the UK this year and came out in the U.S. in March 2009. By turns funny, suspenseful, and romantic, it grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let up. Written in the boy’s life adventure mode of a century past, it weds Conrad and Lovecraft, R.L. Stevenson and Popeye’s Goonland, and has the most memorable turtle — named Marie Antoinette — in all literature.”