Good Reads


Songs Only You Know

Detroiters who recall local ’90s punk-rock outfit Thoughts of Ionesco likely remember their distinctly tortured take on the genre. But the theatrical pain reflected in that musical output pales in comparison to the real-life loss documented in Songs Only You Know ($25, Soho Press), a memoir penned by Sean Madigan Hoen, the band’s former frontman and guitarist. What starts out as a well-written, witty look back detailing a bit of above-average family dysfunction and life in the city’s hardcore punk scene unfolds, by turns and years, into a gut-wrenching account of tragedy. Bad news isn’t hard to come by, of course, but it’s Hoen’s candor and innate warmth, as well as the fact that the family members clearly love each other immensely despite their difficulties, that make it hard to put down. While Songs Only You Know may start out as kid stuff, filled with angry guitars and basement parties, by the tale’s end it’s addressed, both elegantly and rawly, many very adult questions. None easily answered. — Matt Lee


Canvas Detroit

You don’t often get a book to review that makes you drop everything and simply say, “Wow.” But Canvas Detroit ($34.99, Wayne State University Press) almost made me miss this magazine’s June deadline because I kept picking it up. Julie Pincus and Nichole Christian take an amazing journey across Detroit’s thriving art scene. The book features photographs of a wide range of art forms, including murals, wearable art, and installations of found objects. They cover internationally known individuals such as Tyree Guyton and Banksy, but also delve into “collectives” such as the Hygienic Dress League and Theatre Bizarre. But it’s much more than a picture book, rounded out with artist profiles and contributions from John Gallagher, Rebecca Hart, Linda Yablonsky, and others who cover the art and architecture beat in Detroit and beyond. This is a coffee-table-worthy book that has the substance to keep you coming back for more. — Steve Wilke


Art in Fermented Form

This book came out last year, but since the National Homebrewers Conference is coming to Grand Rapids in June, it’s a good time for a revisit. Art in Fermented Form: A Manifesto ($14.95, Black Lake Press) was written by New Holland Brewing’s founder, Brett VanderKamp. He describes today’s craft brewers as going from “wanna-be hippies who make our own beer to respected entrepreneurs managing companies with hundreds of employees.” But this isn’t a “how I became a success” business tome or even a “how to make your own killer IPA” guide. Instead, it’s a collection of essays on the origins and importance of good beer. And whether by design or happy accident, each of VanderKamp’s musings take about as long to read as it takes to drink a pint — and many go down just as smoothly! — Steve Wilke