Is this the very best book ever written?

No, I don’t mean Proust, Cervantes, or the Bible.  I mean Dave Marsh’s The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made.

To be sure, it is not the greatest book qua book, or even in the top tier (though it is very good and Marsh is very smart and knowledgeable).

It is possible it has become the greatest book of all time because of YouTube.  Scroll through the pithy, one-page or sometimes even one-paragraph reviews of the various songs, and play them on YouTube while you are reading.

I had not known of Marvin Gaye’s “One More Heartache,” or Aretha Franklin’s “Think.”  Nor had I known the live version of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” from 1966 (though is it really “Slurred and obtuse as Little Richard reading Ezra Pound”?).  I heard again many favorites as well.

Let’s be honest, amusia aside, do not humans love music more than books?  By no means does everyone read, but virtually everyone listens to music, and with some degree of passion. It therefore follows that “book + music” is better than book, right?  Whatever virtues the book may have are still contained in “book + music,” or more generally “book + YouTube.”

Have we now entered an age where all or most of the very best books are part of “books + YouTube”?

Of course I’m not trying to sell you on music or for that matter on Dave Marsh.  What about reading Abraham Pais, Niels Bohr’s Times: In Physics, Philosophy, and Polity, accompanied by these videos?  Might the possibility of YouTube combination make that the 37th best book of all time, displacing Braudel or Flaubert?

Should not at least 2/3 of your reading be books accompanied by YouTube?  And if not, why not?

Inquiring minds wish to know.  Perhaps there is a book accompanied by YouTube that gives the answer?

Is a quality book better or worse if there is no useful way to combine it with YouTube?

Addendum: You will note that the Cowen-Tabarrok Modern Principles text can be combined with our micro and macro videos on YouTube, and thus it is one of the best books, not just our favorite.


At least books don't have ads in them ...

Very solid post, 5 points, + bonus for first post, 5 points, +10 total

This has truthiness, and I kind of like the idea if this is indeed how it evolves.

Re: 'Think' - you never saw The Blues Brothers?

I didn't know that was possible for people of our generation!


Only cucks watch Blues Brothers.


This was my first thought- I couldn't believe TC hadn't seen the Blues Brothers! Speaking of which, strange how it's completely fallen out of favor. I rarely hear anyone who writes about movies discussing this one or taking it remotely seriously. For me it's one of the greatest Chicago movies of all time. A perfect time capsule of a great city at a cool moment.

+1 . Please watch the movie, Tyler.

Is Betteridge's law not true?

Not know about "Think"? Have you never seen The Blues Brothers?

Videos are too slow at conveying information for many types of non fiction material.


Picture = 1000 words * 30 frames per second = 1,800,000 words per minute.

Videos convey a "War and Peace" worth of information every 19 1/2 seconds. Tyler can read faster than that, but the vast majority of people can't. It's not even close.

Seems off. Not in terms of the actual amount of info being transmitted, but the implicit idea that most people can absorb the same amount or type of info from both streams. Reductio ad absurdum, I can't absorb as much of the basic story/plot of "War and Peace" by watching 20 seconds worth of the movie version, as by actually reading the book, despite the similarity in the number of bytes I'm exposed to.

1) The movie carries a great deal of info about the visual characteristics of people and objects in scenes that are simply ignored in the book (e.g. the precise shoe, hair, and eye color of each character entering our field of vision, etc)

2) Simultaneously, while the flux or density of info is higher, I can't absorb as much of it.

Books are also too slow at presenting new material.

I don’t see much point in non-fiction books in a world with the Internet.

TC links to the first edition from 1989, about which its Amazon page quotes:

Barry Miller from Library Journal:
“Rock critic, biographer, and guru Marsh holds court for over 650 pages, pontificating in overwrought prose on the virtues of each single, numbered sequentially from 1 to 1001, he deems worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of rock. The impetus for this self-indulgent work, as explained in the introduction, is to redress historical slights and provide a revisionist approach to Marsh's previous criticism. Almost half the selections come from the Sixties, with a strong emphasis on rock and soul as the creative product of, predominantly, black Americans. This book is pure argument fodder and will precipitate far more knock-down-drag-outs than it will settle . . . Not recommended.”

There’s also a 1999 edition, with an apparently modified list of songs. I’m interested in the union, but also in which songs only made one edition yet not the other.

Amusing, though one might argue that the review tells us more about Barry Miller than anything else.

But Youtube deplatforms Nazis. Google is the real fascist.

“Think,” Seriously?

Yes, it really makes you wonder if he clicked the link before writing about not hearing 'Think.'

Do people really like Proust or do they just pretend? I tried him in French and English and found him insufferable in both.

I personally found his work mind-blowing. Why read anything else or anything at all was my thought for a good month.

Proust is like William Gaddis, you have to be in a zone while reading it. Once you get into the flow, reading it is a great experience. I do prefer Gaddis because of the 'brevity' of his books compared to Proust.

Books + YouTube?

The thing exists since a few years ago :

It's very similar to a book in the sense that very few people finishes reading/listening while a lot claim to have done it.

Plus, remember that this is not the only book with such potential, to 'become the greatest book of all time because of YouTube'.

A certain economics textbook seems to make use of such radical ideas, just like a ca. 2008 music blog with extensive text along with the embedded audio.

Sometimes, a cynical person can wonder about why such things are discussed with such a sense of wonder, one that would seem to belie someone's Internet experience over decades.

Pitchfork posted their top 100 tracks of the year on 2006 either with an mp3 download link or a Spotify playlist. In their words "And! Thanks to the divine grace of internet, you can legally stream nearly every song on our Spotify playlist."

From 2007 and on, Pitchfork kept the Spotify playlist but replaced the mp3 download by a link to Youtube.

In more recent times, music blogs that used to add a link to youtube, simply became youtube channels that add the "blog post text" on the video description........and this is very interesting, why not get rid of the book altogether? Just put the 1 page long text from the book on the video description and serialize videos with a youtube playlist.

I had not known of Marvin Gaye’s “One More Heartache,” or Aretha Franklin’s “Think.”

Serious question. Why should we take you in any way seriously as a judge of popular culture or even music after this admission?

Winner of the best comment to this blog post. Give the respondent the TC Blue Ribbon.

"Although Leopold Bloom is probably Joyce’s most well-known and fully realized character, his position as a cuckold in Ulysses has not been fully understood. Critics have attributed personal and thematic reasons for Joyce’s historical reversal of the cuckold’s position, such as his obsession with infidelity and his explorations of tolerance, progressive sexual views, and changing male identity. ... I argue that Bloom’s position as a cuckold vitally integrates the form and content of Ulysses. Joyce elevates the cuckold’s status because this character’s secondary position facilitates narrative developments, particularly ones made possible by empathy and altruism."

Absolutely stunning analysis.

My favorite Prime Minister was Harold MacMillian because he was a lifelong cuck too!

Why limit it to music + books, when it could easily be music + reading? I'm not sure what the soundtrack for Marginal Revolution would fully include, but surely nails across a chalk board would be a common entry.

Chiefly waltzes, I'd guess.

Circus music

Martin Weitzman has died, apparently despondent over declining mental acuity. It’s ironic: Weitzman promoted the idea that economic analysis focus more on what we don’t know as opposed to standard cost-benefit analysis that quantifies based on what we know. He was despondent over what he didn’t know and couldn’t due to the aging process. Weitzman was so devoted to the quest to know that he spent a year alone on a barren island studying Bayesian statistics. The aging process is a dismal experience for anyone devoted to ideas and problem solving because of the advent of self-doubt, causing confidence to fall like dominoes. Once confidence collapses, ideas are elusive.

We are being CUCKED here in Britain! Corbyn is seizing power from the people and trying to stop Brexit!!!

Why YouTube and not Spotify? You can’t read a book and watch a video at the same time.

I did something similar with Bob Stanley's "Yeah Yeah Yeah", a history of pop music published in the UK a few years ago. Listening to the songs mentioned as you read helps you understand the evolution of pop from doo woo and Johnnie Ray through rock and roll and Elvis to the Beach Boys and beyond. It's a very different experience to just reading.

Someone should construct a playlist of sea sound videos, creaking door videos, footsteps videos, etc., to listen along with as you read Moby Dick. That would be the greatest book ever written.

Also wear wet clothes and equip your reading chair with a set of mechanized springs to mimic the rocking motion of a ship at sea.

To clear up any ambiguity: absolutely. You and I are making the same point.

In other news, has TC never "read" an audiobook?


What music would you recommend to go with

A good (if there is such a thing)

Calculus textbook.

Bach. The Art of the Fugue played on piano. Many choices, but I would go for Pierre-Laurent Aimard.


King Crimson's Fracture

The clear choice for music to go with your calculus book:

I Will Derive!

One is the Loneliest Number

Along these same lines, I'd strongly recommend the excellent "Music: What Happened?" by the late Scott Miller. Especially if your tastes run towards are more modern/indie/arty than Dave Marsh's.

You've never seen "The Blues Brothers?"

Yesterday complaints about the low-brow, today praise for the biggest whore low brow ever birthed. That's called: sophistication.

That's why Neil MacGregor's books are so great. Because they link History, Shakespeare, Germany, and Religion/Spirituality to the audio/visual. All with very polished production value. I'm actually surprised you have apparently not reviewed any of his stuff on the blog. Serious scholarship plus ...

Book+Music+Messy Environment

Psychological research on having a messy environment inspires creativity and an orderly space reduces it.

So, if you are reading something creative, listen to creative music in a messy indoor environment or a place where you can see outdoors.

After this paper, some book reviewers interviewed authors and asked them to describe their workspace....what they described fit the profile. One author, with a tidier office, sits in front of a window, overlooking a nature preserve and observes the activity.

I had a similar experience reading The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus. I would listen to the song and then read a bit, and then read about another song or version and look that up. Very fun!

"...and play them on YouTube while you are reading."

Here's something you should play on YouTube, whether or not you're reading:

Tuba Skinny - "Running Down My Man" - FQF April 2016

This Tuba Skinny band is insanely great. There are a zillion YouTube videos of them busking, but often the sound is not good enough to understand lyrics. They're still great videos, though. On the one I linked, there are microphones so the sound quality is better.

Two questions. One, there's an experience we might describe in hand waving terms as "Aretha Franklin singing 'Think' in the middle of watching The Blues Brothers" (or A) and another experience describable as "Aretha Franklin singing 'Think' plus Marsh's commentary" (or B). Once we have experienced "B" can we appreciate "A" as a newcomer might? And vice versa? The virtue of watching the YouTube video by itself is that it does remind us of what it was like watching the song being performed in the movie; the book, however informative, is going to change that perception. In fact, the more informative, the more the change.

Second, judging that we need to combine the book with YouTube strikes me as on a par with "You need Microsoft Excel to add 2 plus 2." Because it's technology, dude! Everything goes better with tech! You'll never walk alone if you carry a keyboard with you. No one should ever be forced to perform arithmetic in their bare skin, all by themselves! Would kind of monster would ask that of innocent school children??!
Let me suggest that we want to encourage people to expand their capabilities to the maximum, not to limit them.

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I run on a treadmill and I love a task. I've listened to the Rolling Stone "Top 500 songs of all time" and the Village Voice "Pazz and Jop" polls from 1979 to 2006 via Spotify while running. I've made so many discoveries in the process. I'm working on a Spotify playlist of this now in reverse order. Thank you again.

There's a recent idiosyncratic book by John Corbett called "Pick Up the Pieces: Excursions in Seventies Music: It's, Doh, about the variety of popular music of the 1970s that's at least for his varied responses and contexts for a variety that ranges from Alice Cooper to the Art Ensemble of Chicago to Grace Jones.

You probably won't like everything that he writes about, an may not have heard of all of it, but he's got a good ear and his reactions and contextualizations are fascinating.

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