Book Review: Pet Shop Boys, Literally

I read a lot of books. I buy many more books than I read and have often been guilty of tsundoku, whereby I collect books without ever reading them. The nature of the books I read varies greatly. There are those that I use for my research, but more and more I read novels (which I hardly ever read until a few years ago) and other factual books. There is no doubt that I read a lot more than I used to (particularly as a child and during my teenage years) and I often have about three books (and sometimes also an audiobook) on the go at the same time – though I usually try to ensure the books are quite different so as to not confuse content in any way (particularly when it comes to novels, where I struggle to remember names & could confuse characters between different books).

In some form I review practically every book that I read. When it comes to academic books, I have written a number of reviews that have been published. Books also get effectively reviewed in the way I use them (or don’t use them) in my own research. In the early days I partly did academic book reviews to get experience of writing for a publication, but I still do them, usually having been approached to do the review based on my knowledge of the subject area. Going forward I will provide more links to such reviews from my site. When it comes to the other books that I read, I will always put a review on Goodreads/Amazon/etc. I have written a post that partly discusses the importance of this before, so won’t repeat myself here. Bottom line, I try to avoid just giving a star rating – often the platform doesn’t include such ‘reviews’ when producing the average score – and will try to add some text about what I enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) about the book (without including spoilers as much as possible).

One category of book that I have particularly enjoyed reading in recent years have been biographies, autobiographies and other books related to my favourite musicians and actors. Of these, my favourite is ‘Nasher Says Relax‘, which I have the paperback, audiobook and ebook versions of. The most recent one that I have completed is ‘Pet Shop Boys, Literally‘ by Chris Heath.

There were three things that made this a particularly enjoyable book for me.

First, the book, which follows the Pet Shop Boys, one of my favourite bands, as they embarked on their first every tour (in Hong Kong, Japan and the UK) provides wonderful insights to the group itself and also what the pop world was like then. Much of what I read confirmed what I thought I know about the group. But, reading their comments and views, is a very natural and different extension to the music. Perhaps it works so well due to the type of music and lyrics that they put together in a way that may not work for some other musicians.

Second, as someone who deals with Japan a lot, it was interesting to see their experience of Japan. Although this wasn’t their first trip to Japan, it was the first time to do concerts. It was particularly interesting as the visit came just a couple of weeks before my own first visit to Japan in 1989. However, one aspect of their trip I was not expecting to read. While travelling on the shinkansen (‘bullet train’), which has been an aspect of my research for the past 20 years and the subject of my own book, articles and a novel, they discuss the JL123 plane crash which I have also researched for over 13 years and written other books, articles, chapters, and posts. I wish I had come across the Pet Shop Boys book before (I only became aware of it after the recent re-issue) as I could have got the Pet Shop Boys into my book Dealing with Disaster in Japan, particularly when discussing the isho.

The third aspect that I liked about the book, which is something that is a feature of all my favourite books, is where, despite being set in a very different to the world in which I live (in this case, the world of musicians on tour), there is content that helps me to think about my own views on things. This, I think, should be a feature of most, if not all, novels. I, perhaps, wouldn’t expect quite so much in biographies and other such books. But, I guess, given the nature of the Pet Shop Boys music, I shouldn’t have been surprised to have such content in the book. There was one passage that stuck out to me…

I have written before about why I write novels, and I know that one of the reasons I have got so much out of my research on JL123 has been the chance for self-exploration and, to a lesser degree, self-expression. I feel like I can relate to what Neil Tennant says though.

Having read ‘Pet Shop Boys, Literally’, I’m now looking forward to reading ‘Pet Shop Boys versus America‘, which I shall move on to shortly.

Click here to get more information about the book on Amazon.

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