Best of 2017 in books and music |

Best of 2017 in books and music

Carla Jean Whitley

There are definite perks to technology. Thanks to the ease of creating a home studio and self publishing, music fans and readers have access to more art than ever.

But there’s a downside to this abundance: It’s that much harder to sort out what’s worthwhile and that much easier to miss something you might love.

Let us help.

We turned to two local experts for their favorite work of the year.


Luke Nestler carries a lot of titles at KDNK, Carbondale’s community radio station.

He’s been a DJ since 1989 and on staff since 2004. Nestler is the station’s program director and music director. His show, “Beyond Beyond,” features chill, acoustic and world music and airs Wednesday afternoons. Learn more at

Lord Echo, “Harmonies” (Soundway)

“A seamless blend of reggae and rock steady with disco, African soul and techno elements from the multi-instrumentalist/producer/engineer/DJ.”

Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real, self titled (Fantasy Records)

“Willie’s son done made a masterpiece before the age of 30. You can tell he learned a lot playing backup and opening for Neil Young for two years. Every song is great. And every facet of the art is too: the singing, the writing, the guitar playing, the tight band. Superb.”

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, “Way Out West” (Superlatone)

“Psychedelic country. The name of his band is actually an understatement. They are simply the best band in America, as their recent show at the Ute Theatre proved.”

The Heliocentrics, “A World of Masks” (Soundway)

“The UK-based psychedelic trance jazz collective is known for its analog ethic and its collaborations with jazz and electronic masters like Mulatu Astatke and DJ Shadow. Also check out their soundtrack for the documentary ‘The Sunshine Makers’ about the early LSD pioneers.”

Bedouine, self titled (Spacebomb Records)

“Bedouine is a gallicized riff on Bedouin, the nomads. She is Azniv Korkejian, an Armenian born in Aleppo who grew up in the U.S. This is her debut album. Her poetry is soul deep, her guitar playing precise, her voice hits right here in the center and her songwriting prowess is off the charts. She’s the complete package.”


Carole O’Brien is manager of Book Train, located in downtown Glenwood Springs. The shop carries a range of new releases and backlist titles, as well as magazines and gifts. Visit for the latest, or visit the store at 723 Grand Ave. to purchase O’Brien’s picks.

“Exit West” by Mohshin Hamid (Riverhead Books)

“In an unnamed Middle- Eastern city that is slowly devolving into war-torn rubble, a young Muslim couple struggles to survive and, possibly, escape. They hear rumors of mysterious doors that open into other cities in other countries, allowing passage to safety. As reports of the doors become more credible and the city becomes even more dangerous, they find one and step through to join a river of human migration. Doors are opening all over the world and ‘… while the changes were jarring … life went on … and plausible, desirable futures began to emerge, unimaginable previously.’ With achingly beautiful prose, Hamid tells a story of migration not just from place to place, but also through the stages of our lives, from one relationship to the next and from one level of understanding to the next.”

“Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann (Doubleday)

“After the Osage were driven off their ancestral lands in Florida, they finally settled in the barren, seemingly worthless, territory of Oklahoma. Members of the tribe owned the land, as well as the underlying mineral rights. The Osage began leasing drilling rights to oil developers and by 1920 huge oil deposits had been discovered. The Osage became very wealthy. Inevitably this kind of wealth draws predators, and by 1923 at least 24 Osage were dead by seemingly criminal acts. ‘The world’s richest people per capita were becoming the world’s most murdered.’ After unsuccessful (and unenthusiastic) investigations by local officials, special agent Tom White, a former Texas Ranger, was sent from Washington, D.C., to investigate. Well written and researched, Grann brings to light this little-known and shameful historical episode in a story that reads like a detective thriller.”

“The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women” by Kate Moore (Sourcebooks)

“Moore’s thoroughly researched and compellingly written book will infuriate, horrify, inform and inspire you. In 1917 the demand for luminous-faced watches, airplane instruments, gunsights and compasses skyrocketed with American entry into WWI. Radium, the newly discovered and dangerously radioactive ‘wonder element,’ was mixed with other substances and painted onto the surfaces of these items to make them glow in the dark. Young women, some still in high school, were eager for these well-paying, somewhat glamorous, jobs. Unfortunately many of them began showing awful and puzzling symptoms (to doctors of that era) that only grew worse. We learn so much about these girls as they struggle bravely with their afflictions and battle indifferent companies and useless legal and regulatory systems for justice. This is a must-read story that resonates with contemporary issues as well as with our hearts.”

“The Floating World” by C. Morgan Babst (Algonquin Books)

“If you aren’t directly involved in a natural disaster, the event, while horrible, can seem remote. By focusing on one fictional family, the Boisdorés, Babst evokes New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina in a way that has a powerful and visceral impact. Joe Boisdoré, from an old Creole family, is married to Dr. Tess Eshleman, a white, ‘uptown’ psychiatrist. When the storm was imminent, their older daughter, emotionally fragile Cora, refused to leave the city as her parents and grandfather evacuated to Houston. When younger daughter Del arrives from New York after the storm, she finds her city, her family home and her family in ruins. There is also a mystery here that unfolds along with the story as it is told through the eyes of each beautifully developed character.”

“The Power by Naomi Alderman” (Little, Brown and Company)

“If the resurgence in popularity of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has piqued your interest in finding other dystopian feminist fiction, this is the book to read. In the near future women mysteriously develop the ability to generate painful and potentially lethal electrical discharges. They are no longer the ‘weaker’ sex and wield their power in ways that clearly demonstrate why this is considered a dystopian novel. They are not necessarily wiser in their use of power than men have been. Told by a narrator 5,000 years in the future who is reconstructing the events from incomplete information, we nevertheless see the outcome of this power reversal. Alderman’s unsparingly detailed and graphic writing gives us rich, unsettling food for thought that stays with you long after you read the last page.”

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