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Winter’s Ahead … Grab a Book!

My shelf is creaking under all the cool books that have come to my attention.

Here’s a rapid roundup of recent and relevant reads.

“Audio Engineering 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Music Production” — Timothy A. Dittmar makes this topic accessible with friendly text and cartoons. Inside: Characteristics of sound, how the ear works, basics of microphones and mixing consoles, signal flow and other useful stuff for the newbie looking to understand audio concepts. Keep in mind that he means it when he says “for beginners.” It’s not for someone who has experience working in audio. Paperback and Kindle, published by Focal Press in 2011.

“Lee de Forest: King of Radio, Television and Film”— Author Mike Adams, a media professor at San Jose State University, knows radio and film; he brings those worlds together in his discussion of de Forest, including the inventor’s role in the film industry. This is a well-documented history book that media and technology history fans will appreciate. Paperback or Kindle. Published late last year by Springer Science+Business Media.

“Hitler’s Radio War” — Roger Tidy writes about Nazi international broadcasting before and during the war. He takes on a broad range of topics like “Becoming Lord Haw-Haw” and “Wooing America by Short-Wave Radio.” These are covered mostly in “thumbnail” chapters of six to 10 pages, so the book is more of a quick introduction to the topic than a deep dive. Hardback, published by Robert Hale.

If you are already well familiar with the topic of Nazi radio propaganda but want more details, you might better enjoy …

“Axis Sally: The American Voice of Nazi Germany”— This book was published by Casemate in 2010; it also is on Kindle and, just this fall, in paperback. Richard Lucas is a shortwave radio enthusiast and freelance writer interested in the use of radio in propaganda. His book is about Mildred Gillars, American-born mouthpiece for Hitler. He writes that it is “not intended to be an apologia for a convicted traitor” but rather aims to “portray a life lived on ‘the wrong side of history’ with compassion and insight.”

“The Right Frequency” — Fred V. Lucas subtitles his book “the story of the talk radio giants who shook up the political and media establishment.” As Martha Zoller states in her introduction, Lucas seeks to trace the history of talk radio as a mover of conservative thought. The book is a light breezy read, no heavy lifting here; but if you are interested in how Rush Limbaugh “saved the AM dial” and about radio talkers who came before and after him — Kaltenborn, Couglin, Hargis, Grant, Dobson, Boortz, Liddy, Reagan, Hannity, Bennett, Beck — this is for you. Paperback and Kindle, published 2012 by History Publishing Co.

“Network Radio Ratings, 1932–1953” — Talk about a specialty topic! Jim Ramsburg offers “a history of prime-time programs through the ratings of Nielsen, Crossley and Hooper.” He spent many years in radio and sales and is a member of the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame. He has written a reference book for the true believer in radio’s golden age. It features essays, taking one year at a time, about each network season, and actual year-by-year monthly and annual ratings for prime-time shows. Do you want to know how “Mr. Keen” did in September of 1943? It’s in there. The book is pricy at $65; but of all the books I mention today, this is the one I most find myself flipping through, the one most likely to stay on your shelf for that mid-winter history argument over bourbon about whether Burns & Allen pulled more Friday night listeners than their CBS pals Amos & Andy in 1938–39 Paperback, published by McFarland.

(George and Gracie smoked ’em.)