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The Importance of Music to Girls

2.95  ·  Rating Details ·  315 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
For the misfits, there will always be music. As the sound track to basement parties, late-night drives, and solitary rituals of self-pity, the right music gives context and momentum to the bewildering process of growing up. In this passionate, poetic memoir, Lavinia Greenlaw searches out diaries, LP covers, and old mix tapes to recall the torment and ecstasy of coming aliv ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Picador (first published August 16th 2007)
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Nov 09, 2007 Rebecca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biogs
A personal account of growing up with music, or rather, what music you choose to grow up to. This was one thin-skinned child and angsty teenager it seemed to me. Luckily she had angry punk as an outlet. She conjures up a lost era of LPs, 2nd hand record shops, making the object of your affections tapes with your own designs, the excitement of going to live gigs, but some of the existential teenage angst does go on a bit. And frustratingly, just when her life actually seemed to be getting interes ...more
Oct 14, 2008 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has ever loved music above all else
'The Importance of Music to Girls' is an insight into growing up in the 1960s and 1970s in the UK, from the perspective of a girl to whom music meant everything. It is an interesting read and more than just a memoir; more of a social history book.
Jul 15, 2008 Jen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I must confess that I did not finish this book. Perhaps it was the mood I was in the several times I picked it up and gave it a try, but ultimately I believe it was a combination of the level of expectation I had placed upon it and the anticipation I had as I waited for it to arrive. When I originally read a review/description and decided to request it, I was under the impression that it would focus on music and its sociological impact on the development of adolescent girls. Having been an adole ...more
Jul 08, 2011 Liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a memoir, it's not a bad read. Poetic, almost opulent language, issues and scenes that I can identify with. However I expected this book to be much more music-focused. Throughout most of the book, Greenlaw touches upon music only in its relation to other aspects of her life: making friends as a child through dance, becoming interested in boys, commenting on her political and social ideals. For the first 100 pages or so, music is just an afterthought, and Greenlaw did not even convince me of i ...more
Jun 13, 2008 Jodi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-read
At one point in her book The Importance of Music to Girls Lavinia Greenlaw makes this observation: “I don’t know how to think or how to talk about what I think. I haven’t learned anything for years. I don’t listen. I can’t speak. I am watching myself happening or not happening . . .”

For some reason when I read that passage I immediately thought “AHA! That’s it, that’s the problem.” Because I really, really wanted to love this book and it somehow left me a little cold. . .

Read the rest on iwilld
Sep 17, 2010 Margot rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographical
Lavinia Greenlaw creates lyrical connections between such disparate cultural phenomenon as the death of punk rock and the Pompidou Center ("We could see how it worked and so it stopped working" pg. 179). She gives us glimpses of her youth as if looking through a kaleidoscope, each phase of her growth into adulthood marked by genres of music. Her insights into her own self and distinct dynamics between the sexes are laid out for us like the spoken offhand comments at the end of a studio track, an ...more
Mark Hornsey
Apr 14, 2013 Mark Hornsey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For me this book is almost as good as it gets, although judging by some of the comments here, not everyone agrees. Maybe the title is somewhat misleading - the book is not directed only at girls, but at anyone who has ever loved music.

The author's taste in music is catholic to say the least, and we see it constantly evolve throughout the period of her life this book covers - early childhood through to leaving home aged 18.

The story really comes alive when punk eventually arrived in the rather ba
Perhaps the element to take away from this music lovers’ memoir is the idea that girls are capable of loving rock music as much as boys, but our devotion is brushed aside as less important.

I knew there were those for whom music was soundtrack and those of us for whom it was, well, music, but didn't notice that most of those who took it seriously were boys. Sophie and Julia each had a few records but they didn't get upset or excited about bands. I was thrilled by discovery, crushed by disappoint
Feb 04, 2011 Amanda rated it it was ok
I really really wanted to love this book. From the description, it sounds like it could be about me. But I think I expected too much, which is never going to work out well for the reader.

Overall, I think this book could have been a lot better. It seems like ideas were underdeveloped. She never really let us see the people she was describing. I just wanted more in every respect.

Also, there was a bit of a feeling of pretentiousness. Every little chapter/section began with a quote and most of the t
Jul 07, 2009 Christina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was a girl. Music was important to me. In the 1980s, I was a disc jockey on the FM radio. I love memoir the best and this is one of my all-time favorites. I would go so far as to say it's my favorite memoir. Lavinia lives in England and Music to Girls is the soundtrack to her life. Her words transported me to a time and a place far away, yet so close to my heart. I was a lonely, misunderstood teenager and Greenlaw had tons of friends, yet I loved the richness of detail of her relationships and ...more
Feb 03, 2011 Molly rated it it was ok
I started this book thinking it would be a breezy memoir of teenage life shared with punk rock and late night drives and adolescent crushes. This is pretty much what the sleeve promised. Instead it's a collection of very short, scattered, and loose essays that read like prose poems and don't really go anywhere. I couldn't even make myself read it on my lunch break, when it was the only book I had with me. To sum up: I would rather stare at a cafeteria bulletin board and doodle on a napkin than f ...more
Bookish Jen
Mar 30, 2016 Bookish Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Music. It’s a life force for so many people. Music forms our ideas, passions and opinions. A song on the radio makes us recall a distinct moment in our lives. A song can inspire us to change ourselves or change the world. A song is there when we fall in love or when our hearts our broken. Music is so much more than “it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.”

But when music is discussed in these terms, it’s usually done by the boys. Nick Hornby and Chuck Klosterman can obsess over bands, discu
Feb 03, 2010 Debs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007, music
When I originally bought this book, I thought it was going to be a socio-scientific look at the way girls understand and interpret music. Instead, it’s a memoir collection of essays by Greenlaw discussing her own life in relation to music. After I got over my initial shock, I enjoyed it a great deal. Some of her pieces are startling in their perceptiveness and incredibly moving.
Shana Hampton
Apr 10, 2010 Shana Hampton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i picked this up at quimby's earlier this week and couldn't put it down. a perfect book for anyone who spent hours with the same song on repeat, spent algebra class doodling song lyrics and daydreamed about the perfect song for your first kiss. yeah, i loved this book.
I don't know, this book just didn't grab me. it has an amazing title, and I think I was expecting too much from it. less about the importance of music to girls and more a scattered memoir.
Jan 16, 2009 Hafdis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Camden, Live music and Love! I loved this book!
Audrey Bienek
For the record this novel included some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read. Greenlaw is poetic and lyrical, with a voice that draws you right back to the emotions and mindset of your youth. Reading this book, as a girl, especially a girl who loves music, I found myself in awe of the way she was able to put into words and reason the attachment I too felt to certain pieces of music.

The novel follows Greenlaw's life from her first dance, standing on the feet of her father, to the steps
Rebecca (whymermaids)
This book is a love letter to music and childhood, and how the two are so intersected. Lavinia is a 60s English baby, and her story is one of the changing musical genres, how music helped form and transform her life as it went through the different stages.

While I appreciate the concept and the ode to the recklessness of youth and growing up, I didn’t love this. I don’t know if it was because I was not in the right mood to read it, or that I was rushing through it, or if those things were affecte
Jun 07, 2015 Susanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, does this book have mixed reviews, and I can see why. The cover (mine is different from the one pictured) makes it look quite poppy. The back of my version, at least, talks about its being a memoir. But once I started reading, each section begins with a literary excerpt, some of them fairly obscure/erudite, and the sections are heavily atmospheric and poetic, and though chronological (I think), not clearly connected, so that it felt highly literary and rather different in tone from what I a ...more
Dec 05, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lavinia Greenlaw, die mich bisher mit einigen Gedichtbänden und dem hervorragenden Roman „Mary George of Allnorthover“ begeistert hat, hat mit „The Importance of Music to Girls“ ein eigenartiges kleines Buch vorgelegt. Der Titel hat bei einigen Lesern eine Erwartung geweckt, die das Buch nicht erfüllt hat, so dass es mehrere weniger gute Bewertungen erfahren hat. Was also kann man erwarten?
Lavina Greenlaw ist im Herzen eine Lyrikerin, und das macht sich auch in diesem Prosatext bemerkbar. Zu Beg
Jan 31, 2011 Rebecca rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
This was a selection from my book club, but it didn't do much for me. It felt like the author spent too much time using poetic and deliberately vague language, rather than just telling her story. I finished several of the short essays unsure of exactly what had happened in them, or what I was supposed to have understood from them. Also, the chapter titles and the quotations at the start of each essay were too oblique for me -- most of the time, although the title and the quotation connected to e ...more
Jan 02, 2013 Heather rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
*Back-dating reviews based on snips I find*

To be perfectly honest, I really disliked this book. There was a fleeting moment here and there that I could get into, but for the most part I found it boring and a struggle to read because I just didn’t care. It didn’t take me long into the book to figure out that I didn’t like it, but I continued nonetheless.

I’m not exactly against romanticising feelings towards music and bands in general; I mean, my early teens were dedicated to some form of that. Th
Feb 17, 2016 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really good memoir about what it is like growing up. She remembers so well what it is like to be a child and confused teen. Music seems to be way more important to those who grew up in the 70s and 80s then it was afterwards, sadly.

The only reason I didn't give this 4 stars is that after she doesn't get in to university the narrative just drops and it picks up 7 years later. It has no mention of what she did or how she decided to go about her life once she gets hit with that informatio
Oct 14, 2014 123bex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Parts of this creative memoir were like reading about my own life, although unfortunately the music of my youth was the deeply terrible nu-metal in the equally terrible nineties. A beautifully lyrical exploration of growing up through music; this book contains the best depiction of female adolescence in the British alternative music scene that I have read since Gemma discovers punk music in Junk.

I heard Lavinia Greenlaw read from this and immediately rushed to the library to check it out. I hav
May 31, 2008 Susann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Melody, maybe
Bought at City Lights bookstore in San Francisco and read much of it on the plane home. Greenlaw was born into a large and somewhat unconventional English family in 1962. Her memoirs are a collection of short essays that start with dancing/riding on her father's feet and end up focusing mainly on her troubled teen years in the 1970s. We watch her watch the older hippies in town, then turn into a disco teen, then cut her hair and turn punk. Greenlaw is also a poet and her essays read as snatches ...more
Aug 21, 2011 Vicki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A review I read somewhere characterized "The Importance of Music to Girls" as a feminine "High Fidelity." I think it's much more emotionally unsettled, ambiguous and thorny than that, although it does share the same fundamental passion for music as an informing thread in one's formative years. And yes, the mix tape as love letter and personal statement makes appearances here, too.

Uneven at first (perhaps attributable to some of the pieces being published or read elsewhere), the collection picks
Feb 22, 2009 Carmyn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This memoir was nothing like I expected. Perhaps I was stuck in the mindset of Nick Hornby's "Songbook" which I actually liked quite a bit. I was expecting essays on music I would know, ideas to which I could relate. I think I was the wrong age and wrong nationality (it's very British) for this book. Greenlaw does a sort of cryptic memoir that moves between ages and eras without a real sense of clarity for me. There are allusions ooziing off the pages but I "get" far too few of them. I appreciat ...more
Apr 09, 2013 Kristen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I've had a Library List on Amazon for about six years now, and I'm working on getting to some of the ones that have been on that list for six years now. This one was added to the list in November 2008. Oops.

Anyways, I was hoping this would be along the lines of Rob Sheffield's Love is a Mix Tape, which I greatly enjoyed. And while I liked the book "okay enough", upon finishing, I don't have any sense of who the author is, I don't feel any sort of connection. I'm loathe to write not-so-great revi
This memoir consists of vignettes and prose-poems about growing up in England in the '70s. It isn't about the music that Greenlaw listened to, played, or sang (though those things are important, too) so much as it is about the rhythms and noise of girlhood in a more metaphorical sense. There is a rough, unfinished quality to the memoir -- the scenes that Greenlaw describes seem fairly typical for a girl of her milieu, and her descriptions of them either don't rise above cliche or could have been ...more
Mar 19, 2009 pianogal rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was disappointed with this one. I thought it was going to be about the music with her life as a background. Instead, I got her life with music as an afterthought. At first I thought, "Hey I can identify with her" because she was trying to not fit in, which I get. But then she started talking about how she would freeze and not be able to talk, etc. and instead I thought, "Hey get this chick some Prozac." Seriously. She was nuts. That is so opposite of my personal experience that I had a hard ti ...more
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“More so than with any other instrument, the violin becomes part of the body. Good musicians are physically dissolved when playing, and for violinists, who cannot see where to place their fingers and have nothing to guide them through touch, music must be more than ever about memory than fingertips and breath; the ventage is deeper, more of the self, closer to singing.” 6 likes
“This is a work of memory -- facts have been altered. Names have been changed.” 4 likes
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