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You Must Go and Win: Essays

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  239 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
In the wickedly bittersweet and hilarious You Must Go and Win, the Ukrainian-born musician Alina Simone traces her bizarre journey through the indie rock world, from disastrous Craigslist auditions with sketchy producers to catching fleas in a Williamsburg sublet. But Simone offers more than down-and-out tales of her time as a struggling musician: she has a rapier wit, sla ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 7th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published May 19th 2011)
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Sep 07, 2014 Anna rated it really liked it
This delightful book reads rather like a modern iteration of the superlative Underfoot in Show Business. Alina Simone is a struggling indie folk singer with a wonderful turn of phrase and a fascination with Siberia. This book consists of short-ish autobiographical pieces vaguely centred around her attempts to get a music career off the ground. Her writing is witty, absurd, and self-deprecating. I especially enjoyed the chapter in which she became obsessed with an obscure self-castrating sect. Re ...more
Jun 07, 2011 Terri rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
You Must Go and Win is a book of essays written by musician Alina Simone. In this book, the reader is taken through the journey of what its like to be the parents of Ukrainian immigrants, a musician on the indie scene, and how many things can really go wrong when you visit places like Siberia.

Some of the essays focus on Simone's music career, which takes many twists and turns that mostly end up with her back in the same place, playing to small crowds. But the perseverance shines through, making
Robert Isenberg
Aug 28, 2012 Robert Isenberg rated it really liked it
From the second I started reading, I wanted to have coffee with Alina Simone. She seems like exactly the kind of self-effacing bohemian I'd hang out with in Pittsburgh, and although her humor sometimes wanders into hyperbolia, her wit and turns of phrase are fantastic. She reminded me of Sloane Crosley, except with more to say, and her Russian background becomes more than an ethnic crutch or cheap joke. She *really* tries to connect with her Slavic roots, and the effort is both awful and surreal ...more
Selena Hanet-Hutchins
Feb 16, 2014 Selena Hanet-Hutchins rated it really liked it
I 'read' this on audio, over one weekend during which it played from my phone through our quaint mid-90s amp and accompanied me through piles of washing up and cleaning/tidying/ironing and bread-baking, then dinner preparations. Each time a chapter/essay came to an end and I asked myself if I wanted to 'go one more', I had to answer: yes. When the last one finally closed, I felt as though I had spent one of those great chew-the-fat sessions with a girlfriend, where you admit that you're the dud ...more
Jun 20, 2011 Nan rated it really liked it
Shelves: musicians
When I learned that author Alina Simone is also a Brooklyn-based indie musician, I thought "Hipster alert" and started reading carefully. My assumption was lame. This modest essay collection is equal parts travelogue, career blog, and identity search--with barely any traces of their annoying downsides. Simone travels to Siberia and Canada (plus some US cities) and the lack of "Hey, look at the wacky locals / I'm such a badass traveler" attitude was refreshing. Observant humor and wit are also wo ...more
Jul 21, 2012 Andrea rated it really liked it
I actually listened to the audiobook of this, but that edition wasn't listed. It took me a little while to get used to the author's voice, which is 1 part Sarah Vowell to 2 parts Drew Barrymore, but ultimately it was just right. She's smart, insecure, funny, and perceptive. There's definitely some privileged white ennui going on, but not so that you want to punch her in the face. She cringes at herself for you, so it's okay.

Also, I learned everything I now know about Russian castrati from this b
Feb 19, 2012 Leon rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of hilarious yet poignant rock & roll memoirs
Who am I? Where am I going?

These are some of the issues Simone struggles with in her long journey to understand her zany Russian relatives, her constant humiliation as a young, traveling musician and why she has ended up in Siberia more times than she will admit to?

This book is wonderfully enlightening and a hilarious take on the consequences of giving up and the effort it takes to move forward in life,
Tyler Mcmahon
Jun 10, 2011 Tyler Mcmahon rated it it was amazing
It turns out that, in addition to being a great songsmith, Simone happens to be an incredible writer of prose. Her essays are often laugh-out-loud funny, always smart and heartfelt. Like indie rock’s answer to David Sedaris, she paints her life with equal parts tragedy and comedy, and just the right amount of self-deprecation.

Recommended to anyone who likes the style of Dadid Rakoff, Sarah Vowell, etc.
Mar 24, 2011 Mely rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, essays
Possibly I wouldn't have found Simone's accounts of being a struggling musician in terrible Brooklyn apartments so amusing if I hadn't just conducted an apartment search (one guy asked me if I was interested in seeing an apartment with a shared bathroom in the hall and seemed surprised when I said no). But the bits about Russia and disappointing expectations were also hilarious.
Aug 17, 2011 Nicky rated it it was ok
I liked the beginning when she was a struggling musician living in New York City, dealing with foreign journalists, crazy producers, boutique publicists, fleas, and back injuries. I lost interest in the middle and never found it again.
Peter Korchnak
Apr 01, 2013 Peter Korchnak rated it it was amazing
Alina Simone’s critically (and, on occasion, uncritically) acclaimed collection of personal essays "You Must Go and Win," documents her circuitous path through music industry’s wilderness and the discovery of her Russian roots. You must go and read it.

At the risk of overgeneralizing: Simone deadpans as perhaps only an Eastern European can; her voice engages as perhaps only an American storyteller’s is able to. Simone has been called "a frenzied, Eastern European musician’s version of humorist Da
Jeff James
Jul 21, 2012 Jeff James rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, audible
I’d never heard of Ukranian-born musician Alina Simone before Neil Gaiman added You Must Go and Win to his line of audiobooks on Audible, but the combination of her background and career piqued my interest, and a recommendation from Gaiman sealed the deal. It is perhaps a little strange that I listened to the book before ever listening to any of her music, but, luckily, her stories are compelling enough to stand on their own.

The book consists of almost a dozen long essays largely focused on the
Jul 27, 2011 Roland rated it it was amazing
Here’s a few words of wisdom: “You Must Go and Win.” No matter how cruel and forbidding life becomes in the cutthroat landscape where you’ve tossed your hat, persevere. Clunky, perhaps, but it’s certainly a more uplifting message than the familiar, Don’t Give Up! It’s especially sound advice if you’re slithering through the trenches of the indie rock world, as songstress Alina Simone so ably describes in her always compelling and always humorous collection of essays and memoir.

Simone has an enga
Sean McGovern
Sep 03, 2012 Sean McGovern rated it really liked it
A charming collection of trips through Russia, America, and dreams of indie rock stardom, Alina Simone's "You Must Go and Win" is...well, charming. I think this can be a life changing book if read at the right time, as dreams are placed on the shelf and the business of surviving shows itself to be just as noble as living out the harsh reality of fantasy. For all of the life lessons learned in vans, station wagons, and jobs chosen due to their adaptability to touring, they finally coalesce into s ...more
Oct 07, 2014 Careuhhline rated it it was amazing
Alina Simone may be the ultimate relatable person on earth. There are so many instances during reading this where I considered how shocked I was that anyone else had experienced incredibly specific circumstances that had an uncanny similarity to my own. I'm in the chapter where she describes hearing "Toxic" everywhere in Siberia, and this is a horrible feeling that I know too- and remember so well hearing "American Idiot" literally blasting in the streets of small towns in Slovakia when I lived ...more
Aug 03, 2012 Sheba rated it it was amazing
Possibly the best book on a musician's arc ever written, or at least one that understands most fans aren't so much interested in the technical aspects of creation--though there could have been more of that here--so much as they're interested in the emotional journey behind the creative process. Simone doesn't waste time navel-gazing, however, her story is outlined in primarily unsentimental vignettes of her travels, family life, spiritual conversion(not to be confused with proselytizing drivel f ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Mclaughlin175 rated it liked it
You Must Go and Win is a fun memoir about a woman in her 20s and 30s coming to terms with her career possibilities in the world of indie rock and with herself as a born-in-Ukraine-but-raised-in-the-U.S. child of politically-exiled parents. Simone recounts some adventures in Ukraine and in Russia (Siberia in particular) as well as in the U.S. Her writing style is accessible and crafty, though occasionally made strange by some awkward sentences and vocab choices and an overall tone of trying to be ...more
Jun 07, 2011 Amber rated it it was ok
** I won this book through Good Reads first reads**

On the plus side, I really enjoyed Alina Simone's writing style. I think she may have a good future as an author!

On the down side, for the most part, the subject matter was very boring for me. It just wasn't interesting! The only part that I really found myself enjoying was learning some of the religious history of Russia. Never thought I'd get anything like that out of this book. I'm interested in reading more about the Skoptsy, a now I've read
Jaime Boler
Aug 31, 2011 Jaime Boler rated it it was ok
In her book of essays titled You Must Go and Win, Alina Simone recounts her journey of self-discovery. Born in the former Soviet Union, she came to the U.S. with her parents as a baby. The lure of home and of the past is powerful: In 2001, Simone traveled to Ukraine and Siberia to uncover her roots. The trip was well worth it—she was then able to tie her heritage and her music together. I applaud her for her ability to bring character to her life. Some of Simone’s tales are so hilarious one can’ ...more
Oct 12, 2011 Sonja rated it it was ok
Although this book is introduced as an account of a Russian singer in the US, I doubt if the promotion is accurately handling the subject matter. Once you begin, you would instantly know that this was more of a Russian born American woman who was re-introduced to her culture of origin because of her never seemingly launching career as a musician. A little irony and the trick of the history, the author ends up tracing her faint and long lost cultural tie with the former soviet union, current Russ ...more
Abuela Linda
Sep 02, 2012 Abuela Linda rated it really liked it
I listened to this book, downloaded from, but the audible version is not one of the choices given here. Some are the essays are 3 star and others, 5 star. Simone does a good job writing humor, which is hard to sustain in any venue. Her attempts to live with a roommate in a tiny apartment in NYC are quite funny as are her descriptions of several trips taken to Russia and the Ukraine. Her research attempts to contact a settlement of Doukobortsy in British Colombia is extremely funny. M ...more
Bob Mcconnaughey
Sep 16, 2012 Bob Mcconnaughey rated it really liked it
Memoirs/essays by a young indie musician, the daughter of Soviet era emigre Jewish physicists from the Ukraine. The best essays are those dealing with her attempts to come more fully to terms with her confusing Russian background - both vis a vis her parents and family and also by way of multiple trips back to the motherland. Simone happened to live in Carrboro, NC for a while, playing at local venues such as the Cats Cradle, though i hadn't heard of her before these essays. Her essays on being ...more
Aug 01, 2011 Emily added it
Shelves: essays
I like essays. I like music. I like a number of Russian speakers from the former Soviet Union who live in New York City (some I those I like very much indeed, my husband for one). So it seemed like an obvious thing to do to enter to win a copy of this collection of essays by the Ukranian-born, Brooklyn-dwelling indie-rocker Alina Simone, but unfortunately this book and I were not a good match. I felt that Simone was striving for Sedaris-like wit in describing experiences that to me seemed quite ...more
Jun 06, 2013 Naomi rated it it was amazing
This book was awesome. It was a series of biographical essays written by a young indie musician. But this book has a much wider appeal than that might make it sound. The struggles Alina Simone go through seem similiar to my own and those of my friends as we struggle to figure out what we want and how to achieve it. Alina has a great sense of humor and a pleasing narrative style. I had never heard her music before reading this book. Afterwards, I went out and bought one of her CDs. I would also r ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
Cute, warm essays that remind me of a blog that is always rewarding to visit. She is a singer of Russian descent, and while she is trying to establish a career in music entertainment, she is traveling and having interesting small adventures. This is not a rock'n roll road book, but closer to that of a young woman's diary, a folk singer artist with a great sense of humor. She travels to Siberia trying to find her roots, and she does. Similar to what happens to many of us, roots we may have, but m ...more
Mar 17, 2012 Kristin rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, new
Meh. The beginning and end are engaging--and certainly the memoir is easy to read--but in the end, what does any of this matter, aside from occasionally interesting but heavily edited stories from one person's life? There's very little there there. I'm interested in why this memoir has garnered so much praise--perhaps it is just the aging of my generation, but hearing someone talk about Britney Spears transforming their understanding of pop music seems dated--and leaves me cold. Very cold. Howev ...more
Aug 29, 2011 Honey-Squirrel rated it liked it
Simone recounts, in realistic detail, her often humorous struggle to make it in the indie rock world and ponders her relationships with fame, family, and Mother Russia. Along the way, she raises questions on the nature of art, the motivation to succeed, the yearning for recognition, religion, and social and gender roles across cultures. Whip-smart, this collection of essays is both entertaining and thought-provoking.
Celeste Rousselot
Dec 04, 2011 Celeste Rousselot rated it really liked it
I picked this up after hearing about it on NPR, I think. What a great group of essays by a young Ukrainian-American rocker. Because one of my sons is so into music and film, I try out books and music I think he might like. Not only does he usually like what I pick, but I find I'm more of a rock "appreciator" than I ever thought I was. Definitely, rock is sometimes a difficult and very many times a scary road for these young people to take. Nonetheless, their stories are usually fascinating.
Mar 06, 2013 David rated it really liked it
This is a must read for all indie musicians with a sense of adventure or home-grown musicians with one eye looking inward. Alina combines both Russian cultural flair and a musicians soul into an alt.indie goes travelogue. It was a delight to hear of her adventures as well as reading quality writing from an up and coming wordsmith.
Aug 18, 2011 Alisha rated it it was amazing
This book is a delightful collection of essays that provide an insight to a variety of life experiences of the author including travel to Russia, trying to make it as an indie music artist, and dealing with a dying pet. Alina Simone's candor, dry wit and worldly insights make this a very good read--especially for anyone who has done some of the very things she writes about.
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Alina Simone is a critically acclaimed singer who was born in Kharkov, Ukraine, and now lives in Brooklyn. Her music has been covered by a wide range of media, including BBC’s The World, NPR, Spin, Billboard, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal. She is the author of the book You Must Go and Win. Note to Self is her debut novel.
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