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Old Songs in a New Cafe: Selected Essays

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  451 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
The author of the phenomenal #1 national bestsellers The Bridges of Madison County and Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend now presents a collection of his reflections on life, love, loss, and longing--a timely treatise on the emotions of the heart, the powers of the imagination, and the infinite possibilities of being.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published July 1st 1995 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1994)
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May 29, 2012 Christina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked 'Old Songs' up at Goodwill on a whim, and was pleasantly surprised. Waller's writing is lovely; his personality and passion easily shine through. On the one hand, I'd like to give this book five stars for his talent and ability to engage me on topics for which I would not normally care. However, I'm only giving him four stars after researching him and discovering that Waller had a seven year* affair before confessing his adultery to his wife. Tragic and disappointing as his indiscretion ...more
I am of mixed mind in deciding how to rate this book. The stories are mostly good and well written. They offer an interesting look at the Iowa Waller knew as a boy and the Iowa of the late 1980s when most of these essays were written. His love for his home state and the outdoors comes shining through. But there are also things that bother me. These are, in fact, old songs. Each essay was previously published, mostly in the Des Moines Register. Their publication in this book is clearly the author ...more
James Cardona
Mar 01, 2015 James Cardona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author most well known for The Bridges of Madison County previously held a newspaper reporter position in Des Moines, Iowa. Old Songs in A New Cafe is a selection of essays that he wrote and as I understand most if not all were published in the paper when he worked there.

Not all of them struck me, but those that did tugged my heart-strings, giving me pause. Waller has a great ability to take a common place event, revealing some small, insignificant detail about it, then spinning the tale in
Apr 14, 2016 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this while perusing my bookshelf at home. I had it for a long while and somehow never read it. I found it to be sentimental, emotional and thought provoking. I really enjoyed it. While reading it I had the thought that Mr. Waller knows what is truely important in life as he waxed nostalgic about his wife in one essay and his daughter in another. A day or two later, curious about what had become of him, I did a Google search and was devastated to find that he divorced his wife, the beguil ...more
Jan 31, 2010 Jennyb1227 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVE this book! Anything I wrote would be a spoiler, so all I will say is that is it a must read!
Jan 05, 2016 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading Robert James Waller's "Old Songs in a New Cafe" was a great experience in not judging something outright. I never would have thought I'd enjoy something by the writer of "The Bridges of Madison County", but I found myself thoroughly enjoying this collection of personal essays.
The essays range over a host of topics including animals, wilderness exploration, youth and lessons learned, sports, and many others. They are not connected so this collection can be read as a whole as individual p
My 2nd favorite book of all time. MUST read this one, must.
Some of his best writing.
Feb 02, 2014 Donna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've had this book for a while. Don't really remember when or why I got it but I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. There were a few selections I didn't care for but overall it was an enjoyable read.

If you are an animal lover be sure to have a tissue at hand when you read A Canticle for Roadcat...holy crap. I bawled like a woman whose husband just left her & took her jewelry box!! =*( It was probably ten times worse because I've lost pets who were near & dear to me. I'm just gla
Kristina Jo
I'm not sure if this qualifies as "non-fiction" or "memoirs", so I'm filing it as both. Even though memoirs aren't always fact-ful. Which is why they get their own shelf.

I'm always bringing books to church and reading them before the service, after the service, and occasionally during the service if I'm almost done with my chapter. (Or if I'm really tired and I don't feel like listening to our pastor drone on.) I'm one of the youngest active members of the church, and I'm the youngest active mem
P Cleo
Jun 16, 2016 P Cleo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was very disappointed with this book. While I know that books and movies are different, I saw the film "Bridges of Madison County." I refused to read the book, because I wanted the imagery, the emotions it aroused in me to stay. I guess I was expecting to much. I thought the writing was very choppy. The essays did not capture or sustain my interest.
Apr 29, 2014 Liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sentimental, absolutely. Between these covers, I decided to suspend judgement and as a result, the story unfolded and transcended for me. This was written in a different time, so keep in mind articles featuring female characters in particular are more accessory and superficial than are the stories about men. I would strongly suggest a small glass of wine, to assist the reader to more effectively pore over the elegance and ease of his description. Waller has an extraordinary sense of the world an ...more
Jacques Siebrits
Enjoyed the first two essays/stories, and one or two later on in the book, but some didn't work for me at all, in particular the one narrated by a goose that survived a hunt. Also finished the book with a feeling that Waller thinks he is a bit of a sage. Lastly, his writing style irrirated me at times.
Mar 18, 2014 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really appreciated these essays written by Waller. A few that stand out include his commencement speech, Road Kill and Jump Shots. Listened to it in audio form read by the author. This one is a keeper
He tried to blend gentle philosophy with story, but his wordcraft failed to compel me and I found the structure of his essays somewhat difficult to follow and enjoy.
Kiera Beddes
Mar 18, 2016 Kiera Beddes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Waller has a fantastic, extremely personal voice in each of his essays that comprise this book. Very, very good book, one that I am tempted to give to everyone I know. He treats a number of topics ranging from environmentalism to romance to childhood heroes to his daughter leaving home to an ode to his wife without sounding preaching or inapplicable. Waller is incredibly insightful and creates a lot of opportunity for thought and self-introspection. I teared up in 'A Waltz for Georgia Ann' and b ...more
Apr 01, 2009 Jacki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first few and the last one were my favorites. I loved the first one, about packing up his daughter's room and reflecting on the time that she lived with them. The next one, about his wife, was enough to make me tear up.

There were a handful of other essays in here that I thought were great and strong.

The ones in between (mostly the ones about sports, animals and so on) didn't connect with me as much, but it was worth it because I loved the others so much.

This was a short book and I read in i
Brian Sullivan
Jan 22, 2016 Brian Sullivan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written with inspirational style and feeling
A couple of the essays--"A Canticle for Roadcat" and "romance" in particular--are truly transcendent, and there are real moments of mirth as well, but all in all the obviousness that most of these began life as newspaper columns is clear. And, well, newspaper writing is not my preferred style. Too stilted, too stripped bare.

But, a good read nonetheless, particularly if you are given over to sentimentality like I am.
May 14, 2011 Sue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This novel, Old Songs In A New Cafe, is by author Robert James Waller,author of The Bridges Of Madison County.
This novel is about people and animals, nature and all things we care about.It is about growing up, finding love and getting older.The novel is written with great passion, and maturity.This non fiction novel is wise and moving, and lets you inside the mind of the writer.A beautiful novel.
Mar 05, 2010 Tami rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-read
hmm, this might be a low rating after the last book i read 'the help' was so good. but this was written well. style similar to bridges of madison county. i enjoyed getting to know him as a man, rather than him the writer. some lines were very poiniant. the style was soothing yet most of it lulled me to sleep rather than moved me to act.
Jul 14, 2012 Elyse rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this 'just cuz'. (thrift store special: 50 cent bargin)

Heartfelt autobiographic short stories: childhood adventures, family, animals, hobbies. (things which have been or 'are' important to the author)

A small book (quick read). Enjoyable little book to read while eating a bowl of fruit & yogurt! lol
Dec 03, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of stories provided a good escape at the end of hideous work days. Waller's perspective rang true, especially when I applied his theories to those I find myself surrounded by during the work day. Having a wandering spirit combined with an introverted personality is not such a bad thing after all :)
What a nice collection of short stories/essays. I love it that the author, Robert James Waller, read them himself. He has such a nice, comforting voice. I enjoyed all his pieces but my favorite was the one about their feline friend... Road Cat.
Dec 18, 2014 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First story "Evacuating Rachael's Room" is very true to life. His stories resonate feelings of the past and the present and if you don't feel anything after reading this book then well, I don't know what else to say.
Jan 01, 2009 Harriet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite my tendancy to think of him as kind of conceited, full of himself, most of these short stories impress me. I know they do, because I think about them later.
Nov 04, 2010 Drew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For any fan of Robert James Waller, I recommend this. Lots of quick reads that will leave you smiling. Proves that he is more than just the Bridges book.
Jun 25, 2009 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of the Essays are better than others, in my opinion they range between 3 & 5 starts. My favorite is "Slow Waltz for Georgia Ann."
Jun 04, 2008 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really get a kick out of reading essays by people better known for fiction. Robert James Waller does not disappoint.
Elaine Mercado
Dec 27, 2012 Elaine Mercado rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the short stories. My favorite was the release of the otters. It was so funny, I laughed out loud.
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Robert James Waller is an American author also known for his work as a photographer and musician. Several of his books have been on the New York Times bestseller list including 1992's The Bridges of Madison County, which was the top best-seller in 1993. Both that novel and his 1995 novel, Puerto Vallarta Squeeze, have been made into motion pictures. Waller currently resides in Texas.
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