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A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  3,487 ratings  ·  511 reviews
Ben Folds is a celebrated American singer-songwriter, beloved for songs such as "Brick," "You Don't Know Me," "Rockin' the Suburbs," and "The Luckiest," and is the former frontman of the alternative rock band Ben Folds Five. But Folds will be the first to tell you he's an unconventional icon, more normcore than hardcore. Now, in his first book, Folds looks back at his life ...more
Hardcover, 319 pages
Published July 30th 2019 by Ballantine Books
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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 ·  3,487 ratings  ·  511 reviews


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Kristy
Ben Folds--as you probably know if you're interested in his autobiography/memoir--is a singer-songwriter who became popular in the 1990s as part of the band Ben Folds Five. He's well-known for his piano skills, vocals, and songwriting. He's also had a somewhat tumultuous personal life, with multiple marriages that ended in divorce. This memoir covers his childhood and his fame with Ben Folds Five and his solo career, up until the relative present.

"This is a book about what I know. Or what I
...more
R.L. Bailey
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Having been a fan of Folds for over two decades I wasn't sure what to expect from this. Folds has at various points in his life been an open book and others not so much. He can also write joke songs while playing with an orchestra.

What we end up in the book is mostly a straight forward, serious book. His wit is there, but he really hits on what's important to him. He goes into music theory without getting overly technical. He talks about some low points in his life (if you're looking for sex an
...more
Margot  Tennenbaum
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Folds knocks it out of the park. Who knew he was as good a book writer as he is a songwriter? Cheap lessons have never been so resonant - or so funny.
Kathleen
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Buford
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As a lover of music and books, I surprisingly rarely enjoy reading about musicians’ lives. Ben Folds as a songwriter and now book writer is an exception to this rule. His memoir chronicling his childhood through his impressively diverse music career is incredibly poignant and poetic like his lyrics. However, his songs that can shift seamlessly from the beautiful ballad to the profane and irreverent jokes also match his chapters, which capture the same tone. I thought I knew a lot about Folds fro ...more
Cami
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
First, I'll tell you to listen to this, not read it.

Ben Folds memoir is vulnerable and humble. He isn't afraid to take us deep into his experience and what he thought of it all.
I loved every bit of it.
...more
Jacm
Dec 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiography
Having always loved Ben Folds' quirky lyrics, I was looking forward to reading a whole book in that style. A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons did not disappoint.

Written with the honesty and humour of the 90's piano based rocker that he is, Folds takes the reader through the numerous - and often repeated - 'cheap lessons' of a life lived obsessed with music and pushing the boundaries. I really enjoyed the insights into the inspiration of some of my favourite Ben Folds
...more
Robert Starr
Aug 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book and found myself looking forward to listening to more of it. Folds writes and narrates in a simplistic tone, with his southern drawl and slight emphases adding just enough character to keep things interesting.

What I realized is that, over the course of his career, Ben Folds has done quite a lot, frequently reinventing himself while trying to stay true to what his fans were looking for. His memoir fits into this narrative as it's perhaps not what we're accustomed to when we th
...more
emilyeloisereads
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
“What has been good for the music hasn’t always been good for the life”

I listened to this book on Audible. Ben narrates the book and even includes a little bit of piano and bass. It is worth using your monthly audible credit on this because I have never experienced an audiobook like this before.

I am a Big Ben (it autocorrected to capital letters which I find amusing) Folds fan and I wanted to review this with little bias as possible. Ben has created a fantastic auto-biography of his early year
...more
Jenni Zintel
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Due to a shipping problem with my long pre-ordered book (bookstore's fault, not Ben's or the publisher's), I resorted to checking out the audio copy on the local library's app. Thank God I did! Ben read it himself, and his imitation of his father alone made it good choice. He also included musical notes when appropriate,which is super helpful for people like me who like the music but don't know more than the most basic music terminology.
I admittedly am a rabid Ben Folds fan, and as such probably
...more
Talbot Hook
Aug 23, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is quintessential Folds in many ways, at turns irreverent and pensive— sometimes within the span of a single sentence; just as listening to one of his albums (say, Whatever and Ever or Sound of the Life) straight through will yield a very mixed emotional experience, so too will this book have you both chuckling and wistful in a single sitting. There are several praiseworthy elements to this memoir, most notably the alacrity and honesty with which Folds analyzes some of the hardest expe ...more
Corey
Dec 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
As someone who loves Ben Folds, I tore through this book. If you’re not a fan, you should first dig up his albums and listen. If you’re still not a fan, this one may not be as enjoyable but there remains some good insight on creativity, life and growing up.
Alex Black
Jan 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
Reread 6/11/2020

So I did get around to picking up the audiobook of this, and I think I honestly liked that experience a little bit less. Mostly I love hearing celebrities narrate their own books, but I just don't think Ben Folds has the most expressive reading voice. While I was listening, it was like I could visualize him just sitting in a studio reading off the page. It was a bit dry. Not terrible, but I put off listening to it for a few days because I realized he was putting me to sleep a bit
...more
Abigail (Abbe)
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Fun and self-indulgent in the most positive sense. Ben Folds is a musical favorite of mine and it was fun to read about his creativity and perspective. 4.5 stars
Nick
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not usually one for autobiographies, but Ben Folds music has been one of the most major influences of my life.

I was particularly nervous however as with only 10 pages to go there had not been mention yet of my two favourite albums: ‘The Sound of the Life of the Mind’ and ‘So There’. However I was personally buoyed to find out that these albums were the result of Bens first endeavours with personal therapy and retreats into silence. I think it shows.

After reading this I have come to the conclusio
...more
Book Club of One
A mix of memoir and self help, A Dream About Lightning Bugs follows Folds from early life to the near present. Reflecting on his formation, career and finally establishing a healthy but challenging day to day life.

At slightly over 300 pages a lot of the length of the book covers Folds formation, from very early life, not hitting the Ben Folds Five years until towards the middle.

It’s great that Folds has been able to continue his career in a more healthy fashion, pursuing projects that interest
...more
Bryan
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's been a good year for rock musician memoirs. This one was just as good as Roger Daltrey's, in my opinion.
Here we have a man who I have been listening to since 1995 and always had a bit of hero worship for. I have had the privilege of meeting him a few times and just blubbered, so I took this book as a real opportunity to "get to know the man" that I've wanted to share a beer with.
And it didn't disappoint.
Full of great stories that I KINDA new, some I didn't know, and, most importantly, gre
...more
Ellen
Aug 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted more from this book. Maybe because I like Ben Folds so much as a songwriter, I expected more depth in his memoir. The first third of the book, about his childhood and first attempt at college I found interesting. However in the later 2/3's of the book we don't get much of Folds's emotional life. He was married multiple times, yet we learn little about his relationships. For me, there ultimately wasn't enough "there" there. ...more
Rachel O
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I never knew my love for Ben Folds could get any bigger but it totally has after reading his book. He is a beautiful and honest writer and doesn’t try to sugarcoat his “cheap lessons” that he has had along the way. I’ve interviewed, photographed, and met this musician a few times now and am thrilled he wrote his book and gave us all a better look into his life and music.
Jay Gabler
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's appropriate that A Dream About Lightning Bugs is being published around the same time as C.M. Kushins's excellent new Warren Zevon biography Nothing's Bad Luck: The Lives of Warren Zevon, because the two artists have a lot in common. They're both musicians' musicians, not in the prog-rock virtuoso sense but in the sense of being melodic geniuses with accessible but subversively witty senses of humor and appealingly anarchistic streaks.

They're also both essentially self-made musicians with m
...more
Em
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
Ben Folds Five featured heavily in the soundtrack of my youth, so I really enjoyed this book. I would have liked a bit more about the band, but still Ben's stories were interesting. ...more
Charlie
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed the conversational tone. Wish there’d been more stories of making the records and the creative process behind them, but that wasn’t really the point of this book.
Reannon Bowen
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really struggled to finish & be interested in this. While I’ve enjoyed Bens music over the years his book was quite boring. One thing I’ll give him, he’s honest about his shortcomings & owning all the times he’s messed up.
Emily
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’ve been a fan of Ben’s since the mid-90s, so I was particularly interested when this book came out. It’s a quick read that has both entertaining stories and thoughtful Cheap Lessons (TM) that are applicable to all of us, not just budding musicians.
Carlin
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
I'm pretty sure the purpose of this memoir is not to make Ben Folds' audience like him less, but, um... that sure seemed like what he was going for. I've seen Ben in concert more than any other artist and have always professed my love of him, his music, and his awkwardness. But- damn. My first mistake was accessing this book via audiobook. I made this choice 1- because I'm a commuter and can power through audiobooks 100x faster than reading, 2- because, while some authors do their novels a horri ...more
shannon
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Listened to the audiobook narrated by Mr Folds himself. A delightful performance by the piano rockstar.
Sarah E White
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Fantastic musician; unfortunately the book isn't as lyrical, creative, or interesting. ...more
Megan
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining insight into the mind of one of the most unique musical voices of the nineties.
I've always enjoyed the music of Ben Folds/Ben Folds Five, but I didn't know a great deal about the man behind the band.
This book certainly changed that, and I would urge any fan of Ben Folds - or music - to have a read.
...more
Sam
Aug 30, 2019 rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this book but it’s really dull. As a Folds fan was expecting lots of interesting stories and insight into the music, but it skates over loads of major things (like the band splitting up and reforming for example) and goes off on loads of self indulgent theorising on making records or opinions on the record industry.

It’s like a lot of rock memoirs that have mad stories, then more whiney/preachy parts when the band clean up and apologise or justify all the mad stuff, and get intro
...more
Jim Landers
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just like his songs, this memoir feels so open and honest. It's honest in the way I was in my own young jackass years in that is possible to be honest to your moment-to-moment feelings while still persisting as an asshole by following those feelings. I'm glad he's found meditation and other means of slowing down and interupting those impulses. So interesting to read something that seems simultaneously self-aware and obtuse, but I guess that's what we gain in hindsight with reflection. ...more
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“I accept that one day, my music will be gone forever. So will the Sistine Chapel, Bruce Lee movies, and all the silly arts and crafts my aunt ever bought. Gone with the wind. Making songs is something I do here and now. Because light captured is just a moment, a flicker.” 2 likes
“Here's my suggestion to musicians: When you're about to reach for whatever musical tools you use, virtual or real, guitar or computer, ask yourself if you're doing so to save time or because you don't feel like straining your brain. Or, more important, ask yourself if you have anything to say yet. If not, keep working (or playing) upstairs, in your brain. Sure, it's okay to react to what happens when playing with the tools -- or the way a chord sounds, a loop, or even an accident. But make sure you express what you wanted to say or what you imagined. Don't let your tools make you their bitch.” 1 likes
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