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

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,497 ratings  ·  259 reviews
From genre-defying icon Ben Folds comes a memoir reflecting on art, life and music that is as nuanced, witty and relatable as his cult classic songs.

Ben Folds is an internationally celebrated musician, singer-songwriter and former frontman of the alternative rock band, Ben Folds Five, beloved for songs such as ‘Brick’, ‘You Don’t Know Me’, ‘Rockin’ the Suburbs’ and ‘The
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 1st 2019 by Simon & Schuster Australia
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Start your review of A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons
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
Roger Bailey
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Margot  Tennenbaum
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.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jenni Zintel
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having been a Ben Folds fan for years, I enjoyed reading more about the person behind the music. As a resident of his hometown, reading the often hilarious tales of his adolescence were especially fun.
Talbot Hook
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 ...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
Abigail (Abbe)
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Emily Eloise
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
Jay Gabler
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Reannon Bowen
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.
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listened to the audiobook narrated by Mr Folds himself. A delightful performance by the piano rockstar.
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
Sarah E White
Fantastic musician; unfortunately the book isn't as lyrical, creative, or interesting.
Jim Landers
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've always loved Ben Fold's intelligent songwriting and exceptional musicpersonship, and a little put off by his potty mouth and potential misogyny. This great read is mostly memoir with some encouraging affirmations for creative types struggling to turn their life experiences into art.

Now in his early 50's, Ben is compassionately self-aware, and I feel vindicated in my devotion to this quirky human's body of work. Ben's perception of his life to date brings to mind a Maya Angelou quote that I
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Utterly engaging, laugh out loud funny, and often quite profound. Folds had a very unconventional upbringing (his parents' back-stories could fill a book on their own) and a path to musical stardom that is probably not what you expect (hence the "cheap lessons"). These stories of growing up provide an early glimpse into his style and persona, but the book really hits stride when he begins to go into his musical life. While providing a lot of insider knowledge about piano, drums, touring, ...more
Leah Agirlandaboy
All the stuff about his musical background was great, and he had some interesting thoughts to share about fame, music, hard work, etc., but then when he started getting into his personal life and some of his on- and off-stage antics...sheesh, what a dick. Near the end he has sort of a revelation that he needed to be more selfish and take care of himself better, and my brain did a record scratch because while, yes, he certainly needed to take better care of himself physically, he really didn’t ...more
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved it! The only beef (maybe too big a word for my actual feelings) I ever had with Ben (his cover of Dr. Dre's Bitches Ain't Shit) was addressed in the book. In addition, I ended up being inspired and uplifted and validated. This life thing is tough, and getting out of your obsessive, focused work habits (which just might be defense habits) is important and can be done even if you don't kick them until later in life. The only thing that would have made this book better for me would have ...more
Tena Edlin
Ben Folds is one of my very favorite singers... I even had his song "The Luckiest" sung at my wedding! This book was a funny, touching, irreverent look at his musical journey. It was about his songs and how they came to be, his growth as an artist, and also the lessons he personally learned along the way. I recommend the audio book because he sings a bit and pounds the piano a little. It was a great listen.
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-read, audio, bio
This was a good memoir, and the audio is read by the author. I am a huge Ben Folds fan, and have been for about 20 years, so it was really interesting to learn more about him. This is an honest memoir, and he actually doesn't show himself in a flattering light for a lot of it. I would have liked to hear more about the last 10 years, with things like the orchestra tour, and The Sing Off, which were only briefly mentioned.
There were parts of this book I liked, but the majority of it was tedious to read. It also changed my opinion on Ben Folds as a person too, but not for the better. He comes across immature, but he seems to at least acknowledge that.
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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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