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Old Songs in a New Cafe: Selected Essays

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  523 Ratings  ·  53 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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Jan 31, 2010 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!
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
May 29, 2012 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
Some of his best writing.
John Sperling
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been a while since I read these stories, but I remember how much I love them.
My 2nd favorite book of all time. MUST read this one, must.
Angie Dickerson
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the very BEST collections of short stories I've ever read. Waller sinks his teeth into reality, takes hold of your emotions and never lets go! This is one of the few books I DO NOT pack in boxes with my other 100's when I move - I carry this one with me in my carry on - I've had it for over a decade. It's pages are starting to show their age. The first short memoir in this masterpiece collection, "Excavating Rachel's Room" makes me cry every time - it really does a job of pulling on my h ...more
Kirk Weikart
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Waller has a laid back and comfortable rhythm to his writing. His stories are sometime humorous, sometimes poignant, but always entertaining. His personality is already missed in books, photos and music.
Ryan Agnew
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quit
The first few essays were phenomenal, very romantic and emotionally moving, but the rest of the book went downhill for me. I'm glad I read this book as it was able to let me into the mind of another person for a few hours.
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lyrical in parts. Superb writer, in my opinion.
Mar 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoirs, 2011
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
James Cardona
Mar 01, 2015 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 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
Kiera Beddes
Jul 04, 2010 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
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
Apr 01, 2009 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
Feb 01, 2014 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
Jan 03, 2016 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
Stephanie Graves
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 09, 2011 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.
Jul 13, 2012 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 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 :)
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 03, 2010 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.
P Cleo
Jun 16, 2016 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.
Oct 10, 2014 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.
Carolyn Scott
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the stories. If you grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth, you probably wouldn't relate or understand this one. But if you relate to an older lifestyle and truth in living, you should enjoy this book.
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.
Mar 18, 2014 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
Shannon Erickson
This is my absolute favorite book ever! Everyone I have recommended it to couldn't put it down and loved it as well. The stories are heartfelt and life experiences you can relate to.
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Robert James Waller was 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.
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