By Terry Horstman
D.E.A.R. Days were my favorite in elementary school. The earliest D.E.A.R. Day I can remember was in 3rd grade. My all-time favorite teacher Mrs. Gonzalez encouraged us to always have a book we wanted to read for fun in our desks or our school bags in case she ever wrote ‘D.E.A.R.’ on the board, which was her command for us to ‘Drop Everything And Read!’
This could happen at any time of any day. Sometimes we’d saunter into the classroom energized from the excitement of our morning bus ride to school and find it already scawled in big letters on the chalkboard. Other days it was after recess, before lunch, or whenever the hell Mrs. Gonzalez felt like. There were no rules with D.E.A.R. We could read whatever we wanted, including magazines! It just had to be words printed on paper that we were excited to read. This is the exact reason why Mrs. Gonzalez was and is my all-time favorite teacher.
Thanks to Mrs. Gonzalez and D.E.A.R., I’ve held onto the habit of always having a book I’m psyched about reading on my person. Unfortunately now, in the age of eleventy billion distractions at every single moment, I rarely take the opportunity to drop everything and read. Until I’m commanded to, of course.
Sometimes a book comes out that you know is going to demand all of your attention from the moment you crack its spine for the first time, through the moment you read the last line of the acknowledgements. That book for me in 2019 was GO AHEAD IN THE RAIN: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest by poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib.
It’s equal parts love letter and elegy, biography and history. Go Ahead in the Rain is an essential read of 2019 whether Tribe’s music is brand new to you, or you’re like me and the group’s debut album, ‘People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm’ was one of the first hip hop albums you remember falling in love with (special thanks to my older cousin Darren, it’s still the best Christmas gift ever).
Abdurraqib shows why he’s one of the world’s great music critics in this book, but also plays the role of a curious and compassionate tour guide, navigating the story of one of the most interesting and important bands the music industry has encountered. You’ll learn. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll finish it in a weekend and start it again.
My list of authors who command me to drop everything and read the moment their latest book hits the shelves is a short one. Shorter even than the late, great Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, who also had the greatest nickname in the history of music: The Five-Foot Assassin.
Any book Abdurraqib writes tops my list in an instant. This book absolutely made my 2019 and I look forward to reading it several more times in 2020.
Terry Horstman is a writer, editor, and former sports PR guy. His writing has been published by The Growler, Eater: Twin Cities, Unplugg’d, and he once Googled ‘the submission guidelines for The New Yorker.’ He is a graduate of the MFA in creative writing program at Hamline University and the founding editor of the sports-themed literary journal; the Under Review. When not writing, he is probably eating buffalo wings or yelling about how awesome something is. He lives and writes in Northeast Minneapolis.