Music Is Power: Popular Songs, Social Justice and the Will to Change By Brad Schreiber, 237 pgs.

What’s better than a book you didn’t know you needed?

Music Is Power is a history of the nexus of music and protest, from Wobbly-turned-musician Joe Hill to Green Day, from folk to hip-hop.

The other punk musicians covered are Dead Kennedys and the Sex Pistols. I learned a few things about each, just as I learned a few things about every musician or band. For example, Frank Zappa’s music was a fuel of Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution (knew that), and Soviet secret police would threaten demonstrators by saying, “I’m going to beat the Zappa out of you.” (Didn’t know that.)

And I’d known nothing about the political landscape of Jamaica during Bob Marley’s life, and now feel ready to tackle Marlon James’s epic novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, which centers on the attempted assassination of Marley, and on the forces behind it.

Music Is Power is a university-press book, and priced accordingly, but I assume most libraries would order it. –Jim Woster (Rutgers University Press, rutgersuniversitypress.org)