Book: Play It Again by Alan Rusbridger
A very thoughtful gift from a Kassia Women's Choir member, this book "Play It Again: An Amateur Against The Impossible" was a stunning reminder of how much you can achieve if you just PRACTICE!
Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian newspaper and talented sightreader but self-confessed Bad Practicer of the piano. In the same year as the Arab Spring, the Japanese Tsunami and WikiLeaks (although wasn't to know that at the time) he set himself the challenge of genuinely learning (i.e. not bashing through it and hoping for the best) and then publically performing one the most demanding pieces in the piano repertoire: Chopin's Ballade No. 1.
As the editor of the Guardian, he had a slight leg up in terms of whose brains he could pick about learning this piece - world class pianists such as Murray Perahia, Stephen Hough, Emanuel Ax and Daniel Barenboim as well as experts in the field of 'getting a middle aged brain to learn a new trick'.
However, as the editor of the Guardian during a peculiarly tumultous year, he had the slight disadvantage of having rather a lot on his plate already.
The book, presented in diary format, tracks his lessons, his practice (or not), his work, his travel and the challenges of building of a new music room and buying a new piano.
I appreciated how much nerdy detail he went into when discussing the challenges of the piece - the book even has a fully annotated score with all the comments from the his interviews. Perhaps this might be a bit off-putting to the non-musician - but then, I can't imagine that many non-musicians would be drawn to this in the first place.
It was also an incredibly powerful way of retelling the events of 2011, both globally and from the driving seat at the Guardian, as it broke both the WikiLeaks and the News of the World hacking scandals.
This book is a powerful reminder of how much you can do if you put your mind to it. And that no-one is ever really too busy, if something is important enough.