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

Ben Folds. Ballantine, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-9848-1727-3

In these delightful reflections, singer-songwriter Folds explores the ways in which music shaped his life and offers glimpses into the process of making music. At age three, he dreamed of a jar of fireflies; looking back, he realizes that the glowing jar is an image of his view of artistry and art: “making art is about following what’s luminous to you and putting it in a jar, to share with others.” Folds weaves in autobiography, from growing up in 1970s Greensboro, N.C., and his years at the University of Miami (he dropped out just credits shy of graduation), to his early days of making music in Nashville in the 1990s, and his world tours with the Ben Fold Five and on his own. Along the way, Folds ruminates on songwriting: “often the music fools me into something I’d rather not have revealed lyrically.” With self-deprecating humor, he characterizes himself as a singer who was forced to sing: “I had to grow a pair, or lose a pair, whatever—it’s all so confusing.” Folds’s fans will take great pleasure in this charming and insightful memoir. (July)