It's our third book to appear on an IndieBound Next List. First, the hardback edition of Jan Reid’s Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards (now a $11.36 paperback on our website), made a splash in 2012. Then in 2013, Two Prospectors: The Letters of Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark landed on the list alongside Amy Tan, Wally Lamb, and Ann Patchett. Now Kristin Hersh's haunting ode to a lost friend Don't Suck, Don't Die has deeply moved booksellers across the country. Hersh's new book joins Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies, Mary Karr's The Art of Memoir, and other highly anticipated titles. Browse the full list here.
To celebrate, we've gathered all the bookseller reviews together and thrown in our book trailer, Spotify playlist, and fan zine!
— Frank Reiss, Owner, A Cappella Books (Atlanta, GA)"Vic Chesnutt wrote songs so brilliant and powerful that they drew the attention of the likes of Michael Stipe, Patti Smith, and Jeff Mangum. His direct, bold, and uncompromising honesty through artistry are the very things that made him a legend that never broke into mainstream popularity. In Don't Suck, Don't Die, his longtime touring partner and friend Kristen Hersh draws a portrait of an artist so clear and unflinching that only a true friend could. Hersh takes time to focus on the importance of both the tragedies and joys of Chesnutt's life and art, never dismissing the important fleeting moments in exchange for rock star spectacle. No other book about a musician reaches the level of intimacy, respect, and love for a friend as Hersh's does."
— Kevin Elliott, 57th Street Books (Chicago, IL)
— Arsen Kashkashian, Boulder Book Store (Boulder, CO)
— Bosco Farr, Bookstore manager, BookPeople (Austin, TX)
"As a reader, I want to be surprised. This memoir of Kristin Hersh's friendship with the immensely talented Vic Chesnutt surprised me. Chesnutt, a man "who started with a broken heart and blamed everyone [he] met for breaking it," is given to us in these pages as a complex and ultimately tragic figure who seemed in retrospect fated for an early death. I admire Hersh for writing the book, both because the rawness in these pages is very apparent and because she's a helluva writer. This is no self-indulgent music memoir; it's a searing portrait of a complicated, beautiful, and ornery friendship. Alternately (and more concisely): Kristin Hersh's Don't Suck, Don't Die deserves a spot on the shelf with Patti Smith's Just Kids."
— Stephen Sparks, Green Apple Books (San Francisco, CA)"Vic Chesnutt's records were for many years virtually the soundtrack for our bookstore, so I couldn't wait to read this memoir. It didn't disappoint. It is such an intimate portrayal, not just of Vic and his wife, and Kristin and her husband, but, by extension, of life on the road of traveling musicians in general. Vic could not have had a more fitting and understanding writer to offer a glimpse into what it was like to have been him. For all of the book's many attributes, the best thing about it is that it reminds us to go back and listen to those incredible Vic Chesnutt records. Thanks, Kristin!"
— Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle, WA)"Kristin Hersh's Don't Suck, Don't Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt is an intimate, unique portrait of a challenging, gratifying, and revelatory friendship between two immensely gifted musicians."
— Jill Owens, Powell’s Books (Portland, OR)“Please don't think you have to know Kristin or Vic to climb into this memoir. You will figure it out, and you may even discover their music as well. This book aches the way you do when you miss a dear friend, and it's deeply moving.”
— Dan Graham, Book Soup (Los Angeles, CA)"I picked up this book for the title alone. I don't know him. I don't know her. It doesn't matter. This may be the finest music book I've ever read. Hell, this may be the best memoir I've ever read."
— Ben Arnold, bookseller at Turnrow Books (Greenwood, MS)
"Don't Suck, Don't Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt" is a sneaky book. An ostensible account of the life of two traveling musicians and their challenges, loves, joy, and pain, "Don't Suck" contains within it a beating heart that resounds with meaning and a deep humane message of love, loss, and hope?
It is at once beautiful, heartbreaking, generous, nasty, scrupulously honest and painfully yet gorgeously touching. If you like to muse on what it is to be human, and to contemplate life as a sometimes fragile biological and emotional creature - this book is for you. Kristin Hersh richly expresses with a fierce and defiant spirit, and transports you to places you may not dare go on your own - places that you may both treasure and flee. An unforgettable read and a unique "tribute" to fellow human Vic Chesnutt and his "life".
— Ed Conklin Chaucer’s Books (Santa Barbara, CA)
— Alice Meloy, Blue Willow Bookshop (Houston, TX)
“Never heard of Kristin Hersh or Vic Chesnutt? Forget that for a second, because Don't Suck, Don't Die is more than a book about two of the most indelible alternative rock musicians of the 1990s; it’s a book about the tight-knit families that loners, however paradoxically, join together to forge. In this memoir, Hersh recounts her friendship with the late Chesnutt, a paraplegic misanthrope and the very embodiment of “cult musician.” Was he easy to be around? Not always, but their friendship was invigorating. No other book I can think of better portrays the healing power of fucking around with friends, or the pain of losing those aimless days.”
— Benjamin Rybeck, Brazos Bookstore (Houston, TX)
"What Kristin Hersh did so memorably and beautifully, writing of her own story in Rat Girl, is now taken to even greater depth and in more devoted, loving form in writing of her enduring close friendship with the late, much-missed Vic Chesnutt. This is an ardent argument for living life as far as it will go, no matter what. The glory of that."
— Elizabeth Jordan, Buyer BookPeople (Austin, TX)
"I loved it. Short, intense & powerful. The ending was like a gut punch to the soul. "
— Terry Cain, Prairie Lights (Iowa City, IA)
"Being a newcomer to the work and words of Kristin Hersh, I was unprepared and instantly drawn in to the off-kilter lyricism with which she is able effortlessly to plunge her readers into the grimy hotel rooms and unlit backstages of her time on tour with Vic Chesnutt. In reading Don't Suck, Don't Die, one feels rather uncomfortably the voyeur, glancing through nearly-closed doors, spying through gritty blinds at the inexplicable contradiction of closeness and “lonelyfyingness” between these two artists. And it is true that we’ve stumbled on a love letter we perhaps were never meant to see, as Hersh writes directly to Chesnutt’s ghost, a man who was somehow a ghost even when he was alive. Or alive in a different way than most. This book is a strange time capsule, one that captures the small, humid details of life shared with Chesnutt, and somehow in so doing captures the fullness of the man himself."
— Emily Rankin, Bookseller, BookPeople (Austin, TX)
"When Vic Chesnutt's suicide finally took in 2009, no one was really surprised. Brilliant stars burn bright, then out. But the shock of absence leaves a mark. His friend and tour mate Kristin Hersh (of Throwing Muses) remembers her friend in the devastating memoir, Don't Suck, Don't Die. She looks back to their time on the road, searching for metaphors that might explain the sweetness and sorrows of a joyous journey with an unhappy end-- the poetry of truly knowing someone, but never truly understanding. Don't Suck, Don't Die wanders into the beautiful darkness to find the ugly light. Spare, honest, and unflinching, this slim book will leave a lasting impact."
— Jeremy Ellis, Brazos Bookstore (Houston, TX)
"Vic Chesnutt was an awesome - in the true sense of the word - talent, and Kristin's intimate portrait of this complex and tragic man has heart and tooth."
— Molly Coogan, Bunch of Grapes (Vineyard, MA)
"Don't Suck, Don't Die is as hard to read as Vic Chesnutt’s music is to listen to today - brief, exquisite in its pain and loss, yet transcendent in its uninvited hopefulness. Kirstin Hersh didn’t write a biography, but a memoir of a kinship so personal and bottomless that the pages in this book are only a doorway into it. Walk through it at your own risk. Stay for a while and listen. Leave changed."
— Jarek Steel, Co-owner, Left Bank Books (St Louis, MO)
"Don't Suck, Don't Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt by Kristin Hersh (author of Rat Girl) is unlike any memoir I've ever read. Written in the second person Hersh replays their shared experiences to Chesnutt himself. She, of course tells the story of their life in music and on tour (which is fascinating in and of itself) but she also tells him and shares with us her deepest feelings about this very important, formative and all to short platonic relationship in her life. A slim little volume that packs a punch about what it means to be, to have and to lose a real friend."
— Judy Crosby, Island Books (Middletown, RI)
"Don't Suck, Don't Die is a bittersweet eulogy, lucid and thoughtful. Chronicling the friendship between Kristin Hersh and Vic Chesnutt, Hersh casts a stirring view of Chesnutt, infusing music throughout.”
— Robert Clutter, Bookseller, The Twig Book Shop (San Antonio)
"Kristin Hersh has written a heartfelt, no holds barred, ode to her close friend and fellow singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt. Many people are in awe of his talent and know of the tragedy of his too short life. This book will help bring him even closer. Hopefully others will discover this man’s brilliance though this powerful little book."
— Karen Hayes, Co-owner, Parnassus Books, (Nashville, TN)
"Don't Suck, Don't Die drags you by the arm straight into Chesnutt and Hersh's friendship, focusing on the small, rough moments that make up a real, human, painful, necessary platonic love. Hersh's writing is so evocative, so personal, so warm, yet never worshipful. Instead of hiding Chesnutt's harshness, Hersh displays it, and that honesty struck me hard and laid me flat. I didn't know much about Chesnutt before picking up this book, and I'm thrilled I got to learn about him through Hersh's gorgeous writing."
— Jessica Kibler, Powell’s Books (Portland, OR)
"Don't Suck, Don't Die is a song written for two and performed by one: raw, beautiful, eruptive, and ultimately heartbreaking. Capturing a decades-long conversation about art and life—about what it means to make music in the twilight of the American century—Kristin Hersh writes her friendship with Vic Chesnutt into a kind of punk-elegy."
— Hal Hlavinka, Community Bookstore (Brooklyn, NY)
"Hersh has given us a meditational romp through the ups and downs of her friendship with the late singer and songwriter Vic Chesnutt. Talented and tormented Chesnutt and Hersh toured together extensively for a decade or so, and the two broken souls seemed to find an odd, uneasy companionship that Hersh astutely and creatively explains. Heartbreak and loneliness abound, yet Hersh’s playful, poignant and often hilarious style manages to bring a remarkable balance to the despair. This is an amazing achievement."