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15 Books Every Music Lover Should Read

From modern pop and hip hop to 70’s rock and jazz, we’ve put together a list of 15 books (plus a couple on the horizon) that will give you a back stage pass to your favourite bands and musicians – no matter what you enjoy listening to. Included in our list are illustrated coffee-table books, poetry compilations, as well as biographies and memoirs – which are all bound to entertain any music lover.


Must read music books
Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur’s most intimate and honest thoughts were uncovered only after his death with the instant classic The Rose That Grew from Concrete.

His talent was unbounded a raw force that commanded attention and respect.
His death was tragic—a violent homage to the power of his voice.
His legacy is indomitable—as vibrant and alive today as it has ever been.

For the first time in paperback, this collection of deeply personal poetry is a mirror into the legendary artist’s enigmatic world and its many contradictions.

Written in his own hand from the time he was nineteen, these seventy-two poems embrace his spirit, his energy—and his ultimate message of hope.

The Amy Winehouse Foundation

Global icon
Six-time Grammy winner
Headline-maker
The most talented recording artist of her generation


Much has been said about Amy Winehouse since her tragic death aged just 27. But who was the real Amy?

Amy Winehouse: In Her Words shines a spotlight on her incredible writing talent, her wit, her charm and lust for life. Bringing together Amy’s own never-before-seen journals, handwritten lyrics and family photographs together for the first time, this intimate tribute traces her creative evolution from growing up in North London to global superstardom, and provides a rare insight into the girl who became a legend.

Jim Marshall

The year 1972 brought together two legends of rock ‘n’ roll at the peaks of their careers: Jim Marshall and the Rolling Stones.

Selected by LIFE magazine to photograph the Stones’ EXILE ON MAIN ST. tour, Marshall had a week of unlimited access. The results are his now-iconic images of the band, onstage in their full glory and backstage in moments of unguarded camaraderie. Marshall’s ability to capture the essential spirit of an artist and the transformative power of music is matched only by the Stones’ larger-than-life energy. Fifty years after these photographs were taken, they retain the power to thrill and inspire. This definitive edition presents the images as they were meant to be seen at a larger size and in the rich, high-contrast tones Marshall favoured.

Caryn Rose

Patti Smith arrived in New York City at the end of the Age of Aquarius in search of work and purpose. Through her poetry, her songs, her unapologetic vocal power, and her very presence as a woman fronting a rock band, she kicked open a door that countless others walked through.

No other musician has better embodied the “nothing-to hide” rawness of punk, nor has any other done more to nurture a place in society for misfits of every stripe. The first book about the iconic artist written by a woman. The veteran music journalist Caryn Rose contextualizes Smith’s creative work, her influence, and her wide ranging and still- evolving impact on rock and roll, visual art, and the written word.

Måns Mosesson

The intimate biography of the iconic DJ who was lost too soon. Like a firework against the night sky, the DJ and producer Tim Bergling exploded onto the music scene. A musical visionary who, through his sense for melodies, came to define the era when Swedish and European house music took over the world.

But Tim Bergling was also an introverted and fragile young man who was forced to grow up at an inhumanly fast pace. After a series of emergencies resulting in hospital stays, he stopped touring in the summer of 2016. Barely two years later, he took his own life.

Oasis

Oasis are one of the biggest bands the world has ever seen. Here, in Supersonic, they tell the story of the their beginnings from dive-bar hopefuls to global superstars. They themselves talk us through the pivotal moments in their phenomenal trajectory, from the day Noel Gallagher joined his brother Liam’s band, through their first crucial five years culminating at their landmark gigs at Knebworth Park in 1996 – the pinnacle of their success.

With over thirty hours of interviews with Liam, Noel and those closest to them, this book documents in unprecedented depth and with their trademark candour and humour, the story behind one of the world’s greatest bands, all told in their own words and fully illustrated with exclusive photographs and ephemera throughout.

Mark Davidson

Several years ago, a treasure trove containing some 6,000 original Bob Dylan manuscripts was revealed to exist. Their destination? Tulsa, Oklahoma. The documents, as essential as they are intriguing draft lyrics, notebooks, and diverse ephemera, comprise one of the most important cultural archives in the modern world.

Along with countless still and moving images and thousands of hours of riveting studio and live recordings, this priceless collection now resides at The Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, just steps away from the archival home of Dylan’s early hero, Woody Guthrie. Nearly all the materials preserved at The Bob Dylan Center are unique, previously unavailable, and, in many cases, even previously unknown. The centerpiece is a carefully curated selection of over 600 images including never-before-circulated draft lyrics, writings, photographs, drawings and other ephemera from the Dylan archive.

Mary Gabriel

With her arrival on the music scene in the early 1980s, Madonna generated nothing short of an explosion as great as that of Elvis or the Beatles, taking the nation by storm with her liberated politics and breathtaking talent. But Madonna was more than just a pop star. Everywhere, fans gravitated to her as an emblem of a new age, one in which feminism could shed the buttoned-down demeanour of the 1970s and feel relevant to a new generation.

Amid the scourge of AIDS, she brought queer identities into the mainstream, fiercely defending a person’s right to love whomever and be whoever they wanted. Despite fierce criticism, she never separated her music from her political activism. And as an artist, she never stopped experimenting.

Britney Spears

The Woman in Me is a brave and astonishingly moving story about freedom, fame, motherhood, survival, faith, and hope.

In June 2021, the whole world was listening as Britney Spears spoke in open court. The impact of sharing her voice, her truth, was undeniable, and it changed the course of her life and the lives of countless others. The Woman in Me reveals for the first time her incredible journey and the strength at the core of one of the greatest performers in pop music history.

Adrian Besley

This fully revised and updated edition of the bestselling biography covers their journey from debut to Map of the Soul: 7 and looks at how this group of guys from South Korea have taken over the world.

RM, Jin, SUGA, j-hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook can sing, dance and rap, and write and produce their own music too. From humble beginnings at a small agency to topping charts all over the world, their story is truly incredible, and testament to the amazing talent and hard work of each of the members. Their dedicated fanbase, ARMY, have supported them through thick and thin, celebrating triumphs alongside their idols and pushing them to ever-greater heights.

Tom Hagler

David Bowie had a unique relationship with the BBC, making more appearances on ‘the beeb’ than any other broadcaster throughout his career.

An anonymous pre-fame teenager, a blossoming starlet, a white-hot rock star and a veritable elder statesman of pop: the BBC had the inside scoop on it all. In this fascinating collection of BBC television and radio transcripts, Bowie’s life story is told in his own words, across more than 35 appearances spanning over forty years. Each provides an illuminating snapshot of moments in a remarkable career. But read together, they offer a completely new take on Bowie himself, a first-person look at the rise and rise of a star.

Ben Ratliff

A new edition as part of the Faber Greatest Hits – books that have taken writing about music in new and exciting directions for the twenty-first century.

No other jazz musician has proved so inspirational and so fascinating as John Coltrane. Ben Ratliff, jazz critic for the New York Times, has written the first book to do justice to this great and controversial music pioneer. As well as an elegant narrative of Coltrane’s life Ratliff does something incredibly valuable – he writes about the saxophonist’s unique sound.

Justin Tinsley

Culture journalist Justin Tinsley’s It Was All a Dream is “a deeply reported saga of the ephemeral, yet colorful, life of The Notorious B.I.G.” (USA Today).
 
The Notorious B.I.G. was one of the most charismatic and talented artists of the 1990s. Born Christopher Wallace and raised in Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, Biggie lived an almost archetypal rap life: young trouble, drug dealing, guns, prison, a giant hit record, the wealth and international superstardom that came with it, then an early violent death. Biggie released his first record, Ready to Die, in 1994, when he was only 22. Less than three years later, he was killed just days before the planned release of his second record, Life After Death.
 
A fresh, insightful telling of the life beyond the legend, It Was All a Dream is based on extensive interviews with those who knew and loved Biggie, including neighbors, friends, DJs, party promoters, and journalists.

Steven Gaines & Peter Brown

All You Need is Love is a ground-breaking oral history of the Beatles and how it all came to an end.

In 1980-1981 former COO of Apple Corp, Peter Brown and author Steven Gaines interviewed everyone in the Beatles’ inner circle and included a small portion of the transcripts in their international bestselling book The Love You Make, which spent four months on the New York Times bestseller list. But left in their archives was a treasure trove of unique and candid interviews that they chose not to publish, until now. A powerful work assembled through honest, intimate, sometimes contradictory and always fascinating testimony, All You Need is Love is a one-of-a-kind insight into the final days, weeks, months and years of the Beatles phenomenon.

Giles Smith

My My! The story of ABBA told through a selection of their greatest hits.


This year is the fiftieth anniversary of Waterloo (the song, not the battle), a seminal moment in pop history which saw Swedish sensation ABBA burst on to the international music scene. How is it that half a century later this seventies Eurovision act is bigger than ever, reaching listeners of all ages and spinning off into musicals, museums and holograms? Giles Smith, writer and music fan, sets out to find out why.

Honorable mention:

33 ⅓ is a series of short books about popular music, focusing on individual albums by artists ranging from James Brown to Celine Dion and from J Dilla to Neutral Milk Hotel. Each album covered in the series occupies such a specific place in music history, so each book-length treatment is different. Jonathan Lethem, Colin Meloy, Daphne Brooks, Gina Arnold and Alan Warner are just some of the authors who have contributed to the series so far. The series is widely acclaimed by fans, musicians and scholars alike.

Since the formation of the original 33 ⅓ series, the Bloomsbury imprint has partnered with Spotify on the 33 ⅓ Podcast, hosted by renowned record producer and DJ, Prince Paul. Beyond this, They’ve launched 33 ⅓ Brazil33 ⅓ Japan33 ⅓ Oceania33 ⅓ Europe, and in 2024, will be launching 33 ⅓ South Asia. Most recently they released Genre: A 33 ⅓ Series, which guides readers through musical sub-genres that have intrigued, perplexed, or provoked listeners. Spanning 20 years, 33 ⅓ have released over 200 books, and they’re still going strong!

Coming soon:

Jan Gradvall

With exclusive band interviews and over a decade of deep research, in Melancholy Undercover, renowned music journalist Jan Gradvall explores the secret to ABBA’s success.


Over half a century after their songs were recorded, ABBA’s songs still make people the world over dance and sing every day, and their ability to evoke every emotion has made them the ultimate soundtrack to major life events, from birthday parties and weddings to heartbreaks and memorials.


Since interviewing the four members of ABBA for an article in 2013 – at which time the band had not been interviewed for 30 years – a relationship was sparked between writer Jan Gradvall and the band, and he was granted unique access for the next decade. He has interviewed each of them exclusively for Melancholy Undercover, and they share their thoughts and opinions with him here more openly than ever before.


Gradvall places ABBA at the centre of the musical universe, and alongside his fascinating interviews, he gives readers the socio-cultural context of how the band’s sound was formed –including the melancholic hints of Swedish folk music and the dansband culture of their formative years – and shows how the story of ABBA is also the story of Sweden and the internationalisation of pop culture.

Simon Benoit, Damien Somville and Lalie Walker

Dolly Parton All the Songs is an album-by-album, track-by track deep dive into the almost 60 year career of a musical icon. This completist’s guide features more than 400 photographs, and tells the little-known stories behind how each of Dolly’s albums came together, including behind-the scenes details about the recording of each track, the musicians involved, and the songwriting process.

Organized chronologically, and covering every album and every song that Dolly has ever released, Dolly Parton All the Songs is the result of years of research by three Dolly megafans and longtime music journalists. Beginning with a childhood famously spent making music with her family in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, Dolly Parton All the Songs follows along as the country music superstar conquers Nashville, Hollywood, and then the world with her captivating music, unforgettable style, and unmatched humor and kindness.

At 608 pages, Dolly Parton All the Songs is filled with amazing photographs of Dolly in all her glory, and it features tons of fascinating details about Dolly’s recording process, including which musicians appeared on each track, and little-known details about her working relationship with Porter Wagoner (she wrote the classic track “I Will Always Love You” about him), as well as looking at her forays into film stardom with appearances in classic movies like 9 to 5Steel Magnolias, and the recent Netflix series, Heartstrings. This is a must-have book for any fan of Dolly Parton and country music.

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