40 Music Books That Musicians Love
We asked our community of artists to recommend their favourite music books.
Including the best music fiction, artist biographies and oral histories, here's what they came up with.
READ NEXT: 40 MUSIC FILMS THAT MUSICIANS LOVE
1. Liberation Through Hearing - Richard Russell (White Rabbit)
Liberation Through Hearing details one of the most interesting cultural endeavours of the past 30 years - XL Recordings.
Richard Russell's journey to pioneering label boss began plainly enough with DJing and record shop apprenticeships. However, he approached a traditional route with his own distinct method, leading to his signing of Adele, the Prodigy and Dizzee Rascal to name just a few groundbreaking artists.
2. A Seat At The Table - Amy Raphael (Virago)
Renowned writer and critic Amy Raphael interviews eighteen women at the forefront of the music industry about topics spanning queer politics, #METOO, everyday misogyny and more.
One of the best books for aspiring artists, 'A Seat At The Table' features conversations with: Christine and the Queens, Ibeyi, Kae Tempest, Alison Moyet, Nadine Shah, Jessica Curry, Maggie Rogers, Emmy the Great, Dream Wife, Natalie Merchant, Lauren Mayberry, Poppy Ajudha, Kalie Shorr, Tracey Thorn, Mitski, Catherine Marks, Georgia & Clara Amfo.
3. Lost in Music - Miles Smith (Pan Macmillan)
Journalist and author, Miles Smith, describes his early onset pop obsession and aspiration in hilarious detail.
This book is for anyone who's ever bought a record, dreamed for a second about playing Wembley or screamed into a hairbrush.
4. The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music - Dave Grohl (Simon & Schuster Ltd)
Famous for introducing Grunge to the mainstream with Nirvana, in his stunning music autobiography, Dave Grohl recounts the wild times and great music of his stellar career, in his own hand.
5. The Importance of Music to Girls - Lavinia Greenlaw (Faber & Faber)
In The Importance of Music to Girls, Lavinia Greenlaw tells the story of the adventures that music can lead us into: getting drunk, falling in love, dying of boredom, cutting our hair, terrifying our parents, wanting to change the world.
This is a vivid memoir, recalling the furious passion of being young, female, and coming alive through music.
6. Make Some Space: Tuning into Total Refreshment Centre - Emma Warren (Sweet Machine Publishing)
The first book by author, editor and journalist Emma Warren, Make Some Space explores the power of physical musical communities through the story of one east London venue and it's development of a new Jazz scene.
The legacy of Total Refreshment Centre, a Jazz club and recording studio complex, has proven to resonate with fans of current electronic music subcultures as much as fans of Jazz. This book would make the perfect gift for a head.
7. This Isn’t Happening: Radiohead’s Kid A And The Beginning Of The 21st Century - Steven Hyden (Hachette Books)
Author and longtime Rock critic, Steven Hyden’s 2020 offering examines the early noughties through what he calls 'the most emblematic album of the modern era'.
There's no shortage of books on Radiohead, but we're calling this the best one. Essential reading for fans of the band.
8. Join the Future: Bleep Techno and the Birth of British Bass Music - Matt Anniss (Velocity Press)
Author, journalist and electronic music specialist, Matt Anniss reveals the untold stories of bleep’s Yorkshire pioneers and those that came in their wake, moving from electro all-dayers and dub soundsystem clashes of the mid-1980s to the birth of hardcore and jungle in London and the South East.
Featuring quotes from hundreds of interviews with DJs, dancers, producers and record label owners, including Cabaret Voltaire, Nightmares On Wax, LFO, Altern8, 808 State, Fabio & Grooverider, 4 Hero and many more.
9. The Creation Records Story: My Magpie Eyes are Hungry for the Prize - David Cavanagh (Ebury Publishing)
Creation Records was founded in 1983 by Alan McGee, Dick Green, and Joe Foster. Though responsible for signing and lanching the careers of Oasis, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine and Super Furry Animals, the label is known just as much for its debauched drug-fuelled parties as its records.
At 600 pages, the book is exhaustive, and maybe somewhat intimidating, but it's told with a driving passion and intrigue which will carry any fan to the end.
10. Chronicles - Bob Dylan (Simon & Schuster)
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, Bob Dylan's hotly anticipated first book of memoirs didn't disappoint his legion of fans.
If you're looking for a book written by a musician, this is one of the best. The stunningly written Chronicles recounts Dylan's early New York years, his creative process and his unique view of the time's popular culture.
11. No One Here Gets Out Alive: The Biography of Jim Morrison - Jerry Hopkins & Daniel Sugerman (Plexus)
This international best seller, is a biography of Jim Morrison (singer, poet and philosopher), told by two men who knew him well.
Portrayed in all his complexity, this book encapsulates the highs and lows of Morrison's career, and of the mythic sixties.
12. Traveling Music: The Soundtrack to My Life and Times - Neil Peart (ECW Press)
Neil Peart was the drummer and lead lyricist of Canadian Rock band Rush. In Travelling Music, Peart drives from LA to Texas, acting as his own DJ, lining up CDs chronologically and according to all his possible moods:
'Not only did the music I listened to accompany my journey, but it also took me on sidetrips, through memory and fractals of associations, threads reaching back through my whole life in ways I had forgotten, or had never suspected...
The songs and the stories I had taken for granted suddenly had a resonance that had clearly echoed down the corridors of my entire life.'
13. Jazz in Search of Itself - Larry Kart (Yale University Press)
In his astute anthology of Jazz criticism, Larry Kart searches accounts of the careers of Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Bill Evans, and Lennie Tristano, examining the jazz musician’s role as actual and would-be social rebel.
14. The Secret DJ - The Secret DJ (Velocity Press)
A sensational exposé, in The Secret DJ, a renowned DJ plunges us into the hedonistic fast lane of club culture over the last thirty years, from the dawn of acid house to the dusk of EDM.
Whether playing to ten thousand fans in Ibiza's superclubs or in a local pub function room, this DJ's experiences are a cautionary tale - an addictive and shockingly honest account of the hidden world behind the DJ booth.
15. Bass, Mids, Tops: An Oral History of Sound System Culture - Joe Muggs & Brian David Stevens (Strange Attractor Press)
An oral history of the UK's soundsystem culture, featuring interviews with Dubmaster Dennis Bovell, Skream, Youth, Norman Jay MBE, Adrian Sherwood, Mala and others.
16. The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club - Peter Hook (Simon & Schuster)
Peter Hook is an author, better known as the bassist and co-founder of the rock bands Joy Division and New Order.
Writing about the Manchester club the Haçienda which launched in 1982, he remarks how in business terms the project was the perfect example of how not to run a club.
Rather, for it's founders (the romantic idealists behind Factory Records) the Haçienda was about giving back to their city, breeding a new youth culture and making history rathen than money. An inspirational page turner about a truly unique space.
17. Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties - Ian MacDonald (Vintage Publishing)
Ian MacDonald's book has been coined a Beatles Bible. It's concept is simple and satisfying, composed of miniature essays about every song the Beatles recorded, from 1961’s My Bonnie to 1970’s I Me Mine.
18. Supersonic: The Complete, Authorised and Uncut Interviews - Oasis (Headline Publishing Group)
An incredible autobiography, Supersonic details Oasis's journey from dive-bar hopefuls to global superstars.
19. Oh Yes, Oh Yes! - Carl Cox (White Rabbit)
Instrumental in the birth of dance music culture, in Oh Yes, Oh Yes! Carl Cox looks back at his life spent at the heart of the party. Taking readers from Ibiza to Melbourne and Burning Man, this book is an intimate and candid biography by an artist who's never lost touch with his dancers.
20. Just Kids - Patti Smith (Bloomsbury Publishing PLC)
A modern classic, Just Kids is a beatifully written, evocative account of the lifelong friendship between Punk Rock icon Patti Smith and controversial artist Robert Mapplethorpe.
An essential book for music lovers, Patti Smith will make you miss late 60s New York despite never having been there.
21. Get In The Van: On The Road With Black Flag - Henry Rollins (Quarterstick)
Henry Rollins is best known as a member of the seminal punk band Black Flag. While on the road, he kept detailed tour diaries which form the basis of Get in the Van.
Rollins's observations range from the wry to the raucous in this blistering account of a six-year career - a time marked by crazed fans, vicious cops, near-starvation, substance abuse, and mind numbing all-night drives.
22. The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon - John Joseph (Loud Speaker Publishing Co)
A raw and heartbreaking autobiography.
Before fronting one of the most important bands in the underground punk scene, the Cro-Mags, John Joseph faced homelessness, addiction, betrayal and insanity. During his enviable musical career, he relapsed and found himself right back where he started, at the bottom.
23. Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa: The Adventures of Talking Heads In The 20th Century - David Bowman (Bloomsbury Publishing PLC)
One of the best music biographies out there, in Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa, David Bowman charts the early years, the worldwide success and eventual split of legendary Rock band Talking Heads.
With unprecented access to the original members, this book is written in a gossip-like tone which fans of the band will devour.
24. Ocean of Sound: Ambient sound and radical listening in the age of communication - David Toop (Profile Books Ltd)
David Toop's extraordinary work of sonic history travels from the rainforests of Amazonas to the megalopolis of Tokyo via the work of artists as diverse as Brian Eno, Sun Ra, Erik Satie, Kate Bush, Kraftwerk and Brian Wilson.
Beginning in 1889 at the Paris exposition when Debussy first heard Japanese music performed, Ocean of Sound channels the competing instincts of 20th century music into an exhilarating, path-breaking account of ambient sound.
25. Beefy's Tune (Dean Blunt Edit) - Dhanveer Singh Brar (87 Press)
The first book of non-fiction from the87press, produced in collaboration with darkmatter journal comes from theorist and scholar Dhanveer Singh Brar.
Brar’s Beefy’s Tune looks to initiate a conversation about Britain via British artist Dean Blunt's apparent indifference to it.
26. All Crews: Journeys Through Jungle - Brian Belle-Fortune (Vision Publishing Limited)
All Crews is over ten years of journeys through Jungle and D&B and features interviews with all the top artists. However, author Brian Belle-Fortune also delves deeper and looks at the pirate radio stations, labels, crews, promoters and ravers that form the backbone of the scene.
Initially published in 1999 as All Crew Muss Big Up, it was considered the definitive snapshot of the early years of Jungle but quickly went out of print and became cult reading. Reprinted in 2004, All Crews not only features the original text but also an extensive update.
27. The Riot Grrrl Collection - ed. Lisa Darms (Feminist Press)
The Riot Grrrl Collection reproduces a sampling of the original feminist zines and posters from the Riot Grrrl revolution, originally distributed in the 1980s and '90s.
Including an original essay by Johanna Fateman and an introduction by Lisa Darms, this collection shows the birth and progress of the movement, highlighting materials that are more important than ever.
28. Who Say Reload - Paul Terzulli & Eddie Otchere (Velocity Press)
Who Say Reload is an oral history of the records that defined jungle/drum n bass straight from the original sources.
The likes of Goldie, DJ Hype, Roni Size, Andy C, 4 Hero and many more talk about the influences, environment, equipment, samples, beats and surprises that went into making each classic record.
29. Sounds Like London: 100 Years Of Black British music In The Capital - Lloyd Bradley (Profile Books Ltd)
Lloyd Bradley is a British music journalist and author. Contributors to this historical undertaking include: Eddy Grant, Osibisa, Russell Henderson, Dizzee Rascal and Trevor Nelson, with an introduction by Soul2Soul's Jazzie B.
Bradley follows Black music from it's introduction to London during the First World War, through Commonwealth immigration to Soho Jazz clubs, Brixton Blues parties, King's Cross warehouse raves, the streets of Notting Hill - and onto sound systems everywhere.
30. Techno Rebels: The Renegades Of Electronic Funk - Dan Sicko (Wayne State University Press)
Dan Sicko, in this revised and updated version, provides a comprehensive history of Techno music.
Filled with firsthand anecdotes, interviews, and artist profiles, Sicko delves deep into the Detroit story of the 1980s before looking at how Detroit techno functions today.
31. Never Mind The Bollocks: Women Rewrite Rock - Amy Raphael (Virago)
An inspirational book for musicians, 'Never Mind The Bollocks' is a series of intimate first-person interviews with American and European artists from Courtney Love to Bjork, Kim Gordon to Gina Birch.
32. This Is Grime - Hattie Collins (Hodder & Stoughton)
This Is Grime by Hattie Collins, an authority on Grime who has documented the scene since its beginnings, was shortlisted for the Penderyn Music Book Prize 2017. It's accompanied by beautiful images shot by award-winning photographer Olivia Rose solely for the book.
This Is Grime has unrivaled access to the artists and influencers who have created and cultivated the culture over the past fifteen years. Telling their stories and the story of this musical culture - one of the most significant working class British subcultures of its time - in tandem.
33. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History Of Punk - Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain (Grove Atlantic)
Please Kill Me goes backstage and behind apartment doors to chronicle the sex, drugs and power struggles that were the very fabric of the American punk community, to the time before piercing and tattoos became commonplace and when every concert, new band and fashion statement marked an absolute first.
From Iggy Pop and Lou Reed to the Clash and the Sex Pistols (the first time around), McNeil and McCain document a time of glorious self-destruction and perverse innocence - possibly the last time so many will so much fun in the pursuit of excess.
34. Bedroom Beats & B-sides: Instrumental Hip Hop & Electronic Music At The Turn Of The Century - Laurent Fintoni (Velocity Press)
Bedroom Beats & B-sides is the first comprehensive history of the instrumental hip-hop and electronic scenes and a truly global look at a thirty-year period of modern music culture based on a decade of research and travel across Europe, North America, and Japan.
35. Renegade Snares: The Resistance And Resilience Of Drum & Bass - Ben Murphy & Carl Loben (Outline Press Ltd)
Renegade Snares is the definitive book on drum & bass music. Pieced together using original interviews conducted with all the scene s main players, it traces the history of jungle/drum & bass from its early roots in soundsystem culture and rave music right through to the present day.
36. Glitter Up The Dark: How Pop Music Broke The Binary - Sasha Geffen (University of Texas Press)
Starting with early blues and the Beatles and continuing with performers such as David Bowie, Prince, Missy Elliot, and Frank Ocean, Geffen explores how artists have used music, fashion, language, and technology to break out of the confines mandated by gender essentialism and establish the voice as the primary expression of gender transgression.
From glam rock and punk to disco, techno, and hip-hop, music helped set the stage for today's conversations about trans rights and recognition of nonbinary and third-gender identities. Glitter Up the Dark takes a long look back at the path that led here.
37. Scar Tissue - Anthony Kiedis (Little, Brown Book Group)
If you're looking for a book about singers, Scar Tissue far transcends the typical rock biography, because Anthony Kiedis is anything but a typical rock star. It is instead a compelling story of dedication and debauchery, of intrigue and integrity, of recklessness and redemption.
38. Blue: The Color of Noise - Steve Aoki (St. Martin's Publishing Group)
In Blue, Aoki recounts the epic highs of music festivals, clubs and pool parties around the world, as well as the lows of friendships lost to drugs and alcohol, and his relationship with his flamboyant father.
Illustrated with candid photos gathered throughout his life, the book reveals how Aoki became a force of nature as an early social media adopter, helping to turn dance music into the phenomenon it is today. All this, while remaining true to his DIY punk rock principles, which value spontaneity, fun and friendship above all else—demonstrable by the countless cakes he has flung across cities worldwide.
39. Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound - Tara Rodgers (Duke University Press)
Pink Noises brings together twenty-four interviews with women in electronic music and sound cultures, including club and radio DJs, remixers, composers, improvisers, instrument builders, and installation and performance artists.
40. Inner City Pressure - Dan Hancox (Harper Collins Publishers)
Drawn from over a decade of in depth interviews and research with all the key MCs, DJs and industry players, in this extraordinary book the UK's best grime journalist Dan Hancox tells the remarkable story of how a group of outsiders went on to create a genre that has become a British institution. Here, for the first time, is the full story of grime.
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