Set during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, a struggling marriage is rocked by an extramarital affair and violence. Jazz suffuses the narrative, both in the historical time period itself and as a metaphor for the turbulent, passionate lives of the characters.
There Goes Gravity
As a music journalist for more than 40 years, Robinson interviewed the greatest of the greats, from Led Zeppelin to Eminem to Lady Gaga. She introduced David Bowie to Lou Reed, exchanged outfit critiques with Mick Jagger, and spent time with John Lennon at the Dakota before his murder. Her memoir offers a backstage, insider’s account to some of the legends.
Love Is a Mix Tape
It’s no surprise that when two music critics fall in love, music would be a important presence in their relationship. In the wake of his wife’s sudden death, Sheffield turns to the mix tapes they exchanged over the years, both to cope with his grief and to honor her memory.
The original source material behind the hit Broadway musical and the Oscar-winning movie adaptation. With its sweeping themes of social justice, redemption, love, and revolution, Les Miserables proves to be a timeless classic.
While not about music per se, Oliver’s lyrical prose has a cadence of its own. Though the collection is an ode to our canine companions, it has greater depth—an appreciation of nature’s beauty and the ephemerality of life. Oliver’s poetry is accessible but also thought-provoking.
I Don't Care About Your Band
A TV comedy writer and performer with the Upright Citizens Brigade turns a string of romantic escapades into this funny and raunchy memoir. One of the highlights is an unforgettable encounter with an indie rock musician.
I Want My MTV
Rob Tannenbaum & Craig Marks
This book covers MTV’s first decade, starting in 1981 (before the network started producing reality shows about pregnant teenagers). Composed of short oral histories from more than 400 interviews with artists, directors, video jockeys, and producers, it’s a behind-the-scenes tale of a new era in pop culture.
Let's Go (So We Can Get Back)
As a founding member of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco, Jeff Tweedy has spent the past two decades penning and performing the soundtrack for a generation of long, soul-searching road trips. Plunk yourself down in the passenger seat and enjoy the ride of his life.
Beastie Boys Book
“Wild Card,” ADROCK’s introduction to the Beasties’ history, is named in memory of founding member MCA (who passed away in 2012), “the rare person who actually does all the crazy things they say they’re gonna do.” It’s also a fitting description of the band’s story, told with Mike D in the trio’s characteristic break-all-rules, invite-everybody-over style: tall (true) tales share space with rare photos, illustrations, a cookbook, a graphic novel, a bespoke map of New York City’s cultures and characters.
The Music Shop
The ’80s are ending, and Frank’s storefront—on a down-at-the-heels street in the English suburbs—is a lone bright light for a scattered community of music lovers in need of vinyl therapy. It’s also all he has, until a winsome customer with a long green coat and a foreign accent stumbles into his life. A sweetly nostalgic romantic comedy in the tradition of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, The Music Shop is proof positive that the right harmony at the right time really can transform the world.
Florence Welch’s first collection of lyrics, poetry, and artwork is an invitation to the cosmic blossoming that began with sneaking out of art-school classes and has exploded across the globe. In these intimate arrangements, she’s curated the evidence of who and where she’s been all these years.
With interviews from more than 180 “friends, rivals, lovers, and collaborators”—and never-before-seen material from two decades of his own conversations with Bowie—Dylan Jones initiates the ultimate conversation about rock and roll’s most enigmatic shape-shifter.
My Own Devices
International travel with a rap collective doesn’t leave one with much time for socializing and sightseeing, but Dessa has a Rumplestiltskin-like ability to spin her hours on the road into literary gold. Her stunning essay collection would be a feather in anyone’s literary cap, and the fact that she’s assembled it while wearing something like a dozen hats is nothing short of miraculous.
Five decades after Otis Redding’s indelible performance at the Monterey Pop Festival and his tragic death in a plane crash, a fellow musician has released his definitive biography. With the cooperation of the Redding family and painstaking research, Jonathan Gould offers a comprehensive portrait of the phenomenal young man who defined the Stax Records sound and changed soul music forever.
The Indispensable Composers
As the chief classical music critic for the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini loves to invite participation in his treatment of the greats. This unabashedly subjective essay collection offers his scholarly and intimate impressions of 17 artists—and invites both neophytes and aficionados to roll up their sleeves and engage with these legacies.
This jaw-dropping collection of hip hop’s most iconic images presents music like it’s never been seen before. Contact sheets offer a contemporary glimpse of how visual artists interact with their subjects, and these primary texts are an invitation to some of the most you-had-to-be-there moments of all time.
When Jann Wenner founded Rolling Stone in 1967, he was a Berkeley dropout and San Francisco fanboy bringing counterculture to the mainstream. Half a century later, he’s the godfather of rock and roll journalism. Hagan captures both the historical significance of what Wenner created and the long, strange trips the Rolling Stone crew and its subjects took to get there.
Summer is here, the days are long, and music-festival season has arrived. Whether you love pitching a tent in a field and grooving to some live music, or prefer to listen to Spotify in the air-conditioned comfort of your own home, we’ve rounded up the best books for music lovers.
Featured Image: @noux2rs/Twenty20