Top 20 Best Music Books, According To Aficionados

90% of Americans listen to music every week for a whopping 32.1 hours according to Neilsen!

These essential books take you behind the scenes of that music and even go some way to explain how music soothes even the savagest of beasts. 


Kill Your Friends by John Niven

Best Music Books

We start with a novel. Kill Your Friends is the fictional story of an A&R man at the close of the last century drowning in the death of Britpop. There’s only one way to save Steven’s career and it’s not going to be pretty. But it is quite brilliant. 

You can grab a copy online here


Waiting For The Sun by Barney Hoskyns

This one’s not a novel but it does kind of read like one. Barney Hoskyns takes us under the surface of the LA scene in its heyday and everyone’s here from The Eagles to The Beach Boys to The Doors. This is rock n roll. 

You can grab a copy online here


This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel Levitin

This Is Your Brain On Music

Ever wanted to know how music soothes the savage beast? Then Daniel Levitin’s look into the world of musical neuroscience is the book for you. 

You can grab a copy online here


Hammer Of The Gods by Stephen Davis

Stephen goes way behind the scenes in this unauthorized biography of Led Zeppelin and the drugs, sex, Satanism and more that he discovers makes for an unputdownable read. 

You can grab a copy online here


The Music Of Black Americans by Eileen Southern

The Music Of Black Americans

Eileen was the first black woman to become a tenured professor at Harvard. Her book is an incredible tour-de-force of the music of black Americans from the day they arrived in America to the dawn of hip-hop. 

You can grab a copy online here


The True Adventures Of The Rolling Stones by Stanley Booth

Stanley Booth was part of the band’s inner circle as they grew from nobodies to arguably the biggest rock act the world has ever seen. This story is both compelling and entertaining. 

You can grab a copy online here


Tunesmith by Jimmy Webb

Tunesmith

If you’ve ever wondered what it is that allows a musician to write a song, this is the book for you. Jimmy Webb illuminates the creative process from start to finish. 

You can grab a copy online here


Murder In The Front Row by Brian Lew & Harald Oimoen

Metallica is now the world’s highest grossing touring band. But when Brian and Harald discovered them, they were barely a blip on the musical radar. They chart the rise of thrash and Metallica’s part in it, beautifully.

You can grab a copy online here


One Nation Under A Groove by Gerald Lyn Early

One Nation Under A Groove

The impact of Motown Records on the global music scene cannot be underestimated and this excellent book examines the rise and fall of Motown and its impact on American culture. 

You can grab a copy online here


Choosing Death by Albert Mudrian

As you might expect, this isn’t a story of executions but rather of Death Metal and Albert Mudrian’s tour of the scene is both nuanced and very funny. 

You can grab a copy online here


Last Night A DJ Saved My Life by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton

Last Night A DJ Saved My Life

100 years of DJing is wonderfully presented in a single volume by two guys that really understand the impact of dance music on our culture and souls. 

You can grab a copy online here


I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead by Crystal Zevon

When your ex-wife writes your biography, then it’s bound to be hardcore. Crystal’s tale of Warren Zevon’s life is a tragicomic masterpiece that pulls absolutely no punches. 

You can grab a copy online here


Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick

Last Train to Memphis

This and it’s follow up volume, Careless Love, is the ultimate story of the life of Elvis Presley. It’s funny to think that Elvis’ name is no longer a household name as the King dominated music for a generation.

You can grab a copy online here


1971 by David Hepworth

Hepworth’s case is simple: 1971 is the best year for music in history. He offers 100 albums and endless interviews and analysis to support his case and it’s a good one.

You can grab a copy online here


I Want My MTV by Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks

I Want My MTV

This history of the first decade at MTV is a wonderful exploration as to how the music video changed the, quite literal, face of music as we know it. 

You can grab a copy online here


No One Gets Out Of Here Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman

As the most notorious member of the 27 club, Jim Morrison’s biography is undeniably brilliant and always leading to a sad end. 

You can grab a copy online here


Frank The Voice by James Kaplan

Frank The Voice

This and the second companion volume, Sinatra: The Chairman, is the definitive biography of the life and times of Frank Sinatra, the most enduring jazz musician of all time. It’s brilliant and, well, long – 1,600 pages between both books.

You can grab a copy online here


All You Need To Know About The Music Business by Donald S Passman

All You Need To Know About The Music Business

It’s easy to think music is about romance but really, it’s a business. If you’ve ever dreamed of making it big, then Donald Passman will be happy to explain the nuts and bolts of how to get there. 

You can grab a copy online here


Divided Soul: The Life Of Marvin Gaye by David Ritz

There’s no doubt that What’s Going On is one of the most influential records of all time. David Ritz takes you on a tour of the life and times of its creator Marvin Gaye with very much a ringside view of the events as they unfold.

You can grab a copy online here


Appetite For Self-Destruction by Steve Knopper

Appetite For Self-Destruction

If there’s one industry that’s been completely upended by the internet, it’s the record business. Steve Knopper shows how the business has been its own worst enemy over and over again in the digital age. 

You can grab a copy online here


Final Thoughts On Essential Books About Music

So, there you have 20 essential books about nearly every aspect of music and not an autobiography in sight (because we’re working on a separate list for those). 

We guarantee that there’s something in here for everyone, so, why not order one of these awesome books from Amazon today and get reading? 

If that wasn’t enough books for you, we can also recommend Girl In A Band, White Boys, White Noise and Death Metal and Music Criticism, why not check them out too? 

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