The best books about being in love with music

Who am I?

I’m a singer/songwriter and I grew up in a rock’n’roll household. My family has always traded great books about music between us, memoirs, biographies, scientific studies, deep dives into subcultures, industry exposes – I love them all and find a good music book impossible to resist. I always get excited when I find books written by other obsessive music-loving kindred spirits––if I can feel the love I’m right in there with them. I especially love the behind-the-scenes stories and insights into the work and fascinations that helped forge an artist’s career.


I wrote...

Lovers Dreamers Fighters

By Lo Carmen,

Book cover of Lovers Dreamers Fighters

What is my book about?

Lo Carmen weaves her own remarkable story as a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter/actor together with deep dives into the independent music scene, her love for Southern and country music and compelling portraits of the women who have influenced her life and career: bold creative visionaries, trailblazers, provocateurs, pioneers, feminists, and activists, exploring their often complex lives as a way of understanding her own life and choices. A tender, joyous, messy, vibrant, and wholly inspiring investigation of creativity, passion, purpose, art, and music.

"There is an electricity and trueness to Lo's voice you can't fake.... Her intense humanity and feel for unexpected intimate detail goes to your core.'" - Mark Mordue, Boy on Fire

The books I picked & why

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Chronicles: Volume One

By Bob Dylan,

Book cover of Chronicles: Volume One

Why this book?

A tender meditation on all the disparate threads, sounds, loves, conversations, and lessons that meld together to create an artist. Watching Bob trying to throw off the accolades and labels that want to pin him down like butterfly and explore whatever takes his fancy is my favorite part of this trip, weaving through all the stolen records and ghosts and signposts and colored lights beckoning. 

Chronicles: Volume One

By Bob Dylan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Chronicles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Building on the success of Bob Dylan in His Own Words, an autobiographical portrait of the acclaimed musical performer recounts personal and professional experiences and features black-and-white photography. 250,000 first printing.


Just Kids

By Patti Smith,

Book cover of Just Kids

Why this book?

Patti Smith manages to capture the purity, sacrifice, and unfettered excitement of those nascent times when you’re still becoming who you want to be, and the sweetness, power, and longevity of true friendship forged in art – as well as drawing a thrillingly gritty, vivid portrait of New York City just as it became the place we all still wish it was. 

Just Kids

By Patti Smith,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Just Kids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD

“Reading rocker Smith’s account of her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, it’s hard not to believe in fate. How else to explain the chance encounter that threw them together, allowing both to blossom? Quirky and spellbinding.” -- People

It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.

Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence…


Shots

By Don Walker,

Book cover of Shots

Why this book?

Written by the revered god-daddy of Australian songcraft, Shots is a beat peek behind the curtain of what it is to be a young band on the road and on the rise, all lens flare vignettes; dry, brutal, and perfect, as cool as The Don himself. His uncanny way with words lets us bear witness to the country hall dances, Kings Cross streets, and back of the van like a poetic spy cam.

Shots

By Don Walker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shots as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This remarkable memoir begins with Don Walker's early life in rural Australia and goes up to the late ’80s. In mesmerising prose, Walker evokes childhood and youth, wild times in the ’70s, life on the road and in Kings Cross, music-making and much more. Shots is a stunningly original book, a set of word pictures – shots – that conjure up the lowlife and backroads of Australia.

‘Singular, strong and beguiling’ —The Sydney Morning Herald

‘Better than good. Most of the time it is brilliant.’ —Australian Book Review

‘The book shines with its descriptive sense of place. Shots carries the…


Nina Simone's Gum

By Warren Ellis,

Book cover of Nina Simone's Gum

Why this book?

As someone that lovingly collected fallen sequins from a theatre dressing room floor after a show as a kid, I relate hard to this story of the intense love and awe Warren Ellis has for Nina Simone, and for seeing the world through a lens of music in general. His snowballing obsession with Nina Simone’s discarded gum (which I once had the pleasure of seeing, back when it lived unceremoniously inside a plastic bag on a shelf) makes for a wild absurdist ride through true love.

Nina Simone's Gum

By Warren Ellis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nina Simone's Gum as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE TIMES TOP 10 BESTSELLER
A GUARDIAN, TELEGRAPH, THE TIMES, IRISH TIMES, SUNDAY EXPRESS, ROUGH TRADE, MOJO, CLASH, ROLLING STONE, UNCUT BOOK OF THE YEAR

From award-winning musician and composer Warren Ellis comes the unexpected and inspiring story of a piece of chewing gum.

FEATURING AN INTRODUCTION BY NICK CAVE

I hadn't opened the towel that contained her gum since 2013. The last person to touch it was Nina Simone, her saliva and fingerprints unsullied. The idea that it was still in her towel was something I had drawn strength from. I thought each time I opened it some of…


Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be

By Marissa R. Moss,

Book cover of Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be

Why this book?

This is such a fascinating insight into how three hard-working, single-minded, music-possessed country outliers worked their way in, through, and against a deeply conservative, by-the-book rule obsessed country music system that did not welcome them with open arms, and emerged 100% artistically victorious, revealing all the inspirations, letdowns, lucky breaks and collateral damage they experienced and witnessed along the way. The wider story is of course about so much more than just their personal stories, painting a portrait of how things have always been done in Nashville, and making it patently clear why it’s high time for that to change.

Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be

By Marissa R. Moss,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Her Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In country music, the men might dominate the radio waves. But it’s women—like Maren Morris, Mickey Guyton, and Kacey Musgraves—who are making history.

This is the full and unbridled story of the past twenty years of country music seen through the lens of these trailblazers’ careers—their paths to stardom and their battles against a deeply embedded boys’ club, as well as their efforts to transform the genre into a more inclusive place—as told by award-winning Nashville journalist Marissa R. Moss.

For the women of country music, 1999 was an entirely different universe—a brief blip in time, when women like Shania…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in singers, Australia, and rock music?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about singers, Australia, and rock music.

Singers Explore 37 books about singers
Australia Explore 220 books about Australia
Rock Music Explore 152 books about rock music

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A Moveable Feast, Dylan at 80, and Bob Dylan if you like this list.