The best books for die-hard rockers

Who am I?

While it is tempting to insist that the reason we wrote a five-volume set on the history of local rock ‘n’ roll was as context for rescuing the famed 1976 “Backdoor Mural,” it’s not entirely true. Jaime and I love live music, mark major life events with important musical milestones, and delight in bizarre musical tangents. Music moves us, history matters, and the intersection of song and society is profound, elucidating, and eternally relevant.


I wrote...

Let it Rock! Live From San Diego State

By Seth Mallios, Jaime Lennox,

Book cover of Let it Rock! Live From San Diego State

What is my book about?

From Aerosmith to Zappa, San Diego State has hosted a mind-boggling array of live rock ‘n’ roll shows, more than virtually any other college campus in the nation. State’s unrivaled legacy of pre-eminent live popular music is not limited to rock ‘n’ roll; Montezuma Mesa has hosted seminal folk acts, as well as top stars in jazz, R&B, country, reggae, rap, and many other genres. With over 3,400 bands playing more than 3,100 billed concerts from 1931 to 2015, the San Diego State campus has witnessed an unprecedented number of cutting-edge performances by some of the most influential and popular musicians of all time. This five-volume set chronicles them all and includes a bevy of concert posters, ticket stubs, setlists, anecdotes, and the occasional arrest warrant.

The books I picked & why

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Lighters in the Sky: The All-Time Greatest Concerts, 1960-2016

By Corbin Reiff,

Book cover of Lighters in the Sky: The All-Time Greatest Concerts, 1960-2016

Why this book?

Lighters in the Sky: The All-Time Greatest Concerts takes on the tall task of trying to chronicle the greatest live popular music concerts in history. Corbin Reiff offers intricacies of the cultural and historical context for the legendary shows as well as details about the specific performances. Designed to entertain fans of all genres and certain to foment a bevy of arguments among die-hard fans, this book is delightful.

Lighters in the Sky: The All-Time Greatest Concerts, 1960-2016

By Corbin Reiff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lighters in the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Passionate, personal, and articulated from the lens of a masterful historian with a sharp interest in the topic. . . . A book that feels immersive without being stuffy, authoritative without being dismissive, and historical without being boring. It takes a rare writer to cover acts as disparate as Van Halen, The Dixie Chicks, and NWA with equal gravitas and knowledge, but in Lighters in the Sky Reiff has done just that..” ―UPROXX

“Veteran music critic Corbin Reiff catalogs a well-researched, year-by-year breakdown of the most seminal concerts in each of the last six decades.” ―Business Insider

“A first-rate tribute…


Live Music in America: A History from Jenny Lind to Beyoncé

By Steve Waksman,

Book cover of Live Music in America: A History from Jenny Lind to Beyoncé

Why this book?

Few books on popular music history include analysis of the evolving conditions of live concerts. Most inventory the top shows and offer quirky anecdotes, but Steve Waksman’s Live Music in America: A History from Jenny Lind to Beyoncé refuses to separate the actual performance from the numerous behind-the-scene individuals that shaped the shows. Readers will come to appreciate diverse influences over a turbulent 170-year history that have led to today’s modern music festival.

Live Music in America: A History from Jenny Lind to Beyoncé

By Steve Waksman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Live Music in America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the Swedish concert singer Jenny Lind toured the U.S. in 1850, she became the prototype for the modern pop star. Meanwhile, her manager, P.T. Barnum, became the prototype for another figure of enduring significance: the pop culture impresario. Starting with Lind's fabled U.S. tour and winding all the way into the twenty-first century, Live Music in America surveys the ongoing impact and changing conditions of live music performance in the U.S. It covers
a range of historic performances, from the Fisk Jubilee Singers expanding the sphere of African American music in the 1870s, to Benny Goodman bringing swing to…


Rock Concert: An Oral History as Told by the Artists, Backstage Insiders, and Fans Who Were There

By Marc Myers,

Book cover of Rock Concert: An Oral History as Told by the Artists, Backstage Insiders, and Fans Who Were There

Why this book?

Marc Meyers uses interviews with some of the most influential rock stars of all time to compile an in-depth study of how live rock gained such cache in modern society. His Rock Concert: An Oral History as Told by the Artists, Backstage Insiders, and Fans Who Were There includes colorful testimony from the icons who made music history to create an authentic and unfiltered history of live rock ‘n’ roll.

Rock Concert: An Oral History as Told by the Artists, Backstage Insiders, and Fans Who Were There

By Marc Myers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A lively, entertaining, wide-ranging oral history of the golden age of the rock concert based on over ninety interviews with musicians, promoters, stagehands, and others who contributed to the huge cultural phenomenon that is live rock 



Decades after the rise of rock music in the 1950s, the rock concert retains its allure and its power as a unifying experience—and as an influential multi-billion-dollar industry. In Rock Concert, acclaimed interviewer Marc Myers sets out to uncover the history of this compelling phenomenon, weaving together ground-breaking accounts from the people who were there.



Myers combines the tales of icons like Joan Baez,…


Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever

By Frank Mastropolo,

Book cover of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever

Why this book?

Frank Mastropolo gives ample justification for why Fillmore East was hailed as The Church of Rock ’n’ Roll in his book, Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever. The text brims with photographs, memorabilia, and first-hand accounts of the most legendary shows to occur at the legendary East Village (NYC) locale.

Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever

By Frank Mastropolo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

ONE OF THE BEST MUSIC BOOKS OF THE YEAR! – BEST CLASSIC BANDS

"Fillmore East is the simply the best book on rock and R&B of 2021... a must-read for any fan of the music of the ’60s, ’70s and beyond." — Reel Urban News

"With interviewees including Taj Mahal, John Mayall, Dave Davies, Mark Farner, Roger McGuinn and many more, the story takes in a magical place at a magical time. There are heavy bills and many choice recollections." – MOJO magazine

"Mastropolo’s book will provide a boatload of memories for those lucky enough to have been there and…


On the Road: Recording the Stars in a Golden Era of Live Music

By David W. Hewitt,

Book cover of On the Road: Recording the Stars in a Golden Era of Live Music

Why this book?

David Hewitt’s On the Road: Recording the Stars in a Golden Era of Live Music is an important contribution to the extensive annals of popular music history in that it focuses on the business of live recording that was an integral component to the explosion of rock ‘n’ roll from the 1960s through the 1980s. Hewitt was a top live recording engineer and his expertise permeates the pages of the richly detailed book.

On the Road: Recording the Stars in a Golden Era of Live Music

By David W. Hewitt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book tells the story of a life spent on the road recording the rich diversity of music in America when it was a major part of our lives, not just digital background noise. For music fans, there was a golden era of live music, stretching from the 1960s through the 1980s, and even evolving into the 1990s, if you want to be generous.

In the pre-digital era, music fans spent a large part of their free time (and money) listening to their favorite artist’s recordings. It was an analog world so if they wanted to hear the music, they…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in rock music, popular music, and execution?

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

Rock Music Explore 149 books about rock music
Popular Music Explore 35 books about popular music
Execution Explore 12 books about execution

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Music Legends, Tune In, and Comfortably Numb if you like this list.