The best books about making noise

Who am I?

Music is a major passion of mine. I’m highly involved in making and promoting independent music both locally and internationally via social media. The primary focus of all my endeavors is promoting a do-it-yourself ethos. Whenever I work with musicians, I’m always fascinated by how their creativity allows them to do a lot with a little. Hence, I suppose, the story of Frankie Lumlit. It’s a story about falling in love with music and finding a way to make it even when the world says no.

I wrote...

Frankie Lumlit's Janky Drumkit

By Marc Schuster,

Book cover of Frankie Lumlit's Janky Drumkit

What is my book about?

When his parents tell him that he can’t have a drumkit, Frankie Lumlit builds one out of odds and ends he finds in the family recycling bin. Frankie’s excitement, however, is dimmed when his friend Alfonse laughs at his creation. But then Frankie’s favorite band overhears his drumming and asks if they can borrow his drums. As a token of appreciation, they invite him to that night’s concert where Frankie Lumlit’s janky drumkit takes center stage. 

The books I picked & why

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How Music Works

By David Byrne,

Book cover of How Music Works

Why this book?

More than anything, what comes across in How Music Works is how much David Byrne loves music. He’s not offering a technical or theoretical explanation in this tome so much as exploring the value of music in society—what music gives us, how it shapes us, and how it emerges from various scenes and other social settings. Above all, Byrne argues, music is rooted in time and space. Music blossoms when it has a place in which to gestate, and the peculiarities of that place inevitably inform the shape the music takes. It’s impossible to read this book and not want to start making music immediately.  

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division

By Peter Hook,

Book cover of Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division

Why this book?

I’ve loved the music of Joy Division for years, and bassist Peter Hook is a master storyteller. Through a series of anecdotes strung together with track-by-track analyses of the Joy Division albums and recollections of specific gigs, Hook examines the band’s brief and idiosyncratic history in intimate detail. For example, Hook and drummer Stephen Morris were both under suspicion for the Yorkshire Ripper murders because Hook’s van had been seen in the neighborhood where the murders took place; they were actually just there to play some gigs, but Morris was taken in for questioning due to his antsy demeanor. Key takeaway: Joy Division made a lot of mistakes on the road to pop stardom, but Hook wouldn’t have had it any other way.  

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever

By Will Hermes,

Book cover of Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever

Why this book?

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire looks at the New York music scene from 1973 to 1977. What makes this period (and this place) so fascinating is that so many different styles of music emerged from and evolved through it: punk, hip-hop, jazz, and the more traditional rock ‘n’ roll of Bruce Springsteen. What makes the book so fascinating is that Hermes examines how the different movements informed and energized each other. If you really want to understand the roots of contemporary music, this is the book you need to read. 

Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music

By Phil Ramone,

Book cover of Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music

Why this book?

Phil Ramone has been involved in producing records for some of the biggest acts in music, including Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, and Paul Simon. Ostensibly, his book is about record production, but really it’s about people. Yes, Ramone worked with some big names over the course of his long career, but at the end of the day (as he emphasizes throughout the book), they’re all human beings, and while some degree of technical expertise is necessary when it comes to making music, what really matters is knowing how to talk to people. At the end of the day, making music is all about making human connections. 

Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector

By Mick Brown,

Book cover of Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector

Why this book?

I knew that Phil Spector had a reputation for being mercurial (and that he was in prison for murder), but I never realized how off the rails he really was. I also never realized how many people he’d worked with—both as a producer and just as a guy who was trying to network his way into the business. I knew about his “girl groups,” about his work with the Beatles and some of their solo projects, and about his work with the Ramones, but I didn’t realize that he was very good friends with Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records and that he saw Berry Gordy of Motown as one of his biggest competitors. Overall, a bizarre, tragic life, but an interesting read with a lot of information about some of the big names in rock history that Spector encountered. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in music, rock music, and sound?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about music, rock music, and sound.

Music Explore 73 books about music
Rock Music Explore 129 books about rock music
Sound Explore 16 books about sound

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, and Pop if you like this list.