The best music books to build a record collection

Who am I?

Music has obsessed me since I got my first record player, around age five, and learned how to play the stack of used Beatles records that seeded my collection. I could probably pick a favorite music book from every decade of my life, and this list isn’t far off.


I wrote...

King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King

By Daniel de Visé,

Book cover of King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King

What is my book about?

King of the Blues is the definitive, cradle-to-grave biography of B.B. King, the Mississippi giant who rose from sharecropping poverty to global fame as the only superstar of the blues. The book chronicles how King developed a unique, lyrical style of solo guitar that became the defining sound of pop music until the end of the century: without B.B. King, there would be no Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, or Susan Tedeschi. Assembled from interviews with almost every survivor of Mr. King's inner circle, King of the Blues was longlisted for the PEN America award in biography.
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Beatles: An Illustrated Record

Daniel de Visé Why did I love this book?

This floppy paperback matched the dimensions of an actual record, a geometry that made you feel you were flipping through your Beatles albums as you read it. It came to me as a birthday or Christmas present, probably around age eight. I read it cover to cover, over and over, memorizing entire passages like biblical verses. It was pretty much my only book until I discovered Mad magazine, around age ten. You could do a lot worse.

By Roy Carr, Tony Tyler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A comprehensive critical guide to the recordings of the Beatles includes over two hundred photographs tracing the lives and careers of these legendary rock stars


Book cover of The Rolling Stone Record Guide

Daniel de Visé Why did I love this book?

I stumbled across the first great Rolling Stone record guide around the time I first encountered used record stores: Second Hand Tunes, Dr. Wax and the legendary Wax Trax, all within walking distance of my Chicago high school. I never had sufficient funds to actually purchase the guide, so I snuck it from the shelf at Kroch’s and Brentano’s downtown and memorized as much data as my brain would hold: The best B.B. King albums are the ones on the Crown and Kent labels. Grab any early Kinks LPs you can find. I still quote from Dave Marsh & co. whenever I write about music.

By Dave Marsh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rolling Stone Record Guide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This comprehensive reference rates and describes albums released in the U.S


Book cover of Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock'n'roll as Literature and Literature as Rock 'n'roll

Daniel de Visé Why did I love this book?

Lester Bangs ranks as one of the great music writers and as a high priest of gonzo, the new-journalism approach that posited the writer as the dominant character in rambling, straight-from-the-typewriter pop-cultural manifestos published in Rolling Stone and Creem and their ilk. I think Lester rivals Hunter Thompson and Joan Didion as the most potent and enduring voice of that era. He’s one of my favorite writers. I don’t think he wrote anything but record reviews.

By Lester Bangs,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Until his death aged thirty-three in 1982, Lester Bangs wrote wired, rock 'n' roll pieces on Iggy Pop, The Clash, John Lennon, Kraftwerk, Lou Reed. As a rock critic, he had an eagle-eye for distinguishing the pre-packaged imitation from the real thing; written in a conversational, wisecracking, erotically charged style, his hallucinatory hagiographies and excoriating take-downs reveal an iconoclast unafraid to tell it like it is. To his journalism he brought the talent of a great a renegade Beat poet, and his essays, reviews and scattered notes convey the electric thrill of a music junky indulging the habit of a…


Book cover of Life

Daniel de Visé Why did I love this book?

The Keith Richards memoir, as told to British journo James Fox, not only captures his voice perfectly, I think it’s the closest thing to literature I’ve ever found on the music shelves. I love the way he hands the mic to other characters from his life, adding a dash of biographical remove to enrich his own story. As an artifact of performing-arts memoir, I think it’s as important as any Stones album.

By Keith Richards, James Fox,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As lead guitarist of the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards created the riffs, the lyrics, and the songs that roused the world. A true and towering original, he has always walked his own path, spoken his mind, and done things his own way.Now at last Richards pauses to tell his story in the most anticipated autobiography in decades. And what a story! Listening obsessively to Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters records in a coldwater flat with Mick Jagger and Brian Jones, building a sound and a band out of music they loved. Finding fame and success as a bad-boy band, only…


Book cover of Born to Run

Daniel de Visé Why did I love this book?

As far as I can tell, Springsteen wrote this himself. And, god, is he talented. I already knew him as the architect of arguably the greatest run of rock ‘n roll albums of the 1970s, an output matched only by Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell in the broader pop pantheon. Now I know he was an amazing guitarist to boot, and a wonderful writer. This book tells a great American story. Springsteen is that rare memoirist who manages to explain what makes himself tick.

By Bruce Springsteen,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Born to Run as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Writing about yourself is a funny business...But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise, to show the reader his mind. In these pages, I've tried to do this." -Bruce Springsteen, from the pages of Born to Run

In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl's halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it. That's how this extraordinary autobiography began.

Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty,…


You might also like...

Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

By Manni Coe, Reuben Coe (illustrator),

Book cover of Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

Manni Coe Author Of Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a gay man born into an evangelical Christian family, my coming out story was wrought with pain, trauma, and separation from family and loved ones. In the same year I lost my best friend in an accident. My world tumbled and I had to crawl back to a place of reckoning. Walking became my path to healing. So when my brother Reuben, who has Down's syndrome sent me a message from the isolation of a care home in the pandemic, I knew he was in trouble. Those five words - ´brother. do. you. love. me.´changed our lives. I thought I might know a way to save him.

Manni's book list on memoirs that capture the struggle of everyday life

What is my book about?

Brother. Do. You. Love. Me. is a true story of brotherly love overcoming all. Reuben, who has Down's syndrome, was trapped in a care home during the pandemic, spiralling deeper into a non-verbal depression. From isolation and in desperation, he sent his older brother Manni a text, "brother. do. you. love. me."

This cry for help, this SOS in the sand unleashed a brotherly love that had Manni travelling back to the UK mid-pandemic to rescue his brother from the care home, and together they sheltered from the world in a cottage in deepest, darkest Dorset. There began a journey of recovery and rediscovery. Little by little, the brothers had to piece back together Reuben's world, help him to find his voice and find ways for him to trust the world again. This is a book about care, about Down's syndrome, about love. It is a story of resilience and patience in a world that Reuben thought had abandoned him.

Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

By Manni Coe, Reuben Coe (illustrator),

What is this book about?


The story of two brothers, one with Down syndrome, and their extraordinary journey of resilience and repair.

"Profoundly moving and hugely uplifting."—Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Reuben, aged 38, was living in a home for adults with learning disabilities. He hadn’t established an independent life in the care system and was still struggling to accept that he had Down syndrome. Depressed and in a fog of antidepressants, he hadn’t spoken for over a year. The only way he expressed himself was by writing poems or drawing felt-tip scenes from his favorite musicals…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in rock music, The Rolling Stones, and sound?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about rock music, The Rolling Stones, and sound.

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