The best music memoirs that aren't necessarily about music

Why am I passionate about this?

Sadly, I was born without an ounce of musical talent. After realizing I was never going to effortlessly play the guitar or sing in tune, I focused a lot of my energies on listening to music. I came of age in the 80s and the rise of MTV brought loads of fantastic music to explore: punk, new-wave, post-punk, pop. My love for music grew and expanded as I grew up in the 90s. It was those I reached back to musical memories in creating my books, 80s Redux and Lived Through That. I also host a popular podcast called Lived Through That that combines my love of music and storytelling.  

I wrote...

Lived Through That: '90s Musicians Today

By Mike Hipple,

Book cover of Lived Through That: '90s Musicians Today

What is my book about?

The music of the 1990s shaped more than one generation. It was the music Generation X came of age listening to and the songs millennials cut their teeth on. In Lived Through That, photographer and music enthusiast Mike Hipple shares intimate and unique photographic portraits of dozens of the greatest artists from the '90s—from Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic to indie icon Tanya Donelly to Arrested Development’s Speech, and over 40 others. Accompanied by in-depth interviews throughout, this image-driven collection reveals details of each musician’s time in the limelight as well as where life has taken them. Their words and images are honest, inspiring, and personal, offering profound and humorous memories and gems of wisdom that will resonate with fans and music lovers alike.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Just Kids

Mike Hipple Why did I love this book?

Patti Smith’s memoir of her time moving to New York City in the 70s is the barometer by which all music memoirs should be measured. Heartfelt and nostalgic, her story of a youthful awakening to the world and building friendships, and creating art is one that will resonate with readers. The word “masterpiece” is thrown around a lot, but this is truly a masterpiece of the genre.

By Patti Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


“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…

Book cover of Rat Girl: A Memoir

Mike Hipple Why did I love this book?

Kristin Hersh’s book documents a pivotal year in the Throwing Muses’ singer and songwriter’s life. The book is at times funny and warm, sometimes confounding – she befriended Betty Hutton, an American film star in the 30s. What?! As I was reading the book, memories of seeing her band in the early 90s kept flashing through my mind – the intensity of her performances and songs make a lot more sense after reading her story.

By Kristin Hersh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"One of the 25 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time” --Rolling Stone Magazine (#8)

“Sensitive and emotionally raw… it’s also wildly funny”--The New York Times Book Review

A powerfully original memoir of pregnancy and mental illness by the legendary founder of the seminal rock band Throwing Muses, 'a magnificently charged union of Sylvia Plath and Patti Smith'  - The Guardian

Kristin Hersh was a preternaturally bright teenager, starting college at fifteen and with her band, Throwing Muses, playing rock clubs she was too young to frequent. By the age of seventeen she was living in her car, unable to sleep…

Book cover of Strange Cures

Mike Hipple Why did I love this book?

Before taking a darker turn in the second half, this book almost reads like a Steven Spielberg movie: wise grandmother advises her young grandson to stick his hands in cow patties out in the field to rid himself of warts. After this hilarious beginning, the book goes into detail on Zabrecky’s rise through the Los Angeles music scene of the early 90s, finding some success with his band Possum Dixon, the inevitable lure of drugs, and a surprising third act. This book reads almost like fiction and you’ll likely read it in a sitting or two, it’s well-paced and well-written.

By Rob Zabrecky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Strange Cures is a turbulent, against-all odds memoir of self-discovery, success, failure, and reinvention, told by one of LA's most interesting natives. With an unflinching gaze, musician/magician/actor Zabrecky recounts his bizarre coming-of-age tale and his quest to find a place in the arts--and the world.

The author reveals a young life filled with both physical miracles and subversive role models, including an uncle who impersonated an FBI agent and, in a drunken delusion, shot and nearly killed him. He takes readers on a roller coaster ride through the nascent days of Silver Lake's music and art community, as seen through…

Book cover of All I Ever Wanted: A Rock 'n' Roll Memoir

Mike Hipple Why did I love this book?

The Go-Gos were one of the first bands I really got into as a kid and it’s fascinating to read bassist Kathy Valentine’s no holds barred look at the band’s beginnings and how the world of rock and roll treated women. I’ve read she had Patti Smith’s Just Kids on her writing desk as her north star while writing this book and it shows. She writes with warmth and honesty and isn’t afraid to talk about the bad things alongside the good.  

By Kathy Valentine,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All I Ever Wanted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Runner-up, Carr P. Collins Award for Best Book of Non-Fiction, 2021

Go-Go's bassist Kathy Valentine's story is a roller coaster of sex, drugs, and of course, music; it's also a story of what it takes to find success and find yourself, even when it all comes crashing down.

At twenty-one, Kathy Valentine was at the Whisky in Los Angeles when she met a guitarist from a fledgling band called the Go-Go's-and the band needed a bassist. The Go-Go's became the first multi-platinum-selling, all-female band to play instruments themselves, write their own songs, and have a number one album. Their debut,…

Book cover of Fingers Crossed: How Music Saved Me from Success

Mike Hipple Why did I love this book?

Author and musician Miki Berenyi, from the 90s band Lush, pens a memoir that is one of the most open and honest I’ve read. In addition, the book reads almost like a casual conversation with a friend over coffee – albeit a friend who has lived quite an interesting life. Trigger warning – there are some sensitive topics discussed here, including suicide, self-harm, and sexual abuse. As of this writing, the book is only available in the UK but it’s well worth your time to seek it out if you can.

By Miki Berenyi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rough Trade Book of the Year
Resident Book of the Year
A Rolling Stone Book of the Year
A Mojo Book of the Year
A Sunday Times Book of the Year

Formed in 1988, Lush were part of the London gig scene during one of the most vibrant and creative periods in UK music. Now, Miki Berenyi tells all.

From the bohemian ways of her father's social circle to the privileged glamour of her mother's acting career, Miki's young life was a blur of travel, celebrities and peripatetic schooling. But frequent relocation, parental neglect and the dark presence of her…

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A Diary in the Age of Water

By Nina Munteanu,

Book cover of A Diary in the Age of Water

Nina Munteanu Author Of Darwin's Paradox

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Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Ecologist Mother Teacher Explorer

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What is my book about?

This climate fiction novel follows four generations of women and their battles against a global giant that controls and manipulates Earth’s water. Told mostly through a diary and drawing on scientific observation and personal reflection, Lynna’s story unfolds incrementally, like climate change itself. Her gritty memoir describes a near-future Toronto in the grips of severe water scarcity.

Single mother and limnologist Lynna witnesses disturbing events as she works for the powerful international utility CanadaCorp. Fearing for the welfare of her rebellious teenage daughter, Lynna sets in motion a series of events that tumble out of her control with calamitous consequence. The novel explores identity, relationship, and our concept of what is “normal”—as a nation and an individual—in a world that is rapidly and incomprehensibly changing.

A Diary in the Age of Water

By Nina Munteanu,

What is this book about?

Centuries from now, in a post-climate change dying boreal forest of what used to be northern Canada, Kyo, a young acolyte called to service in the Exodus, discovers a diary that may provide her with the answers to her yearning for Earth’s past—to the Age of Water, when the “Water Twins” destroyed humanity in hatred—events that have plagued her nightly in dreams. Looking for answers to this holocaust—and disturbed by her macabre longing for connection to the Water Twins—Kyo is led to the diary of a limnologist from the time just prior to the destruction. This gritty memoir describes a…

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