100 books like The Soundscape of Modernity

By Emily Thompson,

Here are 100 books that The Soundscape of Modernity fans have personally recommended if you like The Soundscape of Modernity. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of The Sensational Past: How the Enlightenment Changed the Way We Use Our Senses

Ai Hisano Author Of Visualizing Taste: How Business Changed the Look of What You Eat

From my list on a new understanding of your sensory experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of the senses. When I first traveled to the United States, I was fascinated and overwhelmed by the smell and sound of the streets entirely different from my hometown in Japan. Since then, every time I go abroad, I enjoy various sensory experiences in each country. The first thing I always notice is the smell of the airport which is different from country to country. We all have the senses, but we sense things differently—and these differences are cultural. I wondered if they are also historical. That was the beginning of my inquiry into how our sensory experience has been constructed and changed over time.

Ai's book list on a new understanding of your sensory experience

Ai Hisano Why did Ai love this book?

The Enlightenment is often associated with intellectual changes. But the book sheds a new light on this “Age of Reason” by showing how emotions and feelings played a crucial role in this intellectually and sensorially dynamic period. Purnell tells this change by providing many interesting, and funny, episodes. My favorite, among others, is the seventeenth-century vogue for perfumes made of the excretions of the civet cat or the musk deer, and it was only in the mid-eighteenth century that floral scents became popular. This shift had to do with people’s ideas about health, cleanliness, and naturalness that changed over time. You will learn how and why people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries thought about the senses, how they experience their sensory world, and how our sensory experience came about over the course of a few hundred years.

By Carolyn Purnell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Blindfolding children from birth. Playing a piano made of live cats. Using tobacco to cure drowning. Wearing "flea"-coloured clothes. These actions seem odd to us but in the eighteenth century they made sense.

As Carolyn Purnell persuasively shows, while our bodies may not change dramatically, the way we think about the senses and put them to use has been rather different over the ages. Journeying through the past three hundred years, Purnell explores how people used their senses in ways that might shock now. Using culinary history, fashion, medicine, music and many other aspects of Enlightenment life, she demonstrates that,…


Book cover of Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music

Ai Hisano Author Of Visualizing Taste: How Business Changed the Look of What You Eat

From my list on a new understanding of your sensory experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of the senses. When I first traveled to the United States, I was fascinated and overwhelmed by the smell and sound of the streets entirely different from my hometown in Japan. Since then, every time I go abroad, I enjoy various sensory experiences in each country. The first thing I always notice is the smell of the airport which is different from country to country. We all have the senses, but we sense things differently—and these differences are cultural. I wondered if they are also historical. That was the beginning of my inquiry into how our sensory experience has been constructed and changed over time.

Ai's book list on a new understanding of your sensory experience

Ai Hisano Why did Ai love this book?

Why do certain tunes become popular and others fail? What is music that sells? In Selling Sounds, Suisman explains how the music industry has shaped the culture of listening to music and how they capitalized on it, creating an entirely new music culture in the early-twentieth-century United States. This emergence of the music industry and culture involved not just the creation of novel sounds by a genius musician, but rather commercial, technological, and cultural changes, which are still with us today. 

By David Suisman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Tin Pan Alley to grand opera, player-pianos to phonograph records, David Suisman's "Selling Sounds" explores the rise of music as big business and the creation of a radically new musical culture. Around the turn of the twentieth century, music entrepreneurs laid the foundation for today's vast industry, with new products, technologies, and commercial strategies to incorporate music into the daily rhythm of modern life. Popular songs filled the air with a new kind of musical pleasure, phonographs brought opera into the parlor, and celebrity performers like Enrico Caruso captivated the imagination of consumers from coast to coast. "Selling Sounds"…


Book cover of Smellosophy: What the Nose Tells the Mind

Ai Hisano Author Of Visualizing Taste: How Business Changed the Look of What You Eat

From my list on a new understanding of your sensory experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of the senses. When I first traveled to the United States, I was fascinated and overwhelmed by the smell and sound of the streets entirely different from my hometown in Japan. Since then, every time I go abroad, I enjoy various sensory experiences in each country. The first thing I always notice is the smell of the airport which is different from country to country. We all have the senses, but we sense things differently—and these differences are cultural. I wondered if they are also historical. That was the beginning of my inquiry into how our sensory experience has been constructed and changed over time.

Ai's book list on a new understanding of your sensory experience

Ai Hisano Why did Ai love this book?

I like the smell of rain. But I can’t explain what it actually smells like. Afterall, olfactory sensation is the “mute sense”—the one without words. To describe a certain smell, you are most likely using a metaphor like rosy smell or vanilla-like smell. Not only does smell have few words to describe it, but it is also a sensation with still a lot unknown. Barwich’s Smellosophy is a fascinating combination of science, philosophy, and history to explore the importance of this mysterious sensation in our society. While digging into philosophical and historical questions to explore how people in the past thought about the perception of smell, Barwich also interviews neuroscientists, perfumers, and chemists to explore how the modern science, as well as industry, is trying to figure out what the nose tells the brain and how the brain understands it.

By A. S. Barwich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An NRC Handelsblad Book of the Year

"Offers rich discussions of olfactory perception, the conscious and subconscious impacts of smell on behavior and emotion."
-Science

Decades of cognition research have shown that external stimuli "spark" neural patterns in particular regions of the brain. We think of the brain as a space we can map: here it responds to faces, there it perceives a sensation. But the sense of smell-only recently attracting broader attention in neuroscience-doesn't work this way. So what does the nose tell the brain, and how does the brain understand it?

A. S. Barwich turned to experts in…


Book cover of Smell Detectives: An Olfactory History of Nineteenth-Century Urban America

Ai Hisano Author Of Visualizing Taste: How Business Changed the Look of What You Eat

From my list on a new understanding of your sensory experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of the senses. When I first traveled to the United States, I was fascinated and overwhelmed by the smell and sound of the streets entirely different from my hometown in Japan. Since then, every time I go abroad, I enjoy various sensory experiences in each country. The first thing I always notice is the smell of the airport which is different from country to country. We all have the senses, but we sense things differently—and these differences are cultural. I wondered if they are also historical. That was the beginning of my inquiry into how our sensory experience has been constructed and changed over time.

Ai's book list on a new understanding of your sensory experience

Ai Hisano Why did Ai love this book?

Kiechle’s Smell Detective shows how smell, the mute sense, has been in fact quite “talkative.” By going back to the nineteenth-century United States, the book discusses how cities back then smelled and how people living there reacted to it. Olfaction is actually a critical source of knowledge. Smell can tell you a lot about your surrounding environment and other people. It also gives historians clues to understand how people lived in the past. Moreover, smell, like other senses, is not a simply subjective, biological phenomenon. Sensations we experience change over time—imagine smell and sounds on the street today and hundred years ago. It is also cultural and political, too. How people understand certain sensations is a historical product—a certain “bad” small was racialized and associated with a lower class, for example. This book is an excellent way to “sniff” out the history of the senses.

By Melanie A. Kiechle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What did nineteenth-century cities smell like? And how did odors matter in the formation of a modern environmental consciousness? Smell Detectives follows the nineteenth-century Americans who used their noses to make sense of the sanitary challenges caused by rapid urban and industrial growth. Melanie Kiechle examines nuisance complaints, medical writings, domestic advice, and myriad discussions of what constituted fresh air, and argues that nineteenth-century city dwellers, anxious about the air they breathed, attempted to create healthier cities by detecting and then mitigating the most menacing odors.

Medical theories in the nineteenth century assumed that foul odors caused disease and that…


Book cover of There Was a Time: James Brown, the Chitlin' Circuit, and Me

A.J.B. Johnston Author Of Kings of Friday Night: The Lincolns

From my list on rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up with the music of the 1960s. Going to packed, pheromone-heavy dances featuring The Lincolns—Nova Scotia’s most popular and most soulful band—were a huge part of my teenage years. Those experiences implanted a deep love of R&B, and somehow or other pointed me in the direction of becoming a writer. It’s a bit of a mystery how it all works. In any case, of all my books, none was as much fun to work on as Kings of Friday Night. It has received lots of love, including from readers who grew up far from the time and place I write about. Long live local bands! And live music everywhere!

A.J.B.'s book list on rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s

A.J.B. Johnston Why did A.J.B. love this book?

Alan Leeds does a wonderful job presenting his eyewitness experiences as part of the James Brown entourage in the 1960s and beyond. The reader can’t wait to find out what happens next in the riveting story he presents of Soul Brother No. 1, the “hardest working man in show business.” It’s a fascinating tale, which presents Brown as an innovative musical force, determined artist, forceful businessman, and unpredictable personality. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the Chitlin’ Circuit when soul music was taking off as a dynamic new genre—as recalled by a young, Jewish kid from Queens who joined James Brown’s team and learned the music business at the hand of the performer who mastered it.

By Alan Leeds,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked There Was a Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As seen in the Wall Street Journal!

“Alan Leeds was a protegé of James Brown and a true historian of the world that nurtured the great entertainer. Alan was a witness to the vibrant black music scene of the ’60s and ’70s—whose book is both a memoir and a document of a lost world of sound.”—Nelson George, an American author, columnist, music and culture critic, journalist, and filmmaker

A behind-the-scenes look at the Chitlin’ Circuit during American’s most vital period of soul music—from the eyes and ears of a young, Jewish kid from Queens who joined the team of the…


Book cover of Blues People

Dennis McNally Author Of On Highway 61: Music, Race, and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom

From my list on jazz and the story it tells about America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a sophisticated education, including a Ph.D. in History from the University of Massachusetts. I have had a career, if that’s precisely the word, in the music business as the publicist for the Grateful Dead. I spent ten years researching what became On Highway 61. I have been a close observer of America’s racial politics at least since 1962, when the head of the Hollywood NAACP, James Tolbert, and his family, moved in next door to my family’s home in the white working-class neighborhood of Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley. Mr. Tolbert instructed me in music among other things, and I’ve been studying ever since.

Dennis' book list on jazz and the story it tells about America

Dennis McNally Why did Dennis love this book?

I have gone back to Blues People for all three of my books. His insight into the blues, jazz, and the relationship of white people and Black music still resonates, and the book is now 60 years old. Things would get much weirder in his life personally and between the races socially in the years after, but this book is no-bullshit truth.

By Leroi Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A must for all who would more knowledgeably appreciate and better comprehend America's most popular music." — Langston Hughes

"The path the slave took to 'citizenship' is what I want to look at. And I make my analogy through the slave citizen's music—through the music that is most closely associated with him: blues and a later, but parallel development, jazz... [If] the Negro represents, or is symbolic of, something in and about the nature of American culture, this certainly should be revealed by his characteristic music."

So says Amiri Baraka (previously known as LeRoi Jones) in the Introduction to Blues…


Book cover of Fortune's Fool: Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Warner Music, and an Industry in Crisis

Harvey G. Cohen Author Of Duke Ellington's America

From my list on American popular music history.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an author and educator, my work centers on the history, business, and art of the music industry and film industry. I don’t think my fellow historians use musical evidence enough as a primary document that reveals much about the society and time period one is writing aboutjust as much as the usual primary and secondary documents historians use.  I try to ensure my books are entertaining as well as rigorously researched. I’m also a songwriter, with many years in the music biz, and have done much work in radio, especially crafting music shows. I’m always discovering amazing stuff from various eras, and it’s not much fun if you don’t share it, which is part of why I’m on Twitter.

Harvey's book list on American popular music history

Harvey G. Cohen Why did Harvey love this book?

The story of how Warner Bros Records, perhaps the best, most profitable yet artist-friendly record label in the 1970s and 1980s became heavily damaged when it was bought out in the 1990s and put under corporate auspices and expectations. Goodman communicates the financial details in a clear and accessible way, as well as the music executives’ singular personalities. Also offers a close-up view of how the corporate execs, especially with their short-term focus on quarterly results, failed to deal with the challenges of Napster and downloads at the turn of the century. An insightful view of the changing components of the music business in our time.

By Fred Goodman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1999, when Napster made music available free online, the music industry found itself in a fight for its life. A decade later, the most important and misunderstood story-and the one with the greatest implications for both music lovers and media companies-is how the music industry has failed to remake itself. In Fortune's Fool, Fred Goodman, the author of The Mansion on the Hill, shows how this happened by presenting the singular history of Edgar M. Bronfman Jr., the controversial heir to Seagram's, who, after dismantling his family's empire and fortune, made a high-stakes gamble to remake both the music…


Book cover of Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music

David Menconi Author Of Oh, Didn't They Ramble: Rounder Records and the Transformation of American Roots Music

From my list on non-fiction about the music industry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent 34 years writing for daily papers, most of them at the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’ve also freelanced for numerous magazines, primarily about music, while hosting a podcast and writing the occasional book. Through it all I’ve had a particular fascination for the music business and its peculiar ways, especially record companies. The industry’s darker side was the subject of my first book way back in 2000, the novel Off The Record, which was a notebook dump of thinly fictionalized war stories I’d accumulated over the years. The record business is the subject of my latest book, too, although it’s a much more positive story.

David's book list on non-fiction about the music industry

David Menconi Why did David love this book?

A century ago, the record industry sent representatives all over the country to do field recordings of vernacular artists playing folk, blues, and early country for “hillbilly” and “race” records (the sort that Rounder would start putting out in the 1970s).

One of these scouts was Ralph Peer from the Victor Talking Machine Company, for which he oversaw 1927’s legendary “Bristol Sessions.” It was the first time that Hall of Fame titans the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers recorded, generally cited as the beginning of the country music industry.

As explained in Barry Mazor’s excellent biography, Peer went on to become one of the giants of the recording and publishing industry, laying the groundwork that pretty much every record label including Rounder has followed since.

By Barry Mazor,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2015 Belmont Book Award Winner

This is the first biography of Ralph Peer, the revolutionary A&R man and music publisher who pioneered the recording, marketing, and publishing of blues, jazz, country, gospel, and Latin music, and this book book tracks his role in such breakthrough events as the recording of Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues,” the first country recording sessions with Fiddlin’ John Carson, his discovery of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, the popularizing of Latin American music during World War II, and the postwar transformation of music on the airwaves that set the stage for the dominance of R&B,…


Book cover of The Infinite Harmony: Musical Structures in Science and Theology

Sarita Armstrong Author Of The Magic of Tao in The Tarot

From my list on tarot archetypes and the I Ching.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always seen my life as a journey, with lessons to be learnt along the way. Adventures on land and sea have drawn me into contact with many races and traditions and brought me close to nature in its many moods. When a physical journey ends, an inner journey takes me in directions I had never looked at before. Early spiritual questioning led me to eastern philosophies and made me aware of the underlying links between all cultures. In relying on my own experiences rather than what others have written, I believe my writing brings a freshness and individuality to the age-old questions of who we are and where we are going.

Sarita's book list on tarot archetypes and the I Ching

Sarita Armstrong Why did Sarita love this book?

The innovative thinking in this book inspired me to put my original ideas into writing. Here was someone else who was looking into the profound origins of humanity and how the world is made up. It reassured me I was on the right track in associating the Major Arcana of the Tarot with the I-Ching. Michael Hayes goes further in detecting a numerical and musical synthesis between ancient doctrines and current scientific discoveries. It is not a quick read, but a real eye-opener. Whilst not agreeing with all of it, there was so much fascinating information; I had to read it through twice straight off.

By Michael Hayes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a numerical study proving that religion and science share a common underlying structure, which is very similar to music theory. This study proposes that all the world's major religious and esoteric doctrines share a common scientific origin. Further that this hidden science is none other than musical theory: music being the true common denominator of both religious and scientific traditions. From the mysterious cults of ancient Egypt, China and India and Greece right through to the latest findings in molecular biology and particle physics, there is a law of proportions that corresponds to the rules of music.


Book cover of Zen Guitar

Tobias Hurwitz Author Of The Total Rock Guitarist: A Fun and Comprehensive Overview of Rock Guitar Playing, Book & CD

From my list on for rock guitar philosophers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been immersed in playing and teaching guitar and in rock culture all my life. Since graduating from The Guitar Institute of Technology in 1987, I’ve been a full-time guitar professional. So, I’m known in my hometown of Baltimore as the go to guy for rock guitar chores of all kinds. I play for companies like Johns Hopkins, Center Stage and The Baltimore Ravens. I taught Guitar at The Gilman School for thirteen years. I’ve played every venue from the biggest stadiums to the smallest clubs. My publications include fifteen guitar books internationally distributed by Alfred Publications and features in most major trade journals. Endorsements: Paul Reed Smith Guitars, Ernie Ball Strings and Fractal Audio.

Tobias' book list on for rock guitar philosophers

Tobias Hurwitz Why did Tobias love this book?

This book hit me hard and fast. It validated what I previously thought were my private ideas. I’d never met the author, but it seemed to be written about me… for me… or was it written for and about the other 100k plus readers who must have felt the same? I don’t know. Maybe you’re next.

By Philip Toshio Sudo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Each of us carries a song inside us, the song that makes us human. ZEN GUITAR provides the key to unlocking this song - a series of life lessons presented through the metaphor of music. Philip Sudo offers his own experiences with music to enable us to rediscover the harmony in each of our lives and open ourselves to Zen awareness uniquely suited to the Western Mind. Through fifty-eight lessons that provide focus and a guide, the reader is led through to Zen awareness. This harmony is further illuminated through quotes from sources ranging from Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in music, rock music, and music education?

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

Music Explore 642 books about music
Rock Music Explore 229 books about rock music
Music Education Explore 16 books about music education