100 books like Unknown Pleasures

By Peter Hook,

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

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Book cover of How Music Works

Nick Prior Author Of Popular Music, Digital Technology and Society

From my list on popular music, technology, and society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Professor of Cultural Sociology at Edinburgh, UK, and have written extensively on contemporary culture and particularly technological mediations of popular music. I have undertaken empirical research on cultures of popular music in places like Iceland, Japan, and the UK, and I have supervised around 25 doctoral students to successful completion. My work is widely cited in the field of cultural sociology, and I am regularly interviewed by national broadcasters and the press. I’m also an amateur musician, making homespun electronic music in my bedroom and releasing it under the monikers Sponge Monkeys and Triviax.

Nick's book list on popular music, technology, and society

Nick Prior Why did Nick love this book?

I wasn’t expecting this! One of the most gifted and quirky songsmiths of the age, the lead singer of art pop band The Talking Heads no less, turns his attention to the technological evolution of music.

I found profound insight and erudition on every page, but it’s not preachy or overly auto-biographical. Instead, Byrne limns out the changing shapes of music and how it comes into being in composition, performance, and education. He is as much at ease with Hume and Adorno as he is with scales, harmonies, and DJ culture, and the payoff is enormous.

Whenever I pick this book up, which is regularly, it takes me on unexpected journeys and provokes new ideas. My favorite quote on the creative process: “The idea is to allow the chthonic material the freedom it needs to gurgle up.” 

By David Byrne,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked How Music Works as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How Music Works is David Byrne's buoyant celebration of a subject he has spent a lifetime thinking about.

Equal parts historian and anthropologist, raconteur and social scientist, Byrne draws on his own work over the years with Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and his myriad collaborators - along with journeys to Wagnerian opera houses, African villages, and anywhere music exists - to show that music-making is not just the act of a solitary composer in a studio, but rather a logical, populist, and beautiful result of cultural circumstance.

A brainy, irresistible adventure, How Music Works is an impassioned argument about music's…


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

Elyssa Goodman Author Of Glitter and Concrete: A Cultural History of Drag in New York City

From my list on living a glittering life in New York City.

Why am I passionate about this?

My love of New York City began at a young age–my parents were from Queens and the Bronx, and they always spoke about it with such adoration. As a young person in high school, I ached to get out of South Florida and find my way to the city they described in such loving detail. I began reading about it within the topics that interested me–music, art, fashion, performance, and more–and this beautiful world opened up, full of creative possibilities. I moved to New York in 2010 and have been writing about it and photographing it ever since for a host of publications.

Elyssa's book list on living a glittering life in New York City

Elyssa Goodman Why did Elyssa love this book?

This book is a chronicle of five years in New York City that changed music history, charting the birth of genres like hip-hop, punk, and more. I used to stay up until 4am reading this book because Hermes’s writing is so captivating and the subject is fascinating. I loved how he took us into the neighborhoods and sometimes even into the apartments where these genres came to life.

By Will Hermes,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Love Goes to Buildings on Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Punk rock and hip-hop. Disco and salsa. The loft jazz scene and the downtown composers known as Minimalists. In the mid-1970s, New York City was a laboratory where all the major styles of modern music were reinvented—all at once, from one block to the next, by musicians who knew, admired, and borrowed from one another. Crime was everywhere, the government was broke, and the city’s infrastructure was collapsing. But rent was cheap, and the possibilities for musical exploration were limitless.

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire is the first book to tell the full story of the era’s music scenes…


Book cover of Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music

Marc Schuster Author Of Frankie Lumlit's Janky Drumkit

From my list on making noise.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Marc's book list on making noise

Marc Schuster Why did Marc love 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. 

By Phil Ramone,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sinatra. Streisand. Dylan. Pavarotti. McCartney. Sting. Madonna. What do these musicians have in common besides their super-stardom? They have all worked with legendary music producer Phil Ramone.

For almost five decades, Phil Ramone has been a force in the music industry. He has produced records and collaborated with almost every major talent in the business. There is a craft to making records, and Phil has spent his life mastering it. For the first time ever, he shares the secrets of his trade.

Making Records is a fascinating look "behind the glass" of a recording studio. From Phil's exhilarating early days…


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

Marc Schuster Author Of Frankie Lumlit's Janky Drumkit

From my list on making noise.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Marc's book list on making noise

Marc Schuster Why did Marc love 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. 

By Mick Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tearing Down the Wall of Sound as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A stunning biography of "pure self-interest and cruelty, tempered only slightly by the great musical achievements of Mr. Spector's golden age in the early 1960s" (The New York Times).

He had a number one hit at eighteen. He was a millionaire with his own record label at twenty-two. He was, according to Tom Wolfe, “the first tycoon of teen.” Phil Spector owned pop music. From the Crystals, the Ronettes (whose lead singer, Ronnie, would become his second wife), and the Righteous Brothers to the Beatles (together and singly) and finally the seventies punk icons The Ramones, Spector produced hit after…


Book cover of The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs

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?

The title of this book might suggest that it will be a book of lists. It is not, not even close. Instead, Greil Marcus offers something closer to a philosophical meditation on what rock ‘n’ roll is. Or aspires to be when played and sung as a heartfelt, life-altering, reckless abandon musical genre. It’s largely about attitude and feeling. The book is a fascinating read as one travels along with the author while he ruminates on different artists and their work and how some songs have resonated deeply with (and influenced) later musicians across the span of time. 

By Greil Marcus,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of our finest critics gives us an altogether original history of rock 'n' roll

Unlike all previous versions of rock 'n' roll history, this book omits almost every iconic performer and ignores the storied events and turning points that everyone knows. Instead, in a daring stroke, Greil Marcus selects ten songs recorded between 1956 and 2008, then proceeds to dramatize how each embodies rock 'n' roll as a thing in itself, in the story it tells, inhabits, and acts out-a new language, something new under the sun.

"Transmission" by Joy Division. "All I Could Do Was Cry" by Etta…


Book cover of Across the Great Divide: The Band and America

Thomas Kitts Author Of Ray Davies: Not Like Everybody Else

From my list on rock music and rock bands.

Why am I passionate about this?

Over the years, as a Professor of English at St. John's University, NY, I have shifted my research from American literature to popular culture, specifically rock music, a passion first ignited when I watched the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, and re-ignited time and time again over the years. I have written articles, reviews, interviews, and a few books and I edit Popular Music and Society and Rock Music Studies.

Thomas' book list on rock music and rock bands

Thomas Kitts Why did Thomas love this book?

Hoskyns’s biography of The Band takes us on journey. We travel with these five distinct individuals as they form a brotherhood as they back Ronnie Hawkins for tour after tour for some seven years before becoming Bob Dylan’s backup band for a couple of more years. The first two albums, Music from Big Pink and The Band (The Brown Album) are now regarded as classics signaling the advent of a new genre, Americana. However, The Band’s story is ultimately sad as their tight brotherhood unravels in a swirl of drugs, alcohol, exhaustion, jealousies, and accusations. Yet despite all the tumult, Hoskyns celebrates the music.

By Barney Hoskyns,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a vivid and rollicking account of The Band's journey across three decades. Spanning the history of American rock and boasting a supporting cast that includes Dylan, Janis Joplin, and U2, the book brilliantly captures the raw magic and complex personalities of a group George Harrison called “the best band in the history of the universe.”, This revised U.S. edition includes a postscript, together with an obituary of Rick Danko and a brand-new interview with Robbie Robertson.


Book cover of Monsters of River & Rock: My Life as Iron Maiden's Compulsive Angler

Brent Abell Author Of Death Inc.

From my list on heavy metal that are on my shelf.

Why am I passionate about this?

Brent Abell resides in Southern Indiana with his wife and Drake the Puggle. Brent enjoys anything horror-related. In his writing career, he’s had stories featured in over 30 publications from multiple presses. His books Southern Devils, Southern Devils: Reconstruction of the Dead, In Memoriam, The Calling, Phoenix Protocol, Dying Days: Death Sentence, Dying Days: Zealot, Death Inc., and Wicked Tales for Wicked People are available now. He is also a co-author of the horror-comedy Hellmouth series. Currently, he is working on a multitude of projects. You can hang out with him on his website for some rum, beer, and a good cigar.

Brent's book list on heavy metal that are on my shelf

Brent Abell Why did Brent love this book?

Adrian Smith is one of the lead guitar players in Iron Maiden. Adrian has a passion beyond the stage and his career; he loves fishing. When I first picked up the book, I wasn’t sure how the book would be at keeping me engaged and interested. I’m not a fisherman, and I don’t relish going outside much. The book begins with him recounting how he started his love of fishing near his childhood home when he was younger. The book then uses his touring and recording schedules to recount his fishing trips and most extraordinary catches spanning the globe. Each catch is part of a tapestry woven through his life on the road. In the end, I found myself in awe of how much Adrian loves to fish and how seriously he takes it as a hobby.

By Adrian Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Come to the riverbank with Adrian Smith and cast a line on the wild side.

'Beautifully written account' Dave Simpson, The Guardian

'Writes beautifully' The Sun

Welcome to the world of Adrian Smith, playing his Jackson guitar onstage to millions - while behind the scenes he explores far-flung rivers, seas and lakes, waterways and weirs, in a fearless quest for fishing nirvana.

Hooked on the angling adrenaline rush since first catching perch from East London canals on outings with his father, Adrian grew up to be in one of Rock's most iconic bands. On tour, his gear went with him.…


Book cover of Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood

Heather J. Bennett Author Of Helplessly Hoping

From my list on 60s 70s rock and roll stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by musicians almost my entire life, but I always wanted more than the slick on-screen video, profile on the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, or interview. I wanted to know the whys and hows: why they wrote a certain way, what made them want to be a musician first, and where the inspiration and determination came from. What are they like when they’re hanging out at home, not in the spotlight? This research led me to the music and musicians of Laurel Canyon in particular and how one small area of Los Angeles has managed to create music still influential today. 

Heather's book list on 60s 70s rock and roll stories

Heather J. Bennett Why did Heather love this book?

I love this book for its deep dive into the music and time period of the 1960s and 1970s. It’s a wonderful discovery of the bands that made this era of music so wonderful and how Laurel Canyon was in the center of it.

There are great behind-the-scenes stories and interviews with the people who were there, in the industry and making the music. It’s a great glimpse into the vision, values, and freedom of the time and how it all got funneled into that fantastic music I so love.

By Michael Walker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Michael Walker’s Laurel Canyon presents the inside story of the once hottest rock and roll neighborhood in LA.

In the late sixties and early seventies, an impromptu collection of musicians colonized a eucalyptus-scented canyon deep in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles and melded folk, rock, and savvy American pop into a sound that conquered the world as thoroughly as the songs of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had before them. Thirty years later, the music made in Laurel Canyon continues to pour from radios, iPods, and concert stages around the world. During the canyon's golden era, the musicians…


Book cover of Just around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination

Nicholas Tochka Author Of Rocking in the Free World: Popular Music and the Politics of Freedom in Postwar America

From my list on making you rethink everything about rock ’n’ roll.

Why am I passionate about this?

Hi, my name is Nick, and I’m a recovering rockist. I’ve collected records and vintage gear; I’ve owned Ray Coleman biographies. I’ve played in garage bands that did terrible punk-rock covers of songs like Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” I even used to subscribe to Rolling Stone magazine. And most embarrassingly, I believed in the power of rock – to effect political change, to free people’s bodies and minds. But if once I was a true believer, today I’ve become a rock ’n’ roll skeptic. And I hope that this list might help you rethink everything you thought you knew about rock, too.

Nicholas' book list on making you rethink everything about rock ’n’ roll

Nicholas Tochka Why did Nicholas love this book?

Some time in the 1960s, rock ’n’ roll became rock, and rock became white. That moment forms the core of Jack Hamilton’s exploration of the fraught racial politics of this music in the United States.

Putting different artists into dialogue – such as Dylan and Cooke, or Janis and Aretha – allows Hamilton to excavate the original complexity of genre labels that, over the fifty years since, have too often effaced the original, more complicated story about race, music, and American society. 

By Jack Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

By the time Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, the idea of a black man playing lead guitar in a rock band seemed exotic. Yet a mere ten years earlier, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley had stood among the most influential rock and roll performers. Why did rock and roll become "white"? Just around Midnight reveals the interplay of popular music and racial thought that was responsible for this shift within the music industry and in the minds of fans.

Rooted in rhythm-and-blues pioneered by black musicians, 1950s rock and roll was racially inclusive and attracted listeners and performers across the…


Book cover of On Time: A Princely Life in Funk

Matt Thorne Author Of Prince: The Man and His Music

From my list on by Prince associates.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having spent seven years researching and writing about Prince (and another year updating the book), I spoke to as many people who worked and lived with him as I could. While my book is rich with information gleaned from interviews, alongside my own analysis, there were a few people who didn’t talk to me. Of the above, I did talk to Dez Dickerson, but the others were holding off (presumably because their own books were in the works). All the books below work as perfect compliments to mine and are all must-haves for any Prince fan’s purple library.

Matt's book list on by Prince associates

Matt Thorne Why did Matt love this book?

One of the few musicians who continued to interact with Prince (on and off) from the beginning to near the end of his career, Morris Day was well-placed to write an account of the musician. Written in collaboration with the excellent biographer and music writer, David Ritz, this is an interesting (if whacky) book.

By Morris Day, David Ritz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

To tell the story of Morris Day is to tell the story of Prince. Not because they were inseparable or because their paths never diverged, but because, even when their paths did diverge, they always intersected again. Each artist lifted the other up, pushing one another to be something bigger and better than they thought themselves capable of. There was plenty of one-upmanship and some (un)healthy competition, but the respect Day and Prince had for one another never wavered, from the time they met in junior high until His Royal Badness's untimely death in 2016.

In telling his own story…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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