100 books like Women Who Rock

By Evelyn McDonnell,

Here are 100 books that Women Who Rock fans have personally recommended if you like Women Who Rock. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of How to Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back

Rich Maloof Author Of Jim Marshall - The Father of Loud: The Story of the Man Behind the World's Most Famous Guitar Amplifiers

From my list on books by musicians, for musicians.

Why am I passionate about this?

My tenure as editor-in-chief of Guitar magazine is well behind me now, but it always lights me up to create content for musicians, and to absorb it. These are my people, you see, a community of curious, empathic, chronically late daydreamers and night owls, good listeners all. I’m not qualified to comment on Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory or Stravinsky’s Poetics of Music, but neither do I want to talk about rock-star memoirs or fawning fictionalizations. No fanfare here, thank you. Instead, these are five books in which musicians may recognize some element of their creative self and come away with a little more fuel for the fire.

Rich's book list on books by musicians, for musicians

Rich Maloof Why did Rich love this book?

Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy really, really wants everyone to write a song, and I find it terribly endearing.

I picked up his handbook amid a COVID-era creative block, and with Jeff as my songwriting sherpa, I was eventually able to drop some baggage and make my way up. I had already known that music would pay me back for the effort, but Jeff (I think he’d want me to call him Jeff) patiently walks through directly applicable strategies such as word-laddering, stealing, and the Dadaist cut-up technique for lyric writing.

His encouraging nudge made it easier to leave self-judgment and even good sense behind.

By Jeff Tweedy,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked How to Write One Song as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A ROUGH TRADE and PITCHORK BOOK OF THE YEAR

'A guide to rediscovering the joys of creating that we all felt as children.'
NEW YORK TIMES

One of the century's most feted singer-songwriters, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, digs deep into his own creative process to share his unique perspective about song-writing and offers a warm, accessible guide to writing your first song, championing the importance of making creativity part of your everyday life and experiencing the hope, inspiration and joy that accompanies it.

'Fascinating.' ROUGH TRADE
'Eloquent.' INDEPENDENT
'Nourishing.' PITCHFORK
'A proselytiser for the act of songcraft.' FINANCIAL TIMES
'A smart,…


Book cover of The Disenchantments

R. P. Rioux Author Of Swimming Through the Dawn

From my list on for starting your own band.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since childhood, I've been in love with musicians, the world they live in, and the fruits of their labor. I spent years listening to my parent's record collection, which covered everything from pop, rock, and country, to jazz and classical. Today, music continues to stir my passion like nothing else. Though an industry career was never in the cards for me personally, I've frequently hovered around its periphery. My goal was to write a band story, one that strayed from common tropes to explore, through humor and heartbreak, the many joys and pitfalls of life in this mercurial and often nonsensical industry. The result was my trilogy, Idol Pursuits. Enjoy.

R. P.'s book list on for starting your own band

R. P. Rioux Why did R. P. love this book?

In a certain sense, musicians are like athletes. The vast majority will never come close to turning pro, but they continue to do it for the love of the experience. I like this book because it focuses on a group of young people at a crossroads in their lives and their relationships with each other. They decide to kick around one summer on a low-profile band tour of the Pacific Northwest. Not concerned with record deals or writing hit songs, they just play music because they can, and why not? Along the way, they discover a realization about who they are as individuals and the different directions they might be going in as they mature.

By Nina Lacour,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Disenchantments as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

From the award-winning, bestselling author of Hold Still and We Are Okay.
(Cover may vary)

Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev's band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she's abandoning their plans - and Colby - to start college in the fall.

But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev's already-growing distance and the most important question of…


Book cover of The Commitments

David Starkey Author Of Poor Ghost

From my list on books about Rock and Roll that really rock.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started singing and playing guitar in garage bands in high school, about the same time that I began thinking of myself as a serious writer, so for me the two endeavors have always gone hand in hand. Over the decades, I’ve continued to write creatively—while teaching thousands of students along the way—and also to play in a number of bands that have specialized in everything from country-folk to raucous punk. Like many writer-musicians, I love reading good stories about the challenges and joys of people joining together, and falling apart, as they attempt to transcend ordinary life through the power of music.

David's book list on books about Rock and Roll that really rock

David Starkey Why did David love this book?

For my money, the film version of this short novel is the greatest rock and roll movie, but the book itself is no slouch either. A bunch of working-class misfits from north Dublin are molded into a white soul band through the efforts of their manager, Jimmy Rabbitte, and their veteran trumpet player, Joey The Lips Fagan.

Told mostly in the hilariously bawdy demotic of the characters, it takes off from the first page and zips through the band’s rise and demise at the speed of, well…sound itself.

By Roddy Doyle,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Commitments as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1988, THE COMMITMENTS follows a small band of musicians from the Barrytown area of Dublin as they try to make the big time. From the author of THE SNAPPER, THE VAN and PADDY CLARKE HA HA HA.


Book cover of How to Make It in the New Music Business: Practical Tips on Building a Loyal Following and Making a Living as a Musician

R. P. Rioux Author Of Swimming Through the Dawn

From my list on for starting your own band.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since childhood, I've been in love with musicians, the world they live in, and the fruits of their labor. I spent years listening to my parent's record collection, which covered everything from pop, rock, and country, to jazz and classical. Today, music continues to stir my passion like nothing else. Though an industry career was never in the cards for me personally, I've frequently hovered around its periphery. My goal was to write a band story, one that strayed from common tropes to explore, through humor and heartbreak, the many joys and pitfalls of life in this mercurial and often nonsensical industry. The result was my trilogy, Idol Pursuits. Enjoy.

R. P.'s book list on for starting your own band

R. P. Rioux Why did R. P. love this book?

You've read it all before. The standard trope of a rockstar genius turned slow-motion trainwreck through drug-fueled self-indulgence has become all too common in music fiction. The truth is a successful career in the music business requires lots of hard work and smart decision-making. This is especially so in today's world of rapidly shifting technological and social dynamics. Herstand, in plain language, tells it like it is, offering both a sobering assessment of the many challenges you'll face, but also practical real-world advice on how to overcome them. Even if you have no intention of becoming a musician, it's an eye-opener into how the modern business works.

By Ari Herstand,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Make It in the New Music Business as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How to Make It in the New Music Business has become the go-to resource for "do it yourself" musicians eager to make a living in a turbulent industry. Inspiring thousands to stop waiting around for that "big break", Ari Herstand returns, maintaining that a stable career can be built by taking advantage of the tools at our fingertips. Including the latest trends and developments in the bustling UK music scene, he offers inspiring success stories across media. With the overarching theme of making real connections with human beings, it is a must-have for anyone navigating the complex yet advantageous modern…


Book cover of Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon--And the Journey of a Generation

Liisa Kyle Author Of Be More Creative: 101 Activities to Unleash and Grow Your Creativity

From my list on the early lives of rock stars.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a life coach and author of two dozen self-help books, I’ve spent the past twenty years helping people to be more creative. I love reading about the early lives of artists because it is an engaging way to learn about the creative process. Even rock stars have doubts, insecurities, regrets, and setbacks. Yet, fueled by their passions, they persist. They overcome their obstacles and pursue unique paths to success. These books are inspirational and informative for anyone with a creative dream.

Liisa's book list on the early lives of rock stars

Liisa Kyle Why did Liisa love this book?

This is a compelling, detailed history of three influential singer/songwriters – Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon. Their early careers were wildly different, yet intersected in unexpected ways as they each found their unique paths to success. What I love most about this deftly written account is that specific songs are set in their historical context, so you better understand what was happening with the artist at that time and gain new insights into the songs that still resonate today, fifty years later.

By Sheila Weller,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Girls Like Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A groundbreaking and irresistible biography of three of America’s most important musical artists—Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon—charts their lives as women at a magical moment in time.

Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon remain among the most enduring and important women in popular music. Each woman is distinct. Carole King is the product of outer-borough, middle-class New York City; Joni Mitchell is a granddaughter of Canadian farmers; and Carly Simon is a child of the Manhattan intellectual upper crust. They collectively represent, in their lives and their songs, a great swath of American girls who came of…


Book cover of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir

Ling Ling Huang Author Of Natural Beauty

From my list on the power of music.

Why am I passionate about this?

For most of my life, I've been a professional classical violinist. I had my first performance on stage at the age of 4, went to a music conservatory at the age of 15, and have gone on to play on some of the best concert stages in the world, from the Elbphilharmonie to Carnegie Hall. My violin playing and writing inform each other, and I think of myself as a translator between the two. I love to do both, and I’m certain I couldn’t do one without the other. It's always a pleasure to see music in the books I read. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have!

Ling's book list on the power of music

Ling Ling Huang Why did Ling love this book?

I love this book so much.

As a fan of Sleater-Kinney and Portlandia, I couldn’t not pick it up. Brownstein writes so profoundly and generously about her life in this deeply personal memoir.

The way that she took agency in her life inspired me to leave an abusive relationship. One of the many ways this book changed my life.

By Carrie Brownstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Emma Watson's Book Club pick for July and August 2016

Before Carrie Brownstein became a music icon, she was a young girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest just as it was becoming the setting for one of the most important movements in rock history. Seeking a sense of home and identity, she would discover both while moving from spectator to creator in experiencing the power and mystery of a live performance. With Sleater-Kinney, Brownstein and her bandmates rose to prominence in the burgeoning underground feminist punk-rock movement that would define music and pop culture in the 1990s. They would…


Book cover of Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution

Amy Lee Lillard Author Of Dig Me Out

From my list on celebrating angry women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m fascinated by angry, feral, primal women. In my book, ten stories feature these women, the ones doing the things we’re not supposed to do, thinking and feeling and saying the things we’re not supposed to. I think we’re beyond powerful when we embrace our anger, nourish and cultivate it, channel it. So I write about these women in the hopes that I’ll get a bit of their strength. The books in this list have inspired me as a writer and thrilled me as a reader.

Amy's book list on celebrating angry women

Amy Lee Lillard Why did Amy love this book?

In the early 1990s, a group of women-centric punk bands and their young fans created a radical feminist movement, one that is still deeply inspiring. This book of Riot Grrrl is a fascinating look at the interplay between music and revolt, as well as an enraging analysis of how media took young women’s anger and turned it poisonous. I have long been obsessed with Riot Grrrl; although I was of the age to participate at the time, I lacked information and access. So I look back now at my Gen X peers and celebrate the music and rage that created this holy thing. And in my book, some of my stories are based on these songs and the spirit of these girls.

By Sara Marcus,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Girls to the Front as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the beginning of the 1990s, the Senate didn't believe Anita Hill, Rush Limbaugh compared feminists to Nazis, and a study found that girls tended to start hating themselves during adolescence. It was a hard time to be a young woman, to be growing up on promises of equal rights that didn't square with reality. Sexual assault rates reached record highs; harassment was rife in the schools; and, boys still would be boys, and girls still had to watch what they wore and where they walked. It was enough to make a girl want to scream. Riot Grrrl roared into…


Book cover of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

Phyllis R. Dixon Author Of Intermission

From my list on Books on musicians for those fascinated with musical history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love music and books about the music industry. Fiction or nonfiction–the drama of a musician’s rise and efforts to sustain a career never gets old to me. I can relate to their determination to make a living doing something they love. Also, as a resident of Memphis, Tennessee, I’m fascinated by the musical history here and often meet people that had ties to the music industry and are now “regular people.” My latest novel Intermission is about a singing group. I’ve read numerous books in this genre, from Motown bios to the five listed. What a great way to combine my two favorite things–music and books!

Phyllis' book list on Books on musicians for those fascinated with musical history

Phyllis R. Dixon Why did Phyllis love this book?

This book piqued my interest because it was on former President Obama’s reading list. On the surface, this is a story about an interracial rock duo’s rise to fame and their breakup. But it is really about how race impacts black women and the choices we have to make that others don’t.

The story is primarily set in the 1970s, and as a baby boomer, I enjoy reading about this time period. In 2016, they considered a reunion, but of course, secrets and unresolved issues got in the way.

By Dawnie Walton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Final Revival of Opal & Nev as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2021 | LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE 2022

'A thrilling work' TA-NEHISI COATES

'Lovely and lyrical . . . warm and wonderful' KILEY REID

A queen of punk before her time. A duo on the brink of stardom. A night that will define their story for ever.

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, a Black punk artist before her time. Despite her unconventional looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her one night,…


Book cover of Carnal Innocence

Tina Wainscott Author Of Wild Lies

From my list on action/suspense romance with hot heroes and heart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the combination of action and romance and suspense. It’s a real juggle as an author to balance the two main elements (suspense and romance mostly), give each depth and page time, and make us care about the people both in love and in peril. I’ve always been drawn to suspense, even as a kid. But I gotta have the relationships, too. I used to direct plays with my childhood friends, and there were always bad guys and the romance—and this was long before I was thinking of having a real romance!

Tina's book list on action/suspense romance with hot heroes and heart

Tina Wainscott Why did Tina love this book?

I read this long ago, but its sensual southern essence stays with me. Less action but definitely suspenseful, it pairs a chilly violinist needing some time to hide away with a sexy southern charmer from a wealthy family who may be her undoing…or he may be a killer. I like, and have written, these kinds of stories with heroes who are also suspects. In a romantic suspense, though, we readers *know* that the hero is *not* going to be the killer. Where’s the HEA in that??? But we can be uneasy about him, which is all part of the ride!

By Nora Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A retreat to the bayou for some rest and relaxation becomes anything but for celebrated concert violinist Caroline Waverly as she finds herself falling in love . . . with a man who may be a serial killer in this novel from 'the greatest novelist on Planet Earth' (Washington Post)

Burned out by a whirlwind musical career, Caroline Waverly arrives in the small Mississippi town of Innocence desperate for some peace and quiet.

Relaxing in her grandmother's beautiful home by the bayou, Caroline has no intention of indulging in a summer fling . . . until she meets Tucker Longstreet.…


Book cover of Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, a Chicana Punk Story

Jen B. Larson Author Of Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983

From my list on music and memoirs about rule-breaking women.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2011, when my all-girl garage band began gigging around Chicago, I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard people call us “riot grrrl.” We weren’t riot grrrls; we were far too late for the movement. But for so many people, riot grrrl was the only reference point they had for scary, brash female musicians. The truth is, women were involved in the movement’s origins in every part of the world. I believe we must understand that riot grrrls weren’t the first women of punk. My book Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983 details the stories of lesser-known but highly influential women who helped create punk and its adjacent genres.

Jen's book list on music and memoirs about rule-breaking women

Jen B. Larson Why did Jen love this book?

I’ve read this book twice. Both times, I couldn’t put it down. Alice Bag can tell a story, and my neurodivergent ass loves books parsed into bite-sized sections. Alice’s stories begin with her childhood and end with her becoming a teacher. 

I look up to Alice and relate to her a lot. We both grew up in difficult family situations; we were both ambitious teens who were able to befriend just about anybody; and then we both learned to express our creativity and exercise our demons through punk. Growing up a bit and reigning in our talents, we both became public school teachers. Not to mention, we both love to write our memoirs. It’s cool to see her grow and reflect on her experiences, and a perfect read for anyone wanting new stories about all the characters in the early LA punk sphere.

By Alice Bag,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The proximity of the East L.A. barrio to Hollywood is as close as a short drive on the 101 freeway, but the cultural divide is enormous. Born to Mexican-born and American-naturalized parents, Alicia Armendariz migrated a few miles west to participate in the free-range birth of the 1970s punk movement. Alicia adopted the punk name Alice Bag, and became lead singer for The Bags, early punk visionaries who starred in Penelope Spheeris' documentary The Decline of Western Civilization.

Here is a life of many crossed boundaries, from East L.A.'s musica ranchera to Hollywood's punk rock; from a violent male-dominated family…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in singers, musicians, and rock music?

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