The best country music books

6 authors have picked their favorite books about country music and why they recommend each book.

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Otter Country

By Miriam Darlington,

Book cover of Otter Country: In Search of the Wild Otter

Miriam Darlington is my favourite author and Otter Country is one of the most thumbed, tatty-cornered, precious books that I own. I love it: for its voice, its humour and its beautiful prose. Darlington takes you on a gentle meander through the world of the otter in the most relatable of writing styles. She doesn’t start out as an otter expert; she learns as she goes, and so do you. Everything about this book is wonderful, and I would say the same about her other book, Owl Sense, which I have only left off this list because I wanted to cover five different authors!

Who am I?

I'm a writer and a botanist with a lifelong interest in nature. I grew up in southern England where I spent my time running around the fields and woods searching for birds, insects and wild plants (as one does). As well as writing about nature, I run plant identification training courses and have a genetics PhD.

I wrote...

The Orchid Hunter: A Young Botanist's Search for Happiness

By Leif Bersweden,

Book cover of The Orchid Hunter: A Young Botanist's Search for Happiness

What is my book about?

In the summer after leaving school, a young botanist sets out to fulfill a childhood dream--to find every species of orchid native to the British Isles. He has just a few months to complete his quest, which no one has ever done before within one growing season, and it will require ingenuity, stamina and a large dose of luck. As he battles the vagaries of the British climate, feverishly chasing each emerging bloom, Leif Bersweden takes the reader on a remarkable botanical journey. This study of the 52 native species is a fantastic gateway into the compendious world of orchids, and one that will open your eyes to the rare hidden delights to be found on our doorstep. Includes an essential guide to finding all 52 British orchids.

The October Country

By Ray Bradbury,

Book cover of The October Country

A true masterpiece of short stories. The October Country was flawless. Once again, Bradbury has proven that he is a wizard of the craft. His stories are thought-provoking and chillingly beautiful.  I've read this book a few times and each time as breathtaking as the first time. There's just something exceptionally delectable about Bradbury.

Who am I?

Tamel Wino is a Canadian fiction writer from resplendent British Columbia whose works focus largely on the degeneration of sanity and morality. He studied Health Sciences and Psychology, which only furthered his interest in human nature. With inspirations including Shirley Jackson, Cormac McCarthy, Clive Barker, Margaret Atwood, and Edgar Allan Poe; Tamel’s expositions are strongly grounded in traditions of dark fiction. Yet, with his bold narrative voice and incisive plot construction, Wino is paving a new movement within the space.

I wrote...

Ékleipsis: the Abyss

By Tamel Wino,

Book cover of Ékleipsis: the Abyss

What is my book about?

Ékleipsis: The Abyss is a collection of macabre tales that expose human frailty and depravity. We all eventually find ourselves facing the chasm, but who among us plunges into its depths kicking and screaming, and who embraces the abyss? Once we hit the bottom, does it even matter how we got there?

Margarita in the Spotlight

By Maria Frazer,

Book cover of Margarita in the Spotlight

This is an odd one out, because it’s in audiobook form. Margarita is a part of her uber-famous country star sister and gets thrown into the limelight when the label gets into hot water for not being inclusive enough. This audible original truly shines with its amazing story and wonderful music! Personally, I liked the way the story tackles Margarita’s struggles to figure out her place within Latin culture and processing the feelings of what that means for her.

Who am I?

I'm a Mexican writer and illustrator based in Los Angeles. I was always a bookish kid! Growing up I loved reading contemporary books, mostly about fearless girls trying to change the world! In my career, I’ve had the privilege to work creating cover artwork for a lot of middle-grade books, which in turn leads me to read a lot of really great stories. As a bonus, as the industry has become more diverse, so have the stories of outstanding girls, making the middle-grade space even more amazing than it was when I was a kid.

I did the cover art for...

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

By Janae Marks,

Book cover of From the Desk of Zoe Washington

What is the book about?

From the Desk of Zoe Washington is one of my favorite middle-grade books I’ve ever read. Zoe’s story is full of nuance, bravery, and an unbeatable can-do attitude, as she uncovers the mystery of whether her father was really the perpetrator of the terrible crime that put him behind bars.

Native Country of the Heart

By Cherrie Moraga,

Book cover of Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir

Native Country of the Heart is, like my memoir, a mother-daughter story. Queer Chicana feminist Cherríe Moraga intertwines her own story with her mother Elvira from childhood onward. Her resilient mother had a rough life, starting with being hired out as a child by her dad to pick cotton in the California fields. I learned so much about Chicano culture and the Mexican diaspora that we never get in school. One stunning fact: when Dust Bowl survivors came to California, two million Mexicans were repatriated to Mexico to let the white immigrants work the same fields. Moraga beautifully layers her personal story with cultural insights and reflection. I was very moved by Moraga’s grief during the slow loss of Elvira to dementia and her death from Alzheimer's.

Who am I?

I am a storyteller, a radio producer, and a psychotherapist. My thirty years as a therapist enabled me to witness the healing that comes from exploring our stories and family history. My clients’ courage inspired me to write my own story. My mother-daughter story explores the interplay of the personal with social movements. In the 1950s, my family was devastated by homophobia and conversion therapy. I am profoundly grateful for the women’s and gay liberation movements of the 1970s, which transformed our lives. Both my mother and I were able to recover from trauma and come to joy, connection, and activism.

I wrote...

Riding Fury Home

By Chana Wilson,

Book cover of Riding Fury Home

What is my book about?

When I was seven, my mother attempted suicide and was taken away to a mental hospital for electroshock treatments. Riding Fury Home tells the story of the intense, complicated bond between my mother and myself, from growing up in the 1950s as her caretaker, to discovering in adulthood that she had been a closeted lesbian given psychiatric treatment to “cure her,” to our shared exhilaration in the 1970s when we both come out as lesbians.

The memoir traces the profound ways in which our two lives were impacted by the social landscape of our time. Riding Fury Home is a shattering account of our family’s struggle against homophobia and mental illness, and a powerful story of healing, forgiveness, and redemption.

Country Girl

By Edna O'Brien,

Book cover of Country Girl: A Memoir

Because her prose reads like poetry and her life story is the stuff of legend. Beautiful, talented, and prone to falling into bed with unattainable married men, O’Brien has had a lifetime of passion, love, and excruciating sadness. As a young woman she earned instant fame for her first novel, The Country Girls—and she paid dearly for it. Daring to write about sex in her native Ireland, her book was burned and she was exiled from her homeland. Eventually acclaimed as a grande dame of literature, O’Brien writes of the glittering brand names she has known and loved, but they float atop an undercurrent of unrequited longing for home. 

Who am I?

A New York Times bestselling author, I love excavating the lives of eccentric, strong-willed women. There’s the thrill of the chase—holding handwritten letters and diaries and uncovering, bit by bit, the story of each woman—and the adventure of encountering the unexpected: Wandering through a rattlesnake-infested Montana cabin (Photographing Montana 1894-1928: The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron); being woken by a ghost while staying at a decaying Astor mansion in the Hudson Valley (Archie and Amélie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age); climbing 200 stone steps to reach the Royal Archives in Windsor Castle, while the recently-departed Queen Elizabeth was in the courtyard below (Victoria’s Island, in process). Such fun.

I wrote...

Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas

By Donna M. Lucey,

Book cover of Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas

What is my book about?

The backstories of four women painted by high-society portraitist John Singer Sargent—all of them privileged, beautiful, seemingly destined for a life of ease. Sargent knew the women, and his portraits hint at the mysterious ways their lives would unfold. All broke the rules in some way—carrying on illicit love affairs; experimenting with the occult; fleeing fortune to become a Bohemian artist, only to fall into penury and illness; and another, ostracized by prim Boston society, who finally gained victory—and revenge—by creating a magnificent art museum. These women lived on an operatic scale and their letters and diaries create a rich depiction of the Gilded Age; but their private tragedies, passions, and triumphs are timeless. 

Down Under

By Bill Bryson,

Book cover of Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country

Bryson’s various travelogues give you such colourful views of the places he visits and, if you’re journeying to Australia, Down Under is a must-read. Expertly combining sharp observations, unusual factual snippets, and incisive wit, the pictures he paints will inspire you to travel and see it for yourself... or alternatively, persuade you to avoid it at all cost. Whichever the result, you will be amply entertained. 

Who am I?

As an independent traveller, and throughout a career supporting international nature conservation, I’ve been fortunate to see many far-flung places of the world. Over the years, technology (eg. smartphones, internet, social media) has radically changed the way we travel, and indeed our expectations. Nowadays we want instant access, instant answers, instant results; we hate waiting for anything. However, long-haul travel still demands us to wait... in airport lounges, at train stations, bus stops, and onboard our transport while we endure long hours before reaching our destination. While some aspects have changed, patience, humour, and a good book still remain the best companions for any long journey. 

I wrote...

Diary of a Shy Backpacker: Awakening Down Under

By Bruce Spydar,

Book cover of Diary of a Shy Backpacker: Awakening Down Under

What is my book about?

Diary of a Shy Backpacker is a romcom travelogue that has been described as “refreshingly different” and as “a saucy, fun, entertaining read which perfectly captures the backpacking experience.” The series is a semi-fictional account, loosely derived from my own 'selectively-enhanced’ adventures, travelling in the days before smartphones and social media. We begin in Australia with Awakening Down Under, before moving to New Zealand in Eye on the Prize, and finally to Canada in No Looking Back. Throughout the journey you’ll be entertained, as one reader put it, by “colourful characters, beautiful landscapes and of course... throbbing loins.” Why not join the ride?

Loving Country

By Bruce Pascoe, Vicky Shukuroglou,

Book cover of Loving Country: A Guide to Sacred Australia

Far from an ordinary guidebook, Loving Country, A Guide to Sacred Australia gets to the heart of this ancient continent through the eyes and stories of Australia’s First Nations people. Beautifully designed and illustrated with photographs, the book opens up an Australia that many visitors never – sadly – see. Exploring Australia’s Indigenous culture is one of the best ways to understand this country, and there are many ways of doing that, if you seek them out. After consultation with Indigenous communities and elders, the authors have chosen just 18 places to feature, telling the stories of the Dreaming, explaining traditional cultural practices, and outlining tours that will open a new world to those who care to dive deep into the culture.

Who am I?

As a full-time travel writer for 30 years, I’ve travelled all over Australia and am still constantly surprised and thrilled by new places. Ask me what my favourite place is, and it’s impossible to choose! From the grandeur of Western Australia’s Kimberley and the red ochre colours of the Outback to the deep blue of the oceans and lush rainforests...I love it all and I love sharing my discoveries – both in cities and on the long and winding roads – with readers. When I’m not travelling or writing about it, I’m usually planning the next trip!

I wrote...

Frommer's Australia

By Lee Mylne,

Book cover of Frommer's Australia

What is my book about?

Find the Australia of your dreams – scope out Sydney’s best surf beaches, find the top laneway cafes and street art scenes in arty Melbourne, discover the best places to come face-to-face with Australia’s unique wildlife, and the most colourful underwater playgrounds on the Great Barrier Reef. Learn why Indigenous experiences are the key to unlocking Australia’s reality. Then there are the hotels, restaurants and unmissable attractions…and I’ve visited them all.

Updated every year (until the pandemic temporarily interrupted travel plans), this guide distills the best of Australia’s capital cities and their surrounds. The Frommer’s format is tried and tested, honest and opinionated and designed to appeal to all budgets.

Oh, Florida!

By Craig Pittman,

Book cover of Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country

To outsiders, Florida seems baffling. It's a state where the voters went for Barack Obama twice, yet elected a Tea Party candidate as governor. Florida is touted as a carefree paradise, yet it's also known for its perils—alligators, sinkholes, pythons, hurricanes, and sharks, to name a few.  It attracts 90 million visitors a year, some drawn by its impressive natural beauty, others bewitched by its man-made fantasies. Oh, Florida!, by award-winning journalist Craig Pittman, explores those contradictions and shows how they fit together to make this the most interesting state.

Who am I?

Originally from Punta Gorda, Florida, I am an exiled Florida Man, living in Texas, and specialize in creative nonfiction. I love the absurd, the unusual, and enjoy finding ways to examine and teach history through unexpected topics and sometimes maligned or ridiculed things. My first book, for example, was on the infamous Yugo car. I then wrote a history of the ill-starred Sarajevo Olympics and the oh-for-twenty-six 1976-1977 Tampa Bay Bucs, and most recently a book on the wild heydays of Florida land development in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. I have a PhD in history from Indiana University Bloomington and have appeared on NPR’s "Weekend Edition," APM’s "Marketplace," and C-SPAN’S "Book TV."

I wrote...

The Swamp Peddlers: How Lot Sellers, Land Scammers, and Retirees Built Modern Florida and Transformed the American Dream

By Jason Vuic,

Book cover of The Swamp Peddlers: How Lot Sellers, Land Scammers, and Retirees Built Modern Florida and Transformed the American Dream

What is my book about?

Florida has long beckoned to retirees seeking to spend their golden years in the sun, but for many the American dream of owning a home there was impossible. That changed in the 1950s, when the so-called "installment land sales industry" appeared out of nowhere to hawk billions of dollars of Florida residential property, sight unseen, to retiring northerners. For only $10 down and $10 a month, working-class pensioners could buy a piece of the Florida dream: a graded homesite that would be waiting for them in a planned community when they were ready to build. 

These communities allowed generations of northerners to move to Florida cheaply, but at a price: high-pressure sales tactics begat fraud; poor urban planning begat sprawl; developers cleared forests, drained wetlands, and built thousands of miles of roads in grid-like subdivisions, which, fifty years later, played an inordinate role in the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.

Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music

By Mark Zwonitzer, Charles Hirshberg,

Book cover of Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music

Who knew the story of the first popular country music group would be wrapped around a heart-breaking romance? The poor, backwoods musicians from southern Virginia had sold more than a million records at the height of the Depression, but things were not well with the group. Sara Carter, the wife of stern, difficult A.P. Carter, leader of the group, had fallen in love with his young cousin. He was sent away to live in California and never mentioned again until one night many years later, when Sara dedicated a song to him on one of their late-night Mexican radio broadcasts. He heard it all the way out in California and contacted her. She completed her duties with the group and joined her love out west, where they spent the rest of their lives together, leaving her cousin Maybelle to carry on the family tradition with her daughters June, Helen, and…

Who am I?

As pop music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly forty years and author of more than twenty books on pop music, books on these subjects have always held a special fascination for me. To me, musicians are heroes like athletes or warriors and their paths make for extraordinary drama—usually set to some fabulous soundtrack. There is a big, wonderful world beyond Ray and Bohemian Rhapsody and I can’t wait to see what Hollywood comes up with. 

I wrote...

Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues

By Joel Selvin,

Book cover of Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues

What is my book about?

While the cinematic aspects of the life of Bert Berns didn’t entirely escape my attention, my overarching agenda was to fashion a definitive biography of an important and forgotten songwriter and record man. With his doomed heart hanging over him, his fate tangled up in songs of his like “Piece of My Heart,” and his desperate drive to leave his mark in the short time he had, Berns blazed a trail through Brill Building era pop, jumping to England after the Beatles made a worldwide hit of his “Twist and Shout.” After making a string of soul classics that helped define the era, he turned his attention to his own label, Bang Records, building to a cataclysmic crescendo involving gangsters, scary threats, and cash payoffs.

Rowland Hilder Country

By Rowland Hilder, Denis Thomas,

Book cover of Rowland Hilder Country: An Artist's Memoir

Rowland Hilder was born in the USA but migrated to the UK as a young boy. He made his name as a brilliant watercolor artist. What set Hilder apart from other practitioners was his love of the English Landscape in winter. This treatment endeared him to the thousands of Hilder followers. This was a new genre at the time (mid 20th century). The book is semi-autobiographical in addition to the numerous full-colour palates. It tells of his early childhood and moving to the rural countryside of Kent in England. As a student, he went to Goldsmith’s College London, and later became an R.I. Wonderful book for Hilder fans.

Who am I?

As a 5-year-old boy, I was given a tin of watercolour paints by my Grandmother. I had no idea how to use them, and there was no one around to teach me. I had to find my own way. Around the same time I was taken on a day trip to London, where we visited the Tate Gallery. It was there that I was confronted for the first time by the magnificent paintings of J.M.W.Turner. My love for art was ignited. I became a serious student of art, and although I have had to make a living in the world like everyone else, art became my go-to therapy for relief and recreation.

I wrote...

Watercolour, Heart & Soul

By David Poxon,

Book cover of Watercolour, Heart & Soul

What is my book about?

Discarded remnants, overlooked corners, the quiet order of frail surface textures as nature slowly reclaims what man has cast aside. These are the inspirations for the Masterful paintings by English watercolour artist David Poxon RI, NWS. 

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