The most recommended Grateful Dead books

Who picked these books? Meet our 6 experts.

6 authors created a book list connected to the Grateful Dead, and here are their favorite Grateful Dead books.
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Book cover of Living with the Dead: Twenty Years on the Bus with Garcia and the Grateful Dead

Stuart Coupe Author Of Roadies: The Secret History of Australian Rock'n'roll

From my list on The Grateful Dead (from a music journalist).

Who am I?

Stuart Coupe is an Australian music journalist, author, band manager, promoter, publicist, and music label founder. He's best known for his work as a rock writer with Roadrunner, RAM (Rock Australia Magazine), The Sun Herald, and Dolly magazine; the music labels, GREEN Records and Laughing Outlaw; and the author of books including The Promoters, Gudinski, Paul Kelly and Roadies. Coupe is a former manager of the Australian bands the Hoodoo Gurus and Paul Kelly and is currently a presenter on Sydney radio stations 2SER and FBi Radio. He's also known for his writing as a reviewer of crime fiction for the Sydney Morning Herald and for founding the Australian crime fiction magazine, Mean Streets.

Stuart's book list on The Grateful Dead (from a music journalist)

Stuart Coupe Why did Stuart love this book?

As good a history of the Dead as you’re likely to find. Scully spent nearly two decades as close to the band as you could get without actually being a member. Great stories and anecdotes and a wonderfully drawn and evocative history of the band from their very early acid-drenched days in the 1960s through to their evolution as one of the most important and loved bands in American music history.

By Rock Scully, David Dalton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Living with the Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a manager for the Grateful Dead, Rock Scully was with the band from its early days in San Francisco to the years it spent touring the globe as one of the most enduring legends in music history. In Living with the Dead , Scully gives a complete account of his outrageous experiences with the band, during years that saw the Grateful Dead transform from a folksy revivalist band to psychedelic explorers of outer space. In addition to close-up portraits of band members Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Pigpen, Phil Lesh, Micky Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, Scully brings into the story…


Book cover of Garcia: An American Life

Stuart Coupe Author Of Roadies: The Secret History of Australian Rock'n'roll

From my list on The Grateful Dead (from a music journalist).

Who am I?

Stuart Coupe is an Australian music journalist, author, band manager, promoter, publicist, and music label founder. He's best known for his work as a rock writer with Roadrunner, RAM (Rock Australia Magazine), The Sun Herald, and Dolly magazine; the music labels, GREEN Records and Laughing Outlaw; and the author of books including The Promoters, Gudinski, Paul Kelly and Roadies. Coupe is a former manager of the Australian bands the Hoodoo Gurus and Paul Kelly and is currently a presenter on Sydney radio stations 2SER and FBi Radio. He's also known for his writing as a reviewer of crime fiction for the Sydney Morning Herald and for founding the Australian crime fiction magazine, Mean Streets.

Stuart's book list on The Grateful Dead (from a music journalist)

Stuart Coupe Why did Stuart love this book?

This is a big, sprawling biography of the heart and soul of The Grateful Dead - guitarist, songwriter, and troubled musical genius Jerry Garcia. Jackson did his research, interviewing over a hundred people including Garcia, his friends, lovers, and bandmates. Plus he went through thousands of source material documents and probably listened to thousands of concert tapes and recordings. He knows the Dead. He loves the Dead. And he captures the essence of Garcia superbly. It’s been called a definitive portrait and it is.

By Blair Jackson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Examines the life and times of Jerry Garcia, capturing the psychedelic world of the musician and songwriter, his relationship with members of the Grateful Dead, his battle with drug addiction, and his lasting influence on popular music.


Book cover of No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead

Bob Beatty Author Of Play All Night! Duane Allman and the Journey to Fillmore East

From my list on the crossroads of music, culture, history, and place.

Who am I?

An academically trained historian, I'm a Music Obsessive/History Geek/Southerner/Guitarist/Public Historian/Teacher/Interpreter/Writer/Fan who studies the intersection of music, culture, history, and place. I grew up devouring Mom’s Beatles and Dad’s country records. My life changed in 6th grade when I got my first guitar and discovered the blues. In 7th grade I wrote a research paper on the hippies. That’s when I fell in love with the counterculture. Throughout my life I’ve interwoven my love of the blues, punk rock, the Allman Brothers Band, and the Jam Depression collective as a historian, fan, and musician. My enduring passion culminated in a Ph.D. and the publication of Play All Night! Duane Allman and the Journey to Fillmore East. 

Bob's book list on the crossroads of music, culture, history, and place

Bob Beatty Why did Bob love this book?

Since their 1965 founding, the Grateful Dead have been one of the counterculture’s most enduring institutions.

No Simple Highway answers why, placing the band in the context of its times through three utopian ideals central to the band and its fans: Ecstasy (not just drugs, but an “urge to transcend”), Mobility, and Community. The band, Richardson argues, is “the American experiment in action.”

You’ll learn how the band wove multiple strands of American music with literature, folklore, the counterculture, and the visual arts into a truly unique musical tapestry whose express purpose was as part of a live music experience.

This music-as-participation dynamic meant the audience was as important to the Dead as the music they played. This book had a major impact on how I approached the band/audience story for my own Allman Brothers research. 

Crossroads: Postwar America, youth counterculture, audience, San Francisco

By Peter Richardson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Simple Highway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For almost three decades, the Grateful Dead was America's most popular touring band. No Simple Highway is the first book to ask the simple question of why―and attempt to answer it. Drawing on new research, interviews, and a fresh supply of material from the Grateful Dead archives, author Peter Richardson vividly recounts the Dead's colorful history, adding new insight into everything from the Acid Tests to the band's formation of their own record label to their massive late career success, while probing the riddle of the Dead's vast and durable appeal.

Arguing that the band successfully tapped three powerful utopian…


Book cover of Y/N

Joe Milan Jr. Author Of The All-American

From Joe's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Writer Transnational book lover English Professor who doesn’t sound like a trombone.

Joe's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Joe Milan Jr. Why did Joe love this book?

Imagine if a Thomas Pynchon book got chopped and blended with a story of K-Pop fandom. That’s how I think of Y/N (Your Name). It’s a book excavating the shafts of our global moment of how we can be connected yet feel so alone, and how our connections are less social media but more tribes of fandom (where following the Grateful Dead was a niche thing, today, it seems to be the thing for those in their 20s.) 

The book gets into the head of a young Korean-American woman living in Berlin who finds meaning in “The Pack of Boys” and drops down the rabbit hole of surreal obsession. She goes to Korea in search of meaning in her celebrity and meets along the way all sorts of dreamers.

I don't even rightly know if I liked the book: I'm usually not a fan of the surreal. It made me…

By Esther Yi,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Y/N as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Wondrous and weird." -New York Times
"Gorgeous." -New Yorker
"High Brow x Brilliant." -NY Mag (Approval Matrix)
"So good it's hard to believe." -New York Times Book Review Podcast
"Rare." -n+1
"A true novel of the era." -Elle
"Piercing, feverish, and frequently astonishing." -Entertainment Weekly
"Utterly brilliant, shining, and mesmerizing." -Cosmopolitan
"Freakish and hallucinatory." -Vulture
"Absurdly funny." -Ms. Magazine
"Savage." -Vanity Fair
"Playful, immersive yet unreal." -Esquire
"Riveting and innovative." -TIME
"Curious, cerebral . . . with moments of tender poetry." -Times Literary Supplement
"It."-SSENSE
"Sophisticated." -Chicago Review of Books
"Strange, haunting, and undeniably beautiful." -Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"One…


Book cover of Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

James M. Jasper Author Of The Emotions of Protest

From my list on what drives protestors.

Who am I?

James M. Jasper has written a number of books and articles on politics and social movements since the 1980s, trying to get inside them to see what participants feel and think. In recent years he has examined the many emotions, good and bad, involved in political engagement. He summarizes what he has learned in this short book, The Emotions of Protest, taking the reader step by step through the emotions that generate actions, to those that link us to groups, down to the emotional and moral impacts of social movements. The book is hopeful and inspiring but at the same time also clear-eyed about the limitations of protest politics.

James' book list on what drives protestors

James M. Jasper Why did James love this book?

Since ancient times people have gathered outdoors to celebrate all sorts of things, generating joy through dancing, marching, singing, and feasting. In the past most had some religious aura, but in the present, many are political gatherings, deeply satisfying ways of expressing moral visions. In this romp through history Ehrenreich shows us the sheer fun of political (and other) gatherings, which modern elites have tried hard to suppress.

By Barbara Ehrenreich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dancing in the Streets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the bestselling social commentator and cultural historian comes Barbara Ehrenreich's fascinating exploration of one of humanity's oldest traditions: the celebration of communal joy

In the acclaimed Blood Rites, Barbara Ehrenreich delved into the origins of our species' attraction to war. Here, she explores the opposite impulse, one that has been so effectively suppressed that we lack even a term for it: the desire for collective joy, historically expressed in ecstatic revels of feasting, costuming, and dancing.

Ehrenreich uncovers the origins of communal celebration in human biology and culture. Although sixteenth-century Europeans viewed mass festivities as foreign and "savage," Ehrenreich…


Book cover of An Earlier Life

Beth Kephart Author Of Wife Daughter Self: A Memoir in Essays

From my list on the best memoir in essays.

Who am I?

The first memoir I ever read—Road Song by Natalie Kusz—pierced me in ways I did not know were possible. Kusz had written, in this elegantly crafted book, of an Alaskan childhood, a life-changing accident, early motherhood, and family love. She had written, I mean to say, of transcending truths. I have spent much of my life ever since deconstructing the ways in which true stories get told, and writing them myself. I’ve taught memoir to five-year-olds, Ivy League students, master’s level writers, and retirees. I co-founded Juncture Workshops, write a monthly newsletter on the form, and today create blank books into which other writers might begin to tell their stories.

Beth's book list on the best memoir in essays

Beth Kephart Why did Beth love this book?

“In an earlier life,” Miller writes, “I was a baker, in a bakery on a cobblestoned street.” It takes Miller just one single paragraph to tell this whole tale—how she proofed yeast, how she scraped her spoon, how she made loaves for children: “It was my only kindness.” In every successive chapter—most all of them short, many of them formally inventive—Miller deconstructs her life and soul—the roots of her unease, the startling incidents of loss, her learning to sleep, and her learning to live with the person she becomes. Miller is a stellar choreographer, knowing just where to place which expertly fashioned scene and knowing, always, what to leave out.

By Brenda Miller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How many lives do we create in one lifetime? In her latest collection of innovative, shape-shifting essays, Brenda Miller evolves through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood to enter the wry maturity of middle age. Whether traveling from synagogue to sweat lodge, from the Arizona desert to a communal hot springs in California, she navigates the expectations placed on young girls and women at every turn. She finds guidance in her four major creeds (Judaism, Home Improvement, the Grateful Dead, and Rescue Dogs), while charting a course toward an authentic life. Each stage demands its own form, its own story, sometimes…


Book cover of Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead

Stuart Coupe Author Of Roadies: The Secret History of Australian Rock'n'roll

From my list on The Grateful Dead (from a music journalist).

Who am I?

Stuart Coupe is an Australian music journalist, author, band manager, promoter, publicist, and music label founder. He's best known for his work as a rock writer with Roadrunner, RAM (Rock Australia Magazine), The Sun Herald, and Dolly magazine; the music labels, GREEN Records and Laughing Outlaw; and the author of books including The Promoters, Gudinski, Paul Kelly and Roadies. Coupe is a former manager of the Australian bands the Hoodoo Gurus and Paul Kelly and is currently a presenter on Sydney radio stations 2SER and FBi Radio. He's also known for his writing as a reviewer of crime fiction for the Sydney Morning Herald and for founding the Australian crime fiction magazine, Mean Streets.

Stuart's book list on The Grateful Dead (from a music journalist)

Stuart Coupe Why did Stuart love this book?

The subtitle tells you all you really need to know. Kreutzmann was a founding member of the Grateful Dead and there for the whole long, strange trip and – to date – the only band member to pen an insider’s account of exactly what it’s like to be a member of The Grateful Dead. He tells a good story and if the Grateful Dead loom as large in your life as they do mine – well, just image a memoir written by Ringo Starr or Charlie Watts. Drummers sit there doing their stuff – and they see everything.

By Bill Kreutzmann, Benjy Eisen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Grateful Dead are perhaps the most legendary American rock band of all time. For thirty years, beginning in the hippie scene of San Francisco in 1965, they were a musical institution, the original jam band that broke new ground in so many ways. Bill Kreutzmann, one of their founding members and drummer for every one of their over 2,300 concerts, has written an unflinching and wild account of playing in the greatest improvisational band of all time. Everything a rock music fan would expect is here, but what sets this apart is Bill's incredible life of adventure that was…


Book cover of Home Before Daylight: My Life on the Road with the Grateful Dead

Stuart Coupe Author Of Roadies: The Secret History of Australian Rock'n'roll

From my list on The Grateful Dead (from a music journalist).

Who am I?

Stuart Coupe is an Australian music journalist, author, band manager, promoter, publicist, and music label founder. He's best known for his work as a rock writer with Roadrunner, RAM (Rock Australia Magazine), The Sun Herald, and Dolly magazine; the music labels, GREEN Records and Laughing Outlaw; and the author of books including The Promoters, Gudinski, Paul Kelly and Roadies. Coupe is a former manager of the Australian bands the Hoodoo Gurus and Paul Kelly and is currently a presenter on Sydney radio stations 2SER and FBi Radio. He's also known for his writing as a reviewer of crime fiction for the Sydney Morning Herald and for founding the Australian crime fiction magazine, Mean Streets.

Stuart's book list on The Grateful Dead (from a music journalist)

Stuart Coupe Why did Stuart love this book?

Researching a book on the lives and work of road crew was a fascinating, eye-opening, and thoroughly enjoyable, and enlightening experience. It also made me realise how few of those people have told their own stories. In fact, not nearly enough of them start writing road crew folk! But this book was a delightful revelation – a road crew guy, with a great way with words and insights – and telling us about his experiences with one of my favourite rock’n’roll bands of all time. What’s not to like. This may not be the easiest book to find – but like a Grateful Dead show, the reward is often the journey and what you find at the end.

By Steve Parish, Joe Layden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a look at one of America's legendary rock bands: The Grateful Dead. It is the tale of a man who lived the dream, rising from roadie to manager. It tells a story of music, friendship and redemption, and is filled with stories of memorable shows and the sometimes insane life on the road.


Book cover of Fare Thee Well: The Final Chapter of the Grateful Dead's Long, Strange Trip

Stuart Coupe Author Of Roadies: The Secret History of Australian Rock'n'roll

From my list on The Grateful Dead (from a music journalist).

Who am I?

Stuart Coupe is an Australian music journalist, author, band manager, promoter, publicist, and music label founder. He's best known for his work as a rock writer with Roadrunner, RAM (Rock Australia Magazine), The Sun Herald, and Dolly magazine; the music labels, GREEN Records and Laughing Outlaw; and the author of books including The Promoters, Gudinski, Paul Kelly and Roadies. Coupe is a former manager of the Australian bands the Hoodoo Gurus and Paul Kelly and is currently a presenter on Sydney radio stations 2SER and FBi Radio. He's also known for his writing as a reviewer of crime fiction for the Sydney Morning Herald and for founding the Australian crime fiction magazine, Mean Streets.

Stuart's book list on The Grateful Dead (from a music journalist)

Stuart Coupe Why did Stuart love this book?

A controversial book amongst Deadheads as Selvin takes a critical and insightful look at the machinations of the post-Garcia band and things don’t always come up smelling roses. Selvin’s not a card-carrying member of the Dead Fanclub – but he can write superbly and has dug very deep and uncovered all sorts of fascinating maneuvering and powerplays between the key participants in the band. It’s not always pretty but it’s certainly fascinating. If you don’t want to know then maybe look away.

By Joel Selvin, Pamela Turley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A tell-all biography of the epic in-fighting of the Grateful Dead in the years following band leader Jerry Garcia's death in 1995The Grateful Dead rose to greatness under the inspired leadership of guitarist Jerry Garcia, but the band very nearly died along with him. When Garcia passed away suddenly in August of 1995, the remaining band members experienced full crises of confidence and identity. So long defined by Garcia's vision for the group, the surviving 'Core Four,' as they came to be called, were reduced to conflicting agendas, strained relationships, and catastrophic business decisions that would leave the iconic band…


Book cover of Brothers and Sisters: The Allman Brothers Band and the Inside Story of the Album That Defined the '70s

Wesley Britton

From Wesley's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Writer Radio Host Historian Husband

Wesley's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Wesley Britton Why did Wesley love this book?

Based on many interviews with the participants, Paul explores What made the Allman Brothers 1973 album, Brothers and Sisters, so special. Allman expert Paul gives us a generous ride into what made that period so influential and so much more than “Rambling Man.”

But Paul’s greatest service to pop cultural lovers is his lengthy overview of the July 1973 Summer Jam at Watkins Glen. It was bigger than Woodstock but largely forgotten despite a total of 600,000 attendees listening to the Allmans, the Grateful Dead, and The Band.

Historian Paul turns over every stone possible to give as complete a portrait of the long-neglected Festival as told anywhere, something long overdue. I learned a lot and thank Alan Paul for sharing what should never be overlooked, at least by ‘70s rock fans.

By Alan Paul,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

New York Times bestselling author Alan Paul's in-depth narrative look at the Allman Brothers' most successful album, and a portrait of an era in rock and roll and American history.

The Allman Brothers Band’s Brothers and Sisters was not only the band’s bestselling album, at over seven million copies sold, but it was also a powerfully influential release, both musically and culturally, one whose influence continues to be profoundly felt.

Celebrating the album’s fiftieth anniversary, Brothers and Sisters the book delves into the making of the album, while also presenting a broader cultural history…