The best rock music books 📚

Browse the best books on rock music as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Who I Am: A Memoir

Who I Am: A Memoir

By Pete Townshend

Why this book?

I found this to be one fo the best of the never-evening parade of rockstar autobiographies. Townshend is very honest about his complex personality and his shortcomings, and reading this, you can easily trace how this informed so much of The Who’s amazing music — and the stories of all the craziness of the early days of The Who are a blast, to boot.

From the list:

The best books about rock and roll and rock and roll stars

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

The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs

By Greil Marcus

Why 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. 

From the list:

The best books about rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s

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Book cover of Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix

Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix

By Charles R. Cross

Why this book?

Some people consider this the second serious biography about Jimi Hendrix after David Henderson’s bio. Charles Cross had a great budget and the benefit of being based in Seattle. Since it was published in 2006, it also had the huge advantage of a treasure trove of updated information, culled from decades of numerous people doing research on Hendrix, who had a huge renaissance in the late ’90s, when his family won the rights back to his catalog. This Jimi bio was just a tune-up for his more successful bio on another Seattle Rock legend, Kurt Kobain, which was entitled, Heavier…

From the list:

The best books that start to reveal the genius of Jimi Hendrix

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Book cover of Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock'n'roll as Literature and Literature as Rock 'n'roll

Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock'n'roll as Literature and Literature as Rock 'n'roll

By Lester Bangs

Why this book?

Lester Bangs was a great writer: funny, erudite, fearless — to be honest, he was probably slumming it writing about rock and roll in the 1970s. But his one-on-ones with Lou Reed, who Bangs revered and despised in equal proportions, make for some of the best rock writing of Bangs’, or any other, generation.
From the list:

The best books about rock and roll

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Book cover of The Countdown Years 1974 - 1987: Glad All Over

The Countdown Years 1974 - 1987: Glad All Over

By Peter Wilmoth

Why this book?

Every Sunday night for nearly a decade between the mid-70s and early 80s, most young Australians could be found in one place – in front of the TV, watching Countdown. Countdown was the most powerful force in the local pop/rock scene, the maker and breaker of hits. Published in 1993 in the afterglow of the show’s long run, Glad All Over, by former Age journalist Peter Wilmoth, is an appropriately loving tribute, which includes acknowledging the many (like me!) who loved to hate the show but still always watched it! As mostly oral history, it’s a sparkling story,…
From the list:

The best Australian books on music

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Book cover of England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond

England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond

By Jon Savage

Why this book?

The original and best record of the initial (British) punk explosion in the 1970s, this is required reading for anyone with any interest in the history of punk. It's thorough, thoughtful, and entertaining in equal measure, a book I've read more than once.
From the list:

The best books about the history of punk rock

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