The best rock music books

54 authors have picked their favorite books about rock music and why they recommend each book.

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Tune In

By Mark Lewisohn,

Book cover of Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years

The ultimate book about the ultimate band. As any Beatles fantastic can attest to, part of Beatles fanaticism is the quest to discover anything new about the band. Certainly as the most written about rock and roll band, there is a lot to choose from, but nothing comes close to the breath and detail of this magnificent piece of work. Clocking in at over 2000 pages (which gloriously covers only up to December, 1962!), the story is told in mesmerizing detail. Lewisohn also imploys a technique that I really love, he writes this biography in the moment, with none of the outcomes certain - This puts you in the moment at every turn of this incredible story. I can not wait for the next volume to come out!


Who am I?

Julian David Stone is an author, screenwriter, photographer, and filmmaker. He shot dozens of the 1980s greatest acts by sneaking his photography equipment into concerts such as Prince, U2, the Police, David Bowie, R.E.M., the Ramones, Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, the Grateful Dead, Joan Jett, and many, many more. Other work include screenplays for Disney, Paramount, Sony, and MGM. He is also the writer and director of the hit cult comedy feature film, Follow the Bitch, which has played to packed houses all around the country and received numerous awards.


I wrote...

No Cameras Allowed: My Career as an Outlaw Rock and Roll Photographer

By Julian David Stone,

Book cover of No Cameras Allowed: My Career as an Outlaw Rock and Roll Photographer

What is my book about?

No Cameras Allowed tells the story of how Julian David Stone entirely by sneaking his equipment into concerts, amassed an incredible archive of over ten thousand rock and roll photos. Starting by simply stashing a camera in his socks, then taping equipment all over his body, to finally customizing a jacket to hide equipment from security guards, he shot dozens of the 1980s greatest acts: Prince, U2, the Police, David Bowie, R.E.M., the Ramones, Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, the Grateful Dead, Joan Jett, and many, many more. Culled from this incredible, never-before-seen archive, this book contains over 250 of his best photos, along with some of the craziest adventures he had as he evaded oversized roadies, aggressive security, and more than a few drunken fans.

Comfortably Numb

By Mark Blake,

Book cover of Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd

Of all the legendary bands that are part of the history of Rock and Roll, Pink Floyd is the one that appears to have the least amount written about them. That is why this book is so important and so good. Other books had touched on their history, but none of them went as deep and thorough as this one.


Who am I?

Julian David Stone is an author, screenwriter, photographer, and filmmaker. He shot dozens of the 1980s greatest acts by sneaking his photography equipment into concerts such as Prince, U2, the Police, David Bowie, R.E.M., the Ramones, Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, the Grateful Dead, Joan Jett, and many, many more. Other work include screenplays for Disney, Paramount, Sony, and MGM. He is also the writer and director of the hit cult comedy feature film, Follow the Bitch, which has played to packed houses all around the country and received numerous awards.


I wrote...

No Cameras Allowed: My Career as an Outlaw Rock and Roll Photographer

By Julian David Stone,

Book cover of No Cameras Allowed: My Career as an Outlaw Rock and Roll Photographer

What is my book about?

No Cameras Allowed tells the story of how Julian David Stone entirely by sneaking his equipment into concerts, amassed an incredible archive of over ten thousand rock and roll photos. Starting by simply stashing a camera in his socks, then taping equipment all over his body, to finally customizing a jacket to hide equipment from security guards, he shot dozens of the 1980s greatest acts: Prince, U2, the Police, David Bowie, R.E.M., the Ramones, Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, the Grateful Dead, Joan Jett, and many, many more. Culled from this incredible, never-before-seen archive, this book contains over 250 of his best photos, along with some of the craziest adventures he had as he evaded oversized roadies, aggressive security, and more than a few drunken fans.

Who I Am

By Pete Townshend,

Book cover of Who I Am: A Memoir

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.


Who am I?

Julian David Stone is an author, screenwriter, photographer, and filmmaker. He shot dozens of the 1980s greatest acts by sneaking his photography equipment into concerts such as Prince, U2, the Police, David Bowie, R.E.M., the Ramones, Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, the Grateful Dead, Joan Jett, and many, many more. Other work include screenplays for Disney, Paramount, Sony, and MGM. He is also the writer and director of the hit cult comedy feature film, Follow the Bitch, which has played to packed houses all around the country and received numerous awards.


I wrote...

No Cameras Allowed: My Career as an Outlaw Rock and Roll Photographer

By Julian David Stone,

Book cover of No Cameras Allowed: My Career as an Outlaw Rock and Roll Photographer

What is my book about?

No Cameras Allowed tells the story of how Julian David Stone entirely by sneaking his equipment into concerts, amassed an incredible archive of over ten thousand rock and roll photos. Starting by simply stashing a camera in his socks, then taping equipment all over his body, to finally customizing a jacket to hide equipment from security guards, he shot dozens of the 1980s greatest acts: Prince, U2, the Police, David Bowie, R.E.M., the Ramones, Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, the Grateful Dead, Joan Jett, and many, many more. Culled from this incredible, never-before-seen archive, this book contains over 250 of his best photos, along with some of the craziest adventures he had as he evaded oversized roadies, aggressive security, and more than a few drunken fans.

The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs

By Greil Marcus,

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

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. 


Who am I?

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!


I wrote...

Kings of Friday Night: The Lincolns

By A.J.B. Johnston,

Book cover of Kings of Friday Night: The Lincolns

What is my book about?

At its core, this is a book about a quest. The story begins in the late 1950s in Truro, Nova Scotia, where a group of young, aspiring musicians want to play the new rock ‘n’ roll. At the time, their town was divided by race, religion, and class. One thing only brought people together: the new music. Over a span of ten years, The Lincolns, the local "kings of Friday night," played trademark rock 'n' roll, R&B, and soul at dances and campuses across Nova Scotia and into New Brunswick. Along the way, The Lincolns changed the lives of small-town kids clamoring for music to move their feet, their hips—and ultimately their hearts. It’s a touching, true-life, universal tale filled with personal recollections and nostalgic delight. The book features a foreword by former Lincoln John MacLachlan Gray and an afterword by the band’s singer, Frank MacKay.

The Beatles

By Roag Best, Pete Best, Rory Best

Book cover of The Beatles: The True Beginnings

Nobody really understands why The Beatles are still so popular over 50 years after they last played together. Rory Best is the brother of Pete Best (famously replaced in The Beatles by Ringo Starr) and the son of Neil Aspinall (the Beatles Road Manager who later ran Apple Corporation - The Beatles’ own company). This book tells the story of the true origins of The Beatles, centred around his mother, Mona Best, and The Casbah Coffee Club.


Who am I?

I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 40 years and now pass on that knowledge to mentees and university students. The key to success in business is being able to attract and then learn from mentors, who, in my opinion, always should provide their knowledge, wisdom, and connections free of charge. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to go down ‘The Dark Side’, especially if the pursuit of money and power becomes overwhelming. Many famous billionaires are not especially nice people. But there are many nice businesspeople out there and I aspire to be one of those, hence my pursuit of a daily advancement in esoteric, hermetic, and other knowledge.


I wrote...

The Beermat Entrepreneur: Turn Your good idea into a great business

By Mike Southon, Chris West,

Book cover of The Beermat Entrepreneur: Turn Your good idea into a great business

What is my book about?

The Beermat Entrepreneur helps you convert your jotted notes about your business idea into a big and successful business. With wit and humour, this quick-to-read and simple-to-use book could turn your beermat inspiration into reality.

You’ve got a bright idea. An idea that you think maybe, just maybe, could become a brilliant business. But what next? The Beermat Entrepreneur is the answer. It takes you through all the crucial stages between those first notes on a beermat and a business that is sound, lasting, and profitable. It tells you what the other books don’t – the lessons that most people have to learn by bitter experience; the tricks that all entrepreneurs wish somebody had told them before they set out. From testing your idea and finding a mentor, through selecting and motivating the right people and securing your first customer, to deciding when to ‘go for growth’ – this is the guide to turning good ideas into real businesses.

Crying in H Mart

By Michelle Zauner,

Book cover of Crying in H Mart: A Memoir

I loved Michelle Zauner’s essay by the same name when it came out in The New Yorker in 2018. I teach this essay in my Intro to Food Writing Class, and my students find it as moving and transporting as I do. Zauner’s new memoir—it came out in April—chronicles the decline of her mother's health and her own journey in finding her sense of self, often through the Korean dishes, ingredients, and flavors that connect her to her mom. The mother-daughter relationship is complex, full of love and pain, and the writing is gorgeous and sparkling.

Who am I?

I am a writer and food expert who spent her formative years in New York eating, drinking, serving, bartending, cooking on hotlines, and flipping giant wheels of cheese in Manhattan institutions such as Picholine and Fairway Market. I’ve been working in restaurants and writing about food my whole adult life, and I’m so lucky that food writing is both my profession and my passion. I’ve gotten to travel to Greece and Spain to learn about olive oil and olive trees, Colorado to visit cattle and beehives, and France’s Jura mountains to take a deep dive into Comté cheese. I teach food writing classes and write about food for a living, from my memoirs Feast and Plenty to articles about fancy salt, chefs, and cheesemakers.


I wrote...

Feast: True Love in and Out of the Kitchen

By Hannah Howard, Hannah Howard,

Book cover of Feast: True Love in and Out of the Kitchen

What is my book about?

The compulsively readable memoir of a woman at war―with herself, with her body, and with food―while working her way through the underbelly of New York City’s glamorous culinary scene.

Hannah Howard is a Columbia University freshman when she lands a hostess job at Picholine, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Manhattan. Eighteen years old and eager to learn, she’s invigorated by the manic energy and knife-sharp focus of the crew. By day Hannah explores the Columbia arts scene, struggling to find her place. By night she’s intoxicated by boxes of heady truffles and intrigued by the food industry’s insiders. She’s hungry for knowledge, success, and love, but she’s also ravenous because she hasn’t eaten more than yogurt and coffee in days.

Hannah is hiding an eating disorder. The excruciatingly late nights, demanding chefs, bad boyfriends, and destructive obsessions have left a void inside her that she can’t fill. To reconcile her relationships with the food she worships and a body she struggles to accept, Hannah’s going to have to learn to nourish her soul.

Chuck Berry

By Chuck Berry,

Book cover of Chuck Berry: The Autobiography

Chuck Berry: The Autobiography is a primary clue to the Inner Chuck, if not the Facts of Chuck, an indisputable masterpiece, witty, elegant, and revealing, and (or perhaps but) ultimately elusive. Unlike so many music (and other) autobiographies, every word of this one was written by its author in a web of elegant, intricate connections that are both coded and transparent. Very much like the songs.

Who am I?

Peter Guralnick has been called "a national resource" by critic Nat Hentoff for work that has argued passionately and persuasively for the vitality of this country’s intertwined black and white musical traditions. His books include the prize-winning two-volume biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love; Searching for Robert Johnson; Sweet Soul Music; and Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke. His 2015 biography, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll, was a finalist for the Plutarch Award for Best Biography of the Year, awarded by the Biographers International Organization. His most recent book is Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing.


I wrote...

Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing

By Peter Guralnick,

Book cover of Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing

What is my book about?

This new book of profiles is not so much a summation as a culmination of Peter Guralnick’s remarkable work, which from the start has encompassed the full sweep of blues, gospel, country, and rock ‘ n roll. It covers old ground from new perspectives, offering deeply felt, masterful, and strikingly personal portraits of creative artists, both musicians, and writers, at the height of their powers.

“You put the book down feeling that its sweep is vast, that you have read of giants who walked among us,” rock critic Lester Bangs wrote of Guralnick’s earlier work in words that could just as easily be applied to this new one. And yet, for all of the encomiums that Guralnick’s books have earned for their remarkable insights and depth of feeling, Looking to Get Lost stands as perhaps his most personal.

The Love You Make

By Peter Brown, Steven Gaines,

Book cover of The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of the Beatles

The Love You Make is pure pop pablum. It’s almost tabloid-like in its recounting of the Beatle’s relationships, their drug use, and their many petty squabbles. Written by Brian Epstein’s assistant (Brian Epstein, of course, was the Beatles’ manager), Brown has some stories to tell. Full of photos too. This one’s a lot of fun if you don’t take it too seriously.


Who am I?

The first record I ever bought was Magical Mystery Tour when I was no more than twelve or so. It’s what made me want to be a musician myself. I’ve got every Beatle record and I am the kind of guy to study carefully who played what, who wrote what, and how they put it all together. Just before Covid shut down everything, I even went to Abbey Road studios where we recorded some of the songs for my novel (we wrote and recorded all the songs of the fictitious band Downtown Exit). Working in Abbey Road was a dream come true – to record in the same rooms that the Beatles used. Imagine that. It was wonderful.


I wrote...

Bootleg Stardust

By Glenn Dixon,

Book cover of Bootleg Stardust

What is my book about?

It’s 1974 and young Levi Jaxon is about to become very famous. He’s a young guitarist from nowhere who’s been dutifully sending out demo tapes to record companies when, a miracle of miracles, he gets a call to audition for an already-famous band called Downtown Exit. They’re recording their second album at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London and he’s got to get over there as soon as possible.

Nothing is as it seems though, and when they set off on their first European tour, everything starts to go wrong and Levi has to escape before he loses everything: the love of his life, the rights to his songs, and a box filled with about a hundred thousand dollars worth of Greek drachma.

Dreaming the Beatles

By Rob Sheffield,

Book cover of Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World

Like none of the others, Dreaming the Beatles is more like a series of reflections from someone who came along well after the Beatles. The book was published in 2017 and it’s a fond look back at what still remains. Not so much a direct history as a sort of compendium of remembrance with chapters like “The Importance of Being Ringo” or “The Cover of Abbey Road.” A distinct pleasure to read.


Who am I?

The first record I ever bought was Magical Mystery Tour when I was no more than twelve or so. It’s what made me want to be a musician myself. I’ve got every Beatle record and I am the kind of guy to study carefully who played what, who wrote what, and how they put it all together. Just before Covid shut down everything, I even went to Abbey Road studios where we recorded some of the songs for my novel (we wrote and recorded all the songs of the fictitious band Downtown Exit). Working in Abbey Road was a dream come true – to record in the same rooms that the Beatles used. Imagine that. It was wonderful.


I wrote...

Bootleg Stardust

By Glenn Dixon,

Book cover of Bootleg Stardust

What is my book about?

It’s 1974 and young Levi Jaxon is about to become very famous. He’s a young guitarist from nowhere who’s been dutifully sending out demo tapes to record companies when, a miracle of miracles, he gets a call to audition for an already-famous band called Downtown Exit. They’re recording their second album at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London and he’s got to get over there as soon as possible.

Nothing is as it seems though, and when they set off on their first European tour, everything starts to go wrong and Levi has to escape before he loses everything: the love of his life, the rights to his songs, and a box filled with about a hundred thousand dollars worth of Greek drachma.

Land of a Thousand Bridges

By June Millington,

Book cover of Land of a Thousand Bridges: Island Girl in a Rock & Roll World

A lead vocalist of the Billboard-charting girl group Fanny, a rock sensation of the 1970s, June continues to publish rollicking memoirs of growing up in the Philippines, relocating to white American suburbia, and starting a band with her sister Jean. Now featured in the independent documentary film “Fanny: The Right to Rock,” June and her former bandmates hope to see Fanny inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The book covers years of wild gigs, how the band negotiated twin pressures of racism and sexism, and recording alongside a range of celebrities--including Barbra Streisand.


Who am I?

My expertise as a scholar of the women’s music movement spans 40 years--ever since I attended my first concert and music festival in 1981. A lecturer at UC-Berkeley, I’m the author of 19 books on women’s history, and published the first book on women’s music festivals, Eden Built By Eves, in 1999 (now out of print.) More recently I’ve organized exhibits on the women’s music movement for the Library of Congress, co-authored The Feminist Revolution (which made Oprah’s list), and I’m now the archivist and historian for Olivia Records.


I wrote...

The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture

By Bonnie Morris,

Book cover of The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture

What is my book about?

The Disappearing L offers an overview of the rise and fall of lesbian cultural spaces. What was the soundtrack of the feminist revolution? How did artists, producers, and fans create a vast network of women’s concerts, recording companies, and festivals that offered meaningful performance spaces for women coming out as lesbians—and performers too radical for the mainstream? The book examines how women’s bookstores, women’s studies programs, and other year-round institutions built spaces that included a music subculture—only to see independent venues vanish once LGBT rights and mainstreaming were attained. As women’s music spaces are disappearing, how will we remember them?

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