The best books on The Rolling Stones

1 authors have picked their favorite books about The Rolling Stones and why they recommend each book.

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Life

By Keith Richards, James Fox,

Book cover of Life

The Keith Richards memoir, as told to British journo James Fox, not only captures his voice perfectly, I think it’s the closest thing to literature I’ve ever found on the music shelves. I love the way he hands the mic to other characters from his life, adding a dash of biographical remove to enrich his own story. As an artifact of performing-arts memoir, I think it’s as important as any Stones album.


Who am I?

Music has obsessed me since I got my first record player, around age five, and learned how to play the stack of used Beatles records that seeded my collection. I could probably pick a favorite music book from every decade of my life, and this list isn’t far off.


I wrote...

King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King

By Daniel de Visé,

Book cover of King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King

What is my book about?

King of the Blues is the definitive, cradle-to-grave biography of B.B. King, the Mississippi giant who rose from sharecropping poverty to global fame as the only superstar of the blues. The book chronicles how King developed a unique, lyrical style of solo guitar that became the defining sound of pop music until the end of the century: without B.B. King, there would be no Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, or Susan Tedeschi. Assembled from interviews with almost every survivor of Mr. King's inner circle, King of the Blues was longlisted for the PEN America award in biography.

Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste

By Lester Bangs,

Book cover of Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader

Late Lester Bangs is probably the first name that comes to my mind when piercing, observant rock criticism is concerned, but it seems his books are currently collecting dust somewhere, even though they have not lost any of their relevance.

He is also one of the authors that not only shaped my personal views on music, but also the style of writing I’m trying to pursue.


Who am I?

Popular music in all its shapes and forms has permeated my life since my pre-teen years and has remained both an intimate and professional preoccupation of mine throughout my life, even when I was doing other things professionally. Books dealing with all aspects of music, from artist biographies to its cultural and social examinations have been and remain that essential element that both fuel and satisfy that interest and give it that expanded feature it needs. As somebody who has a degree in journalism and had careers as a journalist, diplomat, and a translator, and now as a freelance writer, music and books on music remain that thread that connects them all.


My newsletter is...

From The Piles: Music News & Opinion

Writing about any specific subject, even if it is something so imaginative and free-wheeling like music can have its constraints, particularly if it is done for specific publications. Printed or online. Having your own space or space, where you can express your opinions and ideas about a certain subject gives you the possibility to express yourself in writing form and show what you really feel and think.

When discussing music, my outlet in that respect is ‘From the Piles.’ As a writer who deals with music reviews on a daily basis, you form piles. Music comes in incessantly, and you can write about so much of it. Yet, when you do it on a free-will basis, it can be old new, weird, or just straightforward pop.

Hard to Handle

By Steve Gorman, Steven Hyden,

Book cover of Hard to Handle: The Life and Death of the Black Crowes: A Memoir

Gorman just wanted to play the drums in a rock band and established that so well at the beginning of this book. The ups and downs he experiences as part of a successful and talented group with two feuding brothers at the forefront is jaw-dropping. Filled with rich details and vividly dramatic scenes, the reader roots so much for him to leave the security of the band behind for happiness on his own.  


Who am I?

When I was a kid, my biggest escape was my father’s record collection. Growing up in 1990s NJ, music was a huge part of my experience. Springsteen was from a few miles south, Bon Jovi was from the town next to mine, and Whitney Houston was from the same state but a different county. Music told stories. Inspired my the music of my youth, I now make my living as a storyteller— I tell stories onstage, write books about storytelling and teach others how to tell stories effectively. I have no musical gifts except for the mass consumption of any book with juicy tales about the world of music. Here are a few of my favorites.


I wrote...

Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You'll Ever Need

By Margot Leitman,

Book cover of Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You'll Ever Need

What is my book about?

Do you ever wish you could tell a story that leaves others spellbound? Comedian, Upright Citizens Brigade storytelling program founder, and Moth champion Margot Leitman will show you how in this practical guide to storytelling.

Using a fun, irreverent, and infographic approach, Long Story Short breaks a story into concrete components. From content and structure to emotional impact and delivery, Leitman guides you through the entire storytelling process, providing personal anecdotes, relatable examples, and practical exercises along the way. Using a fun, irreverent, and infographic approach, Long Story Short breaks a story into concrete components. From content and structure to emotional impact and delivery, Leitman guides you through the entire storytelling process, providing personal anecdotes, relatable examples, and practical exercises along the way.

Never a Dull Moment

By David Hepworth,

Book cover of Never a Dull Moment: 1971 the Year That Rock Exploded

I love the idea of taking a very specific time period, in this case one year, and parsing out what happened within an art form. The evolution of pop music in 1971 was changing both the industry and the world. Throughout 12 months, we see the same characters weaving in and out — Carol King, Van Morrison, Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Mick Jagger — and the way they came together and pushed apart is its own year-long miniseries. To get at how art and industry cohabitate, and how we got to the pop culture machine we know today, there is no better crash course than 1971.


Who am I?

I was born in 1970. From my earliest memory there was music. But it’s never been just about the music, I have a natural curiosity for the people who make that music. The artist on the album cover, but also the side musicians, the producers, engineers, and promoters. I’m also fascinated by the roadmap from blues to rock to Laurel Canyon to disco to punk and on and on. Real music infuses and informs the fiction I write — by reading real-life accounts and listening to the songs, I’m put in the world from which it was all born.


I wrote...

Five Night Stand

By Richard J. Alley,

Book cover of Five Night Stand

What is my book about?

Legendary jazz pianist Oliver Pleasant finds himself alone at the end of his career, playing his last five shows, hoping the music will reunite his estranged family. Journalist Frank Severs, middle-aged, out-of-work, is at a crossroads as hope and marriage grind to a standstill. And piano prodigy Agnes Cassady grasps a dream before a debilitating disease wrenches control from her trembling fingers.

When Frank and Agnes visit New York, the force of Oliver’s music pulls them together. Over the course of five nights, they reflect on their triumphs and sorrows: family, regret, secrets. Their shared search for meaning and direction creates a bond that just might help them make sense of the past, find peace in the present, and muster the courage to face the future.

Let It Bleed

By Ian Rankin,

Book cover of Let It Bleed: An Inspector Rebus Novel

You know an author is serious about his rock music when he names three of his novels after Rolling Stones albums. As much as I liked the Stones, growing up, my personal tastes leaned more toward the Beatles. But the more I read Scottish great Ian Rankin's Rebus novels, the more I gravitated toward Mick Jagger and the boys. When it comes to classic rock 'n' roll moments, you just can't beat the one in Let it Bleed in which down-and-out Inspector John Rebus finds solace in a Keith Richards guitar riff. "Women, relationships and colleagues had come and gone but the Stones had always been there. 'I don't have much,' Rebus thought, 'but I have this.'"


Who am I?

My earliest filmgoing memory is of a bad guy getting pushed down the stairs in Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much. That shocking scene has stayed with me, leading me into a lifetime of exploring the dark visions of crime stories. It was only natural that my love of rock music, and in its interaction with other media would draw me to mystery writers whose books were fueled by their love of rock, blues and pop. "If not for music and movies, I wouldn't be a novelist," George Pelecanos once told me. "They have influenced me more than any author. I want to shout about it." Me too.


I wrote...

T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit

By Lloyd Sachs,

Book cover of T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit

What is my book about?

T Bone Burnett offers the first critical appreciation of Burnett’s wide-ranging contributions to American music, his passionate advocacy for analog sound, and the striking contradictions that define his maverick artistry. Lloyd Sachs highlights all the important aspects of Burnett’s musical pursuits, from his early days as a member of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue and his collaboration with the playwright Sam Shepard to the music he recently composed for the TV shows Nashville and True Detective and his production of the all-star album Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes. Sachs also underscores Burnett’s brilliance as a singer-songwriter in his own right. T Bone Burnett reveals how this consummate music maker has exerted a powerful influence on American music and culture across four decades.

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