11 music books to read right now

Lyrics of Geoff King

How to read music books, how to compose music books, music books, all the best music books to have you covered for your summer reading pleasure!

The New Year is more eagerly awaited than ever, as 2021 will certainly not be missing, but it has produced many excellent music books for musicians, audiophiles and fans alike. We’ve got you covered with some of the best of them as well as some classics if you need that latest stocking stuffer or if your New Years resolution calls for you to read or brush up on your knowledge.

Whether you are looking for a music book, how to compose a music book, music books or music books, this last one is made for you to sit back and relax this summer and get your fix of music.

One Two Three Four: The Beatles In Time – Craig Brown (4th Estate, 2021)

While we wait for the next epic and definitive episode in Mark Lewisohn’s Beatles story, this absolute gem of a book is going to help us get over it. Brown tells the Beatles story quite succinctly, but surrounds it with digressions based on those whose lives have interacted with them in one way or another.

His original approach to biography has won numerous literary awards and I understand why. Who was the subject of “She’s Leaving Home?” What happened to the man who crushed and killed John Lennon’s mother? What shocked Ronnie Spector about the Beatles’ hotel suite? Even Beatles buffs will love this book.

Learn more about this Beatles biography or read.

Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of a troubadour – Rickie Lee Jones (Grove Press, 2021)

Rickie Lee Jones rose to stardom thanks to swing and street-wise songs written about the characters that populated his unstable and savage youth. Deeply entertaining despite a sometimes dark undercurrent. “Ladies and gentlemen, I have a scar. Would you like to listen to it…? “

Learn more about this musical autobiography or read.

rickie lee jones book

The History of Bones: A Memoir – John Lurie (Random House, 2021)

Founder of the jazz-punk Lounge Lizards in the 1970s in New York City, Lurie is also a film composer, actor, visual artist and now a writer. He was determined to write an honest book that didn’t seek revenge. Hmm. Top marks for honesty though! Lots of great characters – including Lurie himself – it’s a brilliant and irresistibly shady musical autobiography.

Learn more or read.

john lurie book

Major labels: a history of popular music in seven genres – Kelefa Sanneh (Penguin, 2021)

Labeling music into genres is often seen as a marketing tool hated by some musicians as a locker. Sanneh makes a positive case and gives the seven genres thoughtful, precise, and well-argued stories as a way to discuss popular music. Rock, R&B, country, punk, hip-hop, dance music and pop cover many musical territories. As Sanneh says, “The persistence of genres … has shaped the way music is made and also the way we hear it.”

Learn more about this music book or read.

musical genre book

Miles on Miles: Interviews and Meetings with Miles Davis – Paul Maher Jr, Michael K. Dorr (Chicago Paperback and revised electronic edition 2021)

“Davis, for all his quirks and weaknesses, comes across as a genius of music – but not of life,” say the editors.

These interviews and profiles from 1957 to 1998 show Davis struggling with interviewers at times, doubtful of words, rude and ruthless when he prefers to speak through his game, but his opinions on music are extremely insightful, it goes without saying.

Learn more about this book by Miles Davis or read.

book davis miles

Beeswing: Fairport, Folk Rock and Finding My Voice 1967-75Richard Thompson with Scott Timberg (Faber & Faber, 2021)

For fans of Richard Thompson – master guitarist, songwriter and singer – here is exactly what you want in a memoir. Thompson focuses on his groundbreaking years in the birth of British folk-rock with Fairport Convention and through the Richard and Linda years. As with his writing, RT is an excellent storyteller.

Learn more about this musical autobiography or read.

book richard thompson

Amplified: A Design History of the Electric Guitar – Paul Atkinson (Reaktion Books, 2021)

There is a lot of, many competing claims and myths about the original designs of electric guitars. Atkinson made it his job to carefully sift through the evidence. OK, this isn’t a book you’ll buy your auntie for Christmas, but the stories behind your favorite axes and why some never became favorites, which is why it’s an interesting read!

Learn more about this music book or read.

electric guitar book

Ted Templeman: The Life of a Platinum Producer in Music – Ted Templeman told Greg Renoff (ECW Press, 2020)

After playing in the minor 60s band Harpers Bizarre, Templeman moved on to A&R and record production for Warner Bros., then working with Van Morrison, Little Feat, Captain Beefheart and the Doobie brothers, among others. At the heart of its story, however, is the late Eddie Van Halen. Templeman signed Van Halen and produced his first six albums, all platinum. It is a unique insight into Ed the man and musician and the creation of these revolutionary and highly influential records.

Learn more about this musical biography or read.

ted templeman book

Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing – Peter Guralnick (Little Brown and Company, 2000)

Guralnick is one of the most important and knowledgeable American chroniclers of vernacular music. His definitive biographies of Elvis Presley and Sam Phillips alone would secure him legendary status. This book features a few dozen musicians he has interviewed and written about during his long career: from Robert Johnson to Merle Haggard, from Bill Monroe to Howlin ‘Wolf, from Skip James and Chuck Berry to Ray Charles and Lonnie Mack. The chapter on Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, alone is worth the price of admission!

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music writing book

The Storyteller – Dave Grohl (Harper Collins, 2021)

A very popular seller and it’s not surprising. Grohl tells a good story, but he kept the pieces juicy, there aren’t enough of them on Nirvana and you might not be as excited as he is to be a caring dad. That said, the life and musical path that led him to join Nirvana is a great read, as is the story of the Foo Fighters.

Learn more about Dave Grohl’s autobiography.

dave grohl book

How to write a song Jeff Tweedy (Dutton, 2020)

Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy has written hundreds of songs and has a good grasp of how he does it. His advice is in the title of the book: work on a song, maybe others will follow, but you just have to start somewhere. It’s a book about creativity, how to nurture it, how to make it grow. Tweedy is rich in sweat leading to inspiration and it is a very nifty, enjoyable and inspiring book.

Learn more about this way of writing a music book.

how to write a song

Read our list of nine of the most gritty memories here.

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