Feature image @amybenico
In this essential round-up for any music lover, music artists and experts share their lives, insights, and experiences in the world of music. From autobiographies to research-informed breakdowns of our brains on music, there is something for everyone below.
Open Book by Jessica Simpson
Five years ago, Jessica Simpson declined an opportunity to write a book about how to live your best life. The problem? She did not want to lie to her readers. Now, Jessica opens up her heart to readers in this mesmerizing memoir. She talks about the blessings she’s had in life—but also the challenges she’s faced trying to please everyone—and how she found her own path to living an authentic life.
The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey
Having lived in the spotlight for much of her life, Mariah Carey finally opens up to tell her story from her point of view. In clear and honest language, she gives voice to the Mariahs of her past to finally let them speak for themselves. What emerges is an unforgettable portrait of resilience and courage.
This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin
Levitin challenges the notion that music was an evolutionary accident. Instead, he argues, music is fundamental to the human species. Using the latest research, Levitin tackles questions like why jingles get caught in our heads, why we become emotionally attached to songs from our youth, and how music emerges naturally from the way we make sense of the world.
Me: Elton John Official Autobiography by Elton John
Elton John was a shy boy from a London suburb with a dream of becoming a pop star. His autobiography tracks Elton’s journal from early rejections to emerging sensation to rock star spinning out of control. In a voice that is warm and humble, he shares his struggles with addiction and the mistakes he’s made along the way.
Louder Than Hell by Katherine Turman and Jon Wiederhorn
Metalheads tend to be fans for life. In metal culture, metal isn’t just music that you listen to, it’s a way of life. In this definitive oral history by music journalists Katherine Turman and Jon Wiederhorn there are more than 250 interviews with some of the biggest bands in metal, industry leaders, family members, friends and fans who share their knowledge, stories and experiences with metal.
Absolutely on Music by Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa
Acclaimed author Haruki Murakami and esteemed conductor Seiji Ozawa talk about all things music in this essential book. Through conversations that take place across two years, the two masters discuss everything from Beethoven to modern classical artists. They reflect on record collecting, film scores, jazz clubs and more. They also talk about our relationship to music and its meaning to us.
Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz and David Ritz
As a kid, Lenny Kravitz experienced tension at home and struggles at school, but he found solace and salvation in his music. Despite his ambitions to become a star, he refused to accept a record deal until he found his true voice. Let Love Rule takes readers through Lenny’s journey as he searches for identity and authenticity in his music. It is also the story of how he survived challenges and became a star.
More Myself by Alicia Keys
Renowned musician and vocalist Alicia Keys opens up about the personal struggles she faced on her road to fame. The singer experienced private heartache, from dealing with a difficult relationship with her father to self-doubt about her own worth and identity. In this memoir, she shares an intimate story of self-discovery and of finding the courage to be herself.
Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton
This is a must-have book for old and new fans of Dolly Parton’s music. The singer and icon tells the story of her life by analyzing 175 of her songs. She takes readers behind-the-scenes through rare photos, little-known stories, and heartfelt insights, capturing Dolly in a whole new way.
Acid for the Children by Flea
Flea takes readers through the formative years of his childhood and adolescence that influenced him as a musician and artist. From Australia to New York to Los Angeles, Flea journeyed the globe and was influenced by the variety of music, people, and cityscapes he found himself surrounded by. Struggling to escape a turbulent home life, he found a home with musicians and artists who did not always lead him on the right path. He eventually found salvation and meaning in music and started the band that changed the course of music history.
The Beautiful Ones by Prince
The Beautiful Ones begins with Prince’s unfinished memoir and dives into his childhood, early career, and journey to superstardom. Told in four parts, the story recounts the evolution of his iconic image and the creation of some of his greatest works, including Purple Rain. During his final months, Prince collaborated with editor Dan Piepenbring as he considered ways to share more of himself with the world while preserving the mystery and intrigue that accompanied his persona. This book is the result of that effort, and a tribute to one of the greatest musicians of our time.
What Are You Doing Here by Laina Dawes
In this debut book, Canadian journalist Laina Dawes explores the metal and punk music scenes in North America. She interviews musicians and other Black fans in her attempt to uncover the part that race plays in this environment, and its influence on Black women who want to participate in it. Dawes’s story explores ideas of passion and cultural identity, and provides a voice to a largely underrepresented group of women in the worlds of rock, punk and metal.
Pretty Good for a Girl: Women Bluegrass by Murphy Hicks Henry
The first of its kind, this book dives into the lives and experiences of women in bluegrass. Murphy Hicks Henry provides a historical account of more than seventy musicians whose influence in the industry went underappreciated for far too long. The book starts with Sally Ann Forrester in 1943 and examines other women in bluegrass bands, concluding with present day artists like Rhonda Vincent and the Dixie Chicks. An insightful and ground-breaking study into the journeys of female musicians in a male-dominated field.
Fire and Rain by David Browne
Fire and Rain takes readers on a trip through the year 1970, with four iconic albums at the forefront. Let It Be, Déjà Vu, Bridge Over Troubled Water, and Sweet Baby James had just been released, and this story recounts their impact on the music industry and the world. Set against the backdrop of several historical, life-changing events that took place in the same year, David Browne interviews over a hundred experts and celebrities in a captivating portrayal of the end of a legendary decade, and the beginning of a new one.
The Sound and the Fury edited by Barney Hoskyns
The Sound and the Fury is a culmination of the best articles found on Barney Hoskyns’ riveting rock-n-roll-based website, Rock’s Backpages. The site became a haven for music writers and fans, and was distinguished as an insightful and entertaining place to find rants, raves, reviews and interviews. This book includes articles on renowned artists like the Beatles, Otis Redding, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Nirvana and more, and explores the way these musicians and writers helped shape music journalism.
Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond
This wildly entertaining story is told by the Beastie Boys themselves and reveals all the ups and down of their journey to hip hop stardom. Adam “ADROCK” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond recount their teenage years, their collaboration with Def Jam, their subsequent fallout, their move to Los Angeles, the production of hit album Paul’s Boutique, and more. This memoir not only describes the success and fame that accompanied the Beastie Boys since their first album, but also examines the importance of passion, friendship and personal growth.
Hurricanes by Rick Ross
Hurricanes is a stirring memoir about an iconic figure in the rap game and his climb to success. In this gripping coming-of-age story, hip hop star Rick Ross opens up about his rise to fame during a tumultuous time in 1980s Miami. He discusses personal conflicts, health scares, relationships, and controversies surrounding his past, revealing the full story behind his success and the hurdles along the way.
Resistance by Tori Amos
Tori Amos’s memoir is not just a poignant and inspiring story, but also a call to action. Since the beginning of her career, Amos has used her voice for more than entertainment. She has tackled hard topics like sexual assault, environmental issues, and political strife in America. Resistance highlights significance of social movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up, acknowledges the strained global climate, and encourages readers to stand up for what they believe in.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe were once just kids in New York City, exploring the worlds of art, poetry, and music. Committed to their passions, they helped each other navigate their respective artforms and hone their creative talents. Patti would eventually become a poet and performer, while Robert mastered his skills in photography. But in order to get there, the two had to push and provide for one another during challenging times. Just Kids is a tribute to New York City in the 1960s and a story about the love, care and commitment that fuels the creative process and life itself.
Yes I can by Sammy Davis Jr
YES I CAN is a story about Sammy Davis Jr’s rise to fame and his determination to get there. It discusses his horrifying experiences with racism and his indelible conviction that in spite of the obstacles that lined his path, he would become a star. An important and enthralling autobiography, the story of Sammy Davis Jr is as powerful as he predicted.
Cash by Johnny Cash
In this stunning memoir, country music legend Johnny Cash describes the ups and downs of his life and music career. He reveals more about his childhood in Arkansas, his fame in Tennessee, and all of the people and places in between that helped shape who he was. He recalls experiences with icons Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, amongst many others. He also shares stories of his addiction and of his marriage, revealing truths and clearing up rumors once and for all in this captivating autobiography.
Face It by Debbie Harry
Face It is the story of icon Debbie Harry and her multifaceted career in the spotlight. Her memoir recreates 1970’s New York City, bringing readers along on an epic, honest and heartrending journey to stardom. Harry recounts the most impactful events in her life, including the formation of her band Blondie, her drug addiction, a harrowing bankruptcy, Blondie’s breakup, her film career, her social activism for LGBTQ rights and the environment, and her band’s soul-stirring reunion. Written to include photos and illustrations never seen before, this memoir is as magnificent as Debbie Harry herself.
Slash by Slash
A truthful and gripping memoir written by one of the world’s greatest rock guitarists, Slash is a rock-n-roll rollercoaster that explores the journey of the epic and enigmatic band Guns N’ Roses. Slash opens up about the formation of the band, the creation of their music, their crazed and chaotic tours, and how it all came to an end. Holding nothing back, this story reads like a conversation with a friend and provides an all-new look into the life of one of rock’s most talented artists.
Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
Physician, writer and professor of neurology Oliver Sacks delivers another powerful read that explores the enigmas of the human mind. Musicophilia looks at a number of fascinating cases that study the neurological impact of music: A forty-two-year-old man who upon being struck by lightning decides to become a pianist, a group of children affected by Williams syndrome who respond distinctively to music, a man with memory loss who has no trouble remembering a tune, and many more. An insightful and entertaining read that illuminates the way music impacts our lives.
Life by Keith Richards
Keith Richards, founder of the Rolling Stones, opens up about his adolescence, his career in the rock and roll scene, and his experiences with bandmates Mick Jagger and Brian Jones. He chronicles the controversial aspects of his fame (drug busts, tax exile, addiction and feuds) as well as the highlights of his life (unforgettable music, love and family). This autobiography provides readers with several wildly entertaining stories from one of rock’s greatest entertainers.
Satchmo by Louis Armstrong
The city of New Orleans was full of excitement during the early twentieth century, just as musician and performer Louis Armstrong describes in his book, Satchmo. Armstrong takes readers on a ride through his childhood and music career, revealing how he eventually came to play alongside his boyhood hero, King Oliver. Recalling experiences that shaped him as a man and as a musician from New Orleans to Chicago, Armstrong paints a stunning portrait of the early days of jazz.
Miles by Miles Davis
Complete with a discography and several pages of photos, Miles Davis’s autobiography is a captivating glimpse into the life of a legendary musician. His story touches on addiction, racism, and personal relationships. He also discloses tales of other passionate musicians he encountered and collaborated with, including Bird, Dizzy, Monk and several more. An honest narrative written by one of the most influential figures of modern jazz.
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
After Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s performance at the 2009 Super Bowl, Springsteen began documenting his life to share his riveting experiences with the world. He describes his adolescence in New Jersey and the inspiring moments that led him to pursue a career in music. He details the conception of the E Street Band and the personal experiences that influenced his most memorable work. In a story full of passion and sincerity, Springsteen’s autobiography speaks to all kinds of readers in a style that is both intimate and exhilarating.
Decoded by Jay Z
Written by renowned artist and entrepreneur Jay-Z, this book beckons fans of hip-hop and rap, as well as those curious to find deeper meaning behind his iconic lyrics. Jay-Z elaborates on the experiences described in his songs and provides context for that which inspired his best work. Decoded is a heartfelt combination of lyrics analysis, history lesson, and autobiography, and is an engrossing read for anyone who has ever felt the power of poetry and music.
Creative Quest by Questlove
This guide to creativity written by expert Questlove is a great source of insight for those who want to get in touch with their creative sides, who are looking for inspiration, or who are questioning their artistic processes. Questlove discusses his own experiences, as well as ideologies and stories he’s heard from others that have allowed him to truly embrace the power of creativity. He provides advice and introduces helpful perceptions on mentoring, creative networks, dealing with critics, and much more. A personal and entertaining exploration of the creative process.
Love is a Mixtape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield
In this witty and deeply emotional take on rock-and-roll, Robert Sheffield describes the power of music in personal relationships and how a mixtape can transport you through time. Using the track lists of several mixtapes, Sheffield takes readers back to the day he met the love of his life and travels through seven years until the day she died in his arms. A tribute to the power of love and music, Sheffield’s ability to incorporate the two weaves together a story equal parts joyful and heartbreaking.