It’s not like you’re only allowed to read Nicholas Sparks novels and knockoffs during your summer vacation—there are other and much better options.
The first thing I did when I moved to New York City was get a library card. The second thing was become a showrat. Here is where my powers are finally able to combine.
Below is a list (in no particular order) of the top non-fiction book picks for all you fellow music enthusiasts/ bookworms out there. Stay tuned for a fiction list coming Friday.
Please Kill Me by Gillilan McCain & Legs McNeil
Honestly, this one took me a while to read. It’s a bunch of interviews thrown into a book, so it doesn’t flow too smoothly. But it’s worth it for the raw and real interviews with Iggy Pop, The New York Dolls and tons of other staple punk rockers from the height of the genre’s time.
No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman
There’s no question this is the best biography on The Doors you can find. With first-hand experiences with the band and years of dedicated research you’ll be a Doors expert after reading this.
Elvis in the Twilight of Memory by June Juanico
Elvis’ personal life gets a lot of negative feedback these days. It’s mostly justified, but Juanico shows a more innocent and sweet side of The King that makes you swoon whether you like him or not.
She’s A Rebel by Gillian G. Gaar (Preface by Yoko Ono)
This vibrant music history tells the story of women in rock ‘n’ roll from its start in the ‘50s and well into more contemporary times. She has interviews from tons of rockin’ females from Courtney Love and Bikini Kill to Lauryn Hill and Bjork.
LikeShe’s A Rebel, The Lost Women of Rock Music is about the ladies of rock but narrows its focus to the badass women of punk who had to overcome sexism and inequality. With interviews of The Raincoats, Delta 5 and The Slits, it’s a beautiful story of punk rock and female empowerment.
Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline by Ellis Nassour
Patsy Cline will forever be the most beloved and missed lady of country music. Her story is incredible and touching. Just a working gal, Cline’s voice was one of a kind. Though the industry tried to push her towards pop music, saying women don’t belong in country, she stood her ground and become an idol for the genre.
Lou Reed’s Transformer: 33 1/3 by Ezra Furman
If there is one album that is great, but so overly analyzed it’s Lou Reed’s Transformer. Fellow musician Ezra Furman gives his two cents on the meanings sand underlings of the album and if you’re a fan of the album, it’s a very interesting read.
Coal Miner’s Daughter by Loretta Lynn
Maybe one of the sweetest and most badass ladies to ever have graced the country music scene, she was even picked up for Jack White’s Third Man Record label while in her 70s—this is her story in her words.
Just Kids and M Train by Patti Smith
If you’re even remotely into punk, then you have probably already read both of these, but if not, get on it. Just Kids is Smith’s recollection of starting her career and wild life in NYC, a chaotic ride. And M Train is a more mature memoir of Smith’s life, recounting her journey with the love of her life and her life after his death.
Lady Sings The Blues by Billie Holiday
This book really hits you hard. It’s in Holiday’s jazzy voice, calling people cats and daddy-o, so it’s a really fun read and Holiday sounds so excited about life. But the actual context of her life is heartbreaking, filled with racism, sexism, addiction and abuse.
Europa My Mirror by Quintron
The ultimate tour diary, this book is like a captains log of an artist from New Orleans on tour in Europe. It’s a raw, fun, easy read and Quintron really makes you feel like you were right there with him experiencing all the drugs, drama and rock ‘n’ roll.
Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan
Dylan kind of sounds like a pompous artist in this autobiography, but it really is a great story and he writes it so well. So I guess he’s allowed to sound that way—definitely a good read.
I’m With The Band by Pamela Des Barres
De Barres was one of the first and most beloved groupies during the height of rock ‘n’ roll, hanging with bands like The Rolling Stones, The Doors and Led Zeppelin—this is her story. (Also, Kate Hudson took inspiration from Des Barres when she was preparing to play Penny Lane in Almost Famous.)
Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook
Written by Joy Division bassist Peter Hook, this story is kind of a downer, considering the band ended with Ian Curtis’ suicide. But other than that, the story is the epitome of cool, with some through-and-through punk rock tales.
I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell
Richard Hell was a pivotal voice of NYC’s punk rock scene in the ‘70s. Richard Hell & The Voidoids were grungy, lively and ran the dirty streets of NYC. His story of running away to become the chaotic figure he is now is even wilder in his own words.
Girl In A Band by Kim Gordon
As one of the founding members of Sonic Youth, Gordon tells her story of being a fashion icon, post punk star and, eventually, a mother. With heart wrenching details about her divorce with fellow Sonic Youth member Thurston Moore.
To Throw Away Unopened by Viv Albertine
This is Slits’ guitarist Viv Albertine’s follow up to her first memoir Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys., which documented her early years becoming a punk rock icon. This memoir goes deeper into her tale, covering her middle ages and her current state of mind.