I used to be much better at keeping up with new music, but most of my attention has shifted toward books in the last few years. Thankfully, I have my husband, his music blog and our regularly refreshed vinyl collection to keep me in the know. Between the two of us, I sometimes wonder if our mailbox will be able to handle the all the books and records coming our way or if our mailperson might just up and give up on us. The best thing about the books on this list is that they have the potential to combine both worlds in one space: great reading about great music.
“Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist David Kinney enters into the world of obsessive Bob Dylan followers (aka the ‘Dylanologists’) to deliver an immersive work on the artist’s singular impact on American culture. In exuberant prose, Kinney introduces us to a vibrant underground: diggers searching for unheard tapes and lost manuscripts, researchers obsessing over the facts of Dylan’s life and career, writers working to decode the unyieldingly mysterious songs, collectors snapping up prized artifacts for posterity, travelers caravanning from concert to concert.”
“An expansive and long-overdue history of the record industry on both sides of the Atlantic, focusing on the great label founders and A&R men who shaped music from the 19th century to today. Cowboys and Indies is the definitive record business bible, chronicling the pioneers who set the stylus on the most important labels and musical discoveries of the last century. The narrative follows all the musical trends and developments, from the phonograph to the internet age, as it delves behind the big business of corporate hit machines and the diligent industry of small, curated labels.”
“New York Times, Spin and Vanity Fair contributor Marc Spitz explores the first great cultural movement since Hip Hop: an old-fashioned and yet highly modern aesthetic that’s embraced internationally by teens, twenty and thirty-somethings and even some Baby Boomers; creating hybrid generation known as Twee. Via exclusive interviews and years of research, Spitz traces Generation Twee’s roots from the Post War 50s to its dominance in popular culture today.”
“An addictively readable, encyclopedic history of pop music in chapters as short and adrenaline-fueled as the best pop songs themselves. A monumental work of musical history and a book as fun to argue with as to quote from, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! is divided into sixty-five brief, chronological chapters about individual songs, bands, musical scenes, and styles from Bill Haley & the Comets’s “Rock Around the Clock” (1954) to Beyoncé’s first megahit, “Crazy in Love” (2003).”
“Before MP3s, CDs, and cassette tapes, even before LPs or 45s, the world listened to music on 78rpm records—those fragile, 10-inch shellac discs. While vinyl records have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, good 78s are exponentially harder to come by and play. A recent eBay auction for the only known copy of a particular record topped out at $37,100. Do Not Sell at Any Price explores the rarified world of the 78rpm record—from the format’s heyday to its near extinction—and how collectors and archivists are working frantically to preserve the music before it’s lost forever.”