The 2020 Music Book Gift Guide

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The 2020 Music Book Gift Guide

The holidays are just around the corner, which means gift giving season is also afoot. If you have a devoted music fan or pop culture buff in your life, consider buying them one of the year’s best music books. Below are 12 music books covering many genres (rock, K-pop, country, punk, hip-hop and more) and in several formats (from memoirs and biographies to cultural essays and songwriter guides), so there’s something for everyone.

Kathy Valentine: All I Ever Wanted

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The Go-Go’s broke a lot of barriers. Known for songs like “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed,” they became the first multi-platinum-selling, all-female group who played instruments themselves, wrote their own songs, and scored a number one album. In this new book All I Ever Wanted, bassist Kathy Valentine takes us along this drug-fueled ascent to rock ‘n’ roll fame.

Purchase here

Dolly Parton, Robert K. Oermann: Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics


This book is perfect for the Dolly Parton fan or country music lover in your life. Her recent book is filled with the stories behind her greatest hits, including “Jolene,” “9 to 5” and “I Will Always Love You,” plus rare archival images from throughout her career.

Purchase here

Zach Schonfeld: 24-Carat Black’s Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth


Zach Schonfeld delves into 24-Carat Black’s Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth in this new addition to the 33 1/3 book series. It was the group’s only album before the collapse of Stax Records in the 1970s. The book explores the history, cultural context and mystique behind this frequently sampled concept album.

Disclaimer: Zach Schonfeld is a contributing writer for Paste Magazine.

Purchase here

Sasha Geffen: Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary


Thankfully, gender fluidity has finally become part of the mainstream consciousness, but it wasn’t a smooth road. Culture writer Sasha Geffen argues that various musicians throughout history have helped to change mindsets and bring about this shift. Geffen chronicles gender fluidity in music from the 20th century to the present, discussing everyone from early blues artists and David Bowie to Missy Elliot and riot grrrl bands.

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Maria Sherman: Larger Than Life: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS


Sources of entertainment that are typically associated with women—especially young women—are often deemed frivolous. That’s one reason why there haven’t been many comprehensive discussions about boy bands from the past and present. But culture critic Maria Sherman takes this topic head on in Larger Than Life, which allows gossip and fan theories to exist in the same space as serious musical analyses.

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Corbin Reiff: Total F*cking Godhead: The Biography of Chris Cornell


There aren’t many people who can claim to be the voice of a generation, but Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave) was not most people. Music journalist and Seattle resident Corbin Reiff tells Cornell’s story with “input from people who knew and worked with him—together with Cornell’s own words.”

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Steven Hyden: This Isn’t Happening: Radiohead’s “Kid A” and the Beginning of the 21st Century


From the author of Your Favorite Band is Killing Me, Twilight of the Gods and Hard to Handle comes a new book examining the importance of Radiohead’s Kid A, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Steven Hyden examines the most dramatic shift in the back catalogue of one of the world’s most influential and critically acclaimed rock bands.

Purchase here

Chris Frantz: Remain in Love


A romantic tale mixed with history from NYC’s CBGB era, Chris Frantz (Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club) details the creation of both bands alongside girlfriend Tina Weymouth in Remain in Love.

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Marcus J. Moore: The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited the Soul of Black America


Music journalist Marcus J. Moore dissects the rise and immense influence of 13-time Grammy winner Kendrick Lamar. It’s the first cultural biography about the rapper, who’s best known for albums like 2017’s DAMN. and 2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly.

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Mike Hilleary: On the Record: Music Journalists on Their Lives, Craft, and Careers


Mike Hilleary’s new book shines a light on esteemed music journalists’ evolution as writers, plus their process and thoughts on the industry at large. It features interviews with Rob Sheffield, Jessica Hopper, Ann Powers, Amanda Petrusich, Hanif Abdurraqib, Lindsay Zoladz, Jayson Greene and more.

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Nate Patrin: Bring That Beat Back: How Sampling Built Hip-Hop


In Bring That Beat Back: How Sampling Built Hip-Hop, Nate Patrin walks through the history of sampling throughout hip-hop, using Grandmaster Flash, Prince Paul, Dr. Dre and Madlib as key examples of the craft.

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Jeff Tweedy: How To Write One Song


Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy guides music lovers, fans and aspiring songwriters through the musical creative process in his new book. Like his previous 2018 memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), it appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Purchase here