14 Books From 2014 Every Music Lover Needs To Read

You're in for some great reading whether you want to explore the history of rock and jazz, revisit new wave and Britpop, or dive deep into albums by Michael Jackson and Kanye West.

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1. There Goes Gravity by Lisa Robinson

This book is technically a memoir by veteran music journalist Lisa Robinson, but every step of the way her focus is on her experiences – both personal and professional – with some of the most famous and important musicians of the past four decades. Robinson has been granted a rare and remarkable amount of access to huge stars over the years, and as a result this book gives you some real insight into what artists like David Bowie, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Bono, Eminem, Jay Z, and Lady Gaga are really like when they're not performing.

2. Dangerous by Susan Fast

Canadian musicologist Susan Fast's book about Michael Jackson's 1991 blockbuster Dangerous rejects the usual media narrative about the iconic performer's later career, and makes a compelling case that it's a "coming of age" record that reflect his sophisticated take on adult sexuality and racial politics. Fast challenges the conventional wisdom about Jackson and his media image every step of the way, and places a great deal of emphasis on the singular style of post-Bad music.

3. The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus

Greil Marcus has built his considerable reputation as a cultural critic on his incredible skill for building fascinating alternative histories of the world based on seemingly randomly fragments of culture. This book is a new version of that old trick, and offers a fresh new take on the evolution of popular music between 1956 and 2008 that omits all the usual icons, events, and narratives.

4. Do Not Sell at Any Price by Amanda Petrusich

Amanda Petrusich's book digs deep into the insular subculture of 78 rpm record collectors, with deeply empathetic portraits of collectors willing to drop thousands of dollars on extraordinarily rare recordings of blues, folk, jazz, and gospel songs from the 1920s and 1930s. Petrusich's stories about her encounters with these often quirky collectors are lively and entertaining, but always take her subjects' mission of preserving the history of American music very seriously.

5. Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein

The new wave era is often dismissed for its one-hit wonders and silly haircuts, but Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein's book examines the period with a great deal of love and reverence. The book focuses on particular songs of the era, from iconic smashes by A-Ha, Duran Duran, New Order, and Dexys Midnight Runners to lesser known but crucial tunes by acts like Heaven 17, the Waitresses, and Kim Wilde. Majewski and Bernstein offer their own commentary on each song, but the book emphasizes the artists' own perspective on their work with interviews that reflect on their experience in the era and how their careers progressed after the '80s.

6. Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll by Peter Bebergal

Occult imagery in popular music may be limited to quasi-illuminati Masonic imagery in hip-hop these days, but Peter Bebergal's book looks back on a time when many of the biggest stars in music – Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Black Sabbath, the Rolling Stones – were fixated on the occult and supernatural themes. Bebergal argues that this was vital to rock's place in culture, and fed into the music's spirit of spiritual, sexual, and social liberation.

7. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kirk Walker Graves

Kanye West's fifth album is only a few years old, but that didn't stop Kirk Walker Graves from writing a book proclaiming it an instant classic that perfectly captures the spirit of its era. Graves unpacks the cultural meaning and significance of West's famous ego and chaotic public persona, and examines the music both in the context of the rapper's brilliant body of work, and how it fits into the social media era.

8. I'll Take You There by Greg Kot

Greg Kot's biography of Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers focuses on the R&B legend's roots in the Southern gospel scene of the 1950s, and her influential position in the civil rights movement of the '60s. Kot's book goes deep into Staples' remarkable life, with stories about everything from her early life to her romance with Bob Dylan and her later collaborations with Prince and Jeff Tweedy.

9. Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys by Viv Albertine

This memoir by Viv Albertine, the guitarist of the crucial all-female punk band the Slits, is a lively account of the late '70s punk scene in London. Albertine's reflection on her experiences with icons of '70s punk gets very personal – she was in a relationship with Mick Jones of the Clash and was briefly in a band with Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols – but her own account of her experiences is fascinating, as the history of early punk has rarely been told from the perspective of women in the scene.

10. Definitely Maybe by Alex Niven

Oasis' music is typically discussed in ways that either focus a bit too much on the band's rivalry with fellow Britpop icons Blur, or dismiss the band's music as dumb and overly populist, but Alex Niven's book about their debut album offers an alternative view of their career and unique place in British culture. Niven focuses on issues of class, and how Noel Gallagher's optimistic working class anthems were informed by a period of social upheaval brought on by Margaret Thatcher's social and economic policies in the '80s.

11. Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression by Richard Havers

This enormous hardcover tome is an elaborate illustrated history of the legendary jazz label from 1939 through the present day, with beautifully reproduced art and ephemera from the label's archives. The book covers all the major stars of the label's history, from jazz icons like Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane to contemporary performers like Norah Jones and Keren Ann.

12. A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton by Holly George-Warren

Holly George-Warren's biography of Alex Chilton tracks the songwriter's peculiar career trajectory for teenage stardom in the '60s and his legendary but commercially unsuccessful run as the frontman of Big Star in the '70s to leaner times in the '80s and '90s. George-Warren's book is meticulously researched, drawing on the accounts of over 100 collaborators, friends, family members, and other acquaintances of the late rock legend.

13. Confidence or the Appearance of Confidence: The Best of Believer Music Interviews

The Believer is famous for their thoughtful longform interviews, and this collection features some of the magazine's best features about musicians throughout its history. The interviews tend to focus a lot on influences and process, so you come away from this book with a deeper understanding of how major stars like Thom Yorke, Trent Reznor, Björk, and Jack White think about their work.

14. Sound Man by Glyn Johns

Glyn Johns is a crucial, if unsung, figure in the history of rock music, having been intimately involved in the recording of classic albums by the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, the Who, and the Rolling Stones. Johns' memoir looks back on his extraordinary career as an engineer and producer, and offers fascinating glimpses into the creative processes of his many famous collaborators.