Best Music Reads of 2022

Amplify your appreciation of great music with these magnificent reads from the past year…

(Note: All descriptions are taken from the publishers)

Dickens and Prince: A Particular Kind of Genius by Nick Hornby (also available as an ebook)

Every so often, a pairing comes along that seems completely unlikely–until it’s not. Peanut butter and jelly, Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un, ducks and puppies, and now: Dickens and Prince. Equipped with a fan’s admiration and his trademark humor and wit, Nick Hornby invites us into his latest obsession: the cosmic link between two unlikely artists, geniuses in their own rights, spanning race, class, and centuries–each of whom electrified their different disciplines and whose legacy resounded far beyond their own time. Examining the two artists’ personal tragedies, social statuses, boundless productivity, and other parallels, both humorous and haunting, Hornby shows how these two unlikely men from different centuries “lit up the world.” In the process, he creates a lively, stimulating rumination on the creativity, flamboyance, discipline, and soul it takes to produce great art.

The Number Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal the History of Pop Music by Tom Breihan

Tom Breihan writes about twenty pivotal #1s throughout chart history, revealing a remarkably fluid and connected story of music that is as entertaining as it is enlightening.The Numbers Ones features the greatest pop artists of all time, from the Brill Building songwriters to the Beatles and the Beach Boys; from Motown to Michael Jackson, Prince, and Mariah Carey; and from the digital revolution to the K-pop system. Breihan also ponders great artists who have never hit the top spot, like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and James Brown. Breihan illuminates what makes indelible ear candy across the decades–including dance crazes, recording innovations, television phenomena, disco, AOR, MTV, rap, compact discs, mp3s, social media, memes, and much more–leaving readers to wonder what could possibly happen next.

This is What It Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says About You by Susan Rogers

Legendary record producer-turned-brain scientist Susan Rogers explains why you fall in love with music. She explains that we each possess a unique “listener profile” based on our brain’s natural response to seven key dimensions of any song. Are you someone who prefers lyrics or melody? Do you like music “above the neck” (intellectually stimulating), or “below the neck” (instinctual and rhythmic)? Whether your taste is esoteric or mainstream, Rogers guides readers to recognize their musical personality, and offers language to describe one’s own unique taste. Rogers also takes us behind the scenes of record-making, using her insider’s ear to illuminate the music of Prince, Frank Sinatra, Kanye West, Lana Del Rey, and many others. This Is What It Sounds Like will refresh your playlists, deepen your connection to your favorite artists, and change the way you listen to music.

This Woman’s Work: Essays on Music edited by Sinead Gleeson and Kim Gordon

This powerful collection of award-winning female creators shares their writing about the female artists that matter most to them, including: Anne Enright on Laurie Anderson; Megan Jasper on her ground-breaking work with Sub Pop; Margo Jefferson on Bud Powell and Ella Fitzgerald; and Fatima Bhutto on music and dictatorship. This Woman’s Work also features writing on the experimentalists, women who blended music and activism, the genre-breakers, the vocal auteurs; stories of lost homelands and friends; of propaganda and dictatorships, the women of folk and country, the racialized tropes of jazz, the music of Trap and Carriacou; of mixtapes and violin lessons.

Isn’t Her Grace Amazing! : The Women Who Changed Gospel Music by Cheryl Wills

Nothing in the world soothes the soul better than Gospel music. From the foot-stomping, hand-clapping melodies of yesterday to the head-bobbing, bass-thumping hits of today, Gospel music ignites the spirit and delivers the inspiration that takes us from the rough side of the mountain to the peak of God’s love and grace. That feeling of joy, peace, love, and contentment is amplified when it’s ringing through the voice of a sister who can SANG, Cheryl Wills reminds us. The remedy for a tough day at work can be alleviated with Mary Mary’s uplifting jam “Shackles,” the answer to your heart’s desires can be found in the harmonies of The Clark Sisters’ “Name It, Claim It,” and if you need a reminder of God’s love, there is nothing more timeless that Aretha Franklin’s stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Conversations by Steve Reich

Steve Reich is a living legend in the world of contemporary classical music. As a leader of the minimalist movement in the 1960s, his works have become central to the musical landscape worldwide, influencing generations of younger musicians, choreographers and visual artists. He has explored non-Western music and American vernacular music from jazz to rock, as well as groundbreaking music and video pieces. He toured the world with his own ensemble and his compositions are performed internationally by major orchestras and ensembles. Now Reich sits down with past collaborators, fellow composers and musicians as well as visual artists influenced by his work to reflect on his prolific career as a composer as well as the music that inspired him and that has been inspired by him.

The Ink in the Grooves: Conversations on Literature and Rock N’ Roll edited by Florence Dore

What is the relation between rock and literature? Compiled by ‘rock novel’ lit professor and indie musician Florence Dore, The Ink in the Grooves is a collection of essays and interviews about rock and literature from some of the most renowned novelists and musicians of our day-a backstage pass to musings on this topic from Richard Thompson, Colson Whitehead, Steve Earle, Michael Chabon, Rhiannon Giddens, Lucinda Williams, and others.

Springsteen: Live in the Heartland photographs by Janet Macoska, text by Peter Chakerian

Five decades of blue-jeans, down-to-earth rock ‘n’ roll. Five decades of poetic, authentic performances, political commentary, global tours and even a Broadway show. Bruce Springsteen hasn’t just left an impact on the surface of modern music, he helped shape its foundations. His truly timeless appeal is captured here by lauded rock photographer, Janet Macoska. Macoska charts Springsteen through the ages. Through her lens we witness his enduring energy on the stage, from 1974 to 2016.

Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be by Marissa R. Moss

Her Country is veteran Nashville journalist Marissa R. Moss’s story of how in the past two decades, country’s women fought back against systems designed to keep them down, armed with their art and never willing to just shut up and sing: how women like Kacey Musgraves, Mickey Guyton, Maren Morris, The Chicks, Miranda Lambert, Rissi Palmer, Brandy Clark, LeAnn Rimes, Brandi Carlile, Margo Price and many more have reinvented the rules to find their place in an industry stacked against them, how they’ve ruled the century when it comes to artistic output-and about how women can and do belong in the mainstream of country music, even if their voices aren’t being heard as loudly.

Be More Taylor Swift: Fearless Advice On Following Your Dreams and Finding Your Voice by Kitty Layton, illustrations by Nastka Drabot, additional artwork by Isabelle Merry

Songwriting genius, poised performer, warm-hearted friend– we’d all love to be a bit more like Taylor Swift. This brilliant guide will show you how. Whether it is standing up for yourself and your friends, opening your heart to love, or refusing to let others write your reputation, these life lessons will help you shake off your troubles and become folklore for Swifties everywhere. Containing advice on love, friendship, overcoming fears, being yourself, and finding creative inspiration, Be More Taylor Swift is the perfect gift for Taylor Swift fans.

It Was All a Dream: Biggie and the World That Made Him by Justin Tinsley (also available as an ebook and audiobook)

The Notorious B.I.G. was one of the most charismatic and talented artists of the 1990s. He lived an almost archetypal rap life: young trouble, drug dealing, guns, prison, a giant hit record, the wealth and international superstardom that came with it, then an early violent death. Journalist Justin Tinsley’s It Was All a Dream is a fresh, insightful telling of the life beyond the legend. It is based on extensive interviews with those who knew and loved Biggie, including neighbors, friends, DJs, party promoters, and journalists. And it places Biggie’s life in context, both within the history of rap but also the wider cultural and political forces that shaped him, including Caribbean immigration, the Reagan era disinvestment in public education, street life, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and the booming, creative, and influential 1990s music industry.

My Pin Up: A Paean to Prince by Hilton Als

In this brilliant two-part memoir, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Hilton Als distills into one cocktail the deep and potent complexities of love and of loss, of Prince and of power, of desire and of race. It’s delicious and it’s got the kick of a mule, especially as Als swirls into his mix the downtown queer nightclub scene, the AIDS crisis, Prince’s ass in his tight little pants, an ill-fated peach pie, Dorothy Parker, and his desire for true love.

Take a Sad Song: The Emotional Currency of “Hey Jude” by James Campion

Music columnist and podcast host Campion shows why the Beatles’ epic 1968 single “Hey Jude” transcends time, taking readers through the song’s riveting personal story, its importance during the fractious days of a pop culture phenomenon, and its impact on the most turbulent year since WWII.

Song Noir: Tom Waits and the Spirit of Los Angeles by Alex Harvey

Song Noir examines the formative first decade of Tom Waits’s career, when he lived, wrote and recorded nine albums in Los Angeles; from his soft, folk-inflected debut, Closing Time (1973), to the abrasive, surreal Swordfishtrombones (1983). Starting his song-writing career in the ’70s, Waits absorbed LA’s wealth of cultural influences. Combining the spoken idioms of writers like Kerouac and Bukowski with jazz-blues rhythms, he explored the city’s literary and film noir traditions to create hallucinatory dreamscapes. Mixing the domestic with the mythic, Waits turned quotidian, autobiographical details into something more disturbing and emblematic; a vision of LA as the warped, narcotic heart of his nocturnal explorations.

Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records by Jim Ruland

Music journalist Jim Ruland relays the unvarnished story of SST Records, from its remarkable rise in notoriety to its infamous downfall. With records by Black Flag, Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, Bad Brains, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Screaming Trees, Soundgarden, and scores of obscure yet influential bands, SST was the most popular indie label by the mid-80s–until a tsunami of legal jeopardy, financial peril, and dysfunctional management brought the empire tumbling down. Throughout this investigative deep-dive, Ruland leads readers through SST’s tumultuous history and epic catalog. Featuring never-before-seen interviews with the label’s former employees, as well as musicians, managers, producers, photographers, video directors, and label heads, Corporate Rock Sucks presents a definitive narrative history of the ’80s punk and alternative rock scenes, and shows how the music industry was changed forever.

Joe, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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