17 Books Every Music Lover Should Read

Unmissable books about music, from Gucci Mane's autobiography to Ego Trip's rap tome to David Byrne's sweeping 'How Music Works.'

music books 2018
P&P Original

Image via Jonathan F

music books 2018

Time is a precious commodity. It's hard enough to find an hour to do laundry, so having the extra time to read a book is straight laughable. But it's worth it.

Book recommendations often veer towards mundane self-help books or the latest fiction novel. This is not that list. These books will broaden your music history knowledge and keep you inspired. Whether you need something to pass time on the commute to work, are about to head out on a vacation, or have been promising that you're going to read a book for nine months now, these books are perfect for any music lover.

What follows is a short recap of each book, followed by online reviews from real people, so you don't have to just take our word for it that these books are worth reading. Enjoy.

The Autobiography of Gucci Mane

gucci mane book

Places and Spaces I've Been

pharrell places spaces book

Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove

questlove blues book

All You Need To Know About The Music Business

books music lovers

The Death of Rhythm & Blues

nelson george rhythm blues

The Rap Yearbook

The Rap Yearbook

How Music Works

how music works

The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun

ahmet ertegun atlantic

This Is Grime

skepta wiley book

Kill Your Friends: A Novel

kill your friends

Break Beats In The Bronx: Rediscovering Hip Hop's Early Years

ewoodzie bronx book

How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop

how to vocoder

A New America

a new america

The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop

charnas payback

Silence: Lectures & Writings

4 33 john cage silence


jay z book

Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists

ego trip lists

Miles: The Autobiography

Author: Ann Powers

Author: Jessica Hopper

Author: Dan Charnas

Year Released: 2010

Earlier in 2017, Nielsen Music mid-year reports revealed that hip-hop has become the most popular genre of music in America, surpassing rock for the first time in history. Over the course of the past two decades, hip-hop has grown to become a dominant driving force behind the progression of American popular culture. Given the massive scope of the genre’s influence, it’s easy to forget that artists and executives once struggled to create space for hip-hop. The Big Payback, renowned hip-hop journalist and former record label executive Dan Charnas’ first book, documents its fascinating success story.

“Watching hip-hop go fully mainstream in the 2000s was surreal, considering the music business’ resistance to the genre in the 1980s and early 1990s,” Charnas explains over email. “I wanted to tell the story of that improbable victory, which happened only because of an unprecedented union between intrepid artists and dogged entrepreneurs. In the end, hip-hop did more to create equity and access for black artists than any previous musical movement.”

In order to tell the story of hip-hop’s development with as much attention to detail as possible, Charnas interviewed more than 300 music industry veterans who shaped the movement’s progression. His own involvement in hip-hop’s rise as right-hand-man to Rick Rubin gives him a unique perspective; he was present for many of the formative board meetings he describes throughout the book. The result is a comprehensive, incredibly well-researched account of hip-hop’s 40-year history told in vivid, cinematic detail. The Big Payback is a must-read for anyone interested in learning about hip-hop’s ever-changing infrastructure."

Author: Jenna Miles


Author:  Philip Glass

Year Released: 


Author: Wiley

Year Released:

Author: David Byrne

Author: Grace Jones

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Author: Jeff Chang 

Author: TuPac Shakur

Year Released: 

Author: Jordan Ferguson

Year Released: