15 Music Books to Read This Summer

Booze & Vinyl can help you throw one hell of a party.
Booze & Vinyl can help you throw one hell of a party. Jason Varney
Trying to squeeze in some relaxing reading time before summer draws to a close? You’ve still got plenty of time, and we’ve found 15 eclectic titles to help you get started. They’re all focused on music, although they tackle it in different ways – exploring connections between music and identity, science, history, and love.

Born to Run

Bruce Springsteen

Like his songs, Bruce Springsteen’s memoir is a master class in storytelling. Even those who’ve never experienced one of his marathon concerts will appreciate the way this book weaves connections between autobiography and artistry.

Booze & Vinyl

André Darlington and Tenaya Darlington

Creating a mood is half the battle if you’re trying to throw an unforgettable party. Booze & Vinyl: A Spirited Guide to Great Music and Mixed Drinks will inspire you to new pairings of music and spirits that elevate gatherings with friends to a new level.

click to enlarge This works better on a coffee table than in a beach bag. - LYNN TRIMBLE
This works better on a coffee table than in a beach bag.
Lynn Trimble

Contact High

Vikki Tobak

You might need a bigger beach bag for Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop. It’s a chronology of hip-hop from early to digital days, recounted through photographs, as well as essays and interviews with several creatives who’ve made hip-hop their guiding principle.

Hamilton: The Revolution

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

It’s hard to be culturally literate without taking at least a modest foray into the mind of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who shares not only every lyric and line from the hit Broadway show here, but also revelations about how the musical seeded in summertime reading grew into a full-blown cultural phenomenon.

How Music Got Free

Stephen Witt

Who better than a business journalist to explore the ways creative efforts can become undervalued? Witt’s book, How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Privacy, looks at the evolution of how people think about paying for music, a topic with implications for myriad fields facing similar questions.

click to enlarge Essential reading for musicians. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Essential reading for musicians.
Lynn Trimble

How Music Works

David Byrne

Although the title implies this is a tome on music theory, it’s actually a compelling meditation by Talking Heads singer and songwriter David Bryne on how music has worked through the years for him. Byrne shares lessons learned with humor and humility, offering important insights for musicians and others who share their ecosystems.

Love is a Mix Tape

Rob Sheffield

Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time explores not only the phenomenon of mix tapes, used by so many to capture their most earnest ideas and emotions, but also the very specific ways music imbued this Rolling Stone contributor’s relationship with his wife before her sudden death.


Oliver Sacks

Neurologist Oliver Sacks spent a lifetime writing about endearing oddballs, embracing their quirks while seeking to understand the breadth and depth of human neurodiversity. For Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, he shares more than two dozen stories of people whose lives were forever changed by encounters with music.

My Own Devices


Consider all the ways you’ve been shaped by music as a listener, then imagine what the journey must be like for those whose lives are consumed by making music. My Own Devices: True Stories From the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love takes readers along on the indie hip-hop artist’s ride through life, and her attempts to make sense of it all.

Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century

Nate Chinen

Whether you’re a jazz novice or jazz nerd, you’ll appreciate this examination of more than 100 years of jazz history, brilliantly tied to contemporary trends and talents in a way that makes jazz feel both elevated and accessible.

click to enlarge One of several recent books exploring the punk music scene. - LYNN TRIMBLE
One of several recent books exploring the punk music scene.
Lynn Trimble

Revenge of the She-Punks

Vivien Goldman

With Revenge of the She-Punks: A Feminist Music History From Poly Styrene to Pussy Riot, Goldman considers four themes prevalent in the punk experience from the 1970s through the present day – identity, love, money, and protest. The book includes anecdotes, interviews, and historical accounts that might just inspire clarity amid the complexities of your own life.

Rock She Wrote

Edited by Evelyn McDonnell and Ann Powers

Gender disparities aren’t unique to the music industry, but they’re still significant. Reading Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Pop, and Rap will inspire you to elevate your support for women creatives, from writers to musicians, as they raise pens and guitars to shatter the glass acoustical ceiling.

The Rest Is Noise

Alex Ross

The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century sets classical music in its historical, political, and cultural contexts. Reading this book by The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross will encourage you to pull the threads on your favorite songs to consider what they reveal about the underlying fabric of your own life and times.

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us

Hanif Abdurraqib

Pairing music criticism with social critique, Abdurraqib moves between intimate autobiography and historical context on a grand scale, telling captivating stories that highlight the symbiotic relationship between music and society.

This is Your Brain on Music

Daniel J. Levitin

Odds are, music has gotten you through some tough times, and caused you to well up with sometimes startling emotions. Learn why that’s the case, with This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, written by a man whose expertise includes not only neuroscience but also producing records. Never fear – pulling back the curtain to reveal all of music’s levers in your brain won’t take away from its ethereal magic.
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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble