8 Great Books For Everyone Who Loves Music

Claire Handscombe

If you or someone in your life loves music, there are a lot of great books out there that you will enjoy. Here are a few -- including some that flown under the radar and that you might not have heard of.

Dear Mr Pop Star, by Derek & Dave Philpott

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What happens when you write to pop stars to pick a bone with them over the lyrics of their most popular songs? They write back. No, really. Derek and his son Dave have done just that, and Dear Mr Pop Star is a collection of correspondence with stars from the 1970s, 1980s, and beyond. This book is the perfect crowd-pleasing kind of book for Unbound, the groundbreaking crowdfunding-based publisher (who, disclaimer, are also my publisher). It might also make a great gift for birthdays.

Ed Sheeran: Writing Out Loud, by Caroline Sullivan

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If Ed Sheeran’s Spotify rating and the ubiquity of his songs are anything to go by, I’m not the only one to be into the ginger charmer. This book analyses Ed Sheeran’s lyrics and explores his “life, talent, and inspiration, providing refreshing insights into his massive worldwide success”.

The First Time: Stories and Songs from Music Icons, by Matt Everitt

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This book is a collection of interviews from a BBC Radio Six show which asks stars like Elton John and Sinead O’Connor, and many more, about their firsts – records, gigs, musical memories. In doing so, it explores the songs that have shaped their lives.

The Music: A Novel Through Sound


Matthew Herbert is an award-winning musician who has worked with artists as diverse as Bjork and Will Self. His novel is “a description of an imagined album” and “a manifesto for sound, challenging how we hear the world itself, while listening to stories about humanity and our place in that world.” Unbound is an innovative publisher whose crowdfunding model allows them to not worry so much about fitting neatly into genre categories, and I can’t help wondering if this book is exactly the kind of thing that the company’s founders had in mind when they designed it.

The Little Piano Girl, by Ann Ingalls and Maryann McDonald

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Mary Lou Williams was a child prodigy: by eight years old, she was being paid to play the piano. She worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Duke Ellington and is legendary in the world of jazz. This story will inspire the budding little musicians in your life.

"Acknowledging Mary's long, worldwide career as an elegant, accomplished performer "in beautiful shoes," this sweet tribute neatly fills a niche in the panoply of titles about jazz greats," says Kirkus.

The Music Shop, by Rachel Joyce

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Rachel Joyce’s 2013 novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, was beloved in the UK, so there was a lot of buzz surrounding this new book of hers. This one is a love story with a musical backdrop, set in the late 1980s.

On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas

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Bri's dad was a hiphop legend, and now that he's dead, she wants to follow in his footsteps. But when her first song goes viral, it doesn't quite go as she'd hoped...

To Be Someone, by Ian Stone

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This is a book for anyone who’s ever been obsessed with a band or a celebrity. Seventies band The Jam captured the imagination of a teenage Ian Stone, and he spent the next five years feverishly chasing the band. His adventures included getting stuck on a roof when he tried to sneak into a gig and having a drink with a member of the band after almost getting thrown out of a hotel. Britain in the late ’70s and early ’80s was a turbulent place and a bit of an unhappy one – it’s no wonder that all this time later Ian Stone still remembers the joy and escape that the band gave him so fondly.

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

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