Catch the Beat: Nonfiction

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This is the suggested nonfiction list for the 2007 Adult Summer Reading Program, Catch the Beat at Forbes Library. There is also a fiction list.

The title and author of each book is followed by a suggested type of music or artist; our 2nd Floor music collection has many wonderful recordings of these musical genres which you can listen to while reading, or generally during the summer.

This list was compiled by Forbes Library staff. The annotations are taken from a variety of sources, including Novelist, ContentCafe, and Amazon.

Tori Amos, piece by piece: a portrait of the artist : her thoughts, her conversations by Tori Amos and Ann Powers
A journey through the creative process by one of contemporary music's leading artists provides details of the life and career of Tori Amos and explains how her songs evolve from simple ideas and melodies to recordings and concert pieces.

With Billie by Julia Blackburn [Billie Holiday]
This biography brings to life the whole complex, courageous, very troubled life of the fabled blues singer.

Dirty little secrets of the record business: why so much music you hear sucks by Hank Bordowitz
Music journalist Bordowitz delivers a concise summary of the current state of the record business. Unless you are a Britney Spears fan, Bordowitz presents a fairly convincing argument that current music "sucks" by looking at "how the system that turned music into a commodity ultimately failed, trivializing its product and the user of that product."

Louis Armstrong's New Orleans by Thomas Brothers [Louis Armstrong]
A rags-to-riches narrative of the eminent jazz artist's early life describes how his childhood was marked by such challenges as poverty, Jim Crow legislation, and vigilante terrorism.

I feel good: a memoir of a life of soul by James Brown ; with an introduction by Marc Eliot [James Brown]
The Godfather of Soul shares his own journey from a humble childhood in Georgia to the heights of American music, tracing his success in the world of R&B and his turbulent, frequently destructive personal life and long and difficult path to redemption.

A Pirate Looks at Fifty by Jimmy Buffet [Buffett]
In honor of his fiftieth birthday, the popular singer-songwriter and author shares a collection of witty reminiscences about his life, tracing his odyssey from reporter to musical success and offering insights into such topics as plane crash survival, therapy, starting a band, and more.

The Blue Moon Boys: the Story of Elvis Presley's Band by Ken Burke [Elvis]
It was in 1958 that Elvis Presley and his backing band cut "That's Alright Mama" with Sam Philips at the legendary Sun studios in Memphis. For Elvis, the rest is history—he went on to become the king of rock and roll. For his backing band, the Blue Moon Boys (bassist Bill Black, guitarist Scotty Moore and drummer D.J. Fontana), the story went differently.

Johnny Cash: He Walked the Line by Garth Campbell [Johnny Cash]
The full tale of the country singer's gritty life, from poverty to national icon, including drug addiction, religious belief, and marriage to June Carter.

Goodbye Little Rock and Roller by Marshall Chapman [Rock; Country]
A Southern rocker and songwriter whose music has been recorded by top industry names links twelve of her most popular pieces to major events in her life, discussing her travels and her Nashville relationships.

Queen: the life and music of Dinah Washington by Nadine Cohodas
Chronicles of the fascinating life of blues singer Dinah Washington.

Woodstock: the summer of our lives by Jack Curry [Acid Rock]
Twenty people who either performed, organized, or attended the three-day Woodstock music festival recall the music, the mud, the merriment, the madness, and the legacy of the "Aquarian exposition" that came to symbolize its era.

Bob Dylan, the essential interviews Edited by Jonathan Cott [Bob Dylan]
Brings together more than thirty of the most important and revealing interviews and conversations with the legendary musician, including seminal articles from the Rolling Stone, as well as Nat Hentoff's 1996 Playboy interview and other dialogues with Studs Terkel, Nora Ephron, and Sam Shepard. 70,000 first printing.

The Doors by The Doors ; with Ben Fong-Torres ; forewords by Henry Rollins, Perry Farrell, Chester Bennington [The Doors]
In honor of the band's fortieth anniversary, the surviving members of the Doors offer an account of the legendary rock group's history, featuring previously unpublished anecdotes, archival material, memorabilia, and rare photographs.

Joy of Opera by Nigel Douglas [Opera]
Fascintaing even to non-opera oficienados. Interesting pictures back the story up. Gossipy and witty, this companion for opera lovers combines musical history, biography, commentary and anecdotes about operas performed on several continents over several centuries.

The Grand ole opry: the making of an American icon by Colin Escott [Country]
An official history of the monument to country music profiles the many country music icons--including Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, and others--who have appeared on the stage.

U2 At the end of the world by Bill Flanagan [U2]
A backstage account of U2's 1991 world tour records the highlights of the highly popular rock group's travels, including a duet between lead singer Bono and Frank Sinatra, and the members' thoughts and feelings along the way.

The inner voice: the making of a singer by Renée Fleming [Opera]
A Grammy Award-winning soprano describes her struggles to launch her career, the individuals who influenced her life, and the challenges she faces with the business side of the music industry.

Blowin' hot and cool: jazz and its critics by John Gennari [Jazz]
An in-depth history of jazz criticism, from the 1920s to the present day, examines the contributions of Leonard Feather, Martin Williams, Whitney Balliett, Dan Morgenstern, Gary Giddins, and Stanley Crouch, among others, to the history of jazz music and to promoting the role of jazz in American life and culture.

Mozart's Women: his family, his friends, his music by Jane Glover [Mozart]
A chronicle of the women Mozart was inspired by, fascinated with, and at times disappointed by reveals the important role they played in shaping the characters that appeared in the operas he wrote.

Alive at the Village Vanguard: my life in and out of jazz time by Lorraine Gordon as told to Barry Singer [Jazz]
A jazz fan since 14, the 83-year-old helped discover Thelonious Monk, married Max Gordon (then proprietor of the Vanguard), and was an active member of Women Strike for Peace. Yet this isn't an exercise in name-dropping or a list of best-of records. Gordon shows how simply delving into the music while raising a family and working at various jobs unrelated to music enriched her; it's a down-to-earth and subtle way of demonstrating that jazz, when not perched on the altar of specialness, can be as enjoyable and life-giving as any music.

Wild harmonies: a life of music and wolves by Hélène Grimaud; translated by Ellen Hinsey. [Hélène Grimaud]
An acclaimed French pianist describes her life-changing first encounter with a wolf hybrid in 1991, her efforts to protect the threatened wolf species, and her foundation of a wolf preserve on the grounds of her New York State home.

Woody Guthrie: art works by Nora Guthrie and Steven Brower; with contributions from Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweedy [Woody Guthrie]
Woody Guthrie is revealed to be as significant an artist as he was a song writer, poet, writer, and political activist in a collection of more than three hundred examples of never-before-published artworks and journal excerpts.

Positively 4th street: the lives and times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña'' by David Hajdu [Baez, Dylan]
Discuss how Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Mimi and Richard Farina gathered together in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, chronicling their rise from coffeehouse folksingers to popular icons.

Winifred Wagner: a life at the heart of Hitler's Bayreuth'' by Brigitte Hamann [Wagner]
Documents the life of Richard Wagner's daughter-in-law, describing her friendship with Hitler, her decision to make Bayreuth the summer gathering place for the Nazi elite in the 1930s, and her efforts to aid Jewish acquaintances and artists.

Encounters With Stravinsky by Paul Horgan [Igor Stravinsky]
The acclaimed writer Paul Horgan tells of his lifelong interest in Stravinsky's music and ideas, culminating in friendship with the composer during the last 14 years of his life. Filled with anecdotes which bring Stravinsky vividly to life.

Babes In Toyland by Neal Karlen [Rock]
A glimpse inside the world of contemporary rock music describes the discovery of a female band from Minneapolis and follows them through the process of signing with a record label, recording a first album, and marketing and promoting their music.

Kill your idols: a new generation of rock writers reconsiders the classics edited by Jim DeRogatis and Carmél Carrillo [Rock]
"A collection of thirty-four essays in which each writer addresses an allegedly 'great' album that he or she despises"--Foreword.

Bang your head: the rise and fall of heavy metal by David Konow [Heavy metal]
Offering profiles of a wide variety of bands and performers, this candid look at the world of heavy metal music draws on personal interviews and anecdotes to chronicle the outrageous personalities of heavy metal performers.

How Nashville became Music City, U.S.A.: 50 years of Music Row'' by Michael Kosser [Country Western]
Tracing the evolution of Nashville's Music Row, a study of the American country music industry profiles some of the musicians and stars who transformed the face of twentieth-century American music.

Waiting For Dizzy'' by Gene Lees [Jazz]
Presents profiles of fourteen jazz musicians, including Joe Venuti, Herb Ellis, Benny Carter, and Emily Remler, and describes the racial discrimination many have faced.

Cuban fire: the saga of salsa and Latin jazz by Isabelle Leymarie [Salsa/Latin]
Having written and taught widely about Cuban music, pianist and musicologist Leymarie here tells the story of Cuban music in its homeland and in the US, but also in Puerto Rico. She shows how one or two rhythms have influenced music throughout the world in each decade since the 1920s.

Flashbacks: eyewitness accounts of the rock revolution, 1964-1974 by Michael Lydon [Classic Rock]
This writer for Newsweek, the New York Times and the Boston Globe covers the 60s and 70s rock and roll music scene as only an insider can.

Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads by Greil Marcus. [Dylan]
This fascinating book relives the year 1965 in telling about Dylan's major hit song of the book's title, produced at the height of his early fame.

Diva: The New Generation by Helene Matheopoulos [Opera]
In an illustrated follow-up to her 1992 book, Diva: Great Sopranos and Mezzos Discuss Their Art, more than thirty of today's most prominent divas discuss their musical and personal challenges and successes.

Please kill me: the uncensored oral history of punk Edited by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain [Sex Pistols]
Artists, reporters, and groupies chronicle the emergence of punk music in New York's underground and give backstage accounts of drugs, sex, and power struggles.

Beethoven:The Universal Composer by Edmund Morris [Beethoven]
A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and classical pianist presents a detailed portrait of the genius composer, tracing his rise from a child prodigy to one of Europe's most celebrated musical artists, and describing his fierce ambitions and early death.

Shout! The Beatles in their generation by Philip Norman [Beatles]
Featuring more than thirty percent new material, an updated study of the history of the Beatles' rise to success and the people who helped them develop their music, image, and style includes information on John's and Yoko's troubled marriage, the reconciliation between Paul and John just prior to John's murder, and the death of George Harrison. Original.

The beat of my drum: an autobiography by Babatunde Olatunji, with Robert Atkinson, assisted by Akinsola Akiwowo ; foreword by Joan Baez ; introduction by Eric Charry [The Beat of My Drum] by B. Olatunji
Nigerian drummer Olatunji (1927-2003), an internationally celebrated musician who popularized West African traditional music and worked tirelessly in the Civil Rights Movement, offers his inspirational life story.

Cinderella's big score: women of the punk and indie underground by Maria Raha [Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre]
A journalist for Spin and Vibe Magazines offers a stirring tribute to women in the hard-edged underground music scene, including The Slits, The Plasmatics, l7, Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre, and many others.

The Undiscovered Paul Robeson by Paul Robeson Jr. [Spirituals]
The famous actor, singer, and activist is depicted through family memories and materials in this biography by his son, who worked with him for years.

Myself when I am real: the life and music of Charles Mingus by Gene Santoro [Charles Mingus]
Drawing on new interviews and previously untapped letters and archival materials, this potent portait of the legenday jazz bassist and composer probes his tempestous personal life and volcanic temperament, as well as his artistic inspiration from the tough, racially mixed Watts neighborhood of his youth to the artistic ferment of postwar Greenwich Village.

Johann Sebastian Bach: the learned musician by Christoph Wolff [J.S. Bach]
Published on the 250th anniversary of the composer's death, a landmark biography by a noted Bach scholar, provides a dramatic new study of the life and music of this key composer and musician of the Baroque era, exploring the intimate links between Bach's life and music and his innovations in musical composition, performance, and education.

The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa, with Peter Occhiogrosso [Zappa]
Outspoken Zappa, one of the most inventive and controversial artists of the past 20 years, is frank, often disgusting, and always entertaining in describing his life.

Will you miss me when I'm gone?: the Carter Family and their legacy in American music by Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirshberg [Bluegrass]
Traces the bluegrass country music achievements of the Carter family, from their discovery by a New York record maker to their rise to stardom and eventual breakup, noting their influence on the careers of top performers.

Category: Reading Lists Nonfiction

Page last changed: May 08, 2013, at 10:11 AM EST.