2019 saw the release of yet more brilliant books analysing the immense and diverse history of modern music. Sorting through all of these editions can be a daunting prospect, so if you’re searching for the perfect Xmas gift to give to the music-lover in your life here are just a few of our favourites.
1. Classic Albums By Women by Classic Album Sundays
This Christmas guide wouldn’t be quite complete if we didn’t mention Classic Albums By Women, which we recently launched to a great response in London and New York. Whether you’re searching for new listening suggestions or just eager to learn more about some of your favourite records, the book offers a comprehensive overview of some of the finest female-created albums, supported by the deeply personal insights expressed by our friends and contributors. With words and selections from Peter Hook, Jamie xx, Nina Kraviz, and many more, this is the perfect stocking-filler for a music obsessive.
2. Year Of the Monkey by Patti Smith
Considering Patti Smith’s accomplishments as one of the finest lyricists of the 20th century, it’s no surprise that she has since developed into an outstanding author. Following her absorbing memoir Just Kids and the subsequent M Train, she returned in 2019 with Year of the Monkey, which recounts a year of wandering out west, where reality blurs into fiction until the two become indistinguishable. What follows is a melancholy reflection on the passing of time, as Smith deals with the passing of lifelong friends and considers her own years spent creating and absorbing art. Expect another deeply affecting experience alongside one of America’s great poetics.
3. William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ‘n’ Roll by Casey Rae
Alongside Kerouac, Wolfe, and Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs helped reshape American literature as part of its beat generation. Casey Rae’s excellent new book highlights the under-documented relationship between Burroughs’s provocative literature and the revolutionary rockstars of the 20th century by drawing on lyrical parallels and exposing the high regard with which he was held amongst musicians such as Patti Smith, David Bowie, The Beatles, and Radiohead. It’s a fascinating examination of creative technique and a revealing look at subversive art’s cumulative, multi-generational effect.
4. Revenge of the She-Punks: A Feminist Music History from Poly Styrene to Pussy Riot by Vivien Goldman
Vivien Goldman’s immersion in the alternative and post-punk scenes of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s makes her the ideal writer to recount the history of revolutionary female artists across a variety of genres. Her time as a music journalist provides a wealth of personal stories surrounding these provocative musicians, and the broad scope of her insight prompts welcome detours outside of the established western canon. Its fascinating insights surrounding complex areas such as identity and relationships mark this out as one of the finest music books of the year.
5. Acid For The Children by Flea
Amongst the most iconic musicians of the last 30 years, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bass-wielding icon Flea has left a sizeable impact on the modern rock landscape. In his emotionally charged and exhilarating memoir he recounts a conservative childhood upturned by his mother’s bohemian boyfriend, who exposed a young Michael Peter Balzary to the free-flowing creative values and lifestyles of America’s artistic community. The life that follows is underscored by his search for creative kinship amongst the wild streets of Los Angeles, where he would eventually meet his band-mate and “soul-brother” Anthony Kliedis. It’s a raw and honest experience that sticks very true to the musicians one-of-a-kind personality.