The best books on Rock Music, recommended by Peter Lawlor

Successful musicians don’t necessarily need formal training or 10,000 hours of practice under their belt; what they must have is a feel for music, an innate gift. But many of rock’s brightest burning stars were lost to drugs. Here, Peter Lawlor—who combined a career as a senior economic advisor with that of an award-winning songwriter, producer and record label executive—selects five of the best books on rock music, focusing on revelatory biographies that peer behind the veil.

The best books on Punk Rock (in 80s America), recommended by Kevin Mattson

Punk is more than just a musical genre. It is an ethos. Channelling one’s anger against the triteness of the culture industry’s offerings can be a spontaneous and creative act of resistance and rebellion. Moreover, as Kevin Mattson shows in this selection of books about punk in the 1980s in America, attending a rock concert by a band like the Dead Kennedys was a formative political experience for a generation of citizens, akin to attending a rally or a party convention. It was a spirit of constructive anarchy that can still channel the political anger of the alienated in the 21st century.

The best books on Handel, recommended by Andrew Gant

George Frideric Handel was born near Leipzig, became established in Italy, and ended life as England’s national treasure. Andrew Gant—author of a new book on Handel’s most famous composition—selects the five best texts for gaining an understanding of Handel’s life and work, and explains why opera divas were the premiership footballers of the Baroque period.

The best books on Rock and Roll, recommended by Craig Brown

We might console ourselves with the thought that rock stars are generally miserable, but the truth is that most of them seem to have a great time. Journalist, satirist and Beatles biographer Craig Brown selects five of the best books on that rock and roll lifestyle.

The best books on Verdi, recommended by Francesco Izzo

Nearly everyone knows the photo of Verdi’s funeral, the streets of Milan packed with people paying homage to the great composer. How did the son of an innkeeper from Le Roncole become not only one of the most famous opera composers of all time but also a prominent symbol of Italy’s Risorgimento? Verdi expert Francesco Izzo discusses the books to read to best understand the man, the myths, and the music.

The best books on Wagner, recommended by Michael Tanner

Richard Wagner’s works are as immense as they are influential: the four-part, 15-hour saga Der Ring des Nibelungen is the most analysed opera of all time. And yet, Wagner was arrogant and virulently anti-semitic. Can we separate the musical genius from the man? Opera critic Michael Tanner recommends the best books on Wagner.

The best books on Heavy Metal, recommended by Keith Kahn Harris

Metal music, developed in the sixties and seventies, is notorious for its dark and disturbing imagery and its aggressive sound. But there’s nothing to be afraid of, says sociologist and fan Keith Kahn-Harris: it’s all part of the mythmaking of metal.

The best books on The Lives of Classical Composers, recommended by Giles Swayne

From Bach to Stravinsky, British composer Giles Swayne discusses the most insightful books for getting to know the real lives of classical composers. “You can have people who are really extremely mediocre with huge careers, and people who are wonderfully good but don’t have wonderful careers. Bach was one of those.”

The best books on Opera, recommended by Robert Lloyd

The opera singer says most people of his age feel that the quality of singing has given way to the providing of a dramatic spectacle. His book selection spans Italian opera and revelations of an opera manager

Santigold on her Favourite Music Books

The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter took an unusual route to becoming a performer. She tells us how she got started, how to get what you want in the music business and how an extraordinary range of influences continue to inspire her

The Best Music Books of 2018, recommended by Laura Snapes

From a social history of the sexual and racial dynamics at play in American pop music to a meditation on how we consume music in the digital age, deputy music editor at The Guardian, Laura Snapes, picks the best music books of 2018.