Best Music Reads of 2023


It’s been an excellent year in music writing. Here are our top recommendations for new books about music, ranging from history texts to personal memoirs to novels that emphasize music culture.

60 Songs That Explain the ‘90s by Rob Harvilla

“I have nothing against The Beatles,” author and podcast host Rob Harvilla told CBS, “but the Beatles got nothing on Stone Temple Pilots.” In his new book, Harvilla rounds up the best of Gen X hits from his favorite decade.

Someone Who Isn’t Me by Geoff Rickly

In this work of autofiction written by lead singer of the hardcore band Thursday, a protagonist named Geoff seeks treatment for heroin after the hardcore band he fronted breaks up. What follows is a wild ride that has the power to open readers’ eyes to the unique benefits of hallucinogenic treatments.

Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones by Dolly Parton

This delightful, full-cover hardback makes the perfect gift for every music lover and/or fashion fiend in your life. Gorgeously photographed, it’s a sequined plunge into Dolly Parton’s collection of costumes through the decades.

The Upcycled Self: A Memoir on the Art of Becoming Who We Are by Tariq Trotter

The legendary co-founder of The Roots digs deep in this motivational memoir, recalling in vivid detail a tragedy from childhood: burning down his family’s home. Trotter, best known as Black Thought, peers through the murky lens of childhood to ask big questions and answer them the best he can.    

Sonic Life: A Memoir by Thurston Moore

The founding member of Sonic Youth passionately traces his life through music in this new memoir, recounting tales of the late-70s East Village scene he came up in as an avant-garde rocker.

Tupac Shakur: The Authorized Biography by Staci Robinson

Featuring handwritten poetry from the private notebooks of Tupac Shakur, biographer Staci Robinson takes a deep dive into the life of the late artist. What sets this biography apart is not just the authorization—Shakur’s mother entrusted Robinson with her son’s story—but also Robinson’s personal ties to Tupac as a high school friend.

My Name Is Barbra by Barbra Streisand

Streisand fans have been awaiting Babs’s memoir for years, and it’s safe to say it was well worth the wait. Weighing in just under a thousand pages, Streisand leaves nothing out, sharing tales of the stage, the screen, and high-profile industry friendships. 

The Sterns Are Listening: A Novel by Jonathan Wells

This sweeping novel is drenched in the rich history of the New York music scene, in which one character loses his hearing at the storied rock club CBGB. In response, he starts a hearing aid company, a family venture that might salvage his brother and sister-in-law’s tenuous financial situation.

Lou Reed: The King of New York by Will Hermes

“It’s doubtful that even Lou Reed liked all of Lou Reed’s music,” wrote JME’s Daniel A. Brown in his review of Will Hermes’ exhaustive and recommendable biography of Reed. Hermes is the first biographer to have access to the massive Reed archive at the New York Public Library and it shows as Hermes traces how polarization seemed to rule Reed’s musical and personal choices. 

In this article: