Through my articles, readers have learned two things about me: I like reading and music. Now, if you combine those two things, my favorite books to read are about music history/memoirs. So here it is finally: my favorite music-related books.
I have always been a huge Blondie fan and lead singer Debbie Harry’s memoir “Face It: A Memoir” (2019) made me appreciate the band even more.
Harry takes readers on a journey through her life with her words and pictures from her musical career. She writes about the sexism she faced as a female in the predominantly male-driven world of punk rock in the late 1970s. This quote from the book exemplifies this, “I was playing up the idea of being a very feminine woman while fronting a male rock band in a highly macho game.”
But as in any music-related memoir, Harry goes into detail about playing at legendary venues such as CBGB in New York. I highly recommend it if you are interested in learning about the late 70s punk scene. I finished this book in a span of a few days because I could not put it down.
After you finish “Face It: A Memoir,” Carrie Brownstein’s “Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl” (2015) should be your next read.
Carrie Brownstein is most well known today as the co-creator of “Portlandia” (2011-2018) with Fred Armisen, but in the 90s, she was most known for founding the riot grrrl band Sleater-Kinney. In her memoir, Brownstein explores what led her to choose to be a musician and the difficulties that can come with it. Like Harry, Brownstein was witness to a defining time in music. Harry, it was the punk scene, and with Brownstein, it was the riot grrrl movement. Riot grrrl was a punk movement/subculture in the late 90s that had its roots in Olympia, Washington and combined punk music, feminism, and politics.
“Hunger Makes Me…” has a more narrative feel to the book than “Face It: A Memoir” did. The book is full of dry humor and heartbreaking moments. The parts I found the most interesting were learning about how Sleater-Kinney formed and the process of making an album. Brownstein is brutally honest about her struggles with anxiety and how that was one of the contributing factors to Sleater-Kinney’s breakup in 2006. The band ended up reforming in 2014 and is still making music today.
“The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic” (2021 edition) by Jessica Hopper is not a memoir but a collection of Hopper’s various essays, album reviews and interviews she has done throughout her career as a writer.
“The First Collection…” is one of those books where you don’t have to read it straight through; you can choose what you want to read about. You can tell from Hopper’s writing she writes from a fan’s perspective and as someone who also loves music, I connected to the book on that level. She makes her words personal in the way she writes about a particular album she enjoyed and the musicians she interviewed.
Some of my favorite pieces I have read so far have been “Deconstructing Lana Del Rey,” “Fleetwood Mac, Rumours Box Set,” “Emo: Where the Girls Aren’t,” “Robyn Knows What It’s Like to Feel Bad,” “M.I.A.: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Artist” and “Sleater-Kinney: A Certain Rebellion.”
Books have always brought me great joy in life; these three books have been something I have frequently come back to.