The 14 best music books of 2022

From Bono to Blur, Cocker to Cave – our favourite music-based reads of the year

Chances are you’re here in the first place because you like reading about music. We do too, almost as much as we like listening to it and writing about it. This would explain why we’ve spent so much time this year buried deep in the pages of music books. Here are a few of our favourites from the year that was.

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story by Bono

The U2 frontman offers a compelling insight into his extraordinary life across 40 chapters, each one named after a song by his phenomenally successful band and featuring a new artwork by the writer.

Queer Country by Shana Goldin-Perschbacher

Goldin-Perschbacher uncovers a treasure trove of non-binary and queer artists working in what has long been a conservative, male-dominated field. Cover star Orville Peck features alongside trail blazers such as Lawrence Haggerty and k.d. lang.

Needles & Plastic: Flying Nun Records 1981–1988 by Matthew Goody

Goody’s book is a fascinating look at the label that put New Zealand on the musical map via artists from The Clean and The Chills to Sneaky Feelings and Straightjacket Fits. A must-read for any fans of gloriously askew pop music.

Faith, Hope & Carnage by Nick Cave and Sean O’Hagan

Cave has evolved from enfant terrible of art punk to a revered humanitarian and philosopher. This series of conversations with writer and High Llamas frontman O’Hagan is deeply moving, very funny and overwhelmingly thought-provoking.

Exit Stage Left: The Curious Afterlife Of Pop Stars by Nick Duerden

What happens to musicians when the limelight fades? Duerden examines the pain and clarity that comes after stardom in this wonderfully compassionate series of interviews with everyone from Robbie Williams to Suzanne Vega.

Good Pop, Bad Pop: An Inventory by Jarvis Cocker

Pulp‘s Jarvis Cocker empties out his loft and charts his life through the curious ephemera he uncovers, from a pack of gum to a book of dirty jokes. This unique framework contributes to one of the most original music memoirs in recent years.

The Number Ones by Tom Breihan

Breihan has spent the last few years covering every Billboard No.1 single in history for US music site Stereogum, a series that offers many brilliant instalments, particularly those covering Creed and Barenaked Ladies. Here, he compiles his learnings from the experience into a truly insightful book on popular music over the last 60 years.

The Philosophy Of Modern Song by Bob Dylan

Forget the autopen controversy. Dylan’s insight on music is unparalleled and only a fool would pass up this opportunity to read the great man’s thoughts on songs by artists from Ella Fitzgerald to Elvis Costello.

Paper Cuts by Ted Kessler

As both former editor of Q Magazine and brother of Interpol guitarist Daniel, Ted Kessler has a unique viewpoint on the music industry and the role of the press within it. His memoir covers music writing at its most vital and influential, and the sad decline that followed.

Scene In Between USA: The Sounds And Styles Of American Indie, 1983-1989 by Sam Knee

Knee’s first Scene In Between book was a glorious ode to the style and ineffable cool of 80s UK indie and post punk. His follow-up transports the concept to the US with equally wonderful results. Be sure to follow his Instagram for some of the best found photos of known and unknown bands through the decades.

This Woman’s Work edited by Sinéad Gleeson and Kim Gordon

Gleeson and Gordon combine to highlight female voices in music-writing, with highlights including novelist Anne Enright on Laurie Anderson and Megan Jasper on her role in the creation and success of Sub Pop.  

Fingers Crossed by Miki Berenyi

Even in the mad times of 90s indie, Berenyi had a stranger ride than most. Her quite unbelievable life story is recounted candidly in one of the year’s most impressive memoirs.

Verse, Chorus, Monster! by Graham Coxon

Coxon has always seemed the grounded, approachable face of Blur, but his incredibly honest autobiography delves deep into the murky swamp of huge success and what it teaches you about yourself. A fascinating read.

The Come Up by Jonathan Abrams

Abrams’ book charts the rise of hip hop from its birth in Brooklyn in the summer of 1973 right up to global domination. Skilfully weaving together over 300 interviews, this is a marvel that manages to be as entertaining as it is comprehensive.