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The 12 Best Music Books of the Decade (2000-2009)

November 13, 2009  |  7:00am
The 12 Best Music Books of the Decade (2000-2009)

You’ve already seen our list of the decade’s best books. Today we get more specific, delving into books on rock, pop, hip-hop, classical music and more. A handful of these books were written by Paste contributors, which either means we’re nepotistic jerks or that we have excellent taste in contributors.

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12. Various authors (Sean Manning, editor)—The Show I’ll Never Forget anthology (2007) A simple, genius idea: Get an army of extraordinary writers to dash off remembrances of extraordinary concerts. Luc Sante uses a Public Image Ltd. gig to riff on the death of punk; Chuck Klosterman drools over Prince; Alice Elliott Dark takes her kid to see The White Stripes; Thurston Moore types in lowercase about a Knitting Factory noise show. And more. Nick Marino

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11. Jim Walsh—The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting (2007) This oral history of one of the most legendary misfit bands in rock history is expertly assembled and entirely gripping—the kind of book that, even at 300 pages, you can read in one sitting. Walsh digs through old articles and he interviews all the most important players in the band’s story—friends, family, contemporaries like Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould and Soul Asylum’s Dan Murphy, local Minneapolis music critics and record-store owners, modern musicians like The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn and, most importantly, longtime manager Peter Jesperson and the band members themselves—unearthing all the beautiful, reckless, hilarious and tragic details. It’s a rare treat for a book to offer such deep insights into the intriguing personalities that comprise a band—especially when it’s this charming bunch of scrappy underdogs. Steve LaBate

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10. Alex Ross—The Rest Is Noise: Listening To the 20th Century (2007) The New Yorker’s classical-music critic, who has made a career of writing accessibly about high art, tackles a century’s worth of music and wins a MacArthur genius grant for his trouble. Need we say more? Nick Marino

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9. Amanda Petrusich—It Still Moves (2008)
Part travelogue, part exploration of the past and future of Americana. Paste contributor Petrusich follows up her 33 1/3 book on Nick Drake by tracing a line from the Carter family and Elvis Presley to the “new, weird, hyphenated America” curated in the cartoon capital of Brooklyn. Josh Jackson

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8. Bob Dylan—Chronicles Vol. 1 (2004) Who would guess that our Greatest Living Songwriter would turn out to be a pretty damned good memoirist, too? Songwriters have notoriously spotty, um, records when it comes to book form. (See Lennon’s In His Own Write.) Dylan’s own story of his remarkable life is a lively read, jangling with funny, sharply written anecdotes from his early career. Some may even be true. Charles McNair

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7. Peter Guralnick—Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke (2005) Guralnick is arguably our greatest writer on American rock & soul. Cooke is arguably America’s all-time greatest soul singer. The resulting biography is a summit of two heavyweight champs, a big fat tome that reveals Cooke as a driven, flawed and enormously gifted man whose life, just as it was peaking, was cut tragically short. Nick Marino

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6. Elijah Wald—Escaping The Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues (2004) A whip-smart and unsentimental examination of the Mississippi Delta’s most iconic figure. Essential reading for anyone who cares about the blues—which is to say, anyone who cares about America’s roots. Nick Marino

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