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

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5. Rob Sheffield—Love Is A Mixtape (2007) Mixtapes may be music’s great equalizer—any fan worth his weight in cassettes has poured over his collection piecing together songs that form the perfect combination. They’re also entirely personal, representing a specific moment or mood. Rolling Stone columnist Rob Sheffield knows this—his powerful Love is A Mixtape documents Sheffield’s brief courtship and marriage before his wife’s untimely death by using their shared mixtapes as milestones. Sheffield’s witty take on pop culture is sprinkled throughout, but ultimately the book’s rock’n’roll backdrop provides the stage for a poignant love story as beautiful and heartbreaking as any song on his painstakingly-crafted tapes. Justin Jacobs

4. Michael Azerrad—Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 (2001) The first wave of punk rock ended right around the time this book starts. And Nirvana released Nevermind in ’91, the year this book stops. This collection of profiles illuminates the bridge between two noisy epochs in rock history. Nick Marino

3. Jeff Chang—Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (2005) Check the subtitle. This huge—and hugely ambitious—history smartly documents the rise not just of rap music, but of the entire hip-hop generation, devoting generous space to the socio-political circumstances that fed the hip-hop volcano and, eventually, led to its eruption. Nick Marino

2. Chuck Klosterman: Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story (2005)? Wherein our hero expands upon a feature he originally wrote for Spin magazine, traveling the United States ostensibly to visit rock star death sites and tell the stories of their departed. Over the course of the book, he comes to terms with the romantic relationships he’s shared with four women, culminating in a story that, as its title humorously informs us, is 15% fiction. Exhausting? Surprisingly, no. Along the way, he names cars after Star Wars creatures, compares ladies to Kiss solo albums and makes myriad bold connections and claims involving anything from Rod Stewart to 9/11. In short, Killing Yourself to Live is everything we’ve come to expect from the mind of Chuck Klosterman. This time, he just decided to pack it into a Ford Taurus and take it on the road. Austin L. Ray

1. Carl Wilson—Let’s Talk About Love (A Journey To The End Of Taste) (2007)? No one expected Continuum’s 33 1/3 series to cover Céline Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love—we were used to glowing observations on records that don’t suck, like Pet Sounds and OK Computer and Exile On Main Street. Céline seems like an easy target—she’s just so detestable, especially for fellow Canadians like Globe And Mail writer Carl Wilson. But Wilson avoids cheap shots in favor of a brainy socio-cultural examination of taste: Why do so many people love her? Why do so many more people hate her? What does this say about us as culture consumers? While Love isn’t Dion’s most popular album, it’s her most egregious—mostly because it features that ubiquitous song from Titanic—and Wilson gives it his undivided attention, even attending one of her Vegas shows. Now that’s a devoted author. Kate Kiefer