Read- The best in new and upcoming music books

The news has finally arrived that Roger Shepherd has finished his book on Flying Nun - In Love With These Times - and it is scheduled for release through Harper Collins at the end of next month (no doubt timed to coincide with NZ Music Month). This is a long awaited arrival since there has never been a complete account of how Shepherd's little label from Christchurch managed to achieve a cult following across the UK and US during the late eighties and early nineties, leading to dozens of drooling reviews in the pages of NME.

The closest we've come to a firsthand account so far was given by Matthew Bannister in his book, Positively George Street, though his scope focused around his own band (Sneaky Feelings) rather than encompassing the wider Flying Nun ouvre. Though if you're interested in the very early years of the label, then there's some great material in Have you checked the children by Wade Churton. It's packed with great anecdotes and quotes from the local seventies punk scene and the indie acts that followed soon after. However, be warned - it's a very lo-res production and the book takes the annoying approach of dividing events strictly by year, so just as the story of one band gets going, it has to abandon it for forty pages to fill out everything else that happened at the same time. 

If you looking for some more recent books on music to read while you wait for Shepherd's book to come out, then I'd recommend checking out How bizarre by Simon Grigg. You'd think that a story about an artist with only one hit song would not provide much opportunity for a whole book, but this work provides an amazing picture of how the worldwide music industry works and the clash of cultures that happens when a young man from South Auckland finds himself in the midst of it all, feeling like he can trust no one and, as a result, lashing out at those around him at the most inopportune moments.


Last year also saw the release of two fascinating autobiographies by highly-respected musicians. Elvis Costello has a lot of ground to cover in his career which spans back to the seventies, but his book (Unfaithful music and disappearing ink) remains poetic and vital throughout its 674 pages. Equally fascinating, but considerably shorter is Carrie Brownstein's Hunger makes me A modern girl, which charts her path to success in riot-grrl act Sleater Kinney and then her second life as an actress (in TV show, Transparent) and comedian (in Portlandia). 

It's also worth mentioning a few new music books that have been added to our catalogue as eBooks. First on my list is Your song changed my life, which has NPR music host Bob Boilen questioning a wide range of contemporary musicians on the song that had the strongest effect on them personally - his subjects include Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Jónsi (Sigur Rós), Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Cat Power, David Byrne (Talking Heads), Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), and the afore-mentioned Carrie Brownstein (Portlandia, Sleater-Kinney). Alternatively, if you have kids that you'd like to foist some edgy music upon, then I'd recommend the picture book, What is Punk? (also available in a print version). 

If you've enjoyed any recent music books yourself, then do leave a comment below. There's always a little more room to add more books to the pile beside my bed...

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