If you’re reading this, there’s already a decent chance your summer reading list is cooler than most. Just like your discerning taste in music, you want something more from what you read.
There are few things more cringeworthy than the words “rock star autobiography.” We’re all familiar with those ghost-written memoirs from old rockers that contain nothing but Behind the Music-style tropes about trashing hotel rooms and driving cars into swimming pools. At best, it’s a few hundred pages of tired cliches. At worst, they’re basically criminal confessions.
Instead, we’ve got some recommendations for music books that actually contain some substance. Whether you like songwriting insights, poetry or true stories about scenes that have been over mythologized, these books by Riot Fest 2023 artists deserve a spot on your shelf.
The Storyteller by Dave Grohl
Did you know Tom Petty asked Dave Grohl to play drums in the Heartbreakers in the mid 90s? (Spoiler: He made the wise decision to focus on his “new band” instead.) You’ll find that story and way, way more in Dave’s best-selling memoir, The Storyteller. It’s the ultimate chronicle of his incredible rock ‘n’ roll life, packed with tales about his career in bands like Scream, Nirvana and Foo Fighters. Beyond the hilarious stories about his insane coffee consumption and failed attempts to party with Pantera, it’s ultimately a story about how family and friendship can help you survive anything.
Try This At Home: Adventures in Songwriting by Frank Turner
While The Road Beneath My Feet might be a more conventional memoir, Frank Turner’s second book is just as helpful when it comes to figuring out what makes him tick. Try This At Home gives you an in-depth look at Frank’s creative process as he shares the stories behind beloved tunes like “The Way I Tend To Be,” “Photosynthesis” and “Get Better.” While musicians will definitely get a kick out of it, you don’t need any guitar skills or songwriting chops to enjoy it.
High School by Tegan and Sara
If you’ve seen Tegan and Sara live before, you know they’re natural storytellers. High School is something like a superhero origin story about the Quin twins’ youth in Canada and the early days of their music career. As an added bonus, it was released the same week as Hey, I’m Just Like You, which featured new recordings of songs they wrote as teenagers back in Alberta. The book was an instant success, even being adapted as a critically acclaimed, Clea DuVall-directed series on Amazon Freevee.
Someone Who Isn’t Me by Geoff Rickly (Thursday)
While the Thursday frontman’s debut novel is a work of fiction, it draws heavily from his own experience with heroin addiction and seeking experimental treatment options in Mexico. Just as he’s always done with music, Geoff Rickly writes with a startling transparency that instantly pulls you in and refuses to let go. Out now via Rose Books, Someone Who Isn’t Me is a powerful story of survival that Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance describes as “a spiral staircase in a burning building.”
Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon
Borrowing its title from “Sacred Trickster” off Sonic Youth’s 2009 album The Eternal (“What’s it like to be a girl in a band?/I don’t quite understand”), Kim Gordon’s autobiography tells the full story of her personal life and tenure in one of the most influential, groundbreaking alternative rock bands. Gordon writes with brilliant, unflinching honesty about the scene and its many characters while everyone from Henry Rollins to Keanu Reeves make appearances in her awesome anecdotes.
Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? by George Clinton
There’s no other way to put it – that George Clinton has lived one hell of a life. From his doo-wop roots to the rise of Dr. Funkenstein, George’s memoir is the story of a rock ‘n’ roll survivor who lived to the tell the tale. Come for the tales of off-the-wall studio antics and backstage debauchery, stay for surprisingly poignant life lessons and stories about fellow funk legends like Sly Stone, Bootsy Collins and Roger Troutman.
C.A.L.M. by Jehnny Beth and Johnny Hostile
Whether she’s working on music, acting or prose, Jehnny Beth exudes pure fearlessness in all of her creative endeavors. She and longtime partner/collaborator Johnny Hostile came together in 2020 for C.A.L.M., a book they described as “a manifesto in the form of erotic photography, monologues and dialogues.” (Not to be confused with Calm, her fanzine of the same name.) To get the full experience with extra photography from Hostile, look for the Crimes Against Love Memories edition.
Riot Fest 2023 Tickets + Lineup
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