An initiative of the American Library Association

Core Collection: Music in Nonfiction

By Annie Bostrom, Susan Maguire, and Donna Seaman

We continue discussing music titles in your core collection that will generate lively conversations and listening sessions with these nonfiction books.

Born to Run

by Bruce Springsteen

In this entertaining autobiography, Springsteen traces his trajectory from working-class New Jerseyan to humble superstardom in prose that recalls his unique songwriting style in its insight, light, and shadow, and that will move even the most cursory of fans.

Simon & Schuster, 2016.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click to Listen to an Excerpt.

Click to Read the Booklist Starred Review.

Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land

by Sandy Tolan

By telling the story of musically gifted and brave Ramzi Hussein Aburedwan—who saw his father and brother murdered yet realized his dream of opening a music school—Tolan encapsulates the tragic Israeli-Palestinian conflict and celebrates the transcendent power of music.

Bloomsbury, 2015.

Click to Read the Booklist Starred Review.

Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption—from South Central to Hollywood

by Ice-T and Douglas Century

In this no-holds-barred and down-to-earth memoir, rapper and actor Ice-T recalls his first encounters with racism, his dangerous street life, and his experiences on tour.

One World, 2012.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click to Read the Booklist Starred Review.

I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March up Freedom’s Highway

by Greg Kot

The Staples family went from a hardscrabble life in Mississippi to Chicago’s church circuit to worldwide fame, merging the genres of roots, gospel, and soul while influencing and being influenced by the civil rights era.

Scribner, 2014.

Lament from Epirus: An Odyssey into Europe’s Oldest Surviving Folk Music

by Christopher C. King

Music fanatic and 78 rpm record collector King shares his passion for and immersion in the intriguing story of the village music of Epirus, the northwestern region of Greece, in this richly informative and enthralling chronicle.

Norton, 2018.

Click to Read the Booklist Starred Review.

Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story—How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War

by Nigel Cliff

In this compulsively readable, heartwarming biography, Cliff traces the adventures of Texan pianist Van Cliburn, who won Moscow’s first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958 and became an adored classical-music superstar..

Harper Perennial, 2016.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click to Read the Booklist Starred Review.

Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story

by Jewel

Jewel’s appealing memoir tells the ultimately inspiring story of her turbulent life and reveals the context behind some her most loved songs.

Blue Rider, 2015.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click to Read the Booklist Starred Review.

A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism

by Paul Youngquist

Composer-conductor Nicholas, a rising star when he joins the Boston Conservatory, falls in love with a student, violinist Remy, and leaves his wife and daughter, a cataclysm Kalotay sensuously dramatizes over two decades.

Univ. of Texas, 2016.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click to Read the Booklist Starred Review.

Rebel Music: Race, Empire and the New Muslim Youth Culture

by Hisham D. Aidi

In this fascinating examination of young European and American Muslims and their search for “a nonracist utopia,” Aidi touches on the power of music to effect social change.

Vintage, 2014.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click to Read the Booklist Starred Review.

Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution

by Todd S. Purdum

In telling the stories behind beloved show tunes, Purdum also details the evolution of the Broadway musical and the ways in which Rogers and Hammerstein’s contributions have (and have not) held up.

Holt, 2018.

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click to Read the Booklist Starred Review.

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us

by Hanif Abdurraqib

Critic and poet Abdurraqib’s insightful essays consider music’s ties to culture and memory, life and death, on levels personal, political, and universal.

Two Dollar Radio, 2017.

Click to Read the Booklist Starred Review.

Annie Bostrom is Associate Editor, Adult Books, at Booklist. She is a cat person, but also really likes dogs. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Annie.

Susan Maguire is the Senior Editor for Collection Management and Library Outreach at Booklist.

Donna Seaman is Adult Books Editor for Booklist, a recipient of the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award, a member of the Content Leadership Team for the American Writers Museum, and a frequent presenter at literary events and programs. Seaman’s new book is Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists.

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