Jessica Hopper is the music editor for Rookie Mag and the perfect first candidate for our Read Your Heart Out series here on the blog. For this series, we're going to be reaching out to some of our favorite people to ask for themed book suggestions that we then make available for you to purchase online. Easy! What better way to get to know some authors you might have overlooked?
For our first installment, in honor of all the great music festivals we've seen this summer, we asked Jessica to recommend some of her favorite books about music. Here's what she picked. —Katie
Violence Girl by Alice Bag
After decades of dudes telling their stories of punk's formative years in memoir, we finally get one of L.A. punk's most crucial figures—Alice Bag, frontwoman of The Bags—telling her tale. Unsentimental and tough, she gets out from under her patriarchal family and finds her place among a crew of motley, misfit kids as they accidentally invented the American West Coast punk in bands like X, Black Flag, Germs and her own band, The Bags. (Check out the Violence Girl tumblr for tons of vintage punk pics/fashion inspiration.)
Court and Spark by Sean Nelson
From the popular 33 1/3 series of little chapbooks about important albums comes this tender entreaty from Sean Nelson (better known as the frontman for Harvey Danger) that lenses what Joni Mitchell's breakthrough 1976 album meant to his mom to tell the story of what Joni Mitchell meant to women. It's nostalgic and lensed through this golden haze of childhood memory as much as it is Nelson's knowledge of what it takes to craft a song that reaches people. It takes a backdoor to explaining Joni's genius and is just a great book about loving music.
The Importance of Music to Girls by Lavinia Greenlaw
The title sounds a little academic, but this is really just about the importance of music to the author's girlhood. Greenlaw, a noted poet, unspools, in loose essays, memories of things like walking down the streets of London in her goth finery, and seeing peoples' reactions and how that helped her know who she was. That's the essence of the book: figuring out who you are and what you believe through songs, how music obsesses you. The prose will take your breath away and inspire you to write—and put on your favorite albums.
Hotel California by Barney Hoskyns
Ignore the cover with this man's light rinse jeans and unpedi'd bare toes. Forget that part ever happened, crack open the book and just clear your schedule because you will not want to come up for air. Hoskyns strikes this perfect balance between nerd knowledge, storytelling and the dishiest gossip and paints a fascinating portrait of L.A.'s Laurel Canyon scene that spans from The Eagles being broke dudes with a dream to several years later when everyone named in the title is minted with stardom and a coke problem. A scintillating book about fame, the music industry and Los Angeles in the '70s, even if you hate all the bands in it.