Lost Highway: Journeys and Arrivals of American Musicians. This fine collection of Peter Guralnick’s 1970s magazine pieces about country, blues and rockabilly musicians from the famous to the obscure is especially timely for his trenchant portrait of the late Merle Haggard at his commercial peak.
Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life. Laurence Bergreen’s 1997 bio is thoroughly engaging and notably enlightening about everything from early-1900s New Orleans and the jazz giant’s complicated relationships with women to how Armstrong basically invented the solo as we know it.
This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. Music-obsessed psychologist Daniel Levitin investigates music on a neurological level. Why do major chords sound happy, and minor chords sad? Find out how nature and nurture interact to define our experience of music.
Where Dead Voices Gather. The singular Nick Tosches’ 2001 book documents his singular attempts to unearth the lost history of Emmett Miller, one of the last of the blackface minstrels, and a pioneer of yodeling in American popular song. It’s an obsessive and compelling personal essay disguised as a detective story.