Rock & Read: Staff Summer Reading Book Picks

The 2018 Summer Reading Program has just a few weeks left to go! If you or your other bandmates/family members haven’t yet logged completed books, be sure to do so by July 31. Once you get your five books completed, stop by your local KC Library location to claim your prizes -- a book bag for the kids, a pint glass for adults.


Looking for a few more music-themed books to add to your reading playlist? In addition to the official Suggested Reading lists (adults and youth), Library staff have shared some of their favorite titles on the subject. View the list below or check it out in the Library catalog. We've also got many more musical reading lists and suggestions in our Summer Reading Bonus Tracks blog post.


And if you’ve read a great book that fits the Rock & Read theme, talk it up on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #KcSummerReads and tag the Library (@kclibrary)!  


Library Staff Summer Reading Book Picks

(NOTE: Official Rock & Read suggestions marked with a *)


View full list >

The Commitments

by Roddy Doyle

"Many people have seen the 1991 movie about a dysfunctional band from a working-class neighborhood in Dublin, Ireland as they attempt to spread the gospel of soul music to the Irish people. However, some may not be familiar with Roddy Doyle’s 1987 novel. I love this book for the colorful characters and slang, crass humor, and references to soul music songs and artists.

“This is book one in Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy. While the other two books in the trilogy [The Snapper and The Van] are not related to music, they are both enjoyable reads.”

- Jeremy Drouin, Missouri Valley Special Collections


“Original, energetic, likable, fun, hopeful and brash.”

- David Cox, Interlibrary Loan

My Cross to Bear
by Gregg Allman

“Sex, drugs and rock and roll, over and over again.”

Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop -- A History
by Frank Diggs

“A nice complement to the experience at the KC Jazz Museum and other historical resources.”

- Jennifer C., Collection Development      

The Jazz of Physics
by Stephon Alexander

“I heard the author speak at a conference and his enthusiasm in comparing the similarities between physics and jazz was fascinating!”

- Carrie Coogan, Public Affairs    

by Kwame Alexander

“Blade Morrison does not have a typical life. He is the son of a famous rock star and is constantly bombarded by paparazzi and fans. He discovers a dark secret that turns his whole world upside down and sends him off looking for answers. Blade's story will keep you laughing and entertained the entire time. I love how Blade uses music to express his feelings and to cipher through some of the confusion he is feeling. I recommend this book for teens and adults because everyone can learn something from him.”    

- Tiffany W., North-East Branch


Guitar Notes
by Mary Amato

“This book shows how music can bring two seemingly very different people together and how it helps you cope with stress and tragedy. I loved it and shared it with my (then) 12-yr-old daughter, who also loved it.”

- Ron Freeman, Plaza Branch/Children's Librarian


Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer
by Trevor Pinch

“Every country has a unique series of characteristics which define its people, art, culture, philosophy and social evolution. In the USA, there is a significant division of social culture and business culture between the West coast and East coast. This book gets at the core of this culture divide and combines a variety of very unique historical events together into a quick, compelling and easy-to-read context. I'm not generally interested in books about history but this book is a big exception to the rule. I gobbled this thing up quickly like fine chocolate and cheese.”

- Buddy, Outreach / Family Engagement

Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge *

by Mark Yarm

“This book gives voice to many many people involved in shaping and creating grunge rock in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Unlike a lot of other books about this time, this book is a compilation of what was over 250 interviews, so the stories about the shows, the scene, and the relationships are dynamic, raw, and honest. It feels like you're sitting in a smoky bar, listening to musicians talk about their lives.”

- Jakob VanLammeren, Central Reference

Just Kids *
by Patti Smith

“Singer-songwriter Patti Smith writes about her relationship with American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The writing and storytelling are perfect in this memoir that reads more like a love letter from one friend to another.”

- Mick Cottin, Delivery Services

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline

“I just finished listening to [the audiobook version] and loved the many references to songs from my youth. It’s a video game-focused story but has a ton of references to the music and movies of the 1980’s.”

- Jamie Mayo, Youth & Family Engagement

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs
by Chuck Klosterman

“Chuck Klosterman covers all sorts of pop-culture topics in this book (the deconstruction of Saved by the Bell is probably my favorite). Among them, he writes glowingly of the Dixie Chicks and Billy Joel and delves into the whole trend of music taste being used to gauge coolness. I tried to read Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live, which is far heavier in the music content, but I could never finish it. I just enjoyed Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs a lot more. He didn't convey such an arrogant air in it.”  

- Laura McCallister, Public Affairs

J is for Jazz
by Ann Ingalls and illustrated by Maria Corte Maidagan

“How could I NOT love a [children’s] book by a Kansas City author about jazz music? This book has bright, engaging pictures, an A-Z format, and sidebars information written in a swoon-worthy way.”  

- Anna Francesca Garcia, Central Youth Services

The Raincoats
by Jenn Pelly

“A hugely inspiring a book about starting a band when you're not great at guitar, can't afford a place to practice, and don't like crowds.”

- Flannery C., Westport Branch

The Art of Asking
by Amanda Palmer

“I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author, and you don't have to be a fan of Palmer's music to identify with her message: that it is courageous and good to ask for help and not to think yourself a burden or beholden when people offer it.”

- Lauren Olson, Youth & Family Engagement

Kill the Boy Band   
by Goldy Moldavsky

“It gives a slight inside on fangirls and how they look at their favorite band member(s).”

- Alisha, Central Library, OneNorth Technology Center

Down By the Station
by Jennifer Riggs Vetter

“Vetter was singing with her kids while they were stuck in traffic one day, and started making up their own verses to this classic song.  Adding fire engines, race cars, boats, excavators and more makes it a fun choice for any kid who loves things that go (like my son ...).”

- Julia, Plaza Branch

KISS and Make-Up
by Gene Simmons

“Although not a hard-core fan of the band or the man, I was drawn to reading his story on hearing that he never fell into the traps most rock stars of his day did. In particular, his declaration that he only did drugs once accidentally and without his foreknowledge was intriguing enough to warrant a look, in addition to his chutzpah & hubris in general even before he was famous. He is not a role model by any means, but like an automobile wreck on the highway I found myself not able to look away once I came upon it. A fascinating read.”

-  Bob, Outreach

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl
by Carrie Brownstein

“'I’ve been obsessed with Sleater-Kinney for more than half my life. In college during the mid-90s, they changed my musical life for the better. [Their album] Call the Doctor was something I didn't know was possible, especially from a group that didn't have a bass player. They had this raw, driving, fearless sound. Sleater-Kinney [SK] also had three amazing performers: Corin Tucker, Janet Weiss, and Carrie Brownstein. I cried when SK broke up in 2006. Carrie (I'm referring to her by her first name because in my head I've been best friends with the three of them since 1997) of course went on to pretty mainstream success with [the TV show] Portlandia. That always bothered me because it felt like she sold out. Like she abandoned all of us to get rich with Fred Armisen. I just couldn't accept Portlandia. Then 2015 hit, and they released No Cities to Love and I realized she didn't sell out. Not even close. Carrie also wrote this book. I was skeptical of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl because I thought "she's only writing now because of Portlandia and it's going to be about that." I was so wrong. So very wrong. Portlandia is barely mentioned. It's about the music. She writes about how after a very turbulent childhood she found music and she found herself. She writes mainly about Sleater-Kinney; how she and Corin formed the band, how they navigated the growing indie music scene in Olympia, and how she was suffering from shingles in 2006 on tour and in so much pain she thought about breaking her own fingers so they could stop the tour. Carrie Brownstein can do one million episodes of Portlandia, as far as I'm concerned, and it will never eclipse Sleater-Kinney. She knows that, and her book makes that very clear.”

- Courtney Lewis, Public Affairs

by Nick Hornby

“Nick Hornby is well known as an obsessive music lover, and music features prominently in most of his novels (High Fidelity, anyone?). In this book of essays he really dives deep into the way music, particularly pop music, gets to the heart of us. Hornby writes about the 31 songs that really shaped him, and I guarantee there's one in there that will resonate with you.”

- Diana Platt, Plaza Branch

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky

“This book really captures the incredibly real effect music can have on any given situation. Music allows people to feel freely and express their moods, desires, dreams, and more.”

- Beccah Rendall, Outreach

The Five Flavors of Dumb
by Antony John

“Piper, a high school senior who is deaf, volunteers to manage a band that calls itself, Dumb. Awarded the Schneider teen book award and written by a Missouri author.”

- Crystal Faris, Youth & Family Engagement

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us *
by Hanif Abdurraqib

“Abdurraquib’s collection of essays largely explores how culture and music are connected -- in ways that are playful, moving, political, and personal. Among the strong pieces: “Fleetwood Mac and the Currency of Heartbreak,” thoughts about failed or flawed romance paired with the story of how the band created its Rumors album amidst the break-up of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham; a comparison between the wrestler Ric Flair and rappers, noting how creating personas are part and parcel of performance; a rumination on the themes of opportunity and class in Bruce Springsteen’s album The River after visiting the grave of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; and a threaded series of entries about Marvin Gaye’s use of music as a form of patriotic resistance and political power (it’s a powerful essay, available to read online). The book is a good reminder of how music can be more than entertainment; it can also act as a form of language, of art, and of expression, and Abdurraqib nicely captures examples of those in action through his writing.”

- Andy Dandino, Public Affairs

Black Dogs *
by Jason Burhmester

"True story: In 1973, all the box office receipts from a Led Zeppelin concert at Madison Square Garden were stolen. Maybe true story: Patrick and his friends, armed with beer, ego, and a rare 1958 Les Paul guitar are the guys who robbed the world’s coolest rock band. A rock ‘n roll caper novel. Maybe the first of its kind!"

- Kaite Stover, Readers Services