Country Music Books for the Holidays

Country Titles Are Relatively Thin, but Choices Abound in Other Genres

Book choices are relatively sparse this holiday season for those who like country music only. But if the folks on your gift list swing a wider musical net, then there are plenty of choices to enchant them.

Still, we’ll start with these country titles: Around the Opry Table: A Feast of Recipes and Stories From the Grand Ole Opry, Kay West (Center Street), Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City, Craig Havighurst (University of Illinois Press), Country Music Originals: The Legends and the Lost, Tony Russell (Oxford University Press) and Legends of Country, Liz Mechem and Chris Carroll (Dalmatian).

Trace Adkins has offered his first book A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions of a Freethinking Roughneck (Villard). Before her death in 2005, Vivian Cash (Johnny’s first wife) and Ann Sharpsteen collaborated on I Walked the Line: My Life With Johnny Cash (Scribner). Author Diane Diekman focuses on the late Faron Young in Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story (University of Illinois Press).

Other notable biographies include Twenty Thousand Roads — The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music, David N. Meyer (Villard) and A Boy Named Shel: The Life and Times of Shel Silverstein, Lisa Rogak (Thomas Dunne). In addition to his cartoons and children’s books, Silverstein wrote loads of country hits.

Veteran Nashville photographer Jim McGuire saw two books published recently — Historic Photos of the Opry: Ryman Auditorium 1974 (Turner Publishing) and Nashville Portraits: Legends of Country Music (Lyons Press).

Several other books have strong country ties, including Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far, Amy Grant (Doubleday/Flying Dolphin) and Elvis Presley: The Family Album, George Klein (Little, Brown). Carrie Underwood is just one of the contestants featured in Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul: Stories From the Idols and Their Fans That Open Your Heart and Make Your Soul Sing, written and compiled by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Debra Poneman (HCI). Former Apple Records executive Ken Mansfield’s Nashville connections also come through in The White Book: The Beatles, the Bands, the Biz: An Insider’s Look at an Era, (Thomas Nelson).

In addition to the country titles, there are a slew of artist biographies and career retrospectives, among them: Elton: The Biography David Buckley (Chicago Review Press), Diana Ross: A Biography, J. Randy Taraborrelli (Citadel), Born in a Small Town: The John Mellencamp Story, Heather Johnson (Omnibus Press).

Also, Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen, Ira B. Nadel (University of Texas Press), Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America’s Garage Band, Joe Bonomo (Continuum International Publishing Group), Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, David Cote (Broadway Books), Clapton: The Autobiography, Eric Clapton (Broadway Books).

And Slash, Slash and Saul Hudson, Harper Entertainment; Ronnie Wood: The Autobiography, Ron Wood and Jeffrey Robinson (St. Martin’s), My Music, My Life, Ravi Shankar, Mandala Publishing and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: An American Odyssey, Tom Petty (Chronicle).

Other new music tomes include: Legends of Rock, Marjorie Galen and Glenn Morrow (Dalmatian), Legends of Pop, Derek Caney (Dalmatian), Lyrics, Sting (Dial), The Legends of Rock, Ernesto Assante (White Star Publishers), The Official Punk Rock Book of Lists, Amy Wallace and Handsome Dick Manitoba (Backbeat Books) Young, Rich, and Dangerous: The Making of a Music Mogul, Jermaine Dupri and Samantha Marshall (Atria).

Rock & Roll Heaven: A Fascinating Guide to 200 Musical Icons Who Have Joined the Great Gig in the Sky, Robert Dimery (Barron’s), The Sound of Music Companion, Laurence Maslon (Fireside), The Miles Davis Reader, edited by Frank Alkyer (Hal Leonard), Doo-Wop: The Music, the Times, the Era, Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow (Sterling).

The Rolling Stone Interviews, edited by Jann Wenner and Joe Levy (Back Bay), Best Music Writing 2007, edited by Robert Christgau and Daphne Carr (De Capo Press), Women of the Underground: Music — Cultural Innovators Speak for Themselves, edited by Zora von Burden (Manic D Press) and Pocket Karaoke, Sarah Lewitinn (Simon Spotlight Entertainment).

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to