Music about books is not always such a great idea. For every Kate Bush ode to Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights — or Sufjan Stevens homage to Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find — we get an Axl Rose crooning, “Oooh, the Catcher in the Rye again / Won’t let ya get away from him.”
Books about music, on the other hand, make better holiday gifts and are also much easier to wrap.
Let’s start with Jack White’s We’re Going to be Friends. Published two weeks ago through his Third Man Record imprint, it’s a charming children’s book based on the lyrics to the White Stripes song of the same name. Elinor Blake, aka singer-songwriter April March, provides the book’s wistfully nostalgic illustrations, the kind that critics can’t help but call enchanting. On a related note, White’s OfficialTMR YouTube channel has just uploaded archival footage of Jack and Meg performing the song for an attentive elementary-school audience.
If you happen to not be a White Stripes fan, or have already graduated from grade school, the following oversized volumes may be more to your liking.
The stunningly designed Smithsonian Rock and Roll is a hefty new hardcover that brings together breathtaking, seldom-seen photos of diverse musical icons — from Elvis Presley and Booker T to the Flaming Lips and Fugazi — all of it interwoven with insightful commentary by music historian Bill Bentley.
And then there’s Ray Padgett’s equally gift-worthy Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time, which is loaded with vivid stories and photos chronicling Aretha’s recording of Otis’s “Respect,” Whitney’s take on Dolly’s “I Will Love You,” and many more.
In either case, if you love music and reading — or care about someone who does — you really can’t go wrong.