2. 'Revolution in the Head,' by Ian MacDonald
Woe that MacDonald didn't write more – he committed suicide in 2003 – but this is a major work quite apart from the Beatles book repository. He takes on every song, and some sacred cows are off to that processing plant never to return home again. One wonders how such eviscerations would be greeted in the Internet age. MacDonald has no problem telling you he thinks some beloved work sucks – like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" – which is fine, but what is better is that he backs it up. Do you have to agree? Hell no. We're not here to agree, we're here for an experience: to think, to challenge old saws, to see, too, things we loved anew, and better. That teacher who changed your life when you were a kid was not the one who dispensed the easy A's, but rather the one who made you work, and MacDonald is a tough grader. This is the Beatles book to read a dozen times. Every pass through brings something new. Also, while the critical reputation of Sgt. Pepper has been eclipsed in recent years by Revolver, Rubber Soul, and Abbey Road – with the White Album and A Hard Day's Night making progress, too – MacDonald just flat out gets that album better than any other writer on record. Even when he's panning individual parts of it, he knows, and he helps you know, how the totality is something else entirely, and that this is one of the key documents of Western Civilization.