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10 Best Music Books of 2016

From the stage to the page: The year’s best memoirs, essay collections and more

Top 10 Music Books

Read our list of the 10 best music books of 2016, featuring memoirs, essay collections and more.

Our picks for the year's best music reads include three memoirs from Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, the biography of one of the underground's most combustible bands and a guide to navigating music itself.

Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon,' Peter Ames Carlin

‘Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon,’ by Peter Ames Carlin

How acute is the first-ever serious attempt at a Paul Simon biography? So acute that it begins in court: The Queens-born singer-songwriter has long been one of the most litigious men in rock. Not to mention one of the most secretive: Simon did not sit for any interviews with the book's Portland-based author. It hardly matters: Homeward Bound delves into nearly every aspect of Simon's public life with serious reporting chops and rare psychological insight. The result is genuinely sympathetic toward its subject while refusing to let him off the hook, whether outlining how Simon's little-told early music-biz career shaped his hard-nosed deal-making (before "The Sounds of Silence" took off he took a stab at becoming a teen-pop impresario), or chronicling his deeply passive-aggressive friendship with Art Garfunkel (like when Paul informed his partner he'd re-cut their reunion album as a solo release, then immediately extended an invitation to his wedding). M.M.

'Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty,'

‘Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty,’ by Ben Ratliff

Traversing his music collection as though he were listening again for the very first time, former New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff not only tells you what to listen to but, more importantly, how to listen to it. In an era when a huge chunk of everything ever recorded is available to listeners via the cloud, Ratliff suggests a score of sometimes-idiosyncratic strategies to stimulate "encounter[s] with civilizations other than your own." In addition to drawing out new possibilities from such familiar touchstones as repetition, quiet, improvisation and virtuosity, Ratliff riffs adroitly on the "transmission" of extreme emotion in Sufi music, the "linking" of composers such as Henry Threadgill with listeners like yourself, and the subtle rhythmic "discrepancies" in the drumming of Japan's OOIOO, whose grooves "sound the way a three-legged dog looks when running." R.G.

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