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Music Books by Women: A Reading Guide

Despite the wealth of content available online, there’s still something special about thumbing through the pages of a book. The good news is, there’s no shortage of literature on all things music. The bad news is, the abundance of books out there makes it hard to decide which one(s) to pick up.

That’s where we come in. Let us help you pick out your next read.

In the body of this article, you will find a list of books that are definitely worth your time. As a little bonus, we selected titles exclusively written by women for this piece.

Happy reading! 

A MendoWerks Reading Guide: Music Books by Women

Below, you will find a list of 5 books about music that were written by women. Among them are memoirs, essay collections, and more.

Find these titles at a library near you with WorldCat.

The Baddest Bitch in the Room by Sophia Chang. (2020 via Catapult)

The fearless and unpredictable Sophia Chang was the first Asian woman in hip-hop. Over the course of her illustrious career, she managed some of the biggest names in hip-hop and R&B, including RZA, founder of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan. However, these achievements barely scratch the surface of the life this woman has led. In this memoir, Chang tells her inspirational story of marriage, motherhood, aging, desire, marginalization, and martial arts. 

Joey Bada$$, one of Chang’s artists, provides one of many endorsements for this book. This is what he had to say: “The Baddest Bitch in the Room is the diary of a superwoman. Sophia Chang is like a superhero who shows up to any adversity, whether hers or someone else’s, and gets through it tenaciously … I’ve actually witnessed this happen on several occasions, but hearing her tell these stories in hindsight is incredibly motivating and uplifting.” 

Anything For A Hit: An A&R Woman’s Story of Surviving the Music Industry by Dorothy Carvello. (2018 via Chicago Review Press)

In 1987, Dorothy Carvello began her career as an assistant to the notorious founder of Atlantic Records. More importantly, she went on to become the label’s first female A&R executive. This memoir outlines her experiences as one of the few women in the room at a variety of major labels–and how she proved that women are just as willing to do what needs to be done in this male-dominated industry, despite how brutally she had been treated. 

Words of praise from Don Ienner, the former chairman of Sony Music, are among the endorsements. He says, “Dorothy’s book lays out the music industry from a woman’s eyes. I applaud her courage and her humor. It is a must-read for any woman thinking of entering the business.”

Superfans: Power, Technology, and Money in the Music Industry by Emily Gumbulevich. (2020 via New Degree Press)

In this book, self-professed ‘superfan’ Emily Gumbulevich teases out the mysteries of the contemporary music industry and explains this changing terrain in a way that’s actually easy to understand for the everyday reader. Throughout this book, Gumbulevich provides answers to various questions that fans may have about how the industry works–and what they can do to improve it. She shines a light on the reality of what it’s like being an artist today, and specifies the different ways in which fans can be the driving force towards what could one day become a truly artist-friendly music industry. 

Among endorsements from fellow ‘superfans’ are kind words from Jen Hale, author of Have a Good Mourning, which aptly summarize this title: “Superfans: Power, Technology, and Money in the Music Industry” is your backstage pass to discovering how you can help rewrite the destinies of your most beloved artists.” 

The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic by Jessica Hopper. (2021 via MCD x FSG Originals)

The title of this work is self-explanatory, but this book is a collection of works by renowned music critic, Jessica Hopper. Hopper is known for her intersectional feminist lens and her writing expands across all genres of music. This collection is made up of some of her most insightful interviews, oral histories, music reviews, and more. As the first collection of its kind, this book also serves as a call-to-arms for more women-centered history and storytelling. 

Among the many endorsements for this title is this quote by Dianca Potts of The Village Voice: “The First Collection is a game-changer, a godsend, and a Holy Grail for those who have been forced to reside on the fringe of the notoriously ‘male-dominated sphere’ of rock criticism and fandom […] Hopper’s work, influence, and unwavering support for the diversification of voice and perspective within music journalism have altered the landscape of rock criticism for the better. It may be the first collection of criticism written by a female rock critic, but it’s definitely not the last.”

This Woman’s Work: Essays on Music edited together by Sinead Gleeson and Kim Gordon. (2022 via Hatchette Books)

This title, edited together by iconic musician Kim Gordon and esteemed writer Sinead Gleeson, is a collection of essays by award-winning female contributors about the women in music that mean the most to them.  There are over a dozen essays in this book that contain stories of activism; of lost homelands and friends; of propaganda and dictatorships; of the women behind genres like folk, country, jazz, and trap… as well as those considered experimentalist and/or genre-defiant.  All in all, this book is a celebration of the spectrum of women in music–and those who write about it. 

Pitchfork described this collection in the following quote:  “These essays [in This Woman’s Work] are so moving because each of these writers hears themself fully in the music they love. They remind us that we can, too.”

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