Friday, June 5, 2015

A Dylan Reading List: 12 Recommended Favorites from my Bookshelf

Someone recently sent me a link to a list of 35 Dylan albums arranged from worst to best. As with all lists there's bias, and it always surprises me how low some of my favorite albums get ranked in such lists. For this reason I am not ranking this list of books about Bob Dylan, just sharing the titles. I own more books than I'm listing here.

There sure are a lot of Dylan books in the world. For fans who enjoy reading and not just listening to the music, here are some volumes that I own, a relatively small collection compared to some bookshelves I've seen.

Based on comments that I've heard, or read when I reviewed one or another of these, I already know there will be some naysayers that will scratch their heads on one or more. I share these because I myself got something out of each. So in no particular order, let's begin.

Bob Dylan in America by Sean Wilentz 
Wilentz is a Princeton historian who provides a deep dive into Dylan’s influences, historical sources and insights to many of the songs that have defined who he is.

Dylan’s Visions of Sin by Christopher Ricks 
Ricks is a literary critic and scholar who is intimately acquainted with Dylan’s work, who as a past president of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics offers the fruit of his lifetime of study to shine an original light on the lyrics and writings of this man whom he considers a contemporary genius.

Chronicles, Volume 1
Bob Dylan Not a chronology, Dylan’s autobiographical memoir features insights from key touchstones in his life. Inventive and entertaining, with surprising revelations.

No Direction Home by Robert Shelton
Shelton was a British music critic who helped launch the career of a young Bob Dylan. When published in 1986 it was declared the definitive unauthorized biography.

Behind the Shades Revisited by Clint Heylin 
Heylin is another English author who offered up this in depth bio 15 years after Shelton’s in time for Dylan’s 60th birthday.

The Dylanologists by David Kinney 
Kinney is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who turned his lens on Dylan’s fans and followers. Gets close to home, as in Dylan’s homes here in Duluth and in Hibbing.

Bob Dylan: The Never Ending Star by Lee Marshall 
Lee Marshall's book on Dylan is an examination of the meaning of stardom and its impact. Bob Dylan happens to be the organism under the microscope here.

Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan by Scott Marshall 
Marshall’s book highlights the threads from Dylan’s various songs and interviews that show the vibrancy of his faith, which remained inseparable from the message of his life.

One More Night: Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour by Andrew Muir 
Muir's book documents the Never Ending Tour in a manner I have not yet seen. A good read for fans.

A Simple Twist of Fate by Andy Gill & Kevin Odegard 
Gill, a British music journalist, and Odegard, a Twin Cities session musician, collaborated to present the backstory on the making of Blood on the Tracks, considered by many to be one of Dylan’s great recordings, with Minnesota players very close to home.

Performed Literature by Betsy Bowden
Bowden argues that Dylan is a singer-songwriter whose art, as collected and documented by his intended audience, is the live performance. I've met a few folks who dismiss her views but she's done some homework and given an original perspective that I found interesting.

Like a Complete Unknown by John Hinchey
Hinchey wanted to write about something that would interest him for a very long time and he chose to analyze the songs of Bob Dylan as poetry. His first book deals with the songs from Dylan's first decade, and I assumed he would continue but have not seen anything since. I like the book as a reference source to stimulate idea when I write about Dylan's early songs.

* * * *
I own quite a few more than are listed here, but thought I would throw in books that I enjoyed and that bring something more than just another overview of his life. There are quite a few of those.

If I' had more time, I would have included links to reviews from my blog and to where you can find them on Amazon. Since we all pretty much know how it work, ask Google.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it.

PS: Check out my Dylan-themed pins here. It's a start anyways. 


Anonymous said...

you forgot to mention the Performing Artist series written by Paul Williams - the best books on Dylan out there

dbhewitt63 said...

How could you leave out Paul Williams?

Ed Newman said...

Interesting. I just opened John Hinchey's book and the first sentence my eyes landed on said, and this was a random act on my part, ... first sentence said, "As Paul Williams has helped all of us understand, Dylan eventually developed developed an aesthetic of performance as an exploration of its own moment, which is always unknown, harboring surprise."

Thanks for the comments.

creative said...
This comment has been removed by the author.