Holler Country Music

The Best Country Music Books

March 3, 2022 9:00 am GMT
Last Edited June 26, 2023 11:43 am GMT

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Country music is full of stories that we never get tired of hearing. While most are fed into the songs we hear, the world of country music certainly wouldn’t be the same without its books.

Whether it's those that inspire the artists to write the music we love, or those that help us to better understand the lives behind the songs, Holler's Guide to the Best Country Music Books has got something for the bookworm in all of us - some of them dog-eared classics and some of them so fresh off the press they’re not even in the shops yet.

Whatever you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered - from cover to cover:

Holler Country Music

Photo by Leigh Werner

Knopf Publishing | 2019

Country Music: An Illustrated History

The companion coffee table book of the multi-part, multi-hour film series by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan is a beautiful, deeply researched history of the genre from the American south to the global stage.

Hundreds of photos, illustrations, gig posters, sheet music and letters on literally every page make this a must for every music fan, country or not.

Purchase your copy here.

Harper Collins | 2000

Cash: The Autobiography - Johnny Cash and Patrick Carr

The definitive Johnny Cash book by the Man in Black himself. Following Cash from an Arkansas farm to fame, we get meetings with world leaders, memories of ground-breaking performances and life on the road.

Cash doesn’t shy away from the darker parts of his life, including drug addiction, a suicide attempt and a spiritual awakening that ultimately saved him.

Purchase your copy here.

Blue Hills Press | 2020

Johnny's Cash and Charley's Pride - Peter Cooper

The recommendations on the back cover tell you everything you need to know about this colourful collection of Peter Cooper’s eccentric musings on country music. Emmylou Harris, Charlie Worsham, Kris Kristofferson and John Prine all thoroughly enjoyed it, and Tom T. Hall describes it as “a beautifully written book”.

Chapters include ‘Loretta Lynn: The Anti-poet’, ‘Don Light and the Impossibility of Unscrambling Eggs’ and ‘Taylor Swift and the Hybrid Art of Understanding’. If you only ever buy one book on country music, buy this one. And then buy the other nine on this list.

Purchase your copy here.

Henry Holt and Co. | 2022

Her Country - Marissa Moss

Before Marissa Moss’ Her Country, we only really had the weighty Finding Her Voice by Robert Ooerman and Mary Bufwack to lug around with us everywhere we went.

Thankfully much lighter, if only in pounds and ounces, Moss picks up where Finding Her Voice left off at the turn of the millennium, with a deep dive into Shania and The Chicks and taking us all the way up to Miranda, Maren, Kacey and Mickey.

With chapter titles like ‘Not Ready To Make Nice’ and ‘You Say Tomato, I say Fuck You’, it’s a timely treatise on the infuriating gender politics of country music.

Purchase your copy here.

Harper Collins | 2014

Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris and the Renegades of Nashville - Michael Streissguth

The definitive story of how Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson took on the establishment and indelibly changed country music, at a time when Music Row still - albeit reluctantly - welcomed a shambling melting pot of misfits and outsiders through its front doors.

It's one of the greatest country music stories ever told, written by the author of the equally wonderful Johnny Cash: The Biography.

Purchase your copy here.

HarperDes | 2016

Country Music Hair - Erin Duvall

The higher the hair, the closer to Jesus! If that’s true, then there’s a lot of country people going to heaven. As country music has grown through the decades, so has the hair.

Beehives, teased up high, mullets, bangs for days, perms, wigs - all here present and correct in countless fashion-forward photographs. Hallelujah Amen!

Purchase your copy here.

California University Press | 2014

Rednecks, Queers and Country Music - Nadine Hubbs

Country music is often labelled conservative and straight, but that’s not the whole story.

This myth-busting book from Nadine Hubbs, a Professor of Women’s Studies and Music at the University of Michigan, looks at the intersection of country music with identity, class and politics of sexuality.

A scholarly deep dive that is somehow still a page-turner and hugely thought-provoking.

Purchase your copy here.

Universe Publishing | 2003

The Country Music Pop Up Book - Country Music Hall of Fame

If you think pop up books are just for kids, think again. This three-dimensional tour tells the story of country music, and the people and places who made it what it is today.

Using artefacts from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, and with authentic replicas of landmarks like The Ryman, this book will have you ooohing and ahhhing with the turn of every page.

Just be careful when you open the first page, that unfolding guitar could put your eye out!

Purchase your copy here.

Atlantic Books | 1997

I Lived To Tell It All - George Jones

Don’t let anyone ever tell you country music doesn’t have the same tales of mayhem, debauchery and excess that rock n roll does.

As heartbreaking as it is hilarious, highlights of Jones’ autobiography include the time he went on stage on a co-headline tour with Buck Owens and played Owens’ entire set before him, and the time he drunkenly drove a lawnmower to the liquor store after his wife confiscated his car keys.

Purchase your copy here.

Congdon & Weed | 1988

Nashville Babylon - Randall Reise

If you want the juice on country, there’s only one book that really squeezes it all out.

This ultimate warts-and-all country compendium takes the reader behind closed doors to reveal the best-kept secrets of Music City.

All the heartaches, personal tragedies and scandals that inspired the songs and bedevilled the singers that sang them are here.

Chapter titles include ‘The Grand Ole Orgy’, ‘Big Balls in Cowtown’ and ‘The Young Baby Spanker’. Add to basket.

Purchase your copy here.


You can purchase all the books in Holler's list from our selected partners above.

Written by Ross Jones
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