If there’s anything that will warm up a Beatles fan’s heart, it’s a good book on the Beatles. And there have been many issued in the last couple of years that would make good gifts or are just darn good reading. Here is our list of 25 of the best choices. It’s by no means complete but these are something to consider if you’re in the market for Beatles books for yourself or friends.
Note that we have tried to stick mainly with those books that have come out over the last couple of years. And unfortunately, we haven’t been able to add every single good Beatle book there is, but there are enough here at all price ranges to make a good choice better. We also added a few solo Beatles books at the end, though those are just a very small sampling and don’t begin to cover all the good ones.
“All These Years, Volume 1 – Tune In” by Mark Lewisohn
“All These Years, Volume 1 – Tune In” by Mark Lewisohn: You really didn’t think there was going to be a list of Beatles books without this one, did you? Since its publication, it has become the go-to authority for all questions of Beatles history for the years it covers. The second volume won’t come anytime soon, according to Mark’s most recent estimates, so enjoy this one. The book is available in two editions, a standard edition and an expanded one that hasn’t been published in this country but is available through third-market dealers on Amazon.com. The prices for that edition in the U.S. now are exceptionally high ($500 cheapest). It’s a little lower in the UK (£282, which translates to roughly $450, but without shipping for the 1,700 plus page book). There are no announced plans to reprint that version in the UK at the moment. A reasonably price ebook version of the expanded edition is also sold in the UK, but not here. And if you don’t own it, Lewisohn’s “Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” is also a must have, and can be purchased cheaply in paperback.
“Some Fun Tonight! by Chuck Gunderson
“Some Fun Tonight! The Backstage Story of How the Beatles Rocked America: The Historic Tours of 1964-1966″ by Chuck Gunderson: A two-volume chronicle of the Beatles’ U.S. tours that is stunning in scope and detail. It contains unseen photos and documents that puts you back in time. Just an absolutely amazing piece of work that you should get, especially if you saw the Beatles in the ’60s. It’ll bring it all back.
“The Beatles: The BBC Archives: 1962-1970” by Kevin Howlett
“The Beatles: The BBC Archives: 1962-1970” by Kevin Howlett: Another absolutely amazing volume that contains everything you need to know about the Beatles’ BBC appearances except the recordings themselves. It has details of each session, rare pictures, session logs and even facsimile reproductions. A great book. It’s available in hardcover and ebook. Get the first edition and not the second with the blue cover, which comes without the slipcase and the reproduction inserts included in the first.
Bruce Spizer’s books
Bruce Spizer’s books: Spizer’s collection of books are a delight for those who love details, as that is his strength. Whether it’s the Beatles on Capitol, Vee Jay, Parlophone, Apple or Swan, he has a book about each with more information than you’ll find anywhere else.
“The Beatles” by Hunter Davies
“The Beatles” by Hunter Davies: Most everyone knows this one was supposed to be the Beatles’ official biography when it was issued in 1968, but it was also whitewashed (as John Lennon termed it) and didn’t stray far from their image. It’s still worth reading because it’s the picture of the era it was written in and, besides, that, it’s just charming.
“Beatleness” by Candy Leonard
“Beatleness” by Candy Leonard: Many books over the years have tried to summarize the Beatles fans’ experiences but “Beatleness” is the most successful. The author has a master’s degree in human development and a doctorate in sociology and she puts it all to work in this book explaining just what it’s like to be a Beatle fan. If the idea of an academic viewpoint on “Beatleness” sounds dull and boring, her book is anything but.
“The Beatles: The Biography” by Bob Spitz
“The Beatles: The Biography” by Bob Spitz: One of the best-written accounts of the Beatles story that was criticized when it was published for some errors that a good copy editor should have fixed. It’s still a very worthy read and Spitz does a great job visualizing their story for the reader. The hardcover version can be found very cheaply. There’s also an audio CD version.
“Beatles in the News” series by Colin Barratt
“Beatles in the News” series by Colin Barratt: Archival Beatles accounts written in the day are fascinating reading and Barratt’s multi-volume series has copies of original newspaper stories are well worth getting. He has volumes for individual years, plus other volumes for solo Beatles news. They’re available through Amazon or Lulu in hardback or ebook.
“The Beatles Playboy Interview”
“The Beatles Playboy Interview”: At 99c, this ebook version of the magazine’s 1965 group interview by author Jean Shepherd with all four Beatles is an easy purchase for anyone (or yourself). The transcript reads a little like an exchange from “A Hard Day’s Night” or their New York airport meeting with the press, but a little more serious.
“The Beatles: From the Cavern to the Rooftop” by Allan Kozinn
“The Beatles: From the Cavern to the Rooftop” by Allan Kozinn: This book, published when the author was a New York Times classical music writer, is an excellent and serious look at the Beatles career. His more recent ebook, “Got That Something! How the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” Changed Everything,” is a look on the impact the song had on music and culture.
“Songs We Were Singing” by Kit O’Toole
“Songs We Were Singing: Guided Tours Through the Beatles’ Lesser-Known Tracks” by Kit O’Toole: A nerdy look at a selection of Beatles songs by writer O’Toole taken from her “Deep Beatles” columns and more. The stuff late-night arguments are made of.
“Changin’ Times” by Al Sussman
“Changin’ Times” by Al Sussman: The author looks at the period between the Kennedy assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, and March 1, 1964, during which America went from a deep low to a screaming high after the Beatles’ rise to fame.
“Turn Me On Dead Man” by Andru J. Reeve
“Turn Me On Dead Man” by Andru J. Reeve: The definitive account of the “Paul Is Dead” hoax. Reeve isn’t an apologist for the idea, but debunks it at every turn. Everything you ever wanted to know about whether William Campbell really replaced Paul McCartney, as the story goes.
“Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll” by Fred Goodman
“Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll” by Fred Goodman: Goodman lays bare how Klein came into the Beatles picture and tried to drop his business model on them. McCartney was the only one who wouldn’t buy his story – and time seems to have proven him right.
“Beatles Gear: All the Fab Four’s Instruments from Stage to Studio – The Ultimate Edition” by Andy Babiuk
“Beatles Gear: All the Fab Four’s Instruments from Stage to Studio – The Ultimate Edition” by Andy Babiuk: Everything you ever wanted to know about the guitars, drums, amplifiers and keyboards used by the Beatles from beginning to end, including the John Lennon guitar that just sold at over $2 million at auction.
“Recording the Beatles : The Studio Equipment and Techniques Used to Create Their Classic Albums” by Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan
“Recording the Beatles : The Studio Equipment and Techniques Used to Create Their Classic Albums” by Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan: Lavish and expensive book that goes inside the Beatles’ recording equipment as used in the studio and does what Babiuk’s book did for instruments. (It’s currently unavailable through the publisher’s site.)
“Ray Connolly’s Beatles Archive”
“Ray Connolly’s Beatles Archive”: Another ebook, this one Connolly’s writings and observations on the group during their history as he saw it first-hand. Topics include “Magical Mystery Tour,” the White Album, the rooftop concert, Paul’s marriage to Linda, John and Yoko, Pete Best, Mal Evans and more.
“Magical Mystery Tours: My Life With the Beatles” by Tony Bramwell
“Magical Mystery Tours: My Life With the Beatles” by Tony Bramwell: Memoir from someone who was there and remembers it all quite well. His opinions on Yoko have given it some traction, but there’s a lot more to the book than that.
“Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles”
“Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles” by Geoff Emerick: Inside details on recording the Beatles for the nerdy fan. Puts you behind the control knobs in the studio.
“Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust” by Ken Scott
“Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust” by Ken Scott: Similar to Emerick’s book, but about the author’s entire career from recording the Beatles, Bowie, Elton John and more.
“George Harrison: Reconsidered” by Timothy White
“George Harrison: Reconsidered” by Timothy White: Great interview with Harrison for the release of “Cloud Nine.” He talks about the Beatles and his music, including the song “Not Guilty.” “It was me getting pissed off at Lennon and McCartney for the grief I was catching during the making of the White Album,” he tells White. “I said I wasn’t guilty of getting in the way of their careers. I said I wasn’t guilty of leading them astray in our all going to Rishikesh to see the Maharishi. I was sticking up for myself, and the song came off strong enough to be saved and utilized.”
Jude Southerland Kessler’s John Lennon book series
Jude Southerland Kessler’s John Lennon book series: Unlke many “you are there” bios that get overly dramatic and lapse into fiction, Kessler’s series of books pay a strict attention to detail and are incredibly focused. Grab them while you can. The prices on some have risen sharply since publication.
“Ringo: With a Little Help” by Michael Seth Starr
“Ringo: With a Little Help” by Michael Seth Starr: It was hyped as the first biography of Ringo, but it’s not. And Ringo gave it a little publicity early on by saying he wouldn’t cooperate with it. But this recent book is not a trash-and-carry bio and actually has some insights from those close to him.
“Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now” by Barry Miles
“Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now” by Barry Miles: The closest thing to a Beatles autobiography we’ll probably ever see. Written by Miles, an associate of McCartney’s, it contains a lot of original quotes.
“The John Lennon Letters”
“The John Lennon Letters” edited by Hunter Davies: Excellent collection of correspondence from Lennon from his Beatles and solo years that is incredibly revealing and insightful.