Living under quarantine gives you ample time to start that book that’s been sitting on the nightstand for 6 months. Here are my top five music-related books if you’re looking for a way to get smarter while you pass the time.

Everything you Need to Know About the Music Business by Don Passman

This is a must-read for anyone who is interested in pursuing a career in the music industry or has an interest in the music business in general. In the book, music attorney Don Passman breaks down the notoriously complex business of music in a way that is both compelling and easy to understand – even for beginners. He discusses concepts like royalties, publishing, masters, distribution and record labels in a way that is communicative and bereft of all the legalese that may turn casual readers away.

Not that it’s a light read – it’s 500+ pages of some of the most confusing intellectual property concepts known to man. But if you’ve looking for one definitive text to guide you through the labyrinth that is the music industry, then this is your best bet.

Life by Keith Richards

If you’re looking for more casual reading, “LIFE” by Keith Richards is a long, yet fascinating autobiography of one of the most iconic rock stars of all time. Even if you’re not a fan of the Rolling Stones, “LIFE” is a hair-raising portrait of one of the most turbulent times in western culture and one of the most important eras of modern music.

Part rock & roll epic, part sanguine memoir, “LIFE” gives you the real experience of being a rockstar – through the parties and excesses as well as the pain and disillusionment.

While every autobiography should be taken with a grain of salt, Richards does a great job of giving you the good, the bad and the ugly of that era and the result is an unflinching look at the idealism of the 1960s and nihilism that followed.

The Tanning of America by Steve Stout

If you’re interested in hip hop or cultural theory as it relates to music and fashion, then “The Tanning of America” by Steve Stout is a great read. Stout is a music industry veteran who has worked with everyone from Nas to Lyor Cohen. “The Tanning of America” is a look at how hip hop irrevocably changed the fabric of pop culture from one dominated primarily by Western Anglo-Saxton ideas into a creative melting pot of different cultural ideas and aesthetics.

While black culture has always had a major impact on America, he explains how hip hop specifically opened new doors for collaboration between corporations and artists and created a vehicle for artists to become creative entrepreneurs. He argues that hip hop articulated a sense of hipness and rebellion that crossed racial and class boundaries and set into motion a phenomenon called tanning, in which culture begins to merge into one collective identity, rather than one dominated by ideas of the dominant class.

Creative License by Kembrew McLeod & Peter Dicola

If you are an artist or producer who uses samples in their music, “Creative License” by Kembrew McLeod and Peter Dicola is a fascinating read. It covers the rise and legal history of the art of sampling and attempts to explain why it’s such a complicated process.

The book goes through numerous case studies of famous albums that used samples, starting primarily with the golden age of hip hop to the streaming era. It provides a holistic look at how the sampling system functions and gives an honest critique of how it could be improved to allow for more creativity and expression.

Whether you’re a hardcore music nerd or just a casual listener, this book demystifies one of the most elusive concepts in the recording industry and is a fascinating read from start to finish.

Please Kill Me by Legs McCain & Gillian McCain 

“Please Kill Me” by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain is not a book for the faint of heart but it’s a great read if you’re a fan of punk rock. Framed as an oral biography of one of the most controversial music genres of all time “Please Kill Me” is an honest and well-researched account of punk rock in its original incarnation.

Featuring iconic interviews with figures like Iggy Pop and Richard Hell, the book gives an unbiased account of a musical period that changed the world. It features over four hundred pages of interviews with the people who originated the genre and gives a glimpse into the psychology and cultural influences that sparked that moment in history.

It’s raw and unapologetic and gives as much weight the energy and ideas as it does to the bad drug trips and sexual escapades, making it a book that is both enlightening and fun to read.