Some smarty-pants once wrote that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, which conjures a very awkward picture. But, hey, if it was really as oxymoronic a task as all that, my counter wouldn’t be so cluttered with good music books. Our music critics, who are still working on that dancing thing, offer some music book gift ideas below.
1. “The Beatles: All These Years Vol. 1 Tune In,” by Mark Lewisohn (Crown/Archetype, $40).
Having written four books and co-authored three on the most famous supergroup in pop music history, Lewisohn knows a thing or 20 million about the Beatles, but he can also tell a good yarn. Vol. 1 of his planned trilogy digs deeply into the band’s Liverpool roots, brings to life the Hamburg period when the group really coalesced and leaves the Fab Four in 1962, on the brink of fame. At 932 pages, it’s a door stopper, but one that will season well. — Paul de Barros
2. “Autobiography,” by Morrissey (Putnam, $30).
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The lead singer of the Smiths settles scores, starts new feuds, and along the way — because of pithy observations worthy of Oscar Wilde — manages to deliver the most entertaining rock bio since Keith Richards’ “Life.” — Charles R. Cross
3. “Hip-Hop Family Tree (Vol. 1),” by Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics, $25).
The ’70s/’80s genesis story of New York City hip-hop has been told many times, but the way Piskor uses the comic-book form to tell it is special: His extremely thorough and academic history lesson is also action-packed, fun and funny (especially the bug-eyed, lisping character of Russell Simmons). — Andrew Matson
4. “Elvis Films FAQ,” by Paul Simpson; “Elvis Music FAQ” by Mike Eder (Backbeat Books, $24.99).
The King’s career simply can’t be contained in two books, so Simpson re-evaluates his cinematic career and Eder dissects his music, both keeping their eyes on Presley’s work, not the gossip, in this acclaimed reference series. — Gillian G. Gaar
5. “Wail: The Life of Bud Powell,” by Peter Pullman (self-published eBook, $9.99).
Jazz fans on your holiday list will be delighted to receive this comprehensively researched biography of pianist Bud Powell, the last of the great bebop pioneers to get the full treatment. Amazon has the electronic version; a paperback edition is available from http://wailtthelifeofbudpowell.com. — Paul de Barros