Though published in 2010, rocker Patti Smith’s National Book Award–winning memoir Just Kids is still riding high, most recently as the topic of a New York Times book club discussion this summer. While most pop stars these days choose to articulate themselves in 140 characters or less, we thought we’d take a look at some other musicians who took to poetry and prose. Here are some notable books written by folks more famous for rocking out:
In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran, by John Taylor
Some people just can’t stop loving the 80s, and I am one of them. John Taylor (aka, the most conventionally attractive member of Duran Duran) shares his memories of growing up, forming one of the most insanely successful pop groups of all time, and struggling with addiction. Perhaps not a very surprising story arc, but Taylor is uniquely charming, humble, and pleasant throughout, which will make you feel okay about loving “The Reflex” despite having no idea what the heck the lyrics are about.
Life, by Keith Richards
I was always a Beatles girl, but Keef’s epic autobiography made me start appreciating the Stones, not just for their bad-boy ways but for their deep dedication to music. Sure, Keith will always look like Captain Jack Sparrow’s dad, but deep down he’s secretly an unknown blues musician from Chicago. Life contains dark and delightful anecdotes to entertain Stones fans, from the dilettantes to the hardcore. But regardless of where you lie on the spectrum, be prepared to download a few Stones tunes, because this book will have you itching to hear the accompanying soundtrack.
The English Roses, by Madonna
Those among us who are of a certain age remember the uproar that surrounded Madonna’s Sex, a pornographic coffee-table book that helped Madonna do what she does best: get attention. In 2003, the singer switched direction and began releasing a series of children’s books, which were loosely kabbalah-themed (she first started writing them while in her “Look at me I’m British and keep chickens and wear prim floral dresses!” phase). Did you know that she—with the help of some coauthors—has since released over 15 kids’ books? I didn’t.
A Night Without Armor, by Jewel
For a while there, Jewel’s origin story was almost as famous as her music. Before she broke big, she lived in her car, writing and performing in local coffeehouses. After becoming a pop sensation, she published a book of poetry, to mixed reactions. Writing is still Jewel’s jam: she’s also made forays into kids’ books and memoir.
In His Own Write and a Spaniard in the Works, by John Lennon
Shortly before he became bigger than Jesus, John Lennon released two books of wordplay and silliness that danced through genres including humor, poetry, children’s writing, and lots and lots of puns. While Lennon’s written works (the first of his post-Beatles solo projects) didn’t light the world on fire the way, say, “Imagine” did, they’re fun little reads and offer a glimpse at Lennon’s lighter side, coming off almost like a brag of how witty he could be when he was just goofing around.
What’s your favorite musician-penned read?