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Lucy Nichol’s top 6 (+1) recommended music reads

Thank you to Lucy Nichol for writing this blog post for us! Lucy’s fantastic debut novel The Twenty Seven Club is out now – order from us to receive a copy with a signed bookplate at no extra cost!

She is also the author of A Series of Unfortunate Stereotypes : Naming and Shaming Mental Health Stigmas.

In her blog Lucy discusses some of her favourite music books. We have put together a discounted bundle of her recommended reads, so if you like the sound of them you can mix-and-match and get them at a special discounted price!

Lucy has also put together a playlist of songs to accompany her book choices – perfect listening while you read her blog post.

By Lucy Nichol 

I’ve read quite a few music books over the years – from biographies, memoirs and diaries to music-themed fiction. There’s something magical about getting behind-the-scenes access by your favourite stars from your teenage years. A peak into a world you could previously only dream about. We all have access to our favourite musicians on Twitter and Instagram these days, but nothing captures the nostalgia and the depth of feeling quite like a book. Some are uplifting, some raw and tragic and, some, fictional journeys into similar worlds where anything might happen. 

So, I’ve shared my favourites below in no particular order. I hope you spot something you might like. 

And I Don’t Want To Live This Life by Deborah Spungen 

This is a book by Nancy Spungen’s mother, Deborah, delving into Nancy’s challenging life pre and post Sid Vicious. For those too young to know, when Nancy Spungen died in 1978, there was a huge amount of controversy surrounding her death – namely whether or not she was murdered by her troubled boyfriend, Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. Sadly, her tragic death at such a young age didn’t stop the press headlines tearing her apart – ‘Nancy is a witch’ one famously led with. This book shows the human being – the young girl – behind the media headlines and, even if Deborah might be sharing it with the unconditional love of a mother, we need to strike a balance between the public persona the media feeds us and the life behind it. 

Dead Rock Stars by Guy Mankowski

A wonderful coming-of-age novel that uses a really interesting format to tell the life of the teenage Jeff, as he comes to terms with losing his sister, Emma, a musician who died too young. We hear Jeff’s voice and his musings on life and the family he grew up with, while at the same time delving into the diaries kept by his sister, Emma, before her untimely death. Just as I was trying to do with The Twenty Seven Club, this book takes the ‘another dead rockstar’ headline and takes you behind the narrative to the vulnerability, pain and humanity.   

I Live Inside by Michelle Leon 

As a Babes in Toyland fan this book was really interesting. It was like going on tour with the band and witnessing the squabbles and challenges and car crashes (literally) that they faced. Michelle comes across as the quieter member of the band – the early bass player from 1987–1992 – and you see real vulnerability which, as a young fan I wouldn’t have imagined existed. It’s so refreshing to find that vulnerability in a music memoir and to also get a peek at Michelle’s life before, and after, the band.  

Sonic Youth Slept on My Floor by Dave Haslam 

Dave Haslam has DJ’d at the Hacienda over 450 times, founded record labels and written for many a music title – including his own fanzine, Debris, which he launched back in the mid 80s. Basically, if you want the lowdown on the UK music scene – with a particular focus on Manchester – these pages are where it’s at. The honesty and self-deprecation in this book, is, in my mind, what makes it a really endearing memoir. A great read and one that taught me more about the growth of the music industry than any other book.  

Sing Backwards and Weep by Mark Lanegan 

Raw and uncompromising, this is the memoir of Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees fame and it makes no apologies. You could say addiction is the core theme, or you could start with the pain and trauma – ultimately, it all leads to the same thing. And, given the depths of despair that he manages to escape from, it is a truly hopeful journey for anyone who might be struggling with the relentless and devastating disease of addiction. I have to admit, there were times in this book that I really didn’t like Lanegan, but then you give him those times because you get why he’s had to fight so hard. What this book guarantees is a really interesting read that’s hard to put down.  

Journals by Kurt Cobain

You can pick this book up and keep coming back to it. Packed with pages of Kurt’s lyrics, art, letters, t-shirt designs, diary entries and reflections on fame. In some ways it’s probably the closest we’ll ever get to the man himself, yet another way to look at it is….well, how did you write your diary? Was it who you really were, was it dressed up, played down? Either way, it’s come directly from the pen of Kurt Cobain. It’s fascinating and tragic and poetic and naive and ugly and beautiful all at once. Well worth buying a copy and keeping it – because you’ll always find something new when you dive back in.

and…

My Mad Fat Teenage Diary – Rae Earl

OK, not strictly a music book – but one that brings back heaps of 80s nostalgia for readers old enough to remember. Jason Donovan is on the cover for God’s sake! It’s Rae’s actual, real life diary charting her struggles with mental health, body image and boys – and it’s really, really funny.


Lucy is a writer, mental health campaigner and PR consultant whose work has appeared in The Independent, The I Paper, NME, Red Magazine, Den of Geek, Huff Post and many more. She is also a former columnist with Sarah Millican’s Standard Issue magazine and often interviews guests for the Standard Issue podcast. She is passionate about challenging mental health and particularly addiction stigma, has worked with the media in PR and marketing for over 18 years and has experienced anxiety for even longer.