When schools ask each department to produce a subject-specific reading list for secondary level students it can be time-consuming to research and compile a meaningful Music reading list. However, there are lots of great books out there, written or suitable for 11-18 year olds, and in this post I’ve put together ten titles (in no particular order) that you may wish to check out and ask your librarian to source.

1. 100 Things to Know About Music

One for the younger KS3 students, 100 Things to Know About Music is full of interesting facts presented in an engaging, colourful format.


Which tunes could save a life, and which should come with a health warning? How do talking drums tell the history of Africa? What happens in your brain when you listen to music? Find the answers to these questions and more in this exciting book exploring all corners of the diverse world of music.

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2. Big Bangs by Howard Goodall

Big Bangs accompanies the popular TV series presented by Howard Goodall, exploring the inventions and discoveries that changed the course of Western music history.


The dramatic story of five key turning points in a thousand years of Western music – discoveries that changed the course of history.

Who first invented ‘Doh Re Mi…’?

What do we mean by “in tune”?

Looking back down the corridor of a thousand years, Howard Goodall guides us through the stories of five seismic developments in the history of Western music. His “big bangs” may not be the ones we expect – some are surprising and some are so obvious we overlook them – but all have had an extraordinary impact.

Goodall starts with the invention of notation by an 11th-century Italian monk, which removed the creation of music from the hands of the players to the pens of the composers; moves on to the first opera; then to the invention of the piano, and ends with the story of the first recording made in history.

Howard Goodall has the gift of making these complicated musical advances both clear and utterly fascinating. Racy and vivid in a narrative full of colourful characters and graphic illustrations of technical processes, he also gives a wonderful sense of the culture of trial and error and competition, be it in 11th-century Italy or 19th-century America, in which all progress takes place.

Big Bangs opens a window on the crucial moments in our musical culture – discoveries that made possible everything from Bach to the Beatles – and tells us a riveting story of a millennium of endeavour.

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3. Musical Truth by Jeffrey Boakye

If you’re looking to diversify your reading list, Musical Truth by Jeffrey Boakye is a must. Published in paperback in 2022 it has won or been shortlisted for a number of awards including The Times Musical Book of the Year.


Music can carry the stories of history like a message in a bottle. Lord Kitchener, Neneh Cherry, Smiley Culture, Stormzy . . . Groundbreaking musicians whose songs have changed the world. But how? This exhilarating playlist tracks some of the key shifts in modern British history, and explores the emotional impact of 28 songs and the artists who performed them.

This book redefines British history, the Empire and postcolonialism, and will invite you to think again about the narratives and key moments in history that you have been taught up to now. Thrilling, urgent, entertaining and thought-provoking, this beautifully illustrated companion to modern black music is a revelation and a delight.

‘Engaging and accomplished… perfectly judged for young readers.’ The Guardian

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4. Good vibrations by Mark Cunningham

Good vibrations by Mark Cunningham is a useful reference book for students exploring the world of music recording and production. Please note that the information leans towards British pop/rock.


A blend of the creative, the human and the technical, this book chronicles the development, decade by decade, of record production. Leading artists recall their earliest encounters with the recording studio environment, comparing then and now.

5. A Year of Wonder: Classical Music for Every Day by Clemency Burton-Hill

A Year of Wonder and ‘Another Year of Wonder’ (published 2021) presents a piece of classical music for every day of the year (from Medieval to present day). The author shares thoughtful insights about the music and why it is meaningful. A great way to discover new composers and works!

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6. 50 Rappers Who Changed the World by Candace McDuffie

This book ‘50 Rappers Who Changed the World‘ is a really interesting and concise read, written by music journalist and cultural critic Candace McDuffie.


Arguably one of the most mainstream music styles today, rap was in fact born centuries ago in West Africa with historians or ‘griots’ who used to tell stories of the past over the beat of a drum. But it wasn’t until the 1970s in New York that rapping as we know it was born and began to flourish. 50 Rappers Who Changed the World profiles some of the genre’s biggest influencers, from the 1970s until the present day. From groundbreaking groups like Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five and The Sugarhill Gang in the 70s, to Run-DMC and Public Enemy in the 80s, Biggie, Tupac and Snoop in the 90s, and Eminem and Jay-Z in the 00s, this is a history of music for anyone who loves rap. Featuring MCs like West Coast legends including N.W.A. and Ice-T, and countless women who changed the game, like Salt-n-Pepa, MC Lyte and Missy Elliot. And today, we have a new breed of artists who are dominating the charts, from Kendrick Lamar to Drake and Cardi B. Filled with a stylish illustrations and short biography of each artist, this book is a celebration of the musicians who shaped the genre and changed the world.

7. Young Person’s Guide to Vocal Health by Olivia Sparkhall

Olivia Sparkhall’s Guide to Vocal Health was shortlisted for an award in the 2024 Music & Drama Education Awards. It’s a must for your Music reading list!


If you want to maintain a good, healthy speaking and singing voice, then it is essential that you keep your voice box in good working order. Here is a simple guide to help you understand what’s good (and what’s bad!) when looking after your ‘vocal instrument’, and how you can keep your voice in great shape. It shows you the best ways to maintain good vocal health and how to avoid or deal with problems like colds and sore throats, shouting in sports halls, overuse, poor diet, hormones, anxiety and, yes, smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs!

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8. History of Rock for Big Fans and Little Punks by Rita Nabais

History of Rock is clearly divided into chapters focusing on a different genre. Each chapter begins with a concise introduction and includes text, anecdotes and trivia about the featured musicians. A visually engaging publication, this book will appeal to KS3 (11-14 years) students.


What are the greatest rock songs of all time? Who are the most famous musical legends? How can you become a rock star?

From the rip-roaring rock and roll rhythms of the 1950s to the psychedelic anthems of the 21st century, discover the music that has moved our feet, touched our souls and mended broken hearts. Explore musical icons, their incredible stories, their chart-topping hits and the artistic movements influenced by the creative explosion of rock.

Whether you’re bonkers for Bowie, obsessed with Otis, mad about Mumford & Sons, passionate about Patti or crazy about Kurt, this is the perfect book for big fans, little punks and anyone who wants to learn what it really takes to be a rock star.

9. Ukulele for Teens by Alli Johnson & Chad Johnson

With many ukulele books aimed at younger children, this publication fills the gap for teenagers and includes audio clips and video content…


With the ukulele’s rise in popularity, there have been a lot of great teaching resources but nothing specifically geared toward the adolescent player. With that in mind, Ukulele for Teens presents the fundamentals of playing the instrument but incorporates songs by some of the most popular artists in music today, presented and arranged in singable keys for the teenage performer. To help you succeed, we’ve also included audio demos of the exercises and songs in addition to video lessons of author Alli Johnson showing you chords, strumming techniques, and more!

Songs include: All Is Found (Kasey Musgraves) • Brave (Sara Bareilles) • Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) • I’m Yours (Jason Mraz) • Love Story (Taylor Swift) • The Only Exception (Paramore) • You and I (Ingrid Michaelson) • and more!

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10. The Story of Now That’s What I Call Music in 100 Artists by Michael Mulligan


Jam-packed with amazing facts about the 4,000+ artists to have graced the NOW track listings from Phil Collins to Pharrell, Bananarama to Lady Gaga and Peter Andre to Pet Shop Boys, the Story of NOW THat’s What I Call Music is a celebration of pop music through the decades. So plug in your earphones and pump up the volume, because this party is just getting started!

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