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Music gift guide: Books

"Music: A Definitive Visual History," Smithsonian.

"Music: A Definitive Visual History," Smithsonian.

For music fans, holiday shopping can feel a lot like personal shopping — and after a few hours, one can devolve into the other with frightening ease. The world of music has something for everyone. The Globe’s music-related book picks for gifts:

“27: A History of the 27 Club Through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse,” by Howard Sounes

Much has been made over the years of the fact that several high-profile musicians all died at the same untimely age. Author Sounes examines the common factors in their lives and attempts to debunk myths about the tragic “club” along the way.

“Birth School Metallica Death: Volume 1” by Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood

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This look at the revered metal band — compiled from firsthand interviews with the group over the years — follows the fearsome foursome from the birth of the band through its personnel changes, through choice and tragedy, to the precipice of their 1991 mainstream breakthrough. “Volume 2” is scheduled for next fall.

“Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock ’n’ Roll in America’s Loudest City,” by Steve Miller

This down and dirty oral history from Steve Miller (the journalist not the “big ol’ jet airliner” rocker) spans 35 years and covers a wide range of artists from the Motor City — from Mitch Ryder to Alice Cooper to the Stooges to the White Stripes — through conversations with musicians, promoters, DJs, and fans.

“Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove,” by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Ben Greenman

He is a drummer, a producer, a DJ, a self-proclaimed “peculiar-looking six foot two walking afro,” and the anchor for the hip-hop band the Roots, the house band for “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” In this memoir he tucks that afro under his mighty musicologist hat.

“Music: The Definitive Visual History,” Smithsonian

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This handsome and fascinating coffee table book-cum-enyclopedia is chock-full of gorgeous photographs, sheet music, cartoons, performance shots, and more as it traces the evolution of music — sounds, styles, instruments — from 60,000 BCE to the present.

“The John Lennon Letters,” by Hunter Davies

Who knew Lennon was such a devoted letter writer? This collection of his various correspondences across the years reveals the Beatle to be serious, silly, and almost always passionate. As Davis writes in the book’s introduction, “Lennon lived and died in an era before computers, emails, twits, tweets, and twitters, hence he handwrote or typed letters and postcards to his family, his friends, fans, strangers, newspapers, organizations, lawyers, and the laundry.”

"Ready For a Brand New Beat" by Mark Kurlansky.

“Ready for a Brand New Beat,” by Mark Kurlansky

From the best-selling author of quirky case studies such as “Cod” and “Salt” comes this convincing account of how “Dancing in the Street,” by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, was a turning point in American culture. Kurlansky argues that the Motown hit wasn’t just about pop music, but rather that it embodied the agitated spirit of the civil rights movement fermenting in the summer of 1964.

“The Beautiful Music All Around Us,” by Stephen Wade

A fascinating window into a bygone world, “The Beautiful Music All Around Us” zooms in on the history of 13 performances from Library of Congress field recordings made between 1935 and 1942. Stephen Wade, an author and musician, brings to life the back stories of the performers and what the recording sessions meant to them.

“Buck ’Em! The Autobiography of Buck Owens,” by Buck Owens with Randy Poe

He perhaps didn’t have the cool quotient of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, but Buck Owens was a true country music original and consummate showman (and well beyond his role on the TV show “Hee Haw”). In the 1990s, he started working on this memoir, relaying stories and observations into a tape recorder. Producer Randy Poe transcribed them and fashioned this book in Owens’s voice.

“Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen,” by Al Jourgensen with Jon Wiederhorn

As the mastermind behind the industrial metal band Ministry, Al Jourgensen has had a profound influence on everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Korn. In his new memoir, Jourgensen details how he overcame years of drug addiction and every other trapping the life of a rock star brings. It’s pretty harrowing stuff, and in the words of a recent reviewer on Amazon: “This book was awesome, but I’d be terrified if this guy were renting a room from me.”

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