the story behind the book | kate tuttle

For Rob Sheffield, all he needs is the Beatles

david wilson for the boston globe

Growing up in Milton, Rob Sheffield spent a lot of time in the town’s public library, sitting in a chair with big headphones over his ears, listening to every Beatles record he could find.

Introduced to the band by his older sisters, Sheffield was a fan from an early age. In “Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World,” Sheffield’s fifth book, he writes about what he calls “the world’s most passionately beloved band,” one whose music remapped popular culture and whose legacy somehow seems eternal.

Sheffield chose to write about the Beatles not only because he loves them but because, he said, “it’s the greatest story ever, isn’t it? It’s just amazing how the Beatles story spread so wide and means so many different things to so many different people.”


For Sheffield, a chronicler of pop culture whose work blends thoughtful criticism and unabashed fandom, the heart of the Beatles story is about relationships. In addition to the music, what attracted him to the band as a boy, he said, was “the idea that this group of four friends could find each other in this nowhere town and then move through the world together, and keep learning from the world and learning from each other.”

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Even after the band broke up in 1970, Sheffield noted, the four members remained inextricably bound — for better or worse. “Each Beatle had a different role to play in the musical chemistry and in the personal chemistry,” he said. “It’s a foursome of friends who couldn’t stay together and couldn’t quite break apart either.”

Sheffield knows there are already hundreds of books about the band. Still, he said, “there are some myths that just open up to infinite kinds of retelling.”

Sheffield will read 7 p.m. Wednesday at Porter Square Books. A karaoke enthusiast, he does not rule out some singing.

Kate Tuttle, president of the National Book Critics Circle, can be reached at