Utne Blogs > Literature

Your Favorite Album Becomes a Book

by Jake Mohan 

Tags: books and publishers, music, music writing, music criticism, 33 1/3, Continuum Publishing,

33thirdFor five years now, Continuum Publishing’s 33 1/3 Series (named for the speed at which an LP record spins) has given music-loving bookworms over 50 hip little volumes that marry their two obsessions beautifully.

Written mostly by musicians and music critics, each book in the series concerns a pop album that played a momentous role in the author’s life, and can take the form of an essay, extended review, memoir, novella, interview with the artist—or some hybrid thereof.

I found my way into the series via one of its more unique entries, penned by erudite pop songsmith Joe Pernice, of the Pernice Brothers. Its subject was the Smiths’ seminal 1985 album Meat Is Murder, but rather than a straight review, Pernice wrote an autobiographical novella about a high school subculture infiltrated by Morrissey & Co.’s angsty opus.

The series boasts a diverse range of authors and genres—both literary and musical. Colin Meloy, of the Decemberists, has published a volume on Let It Be by the Replacements. Eliot Wilder interviews Josh Davis, aka DJ Shadow, about his groundbreaking trip-hop album Endtroducing.... Pitchfork writer Amanda Petrusich memorializes Nick Drake’s Pink Moon.

33 1/3’s catalog is by now expansive enough that it probably includes a book on at least one Album That Changed Your Life Forever. But if you find it lacking, you can take matters into your own hands: 33 1/3’s editors are currently accepting proposals, due December 31, for the series’ next batch of volumes. Pick an album, put on your headphones, and start typing.