Beatles books

Hundreds, if not thousands, of books have been published about The Beatles. The first was Michael Braun’s Love Me Do – The Beatles’ Progress, a 1964 account which followed the group on tour and recounted their early days.

Since then millions of words have been written about all aspects of their lives, from the music to their clothes, religion to money. There have been photographic collections, musicological discourses, biographies, autobiographies, hagiographies and hack works.

Among the greatest Beatles books are Mark Lewisohn’s The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions and The Complete Beatles Chronicle, which documented the group’s activities throughout the 1960s, and Tune In, part one of his biographical series All These Years. Lewisohn is justly regarded as the world’s foremost Beatles expert.

Ian Macdonald’s Revolution In The Head is a fascinating chronological guide to The Beatles’ songs, although his interpretations are often more opinionated than impartial, and some of the recording and line-up assertions he made have since been questioned elsewhere. Nonetheless, it’s an illuminating read which brings to life many of The Beatles’ best moments, putting them in a social and historic context.

Then there are the official or semi-official books. Chief among these is The Beatles’ own Anthology, the weighty tome which accompanied the 1990s television series. George Harrison‘s autobiography I Me Mine gives a selective account of events, but a fuller account came in Paul McCartney‘s authorised biography Many Years From Now by Barry Miles.

For John Lennon, perhaps the best accounts are two long-form interview transcripts. Lennon Remembers by Jann S Wenner was Lennon’s vitriolic, Primal Scream therapy-inspired reaction to The Beatles’ split, conducted in 1970 for Rolling Stone. Ten years later Lennon was slightly more relaxed but no less compelling in David Sheff’s Playboy interview, All We Are Saying, given more piquancy as it came just weeks before his death.

The list below is an index of reviews of some books received by the Beatles Bible for review. If you’re a publisher and would like your products featured on this page, please contact us.

35 responses on “Beatles books

  1. Manchester Square

    David Bedford’s magnificent Liddypool must get a mention. Top research from a man who knows his Beatles’ Liverpool locations like the back of his hand or soles of his feet judging by the miles of Merseyside he must have trudged.

    1. GK

      The Beatles Anthology . Buy the hard back , its superb quality through out . The pages are thick , beautiful photos, many from their private collections , which on the hard back look stunning. Alot has been said since this book arrived , as people have said its sanitised . To me, its written in small detail , page by page, by the people that were there, and that’s the Beatles themselves.
      John’s comments are cleverly written in as each year and subject arrive , from the ( thankfully !) many interviews he did in his life time .
      There is humour in here too, Georges comments on his first sexual experience in Hamburg ( with the others listening in, in the dark ) are really funny . George is missed so much , his honesty and soul, made him a special person, and was never shy to say exactly what he thought about anything . This book came out a year before he died, so its time less , to wrap it all up.
      Most people know the Beatles Story , but this book does have the inside story, and lots of banter between them, which makes it a one off.

  2. sarveshaam

    I’ve just read “The Beatles: An Oral History.” It’s an absolute must for the fan who’s pretty much read it all–these are the little details, the conversational gems, it’s a treasure trove of *so* much background from so many wonderful, relevant perspectives. If you can track it down, it’s a treat :)

  3. beatlesgirl3

    I’m currently reading Shout! by Philip Norman. I haven’t gotten very far because it’s so packed full of information. It’s truly amazing. I highly suggest it!

    1. Michael K

      It’s a good read but beware the information. Philip Norman’s general agenda is that the sixties were an abhorrence to the decent class-structures that kept people in their place. That The Beatles were all about breaking this down is the reason he attempts to overcome them with his own upper-class literary pretensions. It’s a good novel.

    2. unclegilly

      I also really liked ” Shout” and it’s portrayal of the earlier years in Britain, have you read ” Tell me why” by Tim Riley ? it is very, very good but one of the things I disagree with in this book, is his dissing of the Norman book.

  4. Laura Lovell

    ” A Hard Day’s Write ” by Steve Turner. Tells the story behind each Beatle’s song. Nice to have it in book format. Can get loads of info from Beatles Bible.com, though…

  5. Rafael

    “Shout!” is probably the best biography around. Unfortunately, besides some factual mistakes, it’s absolutely biased against McCartney.

    Some books are necessary, with reservations: “The Beatles Anthology” is, much more than a biography, a celebration; “Many Years From Now” is just McCartney telling his own version of the story, screaming “I was the vanguard one!”; “The Lives of John Lennon” has good facts and damnn lies about John; but they all usually bring some light to their subjects.

    Bob Spitz’s “The Beatles” is also a good biography, very comprehensive and impartial, but exceptionally full of errors and poorly written.

    I would recommend a minor book, “Beatles Gear” by Andy Babiuk; although it’s mainly focused on instruments and equipment used by the Beatles, it’s probably the best book to recount how Stu Sutcliffe left the band.

    Pete Doggett’s “You Never Give Me Your Money” is brilliant, and focuses on the money problems the Beatles endured from 1968 to 1995, which other biographies don’t usually cover.

    But Mark Lewisohn is writing his own Beatles biography right now (in three volumes), and it surely will be the only Beatles biography anyone will ever need to read.

    1. Stone

      Hi Rafael. I don’t consider “Beatles Gear” to be a minor book. It’s a monument to Beatle freakism! That book is just pure hardcore porn for us beatlemaniacs with guitars.
      And yes, I’ve just finished Pete Doggett’s “You Never Give Me Your Money” and fully agree with you, top notch book about the financial mess the Beatles created.
      And on that subject, I can recommend “Beatles For Sale” by John Blaney, too.

    2. unclegilly

      If you want a book that slobbers over McCartney ,and is biased against Harrison ,read Geoff Emericks book. Even Ken Scott ( whose book is not all BEATLES, but much better) took emerick to task over this book, and his remarks about the lovely George.

  6. IMDeWalrus

    I have to be honest — I would probably rank Philip Norman’s SHOUT! the most disappointing Beatle book I’ve ever read — probably because I expected so much from it. I had heard it was one of the very best Beatle bios out there, but while it did contain some interesting stuff, and I like Norman’s way with words, it was also very very opinionated, and it was clear Norman was a Lennon fan. The version I have is the 2003 update, so I am lead to believe it’s not quite as anti-McCartney as the original 1980′s version, but it tells you something when he titles the chapter on Paul’s solo work “Those freaks was right when they said you was dead”. But the depiction of George is what really gets my dander up. “Chronically bitter” is how Harrison is described in this book. There’s no doubt George could be curmudgeonly at times, but Norman’s account makes it appear that’s the ONLY mood Harrison had. Over and over, you read about “unsmiling George” (Ringo’s mum opens the door to George’s unsmiling face, George Martin crosses the studio floor to unsmiling George Harrison with his rehearsal guitar, etc). If you ever see interviews of George (and there are lots of them on YouTube), you are struck by his droll, self-deprecating sense of humour, but there are no glimpses of that in SHOUT. Norman concludes by writing “George was not great, just an average guitarist who got incredibly lucky” — and then I think about songs like “Something”, “Here Comes the Sun”, “Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Blow Away” and the CONCERT FOR BANGLADESH and wonder to myself exactly what constitutes greatness. So overall, while there are some interesting parts of the book, overall I’d give it a fairly poor rating.

    1. James Percival

      I have to agree with you Walrus. Norman’s book is riven with errors (some corrected in the later editions) and full of his unsubstantiated opinion. The comments on George really angered me and are totally unjustified.

      1. Michael K

        Seconded or thirded. Although I enjoyed the book immensely at the time it came out, I was a little too young to see how I’d been hoodwinked. Norman’s agenda is to overcome his subjects with his own literary ‘genius’ and thus ‘Shout’ is a novel of sorts and one which also reflects his own upper-class pretensions (this is after all a notoriously right-wing establishment author). In short, I came to the realisation that for all his words, Philip Norman is about NEGATING the 60′s class-liberation that The Beatles were part of. As the powerful survivor, McCartney, of course, must bear the brunt of his assault but I agree that his attitude to George is probably what caused McCartney’s one-word review of this book, namely “SH*TE”

    2. Richard Boene

      I agree with most of your observation on this book. While Mr. Norman does have an interesting way with words, his clear and obvious biases tended to bother me even in the revised edition. I share some of Joe’s expressed animosity toward Norman in the forum on this website for the contexts he tried to place the Beatles in, but I also couldn’t get past his tendency to allow his observations on Lennon in particular cloud his judgment of the band as a whole, and this unfortunately carried on to his more recent biography of Lennon even if in more subtle ways. As much as I respect Lennon, it is my own observation that it has become more and more difficult to look at the man freshly with all the over-analyzing that has accompanied his legacy ever since his unfortunate murder, which is what makes writings such as these frustrating to someone such as me who prefers to try and understand the strengths and flaws of all four members which is why I cannot recommend any of Norman’s works on the Beatles to anyone with a similar mindset to mine on this.

      By the way, I recently read that Phillip Norman is now planning on writing a biography of Paul McCartney. If this is true I very much doubt I will read it, but at the same time I have to wonder just how well he is going to be able to get past his previous observations on McCartney many of which I found to be unfair and not especially well thought out.

  7. HB

    Of all of the books I’ve read (and I’ve read all of the ones mentioned on this page), Geoff Emerick’s “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles” was the most enjoyable to read. His perspective as an engineer was unique and the book is very well written. A few stories about recording sessions were new to me.

    1. constance

      I agree…I have read dozens of Beatle books and this one is one of my favorites….one of the few people who knew the Beatles but did not push his relationship to them throughout the book, as so many others did.

    2. CT

      I have to agree with HB. Emerick’s book was by far my favorite of the 6 Beatle books I have read. But this book has the narrow focus of the recording process. This is not a book for the mainstream Beatle fan.

      1. unclegilly

        Ken Scott called Emerick out for running around Abbey Road asking people for stories after his book deal, seems his memory wasn’t the best and he couldn’t remember much.And his errors regarding Harrisons abilities as a guitarist are just the beginning.

  8. Alan Liddell

    For the songs, I loved Revolution In The Head and for the story, I liked Peter Brown’s The Love You Make. As a Scot, I also really enjoyed The Beatles In Scotland.

    1. Robyn Starr

      John Lennon said in one of his Rolling Stone interview with Jann Wenner, that it contains 90% of falseness. it was not written entirely based on the truth..

      personally, i like that book though :)

  9. Mean_Mr_Mustard

    I would avoid George Martin’s “All you need is ears” and Geoff Emerick’s “Here, There, and Everywhere….” both of which, while interesting at times, are heavily biased in favor of Paul. Further, both books contain numerous attacks (sometimes vicious) on George which are unnecessary and often unwarranted (Martin reduces the masterpiece “Something” to being only `quite simple, really’).

    1. Neil

      If anything, I think the Geoff Emerick’s book was quite even-handed, although it did get somewhat exasperated towards the Beatles themselves going into the White Album days. If it was hard on anyone, it was hard on George Martin.

    2. CT

      Ah, I just ordered Martin’s book and LOVED Emerick’s book. I am interested in the Beatles recording process and the Emerick’s biases are only a small part of the book, the main focus being the songs and how they were recorded.This isn’t a book for the mainstream Beatles fan.

  10. Thierry

    I have also been reading “The Beatles: An Oral History.” and I will never look at Paul or Ringo the same way. I feel like I have a personal connection with them now. I am in my thirties so I missed the days of Beatle mania but this book puts me right there.

  11. Cory Wieder

    I also read Geoff Emericks book and thought it fab(what else would it be ?)Maybe a bit bias towards paul during Apple days but also very easy to believe it was just that way since he doesn’t build himself up buy taking credit for their success like some others seem to do.

  12. Davy

    Check out “The Beatles in Scotland” by Ken McNab for an insight in to the group’s (especially John’s) connections with Scotland. Some interesting insights, stories, photos and views from fans and other sources.

  13. Beatlegurl2004

    “Shout” and “the love you make” are good reads but they aren’t factual. I enjoyed”Imagine this” by Julia Baird, John’s half sister.. I will say it must be accurate because I don’t think anyone could make up all that she has to say.I saw her at Fest for Beatle fans a couple weeks ago and she was very nice and apeared to be sane. : )

  14. Rick Shefchik

    If you’re up for some historical fiction that includes a meeting between John and Elvis Presley when Elvis was serving in the U.S. Army in Germany in 1960, I humbly suggest downloading my novel “Rather See You Dead.” It’s a thriller that moves between the past and present; the Beatles and Elvis stuff is all based on fact, though the meeting itself didn’t happen (as far as I know.)

  15. IrishLonigan

    Hello everybody. I’m new to the site and I have enjoyed reading all of your comments. Like you, I’m a huge Beatles fan, and I have been since I saw them on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The Fab Four have been an important part of my life since then. I visited Liverpool & London 25 years ago, and it became my personal pilgrimage. If you’re into fiction, I’d like to make a gentle plug for “Mersey Boys,” a Beatles novel. The Beatles’ legend is retold by an American professor who had to contend with a wise guy student by the name of Lennon. The book is a light-hearted & humorous account that has you wondering if Professor Moran is making it all up, or if he’s telling the truth. It’s not meant to be taken as history…or even seriously It’s one aging man’s homage to a band and a city he dearly loves. For a Yank to duplicate the Scouse dialect of the early Sixties is probably impossible. Instead, you have a Yank trying to replicate what his ears have heard. Anyway, thank you for reading my post. Cheers. God Bless the Beatles, the Mersey Sound, Liverpool & England.

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