Today is Bob Dylan’s birthday, and maybe someday, years from now, we’ll commemorate his profound impact on American culture with a national holiday. But for now, we can celebrate the occasion by checking out some of the many books or films about his life and work that are accessible with your Livingston Library card.
(Descriptions are taken from the publishers)
Books About Dylan
Folk Music: A Bob Dylan Biography in Seven Songs by Greil Marcus
Across seven decades, Bob Dylan has been the first singer of American song. As a writer and performer, he has rewritten the national songbook in a way that comes from his own vision and yet can feel as if it belongs to anyone who might listen. In Folk Music, Greil Marcus tells Dylan’s story through seven of his most transformative songs. Marcus’s point of departure is Dylan’s ability to “see myself in others.” Like Dylan’s songs, this book is a work of implicit patriotism and creative skepticism. It illuminates Dylan’s continuing presence and relevance through his empathy-his imaginative identification with other people. This is not only a deeply felt telling of the life and times of Bob Dylan, but a rich history of American folk songs and the new life they were given as Dylan sat down to write his own.
Listening to Bob Dylan by Larry Starr
Listening to Bob Dylan seeks to reposition music and musical performance as central, essential aspects of Bob Dylan’s art. Countering the tendency on the part of many scholars, journalists, fans, and casual listeners to regard Dylan primarily or even exclusively as a poet, or as a writer of lyrics, Starr presents Dylan’s work as a complete package and a personal, unique synthesis of words, music, and performance. Starr aims to provide an unpretentious guide that will help readers enjoy Dylan’s music and music performance to the fullest.
About Man and God and Law: The Spiritual Wisdom of Bob Dylan by Stephen Daniel Arnoff
The story of how Bob Dylan sparked a revolution of the spirit and why it matters today. Many of our assumptions about empathy, sensual pleasure, and the essence of work, community, country, race, and the divine have germinated in Bob Dylan’s need to know what’s blowing in the wind and how it feels. Tracing his work and vision through themes that have shaped religious and cultural history for millennia, Stephen Daniel Arnoff uncovers how Bob Dylan has re-enchanted ancient questions of meaning and purpose throughout popular culture, inspiring a pantheon of prophetic musicians along the way. This field guide to Dylan’s spiritual wisdom aims to make good on the promise that if we look closely enough at his body of work–precisely at a moment when the world we thought we knew seems like uncharted territory–we can open up our eyes to see not only where we really are, but where we need to go.
Hard Rain: Bob Dylan, Oral Cultures, and the Meaning of History by Alessandro Portelli
An exploration of how oral culture and the ballad tradition shaped Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan’s 1962 classic “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” The song was written at the apex of the folk music revival and harkens back to the British traditional ballad “Lord Randal” and the 17th-century Italian ballad “Il testemento dell’avvelenato.” Its theme is relevant to the post-nuclear nightmares and youth movements of the 1960s, prefiguring contemporary concerns about environmental crisis, racism, and mass migrations. Alessandro Portelli demonstrates how Dylan was able to use the folk tradition of the ballad combined with a modern sensibility to creatively question the meaning and direction of history. Will the future bring liberation or disaster? It is up to us.
The Double Life of Bob Dylan: A Restless, Hungry Feeling, 1941 – 1966 by Clinton Heylin
From the world’s leading authority on Bob Dylan comes the definitive biography that promises to transform our understanding of the man and musician – thanks to early access to Dylan’s never-before-studied archives.
The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan by Kevin J.H. Dettmar
The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan brings fresh insights into the imposing range of Dylan’s creative output. The first part approaches Dylan’s output thematically, tracing the evolution of Dylan’s writing and his engagement with American popular music, religion, politics, fame, and his work as a songwriter and performer. Essays in part II analyze his landmark albums to examine the consummate artistry of Dylan’s most accomplished studio releases. As a writer Dylan has courageously chronicled and interpreted many of the cultural upheavals in America since World War II. This book will be invaluable both as a guide for students of Dylan and twentieth-century culture, and for his fans, providing a set of new perspectives on a much-loved writer and composer.
Books By Dylan
Tarantula by Bob Dylan (e-audiobook)
Written in 1966, Tarantula is a collection of poems and prose that evokes the turbulence of its time and provides a unique perspective on Bob Dylan’s creative evolution. It captures Dylan at a crucial juncture in his artistic development, showcasing the imagination of a revolutionary musician who was able to combine the humanity and compassion of his folk music roots with the surrealism of modern art and the intensity of the Delta blues. Angry, funny, and elusive, the poems and prose in this collection reflect the concerns found in Dylan’s most seminal music: a sense of protest, verbal ingenuity and spontaneity, and a belief in the artistic legitimacy of chronicling everyday life and the rhythms of the street and in the air.
Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan
By turns revealing, poetical, passionate, and witty, Chronicles: Volume One is a mesmerizing window on Bob Dylan’s thoughts and influences. Dylan’s voice is distinctively American: generous of spirit, engaged, fanciful, and rhythmic. Utilizing his unparalleled gifts of storytelling and the exquisite expressiveness that are the hallmarks of his music, Bob Dylan turns Chronicles: Volume One into a poignant reflection on life, and the people and places that helped shape the man and the art.
The Philosophy of Modern Song by Bob Dylan
Dylan’s first book of new writing since Chronicles: Volume One —and since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. Dylan, who began working on the book in 2010, offers his extraordinary insight into the nature of popular music. He writes over sixty essays focusing on songs by other artists, spanning from Stephen Foster to Elvis Costello, and in between ranging from Hank Williams to Nina Simone. He analyzes what he calls the trap of easy rhymes, breaks down how the addition of a single syllable can diminish a song, and even explains how bluegrass relates to heavy metal. These essays are written in Dylan’s unique prose. They are mysterious and mercurial, poignant and profound, and often laugh-out-loud funny. And while they are ostensibly about music, they are really meditations and reflections on the human condition.
Dylan In the Movies
I’m Not There – directed by Todd Haynes (available on DVD, or streaming on Kanopy)
Six characters recreate different stages in Bob Dylan’s career. Begins with the wanderings of an 11-year-old black runaway named Woody Guthrie. His raucous duet with Richie Havens on “Tombstone Blues.” Ends with a silver-haired Billy the Kid watching the Old West die before his eyes. In the interim, there’s the folk singer-turned-preacher, the actor, and a rock star. Starring Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Julianne Moore, Richard Gere, and Michelle Williams.
No Direction Home – directed by Martin Scorsese
A chronicle of Bob Dylan’s strange evolution between 1961 and 1966 from folk singer to protest singer to “voice of a generation” to rock star.
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story – directed by Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese’s documentary about Bob Dylan’s legendary 1975 tour, which featured a band of troubadours including Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, and Joni Mitchell, blends behind-the-scenes archival footage, interviews, and narrative mischief.
Don’t Look Back – directed by D.A. Pennebaker
In spring 1965, Bob Dylan– a 23 year-old, pixyish troubadour– spent three weeks in England. Don’t Look Back follows him from airport to hall, from hotel room to public house, from conversation to concert. Joan Baez and Donovan, among others, are on hand. It’s the period when Dylan is shifting from acoustic to electric, a transition that not all fans, including Baez, applaud. From the opening sequence Dylan is playful and enigmatic.
Dylan For Kids
Who Is Bob Dylan? by Jim O’Connor
A singer-songerwriter, musician, and artist, Bob Dylan is an American icon. In the past five decades, Dylan’s work has influenced everyone from John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and David Bowie to rapper Eminem. Young music lovers will be fascinated by this great artist’s life!
Little People Big Dreams: Bob Dylan by María Isabel Sánchez Vegara
In this book from the critically acclaimed, multimillion-copy bestselling Little People, BIG DREAMS series, discover the inspiring story of this iconic singer-songwriter, poet and artist. Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota. As a teenager, he played in various bands and, over time, his interest in music deepened, with a particular passion for American folk music and blues. Dylan moved to New York City in 1961, where he began to perform poetry and music in clubs and cafés in Greenwich Village. There, he recorded a number of albums which made him one of the most influential musicians of history. This fascinating book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the musician’s life.
Man Gave Names to All the Animals words by Bob Dylan, illustrated by Jim Arnosky
Based on a song by Bob Dylan, this picture book tells the story of how man named the animals of the world.
If Not For You words by Bob Dylan, illustrated by David Walker
In this inventive interpretation of Bob Dylan’s 1970 song “If Not for You,” illustrator David Walker beautifully imagines Dylan’s lyrics as portraying the bottomless love between a parent and a child-and the magical experiences they might share together.
When Bob Met Woody: The Story of the Young Bob Dylan written by Gary Golio, illustrated by Marc Burckhardt
This lyrical and gorgeously illustrated picture book biography follows Bob as he renames himself after his favorite poet, Dylan Thomas, and leaves his mining town to pursue his love of music in New York City. There, he meets his folk music hero and future mentor, Woody Guthrie, changing his life forever.