10 of the Best Beatle Books

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The Beatles "Anthology"

The Beatles Anthology - by The Beatles
The official "Beatles Anthology" book, published in 2000. Apple Corps Ltd.

OK. So this is the "official" and therefore very much sanctioned history of The Beatles by The Beatles. It's definitely their story as they wanted it told - and so you read it knowing it comes from a particular perspective. But having said that, this book is a big, heavy treasure trove of Beatle history and images. Very much a companion to the The Beatles Anthology, their eight-episode (plus Special Features) DVD documentary and three double-CD sets, which followed on from the 1995 landmark TV series of the same name. The Anthology book features many rare photographs plus interviews, quotes and recollections from the band and those who worked with them. It's a large hardback (there's now also a paperback - distinguished by a black cover) with an adventurous, colorful and creative layout.

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The Beatles: All These Years - Volume 1: Tune In

The Beatles: All These Years Vol.1 Tune In
The two-book box set extended edition of "Tune In". Little, Brown Books

Mark Lewisohn is one of the most respected and prolific Beatle researchers and authors. In 2013 he embarked on publishing the Beatle history to end all histories with The Beatles: All These Years - Volume 1: Tune In. This book, released as a single volume in both the USA and the UK, is the first part in a planned trilogy that will take Lewisohn literally years to complete. The first volume only takes the story to 1962 and the release of the band's first proper single. That should give you an idea of the detail and scope of this work. The book contains a wealth of new information and insights. Highly regarded, Tune In received rave reviews on release and certainly qualifies as an absolute "must have" for any serious collector. For those who must have absolutely everything, Lewisohn also released an extended, two-book special edition of Volume 1. It takes his original 938 page single-book version to just on 1,698 pages. This extended version was never published in the US, but is available as an import.  

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The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions

The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions
Mark Lewisohn's "The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions". Hamlyn Publishing Ltd.

Another Mark Lewisohn book, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions is the definitive record of exactly when The Beatles were in the studio and what they did while they were there. As such, it is an invaluable reference book into the recording process. First published in 1988, you can go to it to double check any date they were working, but also dip in randomly to find lots of interesting information, facts, dates and background detail as to how the band wove their magic. Highly recommended.   

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Beatles Gear

Beatles Gear by Andy Babiuk
"Beatles Gear". Andy Babiuk's guide to all the instruments The Beatles used. Backbeat Books

Closely following on from Lewisohn's Complete Recording Sessions book, Andy Babiuk's Beatles Gear is another fascinating and very useful insight to what was at the core of The Beatles. Just how did they produce those fantastic studio sounds? What were their personal instrument choices, and why? Babiuk is a musician and writer and now runs his own specialised musical instrument business, offering the ultimate in collectable guitars. He spent over six years researching the band's equipment to produce what is the most detailed account yet of their tools of trade - on stage and in the studio. Alongside Andy's illuminating text are a host of photographs illustrating (in great detail) which guitars, keyboards, drums and amplifiers that John, Paul, George and Ringo used, and how they influenced a generation of young players. Fascinating.     

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The Beatles BBC Archives 1962-1970

The Beatles: The BBC Archives 1962-1970
Kevin Howlett's comprehensive journal of The Beatles at the BBC. Harper Collins Publishers

This book comes in a box that resembles a professional magnetic tape container from the time. It's a hint of the treasure that lies within, and the great detail in which former BBC producer and now Beatle biographer, Kevin Howlett, approached the task of detailing all the group's British radio and televisions appearances and performances on the BBC. This is a brilliant companion to the two double CD sets Live at the BBC (which Howlett also compiled) containing a rich selection of the best of those performances. As well as the book, inside the box there's a removable folder containing facsimiles of six key archive documents and photo prints of The Beatles from the original BBC press files. Great detail, and very nicely put together.

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The Beatles Lyrics

The Beatles Lyrics - The Unseen Story Behind Their Music
Hunter Davies' insightful examination of the handwritten lyrics of The Beatles. Weidenfeld & Nicholson Publishers

In 2014 Beatle biographer Hunter Davies set himself a remarkable challenge: to try to track down and record for posterity as many original, hand-written lyrics to Beatle songs that he could find. These might be scrawled on the back of an envelope, on a napkin, or any piece of scrap paper that happened to be lying around the studio at the time. He eventually assembled over 100 manuscripts and has reproduced them in this book, along with his own detailed analysis of how the song came to be.  

Photographs of the original lyrics were taken by photographer Charlotte Knee who has a website about the process.

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A Hard Day's Write

A Hard Day's Write - The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song
Steve Turner's perennial "A Hard Days Write" - republished now many times and in many formats. Harper Collins Publishers

Dating back to 1994 this book has been re-printed updated and revised many, many times. No matter what the format or year you have, it's a great reference to "the stories behind every Beatles' song". Music journalist and biographer Steve Turner was one of the first to assemble in one place the background on how the songs that inspired legions of music lovers the world over came to be. His work has become one of the definitive books to have in a collection, one to dip into to find out the genesis of a Beatle song, its context, chart position and recording, along with some great photos along the way.  

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All The Songs

All The Songs - The Story Behind Every Beatles Release
All The Songs - The Story Behind Every Beatles Release. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers

This one is very much along the same lines as Steve Turner's work. It's an impressive book from 2013 which you can dip into for a wealth of background information. All The Songs – The Story of Every Beatles Release is up there with the best as a reference work and a piece of research. The book is the work of two Frenchmen, Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon (assisted by American Scott Freiman, and with a Preface by the legendary performer and poet Patti Smith), this book, at 671 pages, is huge. And what you get is what's stated in the title. The authors work their way from album to album and each song on each album is dissected and explained in great detail. It has to be said that there's really nothing startlingly new here, but as a collection detailing research into each song this book is a very handy reference to have at hand. It is a big, heavy book with a creative and interesting layout, with lots of photos, labels, album covers and memorabilia throughout.

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The Beatles on Parlophone Records

Beatles For Sale on Parlophone Records
Just one of Bruce Spizer's fantastic Beatle books. 498 Productions

When talking about the work of Bruce Spizer it is a case of which of his many books to feature here on this list. It could have been one of many. Spizer is the most prolific detailer of the records released by the Beatles. His specialty is not so much the songs, but which labels their records came out on and the myriad of variations country-by-country. As you can see, this book (his eighth, and which came out in 2011) details all the releases on the UK Parlophone label. There's page upon page of images and text describing in minute detail all the releases and all the variations. It joins his other works The Beatles' Story on Capitol Records (in two volumes), The Beatles Records on Vee-Jay, The Beatles on Apple Records, etc. Each Spizer book is a treasure trove of information for the serious collector.  

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Some Fun Tonight

Some Fun Tonight - The Background Story of How The Beatles Rocked America
A mammoth two-volume set of impeccable research by Chuck Gunderson. Chuck Gunderson

This book is self-published by Chuck Gunderson and is an extraordinary work of research. Never before has anyone gone into such detail to cover The Beatles assault on the USA and the three tours they did between 1964 and 1966. As the sub-title suggests, this is the backstage story of how the band rocked America. Absolutely comprehensive in scope, Gunderson delves into backstory for each place they played: who the local promoters were, how they scored the deal, what the tickets looked like, the contracts, promotion, memorabilia and masses of great photographs. It's also about how The Beatles paved the way for all the future rock stars that tour today. Definitive.