12 Essential Books on Dance Music
In the past decade alone, we've had some incredible literature from journalists and artists who’ve been at the forefront of various music and culture movements in the US and abroad.
Riding the rails in the front row at festivals, grooving at the discotheque, and chatting in between sets in green rooms, these writers have witnessed some unforgettable moments in dance music history that you’ve only heard about.
Live vicariously through these works about dance music and discover the history behind the fashion, the sounds, and the parties from people who lived through it. Of course, we can’t guarantee that reading these books will give you the same euphoric feeling you’d get at the rave, but maybe you’ll pick up a few fun facts about rave culture to share with your friends at the next party.
Click on the links in the headers to purchase the books.
Lady of the House
By Laila McKenzie and Ian Snowball
“In a time where so much change has happened & so many inequalities have been brought to light over the last year we want to ensure the legacy of women’s power is passed down to future generations,” said authors McKenzie and Snowball about the book. “Lady of the House is so much more than just women in house, it’s about women being creative and doing what they love to do.” Lady of the House features over 120 interviews and plenty of stories of determination, empowerment, and inspiration from artists including Barbara Tucker, Rowetta, DJ Paulette, Anja Schneider, and so many more. The book also features stories from women who have played crucial roles across the music industry, like promotion, booking agents, and managers.
Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture
By Simon Reynolds
Generation Ecstasy details rave culture and techno music but from the point of view of an insider. The book is a detailed, data-driven survey and autobiographical history of electronic dance music and the culture (and drugs) surrounding it, beginning in the 1980s. Though Reynolds is a British music journalist who primarily experienced the UK rave scene, the book dedicates a good portion of real estate to US dance history. It extensively covers Detroit techno, Chicago house, the rise of acid house, and the many other genres that followed.
Adventures on the Wheels of Steel: The Rise of the Superstar DJs
By Dave Haslam
DJ Dave Haslam paints a witty and delightful anthology of portraits of many of the major players in the electronic dance music sphere in the aptly titled "Adventures on the Wheels of Steel." Told through the eyes and ears of a globe-trotting DJ the book is as entertaining as it is revealing. It is a must-read for anyone interested in learning what it takes to work as a DJ and the history behind the ones you love to watch.
Beyond the Dance Floor: Female DJs, Technology, and Electronic Dance Music Culture
By Rebekah Farrugia
Djing, producing, engineering, and mastering—ladies, you do it all and you do it well. Women were and continue to be sorely underrepresented and unaccounted for in many of the books written about rave culture and the history of dance music. Rebekah Farrugia covers the politics of identity in the music industry and discusses the role female DJs and producers have played in dance music culture. This book was written in 2016 so it doesn’t cover the extensive progress various organizations and female leaders have made in the last few years. Still, Farrugia offers excellent insight into what was once a bleak reality for women in the dance music industry.
Techno Rebels: The Renegades of Electronic Fun
by Dan Sicko
Published in 1999, this classic by Dan Sicko was the first American account of one of the most innovative genres that sprung up in the post-disco era. An important aspect that led to the creation of the genre was the socioeconomics of the era. Sicko conducts a deep dive into this and other factors and key figures of Detroit techno.
Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound
By Tara Rodgers
This book is an extension of the acclaimed website established by the music scholar Tara Rodgers in 2000 to make music production more accessible to women. It includes twenty-four interviews with women involved in producing electronic dance music: remixers, DJs, composers, and engineers.
Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970–1979
By Tim Lawrence
This book by Tim Lawrence offers a fantastic look at club culture and music on the east coast during the 70s. The dual rise of disco and punk occurred at clubs like Paradise Garage, The Loft, and Studio 54. "Love Saves the Day," is a must-read for those who frequented these infamous clubs back in the day or for those who wish they had had the chance to!
Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny
By Nile Rodgers
Arguably one of the most prolific disco producers of our time, Nile Rodgers’s memoir is an account of one long, exciting career in the music industry from a man with an unconventional upbringing. Rodgers has been producing irresistible hits for artists spanning disco, pop, and many other genres within the past forty years—don’t miss out on this highly entertaining read about one of music’s greatest musicians from the man himself.
The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America
By Michaelangelo Matos
Electronic dance music continues to be one of the largest money makers on the concert circuit in the US. ‘The Underground Is Massive’ is a deep-dive into this fascinating music trend in American pop culture history written by Mixmag’s dance music expert, Michael Matos. Matos is a music journalist who has covered the rise of EDM in the US from the outset. This compelling 448-page turner chronicles the inception and continued popularity of the genre and does so with an incredible swagger. Matos' story is a must-read for anyone curious about electronic dance music’s journey to commercial hegemony after several decades of thriving in the underground.
House Music…The Real Story
By Jesse Saunders
Known for his many contributions to the culture including the irresistible house classic, “On and On,” Jesse Saunders chronicles the life, times, and people that made up the house music scene back in the late 80s. His memoir includes stories about house producer Frankie Knuckles, techno icon Ron Hardy, and other music legends he worked with within the electronic music scene.
Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture
By Simon Reynolds
"My purpose was simple: to catch the feel, the pulse of rock, as I had lived through it. What I was after was guts, and flash, and energy, and speed,” wrote Guardian reporter Nik Cohn, quoted in “Energy Flash” by Reynolds. The British raver-journalist captures the pulse of techno in this comprehensive review of the many subgenres popularized in the ’80s and '90s. Reynolds offers a unique insight into various aspects of 90s rave culture and includes interviews with artists like Derrick May, Paul Oakenfold, 808 State, Primal Scream, Orbital, The Prodigy, Aphex Twin, and DJ Shadow.
Never Be Alone Again
By Lina Abascal
Written by Los Angeles-blog house writer Lina Abascal, the book chronicles the underground music scene, parties, and fashion that defined the blog house era from 2006-2011. Back when digital music distribution was barely regulated, the eclectic dance music genre reached fans across the internet and changed the way people discovered new artists and sounds. "Never Be Alone Again" gives readers Abascal’s first-hand account of how independent websites and bloggers changed the career trajectory of underground artists in the most unprecedented, decentralized manner, unlike anything the music industry had ever seen before.