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Want to Read About Dylan’s Work but Don’t Know Where to Start?

Books are still the best source of information. Books are generally – not always – written by subject matter experts with a dedicated support staff. To really know something a subject, read the books about it. Below are some good ones on Dylan.

No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan. Written by New York Times journalist Robert Shelton, who was not only very knowledgeable of the folk scene in the early sixties, but also knew Dylan personally. The book drags a bit toward the end but serves as a good introduction to Dylan’s early work.

Bob Dylan, Performing Artist. Paul Williams was the founder of the rock & roll magazine Crawdaddy, and his opinionated Dylan books are fun and breezy reads.

Song and Dance Man. Ready to kick it up a notch? Try Michael Gray’s book. I’m not sure I buy all the relationships he sees between Dylan’s songs and literature, but what do I know? I do think that – overall – it’s the definitive Dylan book. Be warned, it’s kind of a difficult read.

Performed Literature. Betty Bowden, a literature professor, got on the Dylan train early, writing this book way back in the seventies. Betty long ago answered the tired question about whether Dylan is a poet or not. No he’s not, she says, he is instead performing literature. (Yes, this book is filled with English lit jargon, but still definitely worth a read).

Reading these books will provide a solid foundation for understanding the work. Of course, literally hundreds of other books are out there. Many are worth a read. Off the top of my head: The Formative Dylan, by Todd Harvey. The Nightingale’s Code by John Gibbens is an excellent, lesser-known book. Alias Bob Dylan Revisited, by Stephen Scobie. A Darker Shade of Pale, by Wilfrid Mellers (the reader needs to know some music theory to get anything out of it). All the Clinton Heylin books are enjoyable. Tim Riley’s Hard Rain is a good read. Although not about Dylan per se, Dave Van Ronk’s autobiography The Mayor of MacDougal Street provides a lot of insight into the early sixties folk scene (and is a fun read).

Are there any good websites about Dylan?

Many websites dedicated to Dylan have fallen by the wayside over the years. It’s a dirty rotten shame, a lot of good information is gone. But many sites still exist.

    Know Anything about Fanzines Devoted to Dylan?

    How About Podcasts?

    Which Facebook Groups Should I Follow?

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