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Bob Dylan is a timeless character of folk music. He has made his name of the greatest songwriter who has ever lived and one of the greatest male vocalists of all time. He has become a legend through his 60s anthems of freedom such as: "The Times They Are A-Changin'," "Blowin' in the Wind," and the song featured on the film The Post (film starring Tom Hanks), "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall." He has made his name through the 70s with epic narratives such as "Hurricane," "Tangled up in Blue," and has pushed the barriers of concert performance with the famous Rolling Thunder Revue 1975.
Bob Dylan's 80s career was expansive and he experimented with gospel throughout the late 70s and early 80s, making three key albums: Slow Train Coming, Saved, and Shot of Love. He went on to write the incredible songs that feature on the folk rock revival album Infidels and moved into new wave and dance for Empire Burlesque, returning to rock for Knocked Out Loaded.
The God of Folk then moved into the 90s, experimenting with different types of rock music, creating great sounds and receiving high acclaim for the brilliance and masterpiece album Time Out of Mind. He then—after the greatness of Love and Theft—moved into the Jazz songbook before returning to form for Tempest.
In between all of these, Dylan has released many bootlegs featuring much anticipated songs such as "Blind Willie McTell," which didn't appear on Infidels many years before. He has released the stunning live album bootleg of the famed Rolling Thunder Revue 1975 and the grand 1966 Live at the Royal Albert Hall Concert.
He's played in America, he's been Live in Budokan, he's been (and is coming) to England, he's been to Germany, Rome, and even Down Under in Australia.
You could say, he's been all around the world, boys...
10. On the Road with Bob Dylan by Larry Sloman
Recommended for this list by @frankcrisp1 on Twitter.
This book details the amazing Rolling Thunder Revue of 1975 and why Bob Dylan did it at all. The various people involved have their own place in this book, but Dylan is the overall man it is about. Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue was one of the most revered concerts in all of history and this book gives light to the entire thing. Each person, each song, every single moment of the mystical days on the road. It was more than just a tour, it was an incredible statement that meant we were about to see the revival of Bob Dylan and his incredible live performances.
9. Dreaming of Dylan: 115 Dreams About Bob by Mary Lee Kortes
Now this isn't a book of Dylanology like everyone would expect. This is another one of those books written by a Bobcat for other Bobcats. It is more like an appreciation of Bob Dylan told through random stories and other people's meanings of Dylan. There's something really nice about reading about other people's life stories as they've encountered and found something in Bob Dylan. This book details 115 different encounters with Dylan, not physically, but in dreams—from every person in every walk of life. Partnered with images, drawings, and random artworks, this book is lovely to read and a great addition to any Bobcat's collection.
8. The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan by Kevin JH Dettmar
This book was a university staple whilst I was doing my undergraduate and masters, so for about four years I didn't let go of this book. I love how expansive it is, with all of these in-depth Dylanology essays. My favourite chapter is on Bob Dylan and Religion, it really goes into detail about things separate from the Gospel Era, as well as inside it. There's a ton of stuff on what is called (in the book) "The Landmark Albums," and it's great for any student of Dylanology because it has so many different topics to research. I have a copy and I suggest you get one as well.
7. Dylan's Visions of Sin by Christopher Ricks
This book absolutely blew my mind when I first read it. I'd never read such a large analysis on Bob Dylan's use of the seven deadly sins, the cardinal virtues, and the heavenly graces. I loved this book so much because it lets you see through this lens the songs that you probably had no idea this stuff existed in. I loved this book because it even uses some of the more obscure songs to analyse, it's not always the same songs. I highly recommend this book for anyone getting into their Dylanology journey and any religious Bobcats out there.
6. Once Upon a Time: The Lives of Bob Dylan by Ian Bell
This book is perfect for both Bobcat and Dylanologist. It has an expansive amount of stuff on Bob Dylan's history for the Bobcats and an analysis of various songs for the Dylanologists. There's an incredible amount of information in this book and Ian Bell writes it brilliantly. There's also a great amount of appreciation for Bob Dylan, his songwriting, his skill, his history, and the way he sings his own songs. I personally love this book and read the entire thing in one night, if I remember correctly.
5. Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964 by Ted Russell
This book details the first few years in which Bob Dylan moved to New York and what he did there. Ted Russell first heard about Dylan in 1961 and was a freelance photographer working with this unknown 20-year-old who had just moved in. It is an incredible and moving story about the journey of one young boy into the legend that is Bob Dylan in only a few short years. I would highly recommend this book and would love for you to read and experience it too.
4. Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads by Greil Marcus
This book is all about that special moment when "Like a Rolling Stone" became that Bob Dylan song that showed us that he could do more than one thing. He's not just the boy that sang "Blowin' in the Wind," he's the man that penned "Like a Rolling Stone"—he's the legend that released the incredible Highway 61 Revisited, which would go down as one of the greatest achievements in music ever. Bob Dylan being at the "crossroads" was this point where he was both folk and rock, in which he merged the two to make folk rock and brought a brand new genre to the stage and studio. I highly recommend this book because I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
3. Another Side of Bob Dylan by Victor and Jacob Maymudes
Written about the often forgotten album that bridged Bob Dylan's politically charged writing and more rock and roll songs, Another Side of Bob Dylan is a great album in its own right. Containing some brilliant songs like the famed "My Back Pages" and the incredible "I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Met)," along with the regrettable but still poignant "Ballad in Plain D." The album has made it in the history books as being the "bridge" album between the two different Dylans we see of the early 1960s. This album also details the man that Dylan was after the motorcycle crash; it makes an excellent argument for us suggesting that Bob Dylan's ghost was "more than one person." This book is mindblowingly incredible and has the ability to move you. The life of Bob Dylan and the many lives he lived in his time is detailed by his tour manager, Victor Maymudes, in tapes—unfortunately, after suffering an aneurysm and dying, he never got to write it down. His son did it instead. His son shares a name with Bob Dylan's son as well: Jacob.
2. Highway 61 Revisited (33 1/3) by Mark Polizzotti
I love this book, even though it's really little and really cute. It is an essential for both a Bobcat and for a Dylanologist because it's just a bit of light reading. Of course, this is about how Highway 61 Revisited has managed to remain so timeless and so revered in music history for all this time. There are some tiny pieces of analysis in this tiny book and I really like reading it whilst listening to the album. This book goes through why the album reads like a story and how it has remained one of the most analysed albums ever recorded. It is a beautiful little book so I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
1. Light Come Shining: The Transformations of Bob Dylan by Andrew McCarron
This book again, is small, but beautiful. It details how Bob Dylan changes psychologically with each album and each belief. Throughout the Gospel Era, especially and throughout the early days as well. There have been a lot of changes in Dylan, but no analysis really gives a psychological study to it, using theory and various other academic insights—like McCarron's study does. I really enjoyed reading this book. It's nice to pop into your bag and take to work because it's nice and small. But just because it's small doesn't mean it lacks any information. The timelessness of these transformations is also theorised in this book. It is brilliant.
Bob Dylan has many lives and many transformations, each of which has been analysed and revisited over and over again. Bobcats and Dylanologists never tire of this and we will continue reading every single one as much as we can, when we can. I think that Bob Dylan is one of the most incredible and intelligent songwriters who has ever lived and there can never be too many books about him. He's an amazing human being with a mind that many people would pay with their legs to get a look at.