Always telling your friends about Alex Ross's The Rest of Noise or showing off your battered copy of Clemency Burton-Hill's Year of Wonder: Classical Music for Every Day? Perhaps you're in the market for a new set of books for your bedside table? If so, you've come to the right place. Here, we'll be rounding up the books that have been awarded five-star reviews in BBC Music Magazine throughout the year. If you want to catch up on the best books of previous years and grab a cheaper paperback or reissue, check out our 2020 and 2021 round-ups of the best books about classical music.


We'll be updating this list on a monthly basis to keep you in the loop of all the best books about classical music released this year.

The best books about classical music released in 2022

Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska by John Luther Adams

Picador 208pp (pb)

It’s difficult to imagine the existence of John Luther Adams’s extraordinary music without the ‘silences so deep’ he encountered over 30 years living in Alaska. Yet this beautifully written, disarmingly frank memoir is as much about community as it is about the solitude, music and closeness to the earth he explored from ‘my own Walden – a rough cabin in the boreal forest.’

The title quotes Alaskan poet John Haines who, alongside conductor Gordon Wright and Adams’s wife Cynthia, were crucial among fellow outsiders, artists and environmental activists in sustaining Adams as his music evolved from being ‘about place’ to becoming ‘in a real sense … a place of its own.’

From the wood thrush song that ‘started it all’, via Iñupiaq drumming to the ecstatic ‘sonic geometry’ of A Strange and Sacred Noise and the deep, sound-light engagement of The Place Where You Go to Listen, Adams strives not just for musical topography, but for a music that ‘resonates with the inaudible and the invisible’. It’s a powerful, richly human creative journey – for which we too surely owe Alaska thanks.

Review by Steph Power

Five Straight Lines: A History of Music by Andrew Gant

Profile Books 608pp (hb)

If you’re searching for a comprehensive, engaging, hyper-informative history of classical music, look no further. Andrew Gant’s encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject is seasoned and assimilated; his book has an instinctive sense of values that makes it a genuine history, not just a compendium of research. His writing style is concise and can be entertaining (as in the description of Weber’s chaotic early career).

Gant is excellent on the technical and spiritual intricacies of medieval and Renaissance music. He finds ways of avoiding shopping-list syndrome: the musical lives of Haydn and Mozart are intercut in a way that works very well. JS Bach gets just three pages, yet they beautifully encapsulate the vastness of his achievements. There’s a gift for analogy: the opening of Wagner’s Parsifal prelude is ‘orchestrated like a sky painted by JMW Turner’. The necessarily brisker gallop through the 20th century’s multiple musical styles and riches (jazz and rock included) extends up to present-day talents like Errollyn Wallen, whose quoted words summarise the book itself: ‘We don’t break down barriers in music; we don’t see any.’

Review by Malcolm Hayes

The best books about classical music released in 2021


The best books about classical music released in 2020