The 13 Best Reggae Books

8 min read

Reggae music has been a major cultural force around the world for decades, and its influence can be heard in many different styles of modern popular music. It is a genre steeped in history and rich with vibrant stories that are worth exploring. This article looks at some of the best books available on this topic, offering insightful reviews into each title to help you find the perfect read about reggae’s past, present, and future.

  1. Rockers: The Making of Reggae’s Most Iconic Film

    Rockers: The Making of Reggae’s Most Iconic Film
    Ted Bafaloukos, Seb Carayol, Cherry Karou Hulsey, Eugenie Bafaloukos
    Published in 2020

    Rockers: The Making of Reggae’s Most Iconic Film, is an incredible autobiography written by director Ted Bafaloukos, who achieved cult status for his work on the movie. This vivid tome tells the story of a Greek immigrant’s move from a family of sailors in New York and his subsequent passionate relationship with reggae music that led him to shoot Rockers in Jamaica. It features amazing unseen images taken during production as well as stories about gun-shots at concerts and arrest suspicions – all providing insight into the 1970s’ Jamaican culture. An invaluable collection of photographs captures this unique period along with its style, mentality and fashion. A must have for any true reggae fan! Brilliantly penned recollections combined with beautiful photos make this book an essential piece of cultural history that should be experienced by both seasoned reggae aficionados or those just discovering it now.

  2. Bass Culture: When Reggae Was King

    Bass Culture: When Reggae Was King
    Lloyd Bradley
    Published in 2001

    Bass Culture: When Reggae Was King by Lloyd Bradley is a comprehensive and informative account of the history of reggae music. This book chronicles its origins in Jamaica, from ska to rock-steady to dub and then to reggae itself, which went on to make waves around the world. It narrates tales about legendary figures like Prince Buster, King Tubby and Bob Marley while relating it back to the social context of Jamaica’s colonial period up until independence. An entertaining read for both beginners as well as veteran fans of reggae music; this book provides an insight into Jamaican culture set against the backdrop of influential musicians who shaped their country’s identity through sound. While examining topics such as economics and Rastafarism within its pages, Bass Culture offers a unique exploration into one of modern day’s most celebrated genres with stimulating stories that will leave readers engaged throughout!

  3. Rodigan: My Life in Reggae

    Rodigan: My Life in Reggae
    David Rodigan
    Published in 2018

    David Rodigan’s My Life in Reggae is a captivating story of the man who has dedicated his life to championing and educating fans around the world about Jamaica’s musical culture. This autobiography brings together anecdotes from Rodigan’s five decades as a pioneering presenter, selector and sound system competitor with lavish praise from big names such as Shaggy, Goldie and Rio Ferdinand. A beacon for reggae lovers across all ages – young people revere him while he continues to travel into the heartlands of Reggae music itself – this book celebrates an icon whose enthusiasm for Jamaican beats remains undying. With its relatable narrative style, readers can enjoy insight into how a humble English country boy became one of dance music DJ’s most iconic figures. Anyone interested in learning more about the origins or development of Reggae should pick up this remarkable read; it will not disappoint!

  4. Bob Marley and the Golden Age of Reggae

    Bob Marley and the Golden Age of Reggae
    Kim Gottlieb-Walker, Jeff Walker, Cameron Crowe, Roger Steffens
    Published in 2010

    Bob Marley and the Golden Age of Reggae is an extraordinary book showcasing Kim Gottlieb-Walker’s remarkable photographs from Jamaica. This photographic volume documents a crucial time in reggae music during 1975 and 1976, featuring iconic images of all the musicians who brought this genre to international attention including Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Toots Hibbert, Burning Spear, Jacob Miller and Bob Marley himself. Not only does this compendium include never-before-seen performance shots but exclusive records like Bob’s first US television appearance at The Roxy with George Harrison as well as his historic Dream Concert with Stevie Wonder in Jamaica. Rock journalist Cameron Crowe introduces the collection while acclaimed historian Roger Steffens provides detailed insight into why these years were so significant for reggae culture. With its intimate portraits that capture both joy and hardship in equal measure, Bob Marley & The Golden Age Of Reggae offers an exceptional record of a vibrant moment in musical history — one which will resonate deeply with fans everywhere.

  5. This Is Reggae Music: The Story of Jamaica’s Music

    This Is Reggae Music: The Story of Jamaica's Music
    Lloyd Bradley
    Published in 2001

    This Is Reggae Music: The Story of Jamaica’s Music, by Lloyd Bradley, is an enlightening and entertaining book that takes readers on a journey through the history of reggae music. Through thorough research and interviews with key producers, musicians, and international players in the industry, this definitive work offers insight into the origins of such Jamaican sounds as ska, rocksteady, roots and digital/ragga/roughneck genres. It also explains how poverty, societal strife and political conflict gave rise to these styles which eventually spread throughout the world. With Prince Buster setting up readers’ appetite in his heartfelt foreword followed by Bradley’s adept writing style – this book provides fascinating anecdotes from originators including Lee “Scratch” Perry – while paying scholarly attention to musical detail without neglecting any major wave makers or stars associated with reggae music. This must-read for anyone interested in learning more about one of the most powerful musics forms will leave you feeling both nostalgic for times never experienced yet familiar at once.

  6. The Rough Guide to Reggae 3

    The Rough Guide to Reggae 3
    Steve Barrow, Peter Dalton
    Published in 2004

    The Rough Guide to Reggae 3 is a comprehensive and essential guide for any fan of the genre. It contains over 500 album reviews, 400 pictures, interviews with reggae’s top stars, and covers both classic albums from the past as well as more recent releases. Written by Steve Barrow and Peter Dalton, two experts on Jamaican music whose knowledge is unparalleled in this field, it has been described by Global Rhythm Magazine as an “invaluable and definitive encyclopedia” of Jamaica’s popular music. With its clear layout and accessible writing style making it easy to read cover-to-cover or simply dip into when looking for recommendations or interesting facts about particular artists/albums – The Rough Guide to Reggae 3 can be relied upon to help anyone build up their collection quickly without having any buyer’s remorse.

  7. In Fine Style: The Dancehall Art of Wilfred Limonious

    In Fine Style: The Dancehall Art of Wilfred Limonious
    Christopher Bateman, Al Fingers
    Published in 2016

    This excellent book, In Fine Style: The Dancehall Art of Wilfred Limonious, is an essential guide to the work and influence of one of Jamaica’s most prolific graphic artists. With countless album covers, record-label logos and cartoons adorning its pages, readers are offered a unique insight into the 1980s dancehall scene that was brought alive by Wilfred Limonious’ inimitable style. Through witty characters, clever commentary and outrageous patois-filled speech bubbles this coffee table piece presents an extraordinary visual representation of everyday Jamaican life. Diplo described it as ‘fantastic and epic’, whilst Dr Donna P Hope remarks on its examination of an often overlooked component of dancehall culture – its aesthetic. Whether you’re a fan of reggae or not Tony McDermott’s sentiment still stands; anyone exposed to this genre over the past thirty years has absorbed Limonious’ genius even if they didn’t know it! A great gift for any music lover or collector looking to learn more about Reggae cover art history – get your hands on a copy today!

  8. The Encyclopedia of Reggae: The Golden Age of Roots Reggae

    The Encyclopedia of Reggae: The Golden Age of Roots Reggae
    Mike Alleyne, Sly Dunbar
    Published in 2012

    The Encyclopedia of Reggae: The Golden Age of Roots Reggae provides an interesting insight into one of the world’s most popular musical styles, reggae. Written by a renowned expert in this genre, it covers the dynamic period from 1960s Jamaica to mid-1980s dancehall and profiles over 200 key performers, impresarios and producers who have shaped its history. This extensive resource is heavily illustrated with 500 images including rare album art and ephemera; making it not only informative but visually stimulating too. It’s well written content makes for an enjoyable read as well as being useful for reference purposes; truly essential for all comprehensive music or reggae collections!

  9. Reggaeton

    Reggaeton
    Raquel Z. Rivera, Wayne Marshall, Deborah Pacini Hernandez, Juan Flores
    Published in 2009

    Reggaeton, a hybrid of reggae and rap with Caribbean aesthetics has been taking the world by storm. This book brings together critical assessments into this revolutionary genre’s local roots and transnational dissemination. Contributors explore the debates around race, nation, gender and sexuality generated by its associated cultural practices such as fashion and dance. It includes insightful interviews with Tego Calderón , El General & Renato alongside powerful images from Miguel Luciano’s series Pure Plantainum. With an in-depth exploration of how social currents coalesced to create Reggaeton in Puerto Rico during the 1990s plus fascinating analysis on Cuban society, Miami hip hop scene & Dominican identity; it is no wonder that this volume is being heralded as an important contribution to understanding Latin music at the turn of the 21st century!

  10. Bob Marley: Portrait of the Legend

    Bob Marley: Portrait of the Legend
    Ziggy Marley
    Published in 2020

    In Bob Marley: Portrait of the Legend, readers are treated to an intimate glimpse into the life and influence of one of 20th century pop culture’s most iconic figures. This glorious oversize book celebrates the 75th birthday anniversary with more than 150 photographs from the Marley family archives; a mix of both iconic and unseen images depicting his musical career onstage as well as off-stage moments in studio, plus glimpses into his private home life in Jamaica. With excerpts from unpublished interviews and quotes accompanying each photograph, this is truly a comprehensive tribute which reveals previously unknown aspects about reggae’s forefather – carefully compiled by those who knew him best. A must-have for any fan or collector looking to experience all that was great about Bob Marley!

  11. So Much Things to Say

    So Much Things to Say
    Roger Steffens, Linton Kwesi Johnson
    Published in 2018


    So Much Things to Say by Roger Steffens is an oral history of Bob Marley’s life, drawing on four decades of interviews with family, band members and confidants. It provides a vivid picture of the artist’s journey from obscurity to fame through intimate scenes such as his audition for Coxson Dodd or the attempted assassination which followed it. With insight into conspiracy theories sparked by these events, this book narrates Marley’s story like never before and offers readers an invaluable insight into one of the twentieth century’s greatest pop culture figures. Furthermore, Steffens’ captivating storytelling style brings out essential truths about Bob Marley that may have previously been obscured in other works; making So Much Things to Say a must-read for any music aficionado hoping to gain more understanding around this legendary figure.

  12. Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae

    Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae
    Michael Veal, Michael E. Veal
    Published in 2007

    Michael Veal’s Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae is a groundbreaking book that captures the development of dub music, from its inception to its influence across musical genres around the world. A thorough analysis of this subgenre of reggae provides insight into how recording engineers like Osbourne “King Tubby” Ruddock pioneered techniques similar to what turntable scratching later achieved. Through interviews with prominent figures such as DJ and producer-recording artist Mikey Dread, readers gain an understanding for why dub is both deconstructive compositional strategy and socially significant expression of culture. This authoritative account examines hip-hop’s transformation from Jamaica’s sound system model to Bronx’ bling-encrusted rap form – making it essential reading not only for reggae aficionados but also all lovers of contemporary black music. Packed full with an extensive discography, this work has been awarded by ARSC as Best Research (History) in Folk/Ethnic/World Music 2008 – proving itself to be one informative and captivating read!

  13. The Reggae Songbook Piano, Vocal and Guitar Chords

    The Reggae Songbook Piano, Vocal and Guitar Chords
    Various
    Published in 2012

    The Reggae Songbook Piano, Vocal and Guitar Chords from Hal Leonard LLC is a must-have for any reggae enthusiast! This songbook contains more than 40 classic hits, including Bad Boys, Equal Rights, Get Up Stand Up, I Shot the Sheriff and many more. All songs are presented in their original key with easy-to-read chords so you can learn to play your favourite tunes right away. What’s even better is that some of these classics have been sampled by famous artists such as Sean Paul, Rihanna and Diana King. With this incredible collection of reggae music all under one cover – it truly is a dream come true for any fan of the genre!

Additional resources

If you’re looking for more information on reggae, check out the following websites and blogs:

  • Reggaeville offers reviews, interviews, and news about reggae artists and events.
  • World of Reggae provides news, reviews, and information about reggae music and its culture.
  • Yardhype covers reggae and dancehall music, with news, reviews, interviews, and features.
  • Reggae Vibes is a website that provides news, reviews, and information on reggae music, including roots reggae, dub, and dancehall.
  • Reggae Nation provides information on the reggae music scene, including artist profiles, album reviews, and events.

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