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7 Essential Books For DJs and Producers

Festival season is just around the corner, which means significantly more downtime for DJs and and music fans alike while en route to the show. When you’re waiting in bus stations, trains, airports, and cars to get to the next big event, having a book to read is great – and you could be expanding your DJing and production knowledge while staying entertained. We’ve put together a great list of seven essential reads for DJs and producers, read on!


We’re not going to ask you to write up a full book report – but instead look at the below list as recommendations of some of the most useful and interesting books that we (the DJTT staff) have read and been recommended. We’ve included a quick description of why each book is special and worth your time – and links to Amazon and digital versions of the book where available!

The Hacienda – How Not To Run A Club
Author: Peter Hook
Price: $8.50 on Amazon
Why It’s An Awesome Read:  The Hacienda – better known as the monumental Manchester club where acid house took off in the 1980s – is one of the cornerstones of modern club and DJ culture. In this book, Joy Division/New Order’s Peter Hook tells the story of the club (of which he was a co-owner), its incredible success, and equally incredible failure in the 90s.

Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip-Hop DJ
Author: Mark Katz
Price: $20.79 (paperback) / $9.99 (Kindle) on Amazon
Why It’s An Awesome Read:  A lot of current media about DJs revolves around the evolution of electronic dance music from the raves of the early nineties to the ragers of today – so to have the story of a completely different music genre revolve around DJs is always refreshing. Mark Katz’s book is on point, with a history of hip-hop that stars the DJs as the central founders, proponents, and innovators of the field.

How To DJ Right: The Art and Science of Playing Records
Authors: Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton
Price: $10.20 (paperback) / $8.25 (Kindle) on Amazon
Why It’s An Awesome Read: As with a lot of modern creators, DJs have to be part technician and part artist – and How To DJ Right is a textbook for DJs (experienced and amateur) who want to excel at both concurrently. It’s both simple enough for beginners to understand and fundamentally powerful enough for DJs who have been around the block to still get value out of a read. Forget reading any “Learn how to DJ in 3 hours!” book and read this first.

Last Night A DJ Saved My Life: The History Of The Disc Jockey
Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton 
$11.52 (paperback) / $9.60 (Kindle) on Amazon
Why It’s An Awesome Read: The truth is that this book should be required reading for anyone who decides to spend time behind the decks. Brewster and Broughton (the same crew!) catalog the century-long history of DJs and their role in the advancement of virtually every genre in the last forty years. If you’re going to read one book from this list (and haven’t already), make it this one. From the book’s description: “Drawing on in-depth interviews with DJs, critics, musicians, record executives, and the revelers at some of the century’s most legendary parties, Last Night a DJ Saved My Life is nothing less than the life story of dance music.”

The Record Players: DJ Revolutionaries
Authors: Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton (yes, again!)
$12.16 (paperback) / $9.99 (Kindle)
Why It’s An Awesome Read: This most recent publication from this tag-team of DJ music journalists who penned the two books prior takes the focus away from the technical and historical and instead relies on the DJs themselves who build DJ history to tell their own stories. It’s a natural follow up to Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, complete with “a collection of firsthand accounts from the obsessives, the playboys, and the eccentrics that dominated the music scene and contributed to the evolution of DJ culture”.

DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… (33 1/3)
Eliot Wilder
$10.17 (paperback) / $9.66 (Kindle)
Why It’s An Awesome Read: There’s little doubt that Entroducing… fundamentally changed the landscape of sampling – which is what makes it a great subject for this edition of 33 1/3, a series that canonizes classic albums. In this book, you really get a sense of who Josh Davis (DJ Shadow) is, and what the mix of circumstances, skills, and passion were in his life that allowed the creation of Entroducing….

Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys, and Techniques
Rick Snoman
$24.06 (paperback) / $22.86 (Kindle) 
Why It’s An Awesome Read: This tome by Rick Snoman is used as a textbook in a lot of electronic music production classes simply because it’s one of the best written introductions to the topic. It covers a breadth of subjects and genres – and really gets to the core of how to take a desire to write/create dance music and turn it into actual songs. From learning the basics of audio, to synth programming, to remixing and sampling, if you’re looking to start down the production road, this makes for an ideal starting point.


These books are just the beginning, and comprise only the core of the DJTT library. What books do you think are critical or exemplary reading for DJs and producers? Let us know in the comments below (and be sure to tell us why it’s so good!) and we’ll add the top-voted entries to this article. What’s on your summer DJ reading list?

  • John Smith

    Also, * Good Musician* by Shadow Producers, really good book for DJs, producers and engineerd

  • Trelos PAOK

    Hip-Hop Turntablism, Creativity and Collaboration. Sophy Smith

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  • Patrick

    I was a Junior in high school who had just blown a summer’s worth of work on my first set of turntables when my high school chamber choir went on a trip to NYC. An awesome rasta guy who was spinning a Jamaican dub style mix in the store pointed me to “How to DJ Right” and to “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life”. I bought them both and read them on the flight back to Arkansas. My life was changed. In a small town in the middle of rural Arkansas, I was the go to guy for music my senior year of high school and all due to things I learned in those books.

    They really stress individual DJ creativity and that set building is a journey. I took that to heart and stuck to my guns. Even when at every party I got a request for a really out of place country music song. In Arkansas, I introduced my whole high school class to UK Garage and House music. That was eight years ago and I still reread those books once a year to stay on my edge as the pressure to be a “2-hour, bang it out” DJ, as the author call it, grows with the mainstream popularity of EDM. Its important to know where DJing comes from so that you don’t get swept up in the trends that come and go.

    God, I’m just babbling now, but I REALLY love those books and strongly feel everyone should read them. Thank you very much Frank Broughton and Bill Brewster!

  • 1000 Cutts

    The best book I have read is “Class of 88” by Wayne Anthony pioneer acid house/free party Sunrise or Genesis promoter from 1988…..

  • Juan

    Hi , any book to learn about mapping and basic effects, to buy and download?? Not hard copy. Tks

  • Anonymous

    Last Night A DJ Saved My Life should be required reading for *everyone* on both sides of the decks. The coverage of the history of U.K. Northern Soul is excellent and worth the price of the book alone.

  • Great selection of Books For DJs and Producers. I really think we should take time to read and be informed – the industry is changing daily.

  • Last Night I DJ Saved My Life was the first DJ book I read, thank god, it was such a good read from beginning to end.

  • Not sure if this was mentioned yet but I really enjoyed “Generation Ecstacy” by Simon Reynolds.

  • Brewston and Broughton’s book helped me really understand the zen of someone who makes music using other peoples music/pre-recorded music, at the time digital djIng was very much a new thing, so you’ll find little mention of any software, and only a slight nod to CD decks but I’d say anyone who cares about their craft and wants to foster pride in their musical tastes and abilities could benefit from reading and re-reading this. In my opinion these guys pretty much captured what it means to be both a DJ and a Musician in a few hundred pages of text. Even people with experience can benefit from seeing someone elses well-developed thoughts on what might seem like simple concepts. wish I had copies of the other ones.

  • Vekked

    Groove music should be a mandatory read for up and comers (and anyone who needs a DJ history lesson).

  • TTM DJ Notation

    alsø…the First book ever written on skratch notation called “The Fundamentals” Written and Designed by dj Raedawn in 1999 :: and his follow up book that dropd the next year on Feb. 17 2000 called “TTM 1.0” Written by Dj Raedawn, E. Imboden and J. Carluccio / Designed by Dj Raedawn + E. Imboden for fee download!

  • TTM DJ Notation

    dønt førget dj Raedawn’s “Periodic Matrix of Skratches” :: a on page poster/skratch dictionary with over 900 skratches and mixing techniques….10usd for the 90mb zip file or 22 for the poster and the zip….

  • Great recommendations. I bought How To DJ Right: The Art and Science of Playing Records years ago and haven’t once thought of getting rid of it, even though I no longer DJ seriously. I even took it with me from New Zealand to the UK. Some books when you read them at a certain…intense?… time in your life become quite meaningful, and this is one of them.

    • it’s strong stuff. made me love being a musician that much more.

  • Lostathebeach

    I know I’m running the risk of being slaughtered for this but…

    When I started out djing my brother bought me ‘DJing For Dummies’ by John Steventon. Sure, it had the basics you would expect. But also had lots of additional information on thinks like track selection and building a playlist. It really was surprisingly good.

    On top of this, I was actually able to get in contact with the author through his website to ask a few questions which he very gladly (and swiftly) answered.

    I’d really recommend it.

  • Kundabuffer

    If you’re not too shy for deep music analysis and a heavy dose of theory, the book Unlocking the Groove is excellent. It grew out of the author’s music theory thesis paper and it’s incredible for delving into the rhythmic structures and accidents from early techno tracks that made them work. Just the structural analysis of classic tracks at the end is worth the price alone as a learning tool.

  • Ryan

    In “How Music Works”, David Byrne (Talking Heads and work with Brian Eno and St. Vincent) goes through his development as an artist, the history of music’s mediums, and all the nuances of the music industry.

  • Victor Sanchez
  • Walter Cruz

    For brazilian readers, there’s a book called ‘Todo DJ já sambou’ that is quite nice about telling the history of DJing on Brazil. Pretty nice.

  • connor

    wu tang manual is cool

  • new at the zoo

    Zen in the martial arts has some great understandings that could be applied to DJing, producing, and many other aspects of life. Recommended for everyone

  • James Yanisko

    Along the lines of Groove Music, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop is a wonderful read about the culture surrounding Hip Hop.

  • Kenwin Marsley

    Mark Katz was a complete tool in his previous book Capturing Sound. Read the chapter on hip hop to see an example of an academic who is completely lost in Eurocentrism (using the tools of classical music to look at hip hop or other types of music). Maybe he had some sort of awakening, but my stomach turns at the thought of a continuation of his original directions.

  • NinoSamurai

    DJ Culture by Ulf Poschardt. It is about the history of DJing and music. Very good book!

  • Cant believe Danny Rampling’s Guide to DJ’ing + Sucess was not mentioned here!, its an amazing book, in parts. The First part is all about the fundamentals, the second + third parts were truly inspiring to me the guy really knows what he’s talking about, the book even covers the business side to your DJ career, with invoice templates and tax information, its a MUST BUY for all DJ’s, Comes with a cool DVD too.

  • I highly recomend the Dance Music Manual! It’s great and it taught me so many beautiful things.

  • HEyyy You forgot the NO 1 book on the issue The bible of all edm 🙂

    • Dan White

      Indeed – the KLF are pretty good solid writers and “The Manual” is a very good read. Here’s an Amazon link for more info:

      • Kundabuffer

        Since hard-copy versions have become expensive collectible, it’s good that The Manual is also available for free as a PDF. Here’s one link:

        In Drummund’s book The 17 he mentions that many of the techniques in The Manual were unique to a period of time in music that is now past. Still a great entertaining read.

  • Charles Mykid

    Just bought Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys, and Techniques 2nd Edition 😀

  • Nicholas Kilgore

    Just enrolled in recording arts and I’ll also be picking up a few of these books to smash through on down times. Thanks for the suggestions!

  • Anonymous

    Not an entertaining read, but an important one: “The Sound Reinforcement Handbook” by Davis & Jones. How to spec, buy, set up and tweak PA systems, plus how to engineer audio to work with those setups (it’s got a lot to do with phase). The deep knowledge for Bass Heads.

  • Antifmradio

    Believe it or not, some of these books have been out since 2000.

  • All The Rave: The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning’s Napster

    Clubland, no Amazon link – it’s about the Palladium

  • Phat Mastering

    Bill Brewster and Frank Broughtons How to DJ right is a gem. I think it should be a must for every DJ and producer out there. Too many people lacking the culture and education nowadays.

    Simon Sauter

    Online Mastering Service

    • JPIC

      I bought this one at a used book store completely on a whim. I wasn’t sure about it, but just at first glance it seemed technical enough that I could extract something worth knowing from it. Glad to find out it’s so highly acclaimed 😀

  • textor

    Digital Djing by German author Pieporke-Arndt is pretty handy, but it´s only in German.

    • Anonymous

      You make that translation happen 😉

      • textor

        lol, oh no, my english is too bad…

  • I keep a copy of “Bass Culture” on my nightstand. It is a comprehensive history of Reggae Music.

  • X2 on the dance music manual… Covers just about everything in depth about modern music production

  • Orpheus 360°
    • tier0

      i agree !!!

  • Lost and Sound from Tobias Rapp. A must read for the underground musicians

  • Pronoia

    Not Dj specfic but the new David Byrne book How Music Works is a great read and can give you mad inspiration if you go at it with open ears

  • I agree with all of these listings. I have read all of them with the exception of Dance Music Manual. Some additional books that I have enjoyed are “On the Record: The Scratch DJ Academy Guide”. It contains a lot of history, plus great interviews, and top ten record lists from some of the greatest DJ’s of all time. “Ministry of Sound: The Book” is a great snapshot in time of the early dance music scene, with wonderful pictures and information ranging from music of the time, famous clubs, the top DJ’s, and the gear. Plus you can get this for $1 on amazon. It’s a great coffee table book as guests always enjoy the pictures.

    • On The Record is a great read, even when I first read it a decade after starting as a DJ myself!

  • sam gawthorp

    Sarah Thornton’s Club Cultures is very good, I used that along with these when I write my dissertation, Energy Flash by Suimon Reynolds (also has a cover CD), Adventures On The Wheels of Steel by Dave Haslam

  • Loudist

    I had the opportunity to meet Peter Hook on two or three occasions in the past, but never fancied it because he always looked like such a miserable bastard. Having now read, ‘How Not To Run A Club’, I *completely* understand his lack of good humour back then! It’s a brilliant read and an excellent handbook to boot.

    P.S. The initial hardback version of this book came with a CD. I highly recommend you track one of these copies down if you can.

  • dedox

    Any of these in spanish?

    • Pappapidanha

      Los de Brewster y Boughton los he encontrado en español en grandes librerías en diferentes países

      • dedoX

        ¡Gracias! Los buscaré

  • “50 Shades of DJing” by DJTT. You have the title, let’s write the book.

  • Siens

    “Ocean of sound” by David Toop. Very god read if interested in ambient sounds. Has alot of history that can be traced to other forms of electronic music as well.

  • Ibrahim Sha’ath

    I agree with most of these; “Last Night…” is particularly good.

    “Dance Music Manual” is way too formulaic for my tastes though; as DJ’s we should take pride in innovating, in figuring out grooves for ourselves, and I didn’t like its approach to recreating known styles.

    My essential reads for the production oriented are Michael Hewitt’s “Music Theory for Computer Musicians” (and to a lesser extent “Composition for Computer Musicians”), which really take you through the fundamentals that you can build on for years, and Mike Senior’s “Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio”, which includes everything from monitor choice and placement to mixing and mastering.

    • Dan White

      I can see how DMM would be a bit too formulaic for some – but sometimes the best way to break the rules (an subsequently innovate) is to learn them.

  • I have Last Night A DJ Saved My Life: The History Of The Disc Jockey, Dance Music Manual: Tools, Toys, and Techniques and many others