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'Punk 365' traces history of sound Rock, pop and in between

Ronnie by Ronnie Wood (St. Martin's, 324 pages, $25.95). Not surprisingly, Ronnie Wood - for 30 years, the "new boy" in the Rolling Stones - has quite a tale to tell. What might surprise a few is how cogently, humorously and incisively "Woody" tells that tale. Few who spend prolonged periods of time in the company of Keith Richards live to tell anyone about it. Wood has not only survived - barely, at a few points - he's elevated the artistry of the Stones, conquered his drinking and drug demons (at press time, anyway) and fostered a serious "day gig" as a painter. "Ronnie" will have you falling off the couch with laughter with every other turn of the page, but it will also touch your heart - Wood is, after all, a bit of a romantic. He's also, it turns out, one heck of a writer.

Punk 365 by Holly George-Warren (Abrams, 744 pages, $29.95). From the foreword by punk Godfather Richard Hell, through plentiful gritty and grainy images of punk's rise, fall and rebirth, Holly George- Warren's "Punk 365" traces the form's arc, from the Velvet Underground and the Stooges through the genesis of hardcore with late-'80s bands like Bad Brains and Black Flag. The authoritative text on the musical movement.

Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music by David N. Meyer (Villard, 559 pages, $29.95). Meyer's love for Gram Parsons' music is evident on every page of "Twenty Thousand Roads," but it's his journalistic integrity that makes this book the definitive one to date on the progenitor of "Cosmic American Music," and his almost gothically tragic life. Meyer cuts through the considerable myth to reveal a deeply troubled, often callously foolish, but heartbreakingly talented man. Essential.

Genesis: Chapter & Verse by Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford (Thomas Dunne Books, 360 pages, $29.95). The real story of the most brilliantly idiosyncratic band in all of British progressive music, told in the band members' own words, and illustrated with delicious detail. Brilliant, revelatory, and often, very funny.

Creem: America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine by Robert Matheu & Brian J. Bowe (Collins, 271 pages, $29.95). Buy this for every rock-geek on your holiday list. Creem was a wonderfully irreverent magazine, one that raised the notion that rock criticism could be as exciting as the rock itself. Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, Dave Marsh, Sylvie Simmons, Cameron Crowe, Lisa Robinson - all wrote for Creem at one point or another. The Detroit-based magazine also helped foster the Motor City rock scene, bringing a national edge to its local coverage. Creem was it, and in this book, writers Matheu and Bowe collect some of the most iconic images and even more iconic text ever published beneath the Creem banner. A must-have.

Classic Queen by Mick Rock (Sterling, 192 pages, $24.95). Speaking of iconic images, photographer Mick Rock's collection of Queen pics is simply breathtaking. Rock - who also documented David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust period in era-defining photos - knew how to bring out the inner dramatist in his subjects. With Freddie Mercury, one of the most colorful figures in rock history, Rock had met his match. As bold and bombastic as the band's best music.

Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer by Chris Salewicz (Faber & Faber, 629 pages, $30). This is clearly the definitive text on the dearly departed Clash frontman. Salewicz knew his subject on both a personal and musicological level, and his biography is illuminating, revealing as it does the urgent passion, unflinching integrity and dichotomous balance between the punk rocker and the family man that defined Strummer. Though it's clear he cares deeply, Salewicz never fawns over his subject. Instead, he favors a frank, uncluttered style based on intensive research. A heart-rending read.

Slash by Slash with Anthony Bozza (Harper Collins, 459 pages, $27.95). Talk about baring it all. "Slash" is a tough read. The Guns N' Roses/Velvet Revolver guitarist pulls no punches when it comes to his appetite for self-destruction. The book offers a bleary-eyed view of the Los Angeles hard rock and metal scene of the '80s, in which peroxide, Aqua Net and cocaine were daily staples, willing women and low-slung guitars a close second. A story of survival, ultimately.

The Act You've Known For All These Years: A Year In the Life of Sgt. Pepper and Friends by Clinton Heylin (Canongate, 352 pages, $24). No finer document of the psychedelic music movement of late-'60s swinging London exists than Heylin's richly detailed "The Act You've Known For All These Years." That said, it's also an incredibly frustrating book. Heylin doesn't have a chip on his shoulder - it's a boulder. The author spends too much time trying to prove how hip he is by repeatedly downplaying the historical significance of the Beatles, whom he paints as shrewd trend-hoppers adept at appropriating the groundbreaking work of artists like Pink Floyd and the Move. Heylin's arrogance is palpable throughout the book. Still, he's quite knowledgeable and paints an intriguing portrait of a creatively rich era in rock music.

Gorillaz: Rise of the Ogre by Gorillaz, Cass Browne and Jamie Hewlett (Riverhead, 300 pages, $20). This is quite brilliant, in a thoroughly post-modern way. An autobiography penned by a fictional band of cartoon characters, presented as a gorgeous graphic-novel - leave it to Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn to pull this one off. The line between truth and fantasy is repeatedly blurred throughout "Rise of the Ogre." A band hasn't been so adept at manipulating fantasy since the '70s heyday of KISS.

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