Some LA Times bloggers recently came up with a list of 46 Essential Rock Reads that's pretty decent. (I've read 14.) No explanation of why 46 or even why various ones were chosen (they can't think Goldman's Elvis is actually good can they?) but still you could do far worse.
And of course the point for the rest of us is to show how knowledgable we are by pointing out the omissions so:
Geoffrey Stokes Star-Making Machinery: Inside the Business of Rock and Roll - A start to finish look at the creation and release of an album that's surprisingly remained unique almost three decades later. There are plenty of retrospective looks and some odds 'n' ends such as the documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster but this is a real inside look that should have inspired more.
Nick Tosches Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story - One of the key rock biographies that doesn't just make cultural connections but sees a big picture that most writers never even realize might be there.
Mark Shipper Paperback Writer: The Life and Times of the Beatles, the Spurious Chronicle of Their Rise to Stardom, Their Triumphs and Disasters, Plus the Amazing Story of Their Ultimate Reunion - A novel that imagines a different ending for the Beatles and in the process dissects and sorts through the concept of stardom. And then it closes with one of the saddest endings you'll ever read.
Dave Rimmer Like Punk Never Happened: Culture Club and the New Pop - Maybe not rock exactly but pop dynamics have rarely been this exposed.
David Toop Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds - Even less rock here but a key work for wandering through sets of overlapping and conflicting ideas that motivated so much post-war music.
Bob Dylan Chronicles: Volume 1 - Isn't this far more important (and just plain interesting) than Tarantula?