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No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  1,524 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
Robert Shelton wrote the rave review of Bob Dylan in the New York Times that is generally credited with being the piece that "discovered" him in 1961. Twenty-five years later, Shelton, who had followed Dylan's career faithfully, published No Direction Home . Here is the "empathetic and rather magnificent" ( Washington Post Book World ) story of Dylan, musician and phenomen ...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published July 9th 2003 by Da Capo Press (first published January 1st 1986)
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Please Kill Me by Legs McNeilChronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob DylanLove Is a Mix Tape by Rob SheffieldOur Band Could Be Your Life by Michael AzerradJust Kids by Patti Smith
Best Non Fiction About Music
241st out of 908 books — 843 voters
Chronicles by Bob DylanYounger Than That Now by Jim EllisonThe Old, Weird America by Greil MarcusRevolution in the Air by Clinton HeylinA Freewheelin' Time by Suze Rotolo
Books about Bob Dylan
9th out of 59 books — 19 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 22, 2014 Geoff rated it really liked it
Shelves: biophilia
"Not since Rimbaud said ‘I is another’ had an artist been so obsessed with escaping identity… Dylan as an identifiable persona has been disappearing into his songs, which is what he wants. This terrifies his audiences…”


Shelton’s book is a Citizen Kane-style kaleidoscope, a fragmented searching-out and recollection of shards from multiple perspectives, forming a bewilderingly contradictory portrait of America’s most enigmatic bard- and to be sure, any successful portrait of Dylan should aspire
Paul Bryant
Sep 26, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Bobcats
Shelves: bob-dylan
Funny old book this one. Shelton made a deal with Dylan. He could quote any of the lyrics if he refrained from discussing Sara. That didn't stop Shelton mistakenly identifying Sara Lowndes as the ex-wife of Victor Lowndes, Playboy executive. Oops. Shelton lugged this book around for 20 years before he finally got it published, and it's a ragbag - very detailed on the early years, and everything after 1966 written off in a couple of pages. He also tries his hand at song analysis, and that ain't g ...more
Susan Wolf
Sep 24, 2013 Susan Wolf rated it it was amazing
This was an absolutely fascinating look into the life of one of the last living legends of Modern Music. Did I say Modern Music? Well, Bob began his career delving into the archives of Negro , Appalachian, Hillbilly, very early American folk songs. Coming full circle as a folk star, a disappointment to those folkies, reinventing himself time and time again, Mr. Dylan is one of the most intriguing "celebrities" of our time. Robert Shelton was the first to review a gig Bob preformed at Gerties pub ...more
Tracy Reilly
May 07, 2014 Tracy Reilly rated it really liked it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I put this on my "didn't finish" list, not because I didn''t like it but because I finished the project I needed it for, and it was due back at the library (where I just successfully got $73 dollars worth of fines in Russian Books dismissed))). I want to read more of this someday, because it is well written, and I like reading about Bob.
Apr 06, 2016 Jarvo rated it really liked it
Relatively early into this book I was musing that it was possible to virtually all contemporary music without really hearing the influence of Mr Zimmerman, at least not in the way you would have even 20 years ago when any young man with a guitar was in danger of being dubbed 'the new Dylan'. What does it matter, I thought to myself, given that Dylan is probably the greatest poet in English since Yeats, who cares whether some half baked 20 something is trying to imitate him?
Reading this admirable
Dec 30, 2011 Avery rated it it was amazing
“Qualquer pessoa que pense se considerar um poeta, simplesmente não pode ser um poeta”, diz Bob Dylan na página 482 de No Direction Home, livro de Robert Shelton que é verdadeiro tratado polissêmico (uma quase-tese?) sobre vida e obra de Robert Zimmerman.

No Direction Home é uma mistura equilibrada de jornalismo, pesquisa bibliográfica e brilhantes interpretações histórico-filosóficas sobre movimentos de direitos civis, música folk e contracultura nos anos 1960s. As frases de Dylan estão lá. Sua
Clayton Whisnant
Aug 22, 2012 Clayton Whisnant rated it really liked it
A interesting book on Bob Dylan’s life and career up through the early 1980s written by a music journalist and folk scene insider who knows Bob Dylan and his music well. The pacing is a little off--the story moves at a snail’s pace through the early to mid-1960s, the period in which Shelton clearly was spending a lot of time personally with Bob Dylan and has a lot of personal memories to add. It picks up speed through the 1970s, and the Christian period of Dylan’s life is zipped through quickly. ...more
Perry Whitford
Jan 28, 2016 Perry Whitford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Shelton was a New York Times journalist who was a friend of Dylan in Greenwich Village throughout the 1960's. He wrote the singer's first positive review and pretty much had authorization from the man himself to write this biography, which was eventually published in the mid 1980's.

As you would expect from Shelton's proximity to Dylan throughout the 60's, he he is very strong on those early years, having the kind of access that could never be repeated as Dylan's wariness with the press gr
Mar 14, 2013 Jean rated it really liked it
I think Dylan is a genius, and enjoyed reading this book. He is a very reclusive man, which probably saved him, as many tried to cast him in a role as a prophet or savior. He only wanted to make music and write poetry. In that, he has done well. The book is written by Robert Shelton, obviously a trusted friend. Dylan does not say much about his family, except that he married an unknown model named Sara Louwnds, and not too many people in the press got to know any more about her. He adopted her d ...more
Craig Werner
For those who already know the Dylan story, Shelton's book provides some new details, but it's not a particularly good introduction. Shelton wrote the New York Times review that put Dylan in the spotlight for the first time and he hung out with the singer during his early years, which earned him a kind of insider status. That's both a good thing and a problem. It seems clear Shelton had an agreement with Dylan not to write about aspects of his private life which have been well documented elsewhe ...more
Jan 13, 2011 Rupert rated it it was amazing
I didn't get around to this book until now for the goofy reason that the 1986 publication date put me off, thinking it would deal primarily with the tragic '80s decade. Plus I'd read Scaduto's biography and that always gets prime critical real estate, but for me this is the definitive book on Dylan. Shelton was the first to take serious critical note of Dylan in his early days at Folk City and the two became and stayed friends. So you get this intimate but level headed life story combined with a ...more
Aug 27, 2015 Ronn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've read a lot of books about Bob Dylan. I'm glad I read the others first, because if I had read this one first, I'd never have read another. This was HUGELY disappointing, especially considering how close the author was to the subject. But with all the obvious if minor factual errors [i.e. "Shake, Rattle, & Roll" was an Ivory Joe Hunter song rather than a Big Joe Turner song?], combined with all the failures of editing and proofreading [someone responded in 1962 to an article published in ...more
Apr 15, 2014 Ron rated it it was amazing
It is still the Dylan bio which all other Dylan bio's are measured against. Shelton reviewed Dylan's first major NYC concert for the NY Times and became a friend.

The book is well written, has great insights on Dylan's music, and lots of personal anecdotes of Dylan.

Great Read.
Jun 28, 2011 Charity rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dylan-centric
Interesting details are given, Shelton has a strong voice, but the slant and bowing to Dylan takes away from the biography, he needed to be more objective. Dylan was fully aware of this biography, did an interview for it where he looked to shape what Shelton wrote about (times, people, music) and whom he should talk to about what. The interviews that Shelton excerpts, not only his with Dylan but others as well, are hysterical. Dylan was the master at masks and constructing his entertainer identi ...more
Jul 29, 2014 Reid rated it liked it
Bob Shelton's "authorized" Dylan biography distinguishes itself in that he was there in the Village at the beginning of Bob's career and was in fact a friend of Dylan's. He also wrote the newspaper review in September 1961 that was partially responsible for launching Dylan's career and putting him on John Hammond's map.

In that sense, it is an interesting read, especially the early years where Shelton knew the players personally. The later sections don't reveal much, but it was a solid read all t
Aug 30, 2014 Ivan rated it really liked it
FIRST LINE REVIEW: "The is a story about a poet and musician who was born and reborn time again, who 'died' several 'deaths' and yet continued to live." I've always been a Dylan fan, though I'm not sure I could have articulated why. Now I can. This was an abundantly rich, detailed bio that tracks his life from birth to the late '70s. The author was one of the few journalists Dylan trusted and the only one given the blessing to write a biography. I loved two-thirds of the book and could have done ...more
Jun 25, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
A very detailed account of the life of Dylan up to about the 80's. If your are not a big Dylan fan then you probably won't stay with the book. I am a big fan. The book is very good and gives me what I like in a book about BD. There is never a complete, all ending account of this complicated man but this book helps. There are many other books about him that adds to this one. There could have been less detail and more reader friendly but researchers and fans will like it. Because of detail I can n ...more
Tim Weakley
I think this was my favourite read this year so far. The Greenwich Village time period makes the book. Shelton wrote the review that got Dylan "discovered" and had access to the artist that few had after he was burnt by the media of the time. The inside look at where Dylan was at during the recording of the various albums, along with the review ( in some cases song by song ) of the albums in question make the book a very real delight for any Dylan fan. Also an interesting insight for anyone inte ...more
Feb 22, 2016 Maria rated it really liked it
excellent and informative
Aug 03, 2007 Brett rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who wants the real skinny
From the guy who wrote the review that broke Dylan. Not a lot of gossip here -- Robert Shelton was a trusted comrade, so you get good behind-the-scenes ideas of the man and times -- but nothing too dirty. Read this book, then pick up Howard Sounes to pick up on the lost, disenchanted years of the 80s (his second wife and their child) -- Gossip -- the "born-again" phase, or however its usually described (which doesn't encompass the full truth) and for the Time Out of Mind "comeback."
Jun 15, 2015 Rdurie rated it really liked it
Shelves: music, e-book
Overall I enjoyed reading this book about one of my favourite artists. The key to the book was the friendship and trust between Dylan and the author which enabled Shelton to have many one on one conversations with Dylan, from which he produced pages of Dylan talking about himself and his art. Very illuminating. The book was a bit all over the place in terms of writing style, themes and organisation but the quality of the insights into Dylan's artistry shone through.
Tanya Johnson
Mar 25, 2014 Tanya Johnson rated it really liked it
Great overview of Dylan history. Doesn't get too analytical and cryptic like many Dylan books. Good read for a first time Dylan reader.
Jun 05, 2011 Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am loving this book, both because I grew up with Dylan's music and only late realized what a gift that was
and what a very exceptional artist he is. As an artist myself, I admire a fellow artist who does only the artist's work and who knows the value of that work to the collective even when he is ridiculed and mocked. Robert Shelton is also an inspiration, a journalist who is not an egoist, but a witness of supreme sensitivity. E Graf
Larry Wayte
Aug 12, 2014 Larry Wayte rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is a unique perspective on Dylan's music and career, coming from a NYTimes journalist who covered Dylan's music as it happened and got to know him in the process. As a musicologist, I particularly appreciate Shelton's song-by-song engagement with Dylan's recordings. This classic work should be near the top of your list of books to read if you're interested in Dylan or folk music in general.
Apr 01, 2007 Ben rated it really liked it
I was a moderate fan of Dylan's before reading Shelton's exhaustive biography, but by the time I put it down I found myself contemplating a road trip to Hibbing, Minnesota. The book benefits greatly from Shelton's first-hand experiences with Dylan in his early days. The only downside is that the sheer weight of his research causes the narrative to get a tad tedious at times.
Jun 09, 2008 Marcie rated it liked it
After reading White Biclycles and Chronicals I wanted to read some more on Dylan. I realized about half way through that I needed to know MUCH more about his actual music then I know to really get the most out of this book. Shelton goes through every album in detail as well as what was going on in his life. I may try again after I go out and listen to more of his records.
Anne Cullen-wright
Sep 20, 2015 Anne Cullen-wright rated it liked it
Written in intricate detail, suitable for the Dylan obsessed. Really enjoyed the second half of the book as I knew very little post 1966. It deserves more than 3 stars but I found some of it hard going, especially the first half.
May 06, 2010 Sheila added it
Shelton is Dylan's so-called appointed Dylanologist. He experienced Dylan as Dylan was experiencing himself and his life, so it's helpful when Shelton puts readers in the moment and draws them in. Other than that, I didn't particularly care much for his style.

a good read, if you're into Dylan.
Scarlet Drakonin
Mar 17, 2011 Scarlet Drakonin rated it it was amazing
I don't have the exact read start and finish dates on many books I have read this year. The dates are approximated, as I have been in & out of the hospital, and on bed rest, and read 2-5 books a day depending on the book & length and my ability to focus. All dates are approximated, by month.
Mar 14, 2008 Melissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: dylan, music, biography
Shelton apparently spent 20 years writing this book, and it shows both in the thick mass of detail and the occasional feel of overkill. Lots of "I was there" moments from the man who wrote the breakout review in The New York Times of The Bard's early performances in Greenwich Village.
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