Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan” as Want to Read:
No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  1,747 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
An unauthorized biography by the writer whose rave review of Bob Dylan almost 25 years ago is generally regarded as the piece that discovered him, this is a magnificent exploration of the poet and musician whose work has affected an entire generation. 16 pages of black-and-white photographs.
Hardcover, 573 pages
Published December 31st 1986 by Beech Tree Paperback Book (first published 1986)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about No Direction Home, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about No Direction Home

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Aug 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Tracy Reilly
Apr 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
David Bjorlin
Whether it was the writing, my interest level, of Robert Shelton's lack of interaction with Dylan later in his career, the last 200 pages lose a considerable amount of steam.
Perry Whitford
Mar 07, 2013 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
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Clayton Whisnant
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 04, 2011 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
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biografía
Una buena biografía de Dylan, con un equilibrio bastante conseguido entre las partes dedicadas a su obra, su vida pública, y algo más floja en cuanto a vida privada, pero para eso ya está la de Sounes. Lo malo es que se detiene en 1985. En su momento fue lo mejor que había sobre Dylan y casi diría que lo sigue siendo si no fuera precisamente por esa limitación temporal. El autor era crítico del New York Times y se convirtió en uno de los descubridores de Dylan y en su amigo. Es curioso que no pu ...more
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 05, 2011 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
Aug 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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."
Larry Wayte
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Faith Lowery
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 09, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Rick Bayko
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A somewhat 'authorized' biography by one of the few people that Bob Dylan let close enough to do a fair job of it. I've been a Bob Dylan fan since my high school days in the mid-1960s but learned much that I didn't know throughout the pages of this voluminous book, and savored every bit of it. And to think that more than 30 years of Dylan output have occurred since publication. Rock on!
Feb 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, non-fiction
At the time when this came out, it was probably the best book on Dylan, and certainly Shelton's credentials are impeccable....still, at times I had the feeling that something was happening and he just didn't know what it was....
Mar 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited
  • On the Road with Bob Dylan
  • Bob Dylan Performing Artist 1960-1973 The Early Years
  • A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks
  • Bob Dylan in America
  • The Bob Dylan Scrapbook: 1956-1966
  • Bob Dylan: A Biography
  • The Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes
  • The Essential Interviews
  • Lyrics, 1962-1985
  • Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan
  • Rolling Thunder Logbook
  • The Ballad of Bob Dylan: A Portrait
  • Million Dollar Bash: Bob Dylan, the Band, and the Basement Tapes
  • Across the Great Divide: The Band and America
  • A Freewheelin' Time: Greenwich Village in the Sixties, Bob Dylan and Me
  • The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia
  • Dylan's Visions of Sin

Nonfiction Deals

  • A Guide to the Present Moment
    $7.99 $2.99
  • Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Breaks of the Game
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt
    $12.74 $2.99
  • How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Dry
    $9.99 $3.99
  • Animal Liberation: The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement
    $17.99 $1.99
  • The Measure of a Man
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions
    $13.99 $2.99
  • 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Best Friends: The True Story of the World's Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Let. It. Go.: How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis
    $9.24 $1.99
  • Clara's War: One Girl's Story of Survival
    $8.49 $1.99
  • The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey
    $17.48 $1.99
  • The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice
    $12.49 $1.99
  • The Noticer Returns: Sometimes You Find Perspective, and Sometimes Perspective Finds You
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Scar Tissue
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Running with Scissors
    $9.99 $3.99
  • The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics
    $9.99 $2.99
  • 1968: The Year That Rocked the World
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love and Manic Depression
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between)
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes
    $9.99 $2.99
  • And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini
    $22.95 $1.99
  • Facing Your Giants: The God Who Made a Miracle Out of David Stands Ready to Make One Out of You
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin...Every Inch of It
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Egg and I
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More
    $12.74 $1.99
  • City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas
    $14.99 $2.99
  • Just Another Kid
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Second World War
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids
    $11.24 $1.99
  • Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man's Voice from the Silence of Autism
    $13.99 $1.99
  • I Am Not Myself These Days (P.S.)
    $13.24 $1.99
  • In the Beginning...Was the Command Line
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Toltec Art of Life and Death
    $11.49 $1.99
  • Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It
    $9.49 $2.99
  • The Diva Rules: Ditch the Drama, Find Your Strength, and Sparkle Your Way to the Top
    $17.99 $2.99
  • A Brief History of Time
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves
    $9.99 $1.99
  • All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis, 1922-1927
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Penguin Lessons
    $12.99 $1.99
  • What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-smart Executive
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
    $10.99 $2.99
  • Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011
    $12.99 $2.99
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About God: A
    $11.49 $2.99