Unfamiliar readers curious about the Grateful Dead can begin here. Although far from comprehensive, this list of books provides an outline of the scholarly discourse on the Grateful Dead phenomenon. Most are academic; three are written for a general audience. Entries still in print are linked to Amazon, but readers may also find ABE.com useful as a source for out-of-print and used copies.
Ulf Olsson. Listening for the Secret: The Grateful Dead and the Politics of Improvisation. University of California Press, 2017.
- A high-level scholarly monograph on the Dead, written from a critical theory perspective.
Jesse Jarnow, Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America. Da Capo, 2016.
- A thoughtful account of the broader psychedelic subculture that informed and was shaped by the Grateful Dead phenomenon.
Peter Richardson. No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead. St. Martin’s, 2015.
- The first academic history of the band, written by a literary historian.
David Gans and Blair Jackson. This Is All A Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead. Flatiron Books, 2015.
- A useful history of the band by two noted journalists that draws together a wide range of interviews and perspectives to tell the story of the band.
David Malvinni. The Grateful Dead and the Art of Rock Improvisation. Scarecrow Press, 2013.
- The first scholarly monograph in Dead studies, a musicological analysis of the band.
Nicholas G. Meriwether, ed. Studying the Dead: The Grateful Dead Scholars Caucus, An Informal History. Scarecrow Press, 2013.
- A collection of essays documenting the first fifteen years of the Grateful Dead area of the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association, nicknamed the Grateful Dead Scholars Caucus.
Nicholas G. Meriwether, ed. Reading the Grateful Dead: A Critical Survey. Scarecrow Press, 2012.
- An anthology of essays, most derived from conference papers, outlining the discourse of Grateful Dead studies.
Jim Tuedio and Stan Spector, eds. The Grateful Dead in Concert: Essays on Live Improvisation. McFarland Press, 2010.
- A wide-ranging interdisciplinary anthology edited by two academic philosophers.
Nicholas Meriwether, ed. All Graceful Instruments: The Contexts of the Grateful Dead Phenomenon. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007.
- An early interdisciplinary anthology of scholarly essays, most revised from conference papers.
Dennis McNally. A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead. Broadway Books, 2002.
- The first in-depth history of the band, written by an academically trained historian who also served as the band’s publicist. Essential.
Rebecca Adams and Robert Sardiello, eds. Deadhead Social Science: You Ain’t Gonna Learn What You Don’t Want To Know. AltaMira Press, 2000.
- An anthology of social science essays that introduces several fundamental academic questions about the phenomenon.
Robert G. Weiner, ed. Perspectives on the Grateful Dead. Greenwood Press, 1999.
- An early interdisciplinary academic anthology edited by the first area chair of the Grateful Dead area of the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association.
David Dodd and Robert G. Weiner. The Grateful Dead and the Deadheads: An Annotated Bibliography. Greenwood Press, 1997.
- The first and only annotated bibliography. Indispensable though now outdated.