Looking for some books about festivals to boost your collection? Or even, give as a gift? Here are some of the best festival books out there to fuel your festival fancies…
Say what you will about us humans, but we sure know how to party. Just look at the sheer number of festivals taking place all over the world, from massive outdoor musical extravaganzas to saint day shindigs and other religious or cultural events. While customs and traditions may vary, they’re all built around a single premise: people coming together to celebrate something that matters to them.
If you’re a keen traveller, visiting some of the greatest and biggest festivals around the world should certainly be on your bucket list. And while I’ve written plenty about festivals on this site, there’s every chance that if you’re a fan, you’ll want to delve deeper into the subject.
So here are some of the best books about festivals. With Christmas coming up, these would make great gifts for any festival fan with wanderlust…
Books About Festivals
The festival books you need in your life to bridge that gap between festival weekends.
1. Celebrate! The Greatest Festivals Around The World
By Victoria Philpott (ME!)
It would feel remiss of me to start this list of best books about festivals without giving mine a plug! Festivals are my specialist subject, having visited 62 in 22 different countries. And I used that knowledge to write Celebrate!
My 207-page coffee table book tells the history of some of the most significant religious, music, food, and sports festivals around the world and offers plenty of practical advice for anyone planning to attend. The list includes some of my favourites — Glastonbury, Dia de Los Muertos, Las Fallas and SXSW — plus others I’ve spent a long time researching and hope to visit one day.
If any of your loved ones are planning on travelling the world and visiting a festival or two in 2023, this is the ideal stocking filler!
You can buy my book Celebrate! at Blackwells… or Amazon on these links.
2. The Road To Woodstock
By Michael Lang
Without a doubt, one of the most famous festivals in history was The Woodstock Music and Art Fair. The event took place at the end of the swinging sixties against a backdrop of the Vietnam War and the rise of Counterculture and was billed as ‘three days of peace and music.’ It’s one of the most important festivals ever to grace the festival scene.
Iconic artists such as The Who, Janis Joplin and perhaps most famously, Jimmy Hendrix, played to a crowd of around half a million people over three days. The man responsible for booking those acts was promoter Michael Lang, who’s written this acclaimed account of the chaos that went into organising the iconic festival. Buy The Road to Woodstock for a great insight into one of the most iconic festivals there ever was.
3. Lonely Planet: 50 Festivals To Blow Your Mind
Lonely Planet’s travel guides are some of the best around. No matter where in the world you’re planning to visit, the chances are they’ve compiled a whole bunch of expert tips to help. So the fact that 50 Festivals To Blow Your Mind bears their name is a good sign — you know the information is authoritative and trustworthy.
Its list is broken down into categories of festivals, including all action, foodie, music, off-the-wall, and those that are just one big party, so it caters to all tastes. And it features world-famous events such as Glastonbury and Mardi Gras alongside some that are quirkier and less well-known. The Finnish Wife Carrying Festival, anyone?
4. The Big Book of Festivals
By Marita Bullock & Joan-Maree Hargreaves
This book’s excellent if you’re looking to introduce children to the way different cultures celebrate around the world. It explains the history of events such as Diwali, Dia de Los Muertos and the Maori celebration of Matariki in a clear and accessible way and there are plenty of nice illustrations to look at, too.
The Big Book of Festivals is definitely one of the best books about festivals for curious young minds.
5. Glastonbury 50: The Official Story of Glastonbury Festival
By Micheal Eavis and Emily Eavis
Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary may have been overshadowed by the global pandemic, but 210,000 revellers more than made up for it when the festival returned to Worthy Farm last summer. It was a far cry from the original incarnation of the event, the ‘Pilton Pop, Folk and Blues Festival’, which was attended by just over 1,000 people each paying £1 a ticket.
This official Glastonbury 50 book documents the years in between and tells the stories of some of the most iconic headline sets, from David Bowie to Dolly Parton. This is a great book about festivals for any Glasto obsessives out there!
6. Festivals: A Music Lover’s Guide to the Festivals You Need To Know
by Oliver Keens
If you enjoy attending music festivals around the world, you may find some inspiration for your next trip in this book by DJ and music journalist Oliver Keens.
Part nostalgic history lesson, part practical guidebook, it covers all the major events — Glastonbury, Coachella, Fuji Rock — and some of those that are a little off the beaten track, such as Marrakesh’s Oasis.
7. The Festival Book
by Michael Odell
First-time festival goer? This survival guide written by The Times journalist Michael Odell has top tips to help you get the most from your experience, and includes plenty of celebrity anecdotes too. If you’ve ever wondered what to wear, what to pack, or how on earth you’re supposed to survive a mud bath, you’ll find the answers here.
I mean, to be honest, you can find all that info on this here blog and save yourself £10, but if you like to read these things in print – this could be the book about festivals for you.
8. The Scene That Became Cities
by Benjamin Wachs
Burning Man is unlike any other festival in the world. There’s no official programme; instead, it’s a temporary camp that pops up in the desert each year centred around a loose theme. And it attracts tens of thousands of people.
In this book, serial attendee Benjamin Wachs offers a history of the event and the philosophy behind it, which he believes could be used to re-organise society.
9. Graphic Fest: Identities for Festivals & Fairs
Festival posters are often works of art in their own right, with the likes of Keith Haring and Andy Warhol among the notable names who’ve turned their hands at colourful event ads. This book talks about the process of designing posters for festivals and fairs and offers inspiration for any would-be promoter.
The best books about festivals
Festivals are an incredibly important part of human culture, so it’s no wonder that so many books have been written on the subject.
I hope this list offers some gift-giving inspiration for the festival fans in your life — whether they’d appreciate an in-depth history of an iconic festival such as Glastonbury or Woodstock, comprehensive lists of the most notable cultural and religious events around the world to inspire their travels, or a guide to help them survive their first festival.
And if all that’s put you in the festival mood, check out these 55 Unique World Festivals for Your 2023 Bucket List.