Five Books for the A Cappella Enthusiast on Your Holiday Shopping List

The 5s

In this edition, we discuss five a cappella books you may want to give to the a cappella enthusiast on your holiday shopping list.

Author’s Note: Some of the books listed here are recent enough that I have not been able to read them fully. Please consider this post to be one that makes you aware of different options, but not necessarily as an endorsement of any given text.

1. The A Cappella Book by Mike Chin and Mike Scalise
What it is: As a co-author, I am, of course, biased in favor of this particular volume. Nonetheless, if you like The A Cappella Blog, you’re sure to enjoy the in-depth ponderings of the site’s co-founders, including chapters on singing a solo, event planning, marketing, choreography, and much more.
Whom it’s for: This book is a great introduction to a cappella for someone just getting into the form, and also provides great food for thought to people who are heavily entrenched in the field. Worth noting: the book is far more philosophical than hands on (e.g., the book discusses philosophies and best practices in arranging, but does not discuss the rudiments to actually doing so for the first time).
Where to buy it: The book is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

2. A Cappella Arranging by Deke Sharon and Dylan Bell
What it is: If you’re looking for a more technical book on a cappella, there is probably no greater mentor in the form than “the father of contemporary a cappella,” Deke Sharon. The book is intended to be accessible for anyone from beginners to old pros and ranges from nuts-and-bolts advice on how to arrange a song to Sharon’s thoughts on how to get the most out of the creative process.
Whom it’s for: This book is for people who are actively practicing in the a cappella world, and (perhaps obviously) particularly those who are writing their own arrangements.
Where to buy it: The book is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

3. A Cappella Pop: A Complete Guide to Contemporary A Cappella Singing by Brody McDonald
What it is: Authored by the director of Eleventh Hour, the first high school group to perform on The Sing-Off, this book offers a guide to starting a group and best practices on how to lead it, particularly as a student organization.
Whom it’s for: This book is best fit for someone seeking to start, rebuild, or fundamentally change an a cappella group, rather than casual fans.
Where to buy it: The book is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

4. Powerful Voices by Joshua Duchan
What it is: This intensively researched project explores the rich history of collegiate a cappella as a cultural institution, offering rich insights into college social culture, music education, and more.
Whom it’s for: This book is a perfect fit for the collegiate a cappella scholar, interested in learning the history, tradition, and implications of the form. It is not, however, a how-to guide.
Where to buy it: The book is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

5. Pitch Perfect by Mickey Rapkin
What it is: Perhaps the most famous a cappella book of them all, Rapkin takes a pop literature approach to telling the story of three college a cappella groups—Divisi, The Beelzebubs, and The Hullabahoos—over one tumultuous year. Critics will tell you it’s sensationalized, and they’re right. It’s also a very fun read.
Whom it’s for: Folks who liked the Pitch Perfect film and are thirsting for more will probably find an even more rewarding experience in Rapkin’s book on which the film was (very loosely) based, which explores a wider swath of the collegiate a cappella experience and provides a more realistic look at the ICCAs.
Where to buy it: The book is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Due to the structure of The 5s, I’m only discussing five books in depth, but other titles worth checking out for a cappella enthusiast on your holiday shopping list include Stephen Harrison’s excellent college a cappella novel AcaPolitics, and a hands-on arranging guide in Anna's Amazing A Cappella Arranging Advice: The Collegiate A Cappella Arranging Manual.