Neil Peart was one of the greatest drummers of all time and a celebrated lyricist. Not only did he leave behind an incredible body of work with his Rush bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, he also wrote a number books which are worth discovering if you want to find out more about the man away from the confines of the drum kit – and that's why we've come up with a list of the best books by Neil Peart.
Ghost Rider: Travels On The Healing Road is perhaps his best known, but there’s plenty more out there to dive into. From globe-spanning adventures on two and four wheels, memorable treks between shows and more, Peart’s writing sparkles – and there’s even a graphic novel he wrote with Kevin J. Anderson which expands upon the universe he created with Rush’s Clockwork Angels album to explore.
As Peart writes, we are presented with poignant and touching moments, mixed with uplifting experiences – but what really comes through is that we get to see what made Peart tick: his love of landscapes, nature, motorbikes, music and of course, The Macallan. Here then is our pick of the best Neil Peart books.
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The best books by Neil Peart: Our picks
1. Ghost Rider: Travels On The Healing Road (2002)
Following the double tragedy of losing his daughter Selena and his wife Jackie within 10 months of each other, Peart set off on his BMW R1100GS on an epic 55,000 mile journey to try and find some solace. He rolled across Canada, the US, Mexico and Belize – a ride Peart needed to take in order to soothe his “little baby soul” and nurture and protect it as best he could amid what he called the “wreckage” of his life.
Ghost Rider is packed with journal entries, beautiful descriptions of flora, fauna and landscapes, the food Peart ate, the single malt whisky he sipped (mostly The Macallan), the places he stayed and the letters he sent to his friend Brutus as he pushed forward on his journey. It’s a tough read in places due to the awful tragedy Peart endured, but his writing soars as he takes us with him down The Healing Road.
Ghost Rider is also peppered with Rush lyrics which are used to delineate chapters and individual sections within the book, but the most poignant for Rush fans comes right at the start with a line from Grace Under Pressure track Afterimage. Although used here in memory of Selena and Jackie, it now resonates deeply with all fans since Peart’s death from brain cancer in January 2020: “Suddenly you were gone, from all the lives you left your mark upon.” It’s still hard to believe that Peart is no longer with us.
2. Traveling Music: The Soundtrack To My Life And Times (2004)
Traveling Music was published two years after Ghost Rider and saw Peart hit the road once again, but this time switching two wheels for four as he dusted off his BMW Z-8. His destination: Big Bend National Park in Texas – a 2500-mile, six day roundtrip from his home in Los Angeles.
Peart documents his music choices on the journey, using them as a foil for anecdotes, stories and memories. His beautifully descriptive writing, paints pictures of the ever-changing landscape and it’s lovely to read about Peart’s wide range of musical tastes: From Frank Sinatra to Linkin Park and everything in-between.
But there’s so much more packed into Traveling Music. Peart goes into detail about his childhood in St Catharines, Ontario, the first rock band he saw live – the Morticians, in case you didn’t know – his first drum kit, moving to London in the early 70s, his love of bird watching, touring with Rush and much more.
Interesting fact: the book opens with lyrics to a song titled Traveling Music – words that would eventually be spun into the Rush track Working Them Angels a few years later.
3. Roadshow: Landscape with Drums: A Concert Tour by Motorcycle (2006)
For Rush fans or those new to Peart's writing, Roadshow: Landscape With Drums: A Concert Tour By Motorcycle should be your first port of call as it examines the life of a touring musician. The seeds for the project were sown during Rush’s Test For Echo tour in 1996-97, with Peart keeping a journal of the 76 shows they played as he rode between the concerts on his motorcycle. However, after the double tragedy of losing his daughter and wife, the drummer shelved those plans, only to resurrect the idea ahead of Rush’s 30th anniversary tour in 2004.
The book starts with Peart on Sunset Boulevard astride his BMW R1150GS on his way to Nashville for a final pre-tour rehearsal and the story spreads out from there, taking in the majestic landscapes of North America and, of course, the shows.
Even though Peart admits he “missed so much” while travelling, what he documents here is bountiful and presented with his usual stylish flare. He touches upon how the band constructed the R30 tour setlist, the work that goes into putting on a live show, the making of their Feedback covers album, using aliases when checking into hotels, the joy of traversing the landscape on two wheels... and the perils involved, too.
There are plenty of retrospective flourishes that will delight Rush aficionados, including the origins of the band's nicknames: Pratt, Dirk and Lerxst (which you probably already know but it's cool to get Peart's take) and there's also a particularly memorable encounter with Jack Black.
But what's more interesting is reading about Peart's constant drive to be on top of his game at work every night and the sheer effort that entailed. He's very critical of his own performances, and admits that those "magic" shows when everything clicks into place only happen a handful of times every tour.
So if you want to see the life of a touring musician through their own eyes with some excellent travel writing and stories thrown in for good measure, Roadshow: Landscape With Drums: A Concert Tour By Motorcycle is a must read.
4. The Masked Rider: Cycling In West Africa (1996)
Neil Peart’s first book was released back in 1996 and is quite a departure from the others he would go on to write, as The Masked Rider focuses on the drummer as he undertakes a month long trip through Cameroon by bicycle in 1988.
The Masked Rider features some of Peart’s best descriptive writing and you can almost feel the heat as he pedals. He goes into great detail about the adventure, brilliantly detailing the towns and villages they pass through, the people they encounter, the landscape, the wildlife, the places they stay, and Peart even takes the opportunity to explore some of Cameroon’s history.
It’s an arduous trek for Peart and his four companions – and not just because of the heat and general conditions they encounter. They are frequently stopped along the way by local authorities, and what’s really fascinating is the way Peart describes the tensions that simmer and boil within the group. Resentment lingers, fingers are pointed, questions are asked, but through it all, they somehow manage to complete the journey as a unit.
One paragraph in particular stands out and succinctly describes Peart’s love of two-wheeled travels – a passion he would go on to explore in later years.
He writes: “How different it is to be riding through a landscape, rather than just by it. In some way it makes a strange place less exotic, and yet it becomes infinitely more real. You feel the road under your wheels, the sun and the wind on your body, and there are no walls or windows between your senses and the world.”
The Masked Rider: Cycling In West Africa is not a book for those looking to get further insight into Rush, but it’s a wonderfully descriptive publication that has broad appeal.
5. Far And Away: A Prize Every Time (2011)
In the liner notes for Rush’s 1989 live album A Show Of Hands, Peart described the release as “a scrapbook, an autobiography, an era frozen in glacial clarity” and with Far And Away: A Prize Every Time, we’re in similar territory, as the book is comprised of journal entries that were originally documented on Peart’s website between 2007-2010 – a series of vignettes which give us a snapshot of his life.
The book meanders through those three years of the drummer’s escapades – including snaking his trusty bike around the Isle Of Arran in the teeming rain ahead of a show that night in Glasgow, Scotland, trekking through the wintry snow in Quebec, hobbling through almost impassible roads on his bike, coming face to face with wandering bison near Yellowstone Lake and recording the new theme to Hockey Night In Canada.
In total there are 22 essays spread across almost 300 pages, all documented with Peart’s distinctive grace and style, and the whole book – indeed all three books in the series – are crammed full of beautiful photographs putting you right there with Peart on his monthly adventures.
6. Far And Near: On Days Like These (2014)
The second book in the trilogy of journal entries from Peart’s website concentrates on essays and travelogues he wrote between 2011 - 2014 and it’s considerably lengthier than its predecessor, weighing in at close to 400 pages. A total of 19 stories are presented, giving Peart more space to illustrate his life on two wheels.
Again, his descriptions of the landscapes and places he visited range from beautiful to stark – the latter perfectly illustrated when he returns to Tilden, Texas, where he found himself in 2004 during the writing of Traveling Music only to discover a quite different welcome awaited him. This three-year span also covers Rush’s long-awaited induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, where Peart gives his take on the evening and THAT speech by bandmate Alex Lifeson.
The increased pagination also means we are treated to even more glorious images: from jaw-dropping snow-capped vistas and quiet towns, through to local wildlife, concert shots and wet, leaf-covered roads. And for Rush fans, what’s great about Far And Near: On Days Like These, the whole trilogy of books in the series, in fact, is that they'll get a fascinating opportunity to see Peart enjoying himself away from the day job.
7. Far And Wide: Bring That Horizon To Me! (2016)
The third and final part of the trilogy kicks off at the end so to speak – when Rush played their last-ever show at The Forum in Los Angeles in the summer of 2015. Of course, we didn’t know then that would be the final show. There was no fanfare, just three guys going out on top of their game. The journey around North America on the R40 tour serves as the backdrop to Far And Wide: Bring That Horizon To Me, with Peart exploring other avenues and backroads in each chapter.
Stories and pictures from his youth are scattered throughout the opening sections, including one of Peart battering the drums with J.R. Flood, his pre-Rush group – and for fans of Rush, there is perhaps more to enjoy here than Far And Near and Far And Away as the band flick in and out of focus throughout. This is shown early when Peart revisits the then dilapidated Le Studio in Quebec where Rush recorded and mixed some of their best-loved albums. Peart says he felt his “emotions bubbling up” going back, adding it was because he realised “no other place on Earth had been more important in my life.”
Among the stories about traveling across the vast North American landscape, Peart also throws in a smattering of humour and it’s wonderful to see him, not in stage gear or wrapped up in his motorcycling garb, but instead dressed up in some of the whacky outfits he wore for the fabulous backscreen videos shown during Rush’s epic live shows.
The book ends with the epilogue titled The Garden, named after the last Rush song on their final album Clockwork Angels. It’s a hugely emotional track, even more so since Peart’s death and its mention here is a fitting end to Peart’s trilogy.
8. Clockwork Lives: The Graphic Novel (2018)
In 2012, Peart and author Kevin J. Anderson combined their talents on Clockwork Angels: The Novel – a companion piece to Rush’s final album. It was subsequently transformed into a graphic novel with the pair teaming up once again for the follow-up Clockwork Lives in 2016 which further expanded upon the Clockwork universe. That too was released as a graphic novel and it’s our next pick on the list.
Clockwork Lives brings a fresh angle to what’s gone before and features main character Marinda Peake who inherits a book upon her father’s death. However, as her late father was the Watchmaker’s personal alchemist, this is no ordinary book: the pages are blank.
To fill the tome, Marinda must collect drops of blood on its pages which reveal stories from other people’s lives – stories that Marinda never got to experience due to dedicating her life to looking after her father. To achieve this, she has to leave her comfortable life in Lugtown behind and venture into Crown City – home to the Watchmaker, the Clockwork Angels and, of course, the Anarchist.
Adding more depth to the story in this Insight Editions version is its artwork featuring a fabulous array of comic book artists, namely Tony Perna, GMB Chomichuk, Tom Hodges, Vic Malhotra, May R, Vicente Vegas and Benjamin Roboly. Each bring something new to the table and it's great to see variety of talents used in this way.
The 23 stories link together seamlessly and offer a suitably diverse collection of tales covering daring heists, world-shifting escapades, the creation of the mechanical drumming machine, The Percussor and much more. And as if that wasn’t enough, there are plenty of Rush-shaped Easter eggs to find, such as the trio of characters Zivo, Woody and Lee, Whoever could those be?