12 essential Queen books: Explore the world of the UK’s best-loved rock champions

The essential Queen books
(Image credit: Future)

Having sold more than 300 million albums around the world, not only are Queen one of the most successful bands of all time, they’re also one of the most loved. As a result, their legendary career has been documented in a number of books throughout the years. But which should you choose if you’re looking to expand your Queen knowledge? Here, we've created a list of 12 of the essential Queen books for you to explore.

Best Queen books: Our picks

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Essential Queen books: Queen In 3D

(Image credit: The London Stereoscopic Company)

1. Queen In 3D by Brian May

A different angle on Queen's legendary career

Specifications

Author: Brian May
Publisher: The London Stereoscopic Company
Pages: 256
Formats: Hardback

Reasons to buy

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The 3D effect is amazing
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Images span Queen's career
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Makes a great gift

Reasons to avoid

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Empty List

Queen In 3D by the band's guitarist Brian May is as close to a proper autobiography as you're going to get, with the musician applying his lifelong love of the art of stereography to the contents to give a unique and deeply personal insight into both his life and the workings of his colossal band.

Full of intimate photographs (many taken by May himself) that span the band’s entire career, most can be viewed in glorious 3D with the packed in Lite Owl stereoscope – and you can spend hours completely immersed in the heartfelt prose and those mesmerising images. If you liked those chunky red View-Master devices back in the 80s, then we're pretty sure you'll love Queen In 3D.

Essential Queen books: Queen: The Neal Preston Photographs

(Image credit: Reel Art Press)

2. Queen: The Neal Preston Photographs

Preston's pics focus on Queen at the very height of their career

Specifications

Author: Neal Preston, Brian May, Roger Taylor
Publisher: Reel Art Press
Pages: 304
Formats: Hardback

Reasons to buy

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Preston's pics are awesome
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A snapshot of Queen at the height of their career

Reasons to avoid

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A little light on words
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Many of the images will be familiar

Neal Preston was Queen’s official tour photographer from the mid-70s until 1986 and this lavish publication, produced with the full blessing of the band, covers every facet of their touring life during that busy period.

Although the text is a little sparse, the beautiful images of a band at the top of their game are simply stunning and for every picture fans will have seen umpteen times before, there are numerous others that have – until this publication – remained in Preston’s archive. Contributions from both Brian May and Roger Taylor add authenticity and, if you’re especially keen, feel free to drop £10,000 on one of just 10 editions of the signed Super Deluxe edition.

Essential Queen books: Queen, Revised & Updated: The Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock

(Image credit: Voyageur Press)

3. Queen, Revised & Updated: The Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock

A cornucopia of memorabilia for Queen aficionados

Specifications

Author: Phil Sutcliffe
Publisher: Voyageur Press
Pages: 296
Formats: Paperback

Reasons to buy

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Packed with memorabilia
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Augmented by some of rock's finest
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Plenty to get stuck into

Reasons to avoid

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Empty List

An entertaining tome with a jaunty narrative that reads like a lengthy magazine feature. And, with the likes of Reinhold Mack and Mick Rock, not to mention Slash, Rob Halford and Billy Squier adding weight to rock writer Sutcliffe’s musings, there’s something to grab the attention on every page.

Adorned with images of passes, ticket stubs and the sleeves of obscure singles alongside a raft of live, group and candid shots, the feelings of both exhilaration as the band finally takes off and despair as Mercury’s health begins to fail are palpable. The passages concerning 1981’s rambunctious South American tour are unmissable and even the discography merits numerous re-reads. 

Essential Queen books: Queen: The Complete Illustrated Lyrics

(Image credit: Backbeat Books)

4. Queen: The Complete Illustrated Lyrics

Illustrations and hand-written words for every Queen album

Specifications

Author: Phil Symes and Gary Taylor
Publisher: Backbeat Books
Pages: 416
Formats: Paperback

Reasons to buy

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Every lyric from every album

Reasons to avoid

-
The discography is a bit bare

This exhaustive collection has been put together by the Queen Productions team and includes lyrics for every song from each album up to and including their final album – 1995’s Made In Heaven. Some are augmented by the band members’ original scribblings and there’s a complete, albeit rather bare, discography too.

The list even includes the little-known likes of Mad The Swine which was originally penned for the band’s debut but not actually committed to tape until 1991. Although the copy is illustrated with a disappointingly perfunctory choice of images, it’s engaging to see the hand-written words of the likes of mega-singles Hammer To Fall, I Want to Break Free and Fat Bottomed Girls up close.

Essential Queen books: Is This The Real Life?: The Untold Story Of Queen

(Image credit: Aurum Press Ltd)

5. Is This The Real Life? by Mark Blake

A great read focusing on Queen's formative years

Specifications

Author: Mark Blake
Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd
Pages: 400
Formats: Hardback, paperback, Kindle

Reasons to buy

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Goes into great detail about the band's early years
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Neat nuggets of info

Reasons to avoid

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Empty List

Offering an impressive level of detail, this is arguably the definitive Queen bio. Blake fills gaps in the band’s timeline with contributions from both school friends and former bandmates such as Smile keyboardist Chris Smith, the latter confiding that "Freddie had a lot to do with dressing Brian” as Queen fine-tuned their early image. Riveting stuff.

The descriptions of the four members’ formative years and the random events that caused their paths to ultimately come together ensure the book’s page-turning appeal, and although later chapters touch on the hedonism as the band hit the big time, it’s the early years that demand the most attention. This comes highly recommended.

Essential Queen books: Queen Unseen

(Image credit: Music Press Books)

6. Queen Unseen: My Life With The Greatest Rock Band Of The 20th Century by Peter Hince

Get up close and personal with Queen and their touring life

Specifications

Author: Peter Hince
Publisher: Music Press Books
Pages: 336
Formats: Paperback, hardcover, Kindle, Audio CD

Reasons to buy

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An inside look at Queen universe
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Fun and easy to read

Reasons to avoid

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We wanted to hear even more stories

Peter Hince, also affectionately known as Ratty, headed Queen’s road crew during their heyday and, as such, was ideally placed to relate some highly revealing stories from the those lauded times.

Written in a pleasantly laid-back style, we can report that we read the entire thing in a single weekend and it’s to Hince’s credit that he refrains from dishing any unnecessary dirt while spilling the beans. The reader is placed at the very centre of Queen's touring maelstrom. One of the many highlights is an involved description of what it took to cajole Freddie Mercury, in full diva mode, to get up on stage. A highly enjoyable Queen book.

Essential Queen books: Life On Two Legs

(Image credit: Trident Publishing)

7. Life On Two Legs by Norman Sheffield

Queen, Bowie, the Beatles and more through the eyes of Queen's first manager

Specifications

Author: Norman Sheffield
Publisher: Trident Publishing
Pages: 288
Formats: Paperback, hardcover, Kindle

Reasons to buy

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A look back at Queen's early days through the eyes of their manager
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A must for Queen fans
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A great look back at the past

Reasons to avoid

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Empty List

As co-owner of Trident Studios, Norman Sheffield found himself in the company of legends. David Bowie recorded Space Oddity at the facility, while the Beatles laid down Hey Jude there, and it is, of course, where Queen recorded the lion’s share of their debut album.

Other artists are assigned dedicated chapters, but much of this thought-provoking book is dedicated to Sheffield's managerial tenure with Queen. Freddie Mercury’s poisonous lyrics to Death On Two Legs leave us in no doubt as to how the band felt about the relationship, but you certainly feel pangs of empathy for Sheffield as his side of the tale unfolds. The book also includes the original 1972 Queen contracts plus a smattering of rare images. 

Essential Queen books: Queen All The Songs

(Image credit: Black Dog & Leventhal)

8. Queen All The Songs: The Story Behind Every Track by Benoît Clerc

An in-depth dive into what made Queen one of the best

Specifications

Author: Benoît Clerc
Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal
Pages: 528
Formats: Hardback, Kindle

Reasons to buy

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In-depth look at Queen's catalogue
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Lots to dig into
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Facts and insights galore

Reasons to avoid

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Empty List

This meticulously researched Queen book does exactly what it says on the tin. The stories behind every song the band released are enriched with well-written profiles of not only all four members, but also the likes of Mary Austin and the aforementioned Norman Sheffield.

Addressing each album in turn, a hefty introduction to each gives way to a deep analysis of the tracklist that includes creative and technical details, snippets of info, credits and more. Who knew that it was co-producer John Anthony who was responsible for the shout of ‘Look out!’ as Modern Times Rock ‘N Roll from the band’s debut comes to a climax? A truly first-class read.

Essential Queen books: Queen Live

(Image credit: Omnibus Press)

9. Queen Live: A Concert Documentary by Greg Brooks

A brilliant document of all of Queen's live shows and more

Specifications

Author: Greg Brooks
Publisher: Omnibus Press
Pages: 176
Formats: Paperback

Reasons to buy

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A definitive list of all Queen's shows
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Facts and fan recollections

Reasons to avoid

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One that only Queen diehards will get the most from

Queen performed more than 700 concerts during their career and not only is each listed in chronological order here, the vast majority of entries also include specific setlists, assorted trivia, facts, reviews from local press, fan recollections and more. Indeed, an alternative title could well have been From Truro to Knebworth and it’s fun to look up specific gigs and reminisce.

In addition to a useful live discography is a lengthy listing of bootlegs, which, again, makes for fascinating reading. And as if all this content wasn’t enough, there’s even a chronicling of improvised workouts that were only ever played on stage; Shag Out or Tokyo Blues, anyone?

Essential Queen books: Classic Queen

(Image credit: Omnibus Press)

10. Classic Queen by Mick Rock

An intimate portrait of Queen through Rock's lens

Specifications

Author: Mick Rock
Publisher: Omnibus Press
Pages: 208
Formats: Hardback, paperback

Reasons to buy

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Choc full of photos
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Based around Queen II
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Plenty for Queen fans to enjoy

Reasons to avoid

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Empty List

Just about any officially-licensed photograph from Queen’s formative years can be attributed to Mick Rock’s mighty lens, and this collection – which is interwoven with his first-hand accounts – is fascinating.

The centrepiece is an account of the sessions that produced the iconic image for the cover of 1974's Queen II, with Rock’s recollections made all the more intimate by the inclusion of the contact sheets from which the album’s cover shot was chosen. Whether partying with Freddie Mercury backstage at the Rainbow or hanging out in the control room during the recording of Sheer Heart Attack, Rock always had his camera to hand and the results, as this cracking Queen book demonstrates, were often spectacular.

Classic Queen can be a bit on the pricey side depending where you are, but it's definitely worth searching for.

Essential Queen books: 40 Years Of Queen

(Image credit: Carlton Books Ltd)

11. 40 Years Of Queen by Harry Doherty

This look over Queen's four decades reveals a treasure trove of curios

Specifications

Author: Harry Doherty
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Pages: 96
Formats: Hardback

Reasons to buy

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Loads of info presented in an exciting way

Reasons to avoid

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Could be a bit deeper

There may be an occasional lack of depth here, but any perceived shortcomings in the narrative are more than balanced by the veritable treasure trove of recreations of rare Queen paraphernalia that have been enclosed.

Each example is housed in its own envelope affixed to pages scattered throughout the book and include items such as the invite to 1982’s Hot Space end-of-tour knees-up and an industry-only press kit for News Of The World. Our favourite is a Kempton Park race card from October 1976 that included the running of the Day At The Races Hurdle, and this is an ingenious take on the biography concept. 

Here’s to a 50 years update.

Essential Queen books: Queen All The Songs Colouring Book

(Image credit: Independently published)

12. Queen: All The Songs Colouring Book by Zaker Tomas

Chill out and add a splash of colour to the Queen universe

Specifications

Author: Zaker Tomas
Publisher: N/A
Pages: 66
Formats: Paperback

Reasons to buy

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Plenty of images to colour
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Chill out with Queen

Reasons to avoid

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We wish there were more illustrations

One thing that the slew of Covid-related restrictions has taught us is that we shouldn’t take our mental health for granted and many of us have been looking for something to help with cerebral decompression during the past year.

Strange though it might sound, adult colouring books genuinely help to alleviate stress and this writer can vouch for the effectiveness of the exercise. There’s a whole host of them to try and although the subject matter is almost secondary to the benefits they can offer, Queen fans can chill while giving Freddie a green moustache or John Deacon blue hair here. Seriously, it’s well worth giving it a go.