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In 2012, writers who tackled musical topics dove deep, got weird, burrowed into a niche; we joyfully followed them to depths we never would have expected when the year began. We devoured works of criticism, history, biography and the Zen of John Cage and Tony Bennett. While many of our favorite books about music published this year exposed some previously unknown corner of the world, some of the subjects are so familiar already (the lives of James Brown and Marian McPartland, the first four notes of Beethoven's fifth symphony) that the fact that we now have new, authoritative works on them is the surprise. Like the best writing about music, each of these ten books, selected by NPR Music's staff and presented in alphabetical order by author's last name, kept us bouncing between the page and the stereo, reveling in that rare magic of music expressed perfectly in words.