Alec Wilder: American Popular Song (Oxford). I have referred to this book so often over the years in articles, reviews and my own books that it makes sense to recommend it here. Wilder, with the indispensable assistance of James T. Maher, created an essential critical guide to the greatest songs and songwriters of the classic era of popular music. His opinions are strong and occasionally wrongheaded, but his overall grasp of what makes a good song remains unequaled. The one important songwriter whose work is not evaluated in the book is Alec Wilder. As Gene Lees has suggested, this is a book to be not merely read, but studied.