Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics [Book Review] #NonfictionNovember #NovFicNov

November 12, 2021

Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton, Songteller by Dolly Parton (cover) Image: a portrait of Parton in a round frame against a light blue background

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, Country Music

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Working 9-5 …. Jolene …. I’ll Will Always Love You …. Islands In the Stream duet with Kenny Rogers…. Coat of Many Colors …. what’s your favorite Dolly Parton song?
Enjoy this sampler from Youtube while you read my review!

My Summary:

Dolly Parton, Songteller is a celebration of a career in country music and a peek into the story behind the lyrics of a couintry music legend. Parton highlights 175 of her songs (singing some lyrics of each and narrated by Dolly herself if you have the audio version), and she shares some behind-the-scenes of each one, a few personal stories, and provides never-before-seen pictures (if you have the print version). A perfect read/listen for a country music fan or music lover.

My Thoughts:

I’m recommending Dolly Parton, Songteller in TWO formats! I recommend the audio because part of the joy of this story is having Dolly’s voice (speaking and singing) as well as her energy and spirit. The audio book is quick listening (5 hours; 18 minutes @ 1.25)  You will also want a physical (or e-book) copy to look at all the pictures!!!

Highlights: I fall hard for certain memoirs and I was engaged with every word of Dolly Parton’s musical memoir. Because writing a traditional review for a memoir is difficult, here are my takeaways:

  • Because Dolly grew up with older brothers and involved uncles, she is comfortable with not letting the male dominated music industry push her around. She always trusts herself and her decisions and instincts and is not afraid to speak her mind.
  • Dolly doesn’t consider herself a feminist and doesn’t enjoy labels. If she has something to say, she expresses her thoughts, beliefs, and conviction in her songwritting (storytelling, songtelling).
  • Dolly’s main mission in life is to “Uplift people and glorify [God].” I would also add “to provide for her family.”
  • From our point of view, Dolly’s family was poor, but her parents insisted they were really rich in all that matters.
  • Dolly is from a large family and she learned early that music was one way she could get attention. Dolly’s family was always supportive: mom encouraged her music and songwriting from a young age; her uncles helped her in various ways by scheduling local performances, taking her down to cut records of her songs, cowriting songs together, and one sharing financial resources to get her started. The family was musical and they sang and performed together. Dolly had many close relationships and female role models in her family.
  • Dolly’s writing process is interesting. She always carries paper and pen and write lyrics on the fly inspired by ordinary experiences and the people she meets. Occassionally, she schedules writing retreats.
  • Dolly’s faith is important to her and is the foundation for her positive outlook on life, circumstancces, and experiences. She credits even the hard places and times with making her who she is today.
  • It’s evident that Dolly is a hard worker (she even says that I may look like a show horse, but I’m a work horse!). Dolly is career driven, content with her life and her choices, and committed to family. At the end, she comments about the important contribution she has made to helping her family and it’s implied that anything negative she has experienced has been worth it to secure her family’s future.
  • We learn from Dolly that it’s more about the process than the success (although success is great). She gives many examples of times the song or project didn’t do as well as expected but that she had a wonderful time creating and producing it!
  • It’s evident that Dolly’s first love, her passion, and natural ability is in song writing.

Highly Recommended: Although this is certainly enjoyable and engaging, don’t expect a great deal of new information here……there’s certain stories that Dolly will tell and that’s all we’ll ever get (coat of many colors, Porter Wagoner,  etc). The true teasure here is hearing from Dolly in her own voice (singing and speaking). The audio seems very much like a live interview; in fact, I don’t think Dolly wrote this first; I think perhaps that she shared it verbally first (in an interview format) and then someone transcribed it (only my opinion). This is a perfect gift for a country music lover or for a music fan.

***1/6/2022 Edited to add: Carla @ Carla Loves to Read (check out her review) discovered that the audio and print versions are quite different and can’t be enjoyed simultaneously. In the audio version, Dolly talks to the listeners and doesn’t exactly follow the script of the book. Thus we have two very different experiences! Gotta love Dolly!

Dolly Parton is a Champion for Literacy!

Some individuals spend their wealth by buying tickets to space. Dolly spends her wealth by promoting literacy and helping her people. Whenever I think of literacy promotion, I think of philanthropist and singer/song writer Dolly Parton and her Literacy Program: Imagination Library. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that gifts free books to children from birth to age five in participating communities within the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Republic of Ireland. Her organization has mailed 143,820,914 books and counting! She also read books online for children during the pandemic.

Dolly Parton reading to three children

My Rating: 4  Stars


Dolly Parton, Songteller Icover) by Dolly Parton  (Image: a portrait of Dolly Parton in a round portrait frame)

Dolly Parton, Songteller Information Here and here


Is Dolly Parton, Songteller on your TBR or have you read it?
Are you a Dolly Parton fan?
Do you have a favorite Dolly Parton song?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:

***Blog posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.



  1. This sounds like a fun read/listen. I’ve always loved Dolly. My favorite songs are: Coal Miner’s Daughter, Coat of Many Colors, and Jolene.

    Great review!

  2. Oh, this sounds like a fun read! I always think of Dolly Parton as a bubbly, joyful person, even though I know she has had some rough times. I think my favorite songs are 9 to 5 and Jolene. I also like some she did with Kenny Rogers – Islands in the Stream and We’ve Got Tonight.

    • In this memoir her joyfulness comes through no matter her circumstances….she believes that everything that’s happened to her happened for a purpose and has made her a better person. She’s full of Grace and forgiveness.

  3. I will certainly be looking for this one Carol. Great review. I saw Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers perform live in New Zealand in the 1980s, and I will never forget it. She is so tiny!❤📚

  4. I love Dolly Parton. My library only has the book, so I recommended the audiobook. I will have to wait and see if they get it. I love her joy, faith and caring nature. Did you see her Christmas movie last year called, Christmas on the Square? It was very good. 🧡📚

Leave a Reply