Listen Up! Books About Music

Let these fiction, nonfiction, and YA books about music become a soundtrack for your reading!

Biographies of iconic musician and influential groups. True stories of how music changed the world. Coming-0f-age stories with musical protagonists. Fictional legends of rock, and a heavy metal horror story. We’ve gathered an eclectic bunch of books about music for every type of reader, from the casual listener to the dedicated fan. Read one while playing your favorite tunes, and then discuss them afterward with your group!

Nonfiction

One of our recommended books is She Come By It Natural by Sarah SmarshShe Come By It Natural

by Sarah Smarsh

Dolly Parton’s songs for decades have validated women who go unheard, and her broader career offers a springboard to examining gender, class, and culture. Infused with Smarsh’s trademark insight, intelligence, and humanity, She Come By It Natural is a sympathetic tribute to the icon and—call it whatever you like—the organic feminism she embodies.

 

One of our recommended books is Go Ahead in the Rain by Hanif AbdurraqibGo Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest

by Hanif Abdurraqib

The seminal rap group brought jazz into the genre, resurrecting timeless rhythms to create masterpieces. Poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib digs into the group’s history and draws from his own experience to reflect on how its distinctive sound resonated among fans like himself. The result is as ambitious and genre-bending as the rap group itself.

 

One of our recommended boks is Musicophilia by Oliver SacksMusicophilia

by Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks explores the place music occupies in the brain and how it affects the human condition. In Musicophilia, he shows us a variety of what he calls “musical misalignments”: a man struck by lightning who suddenly desires to become a pianist, an entire group of children who are hypermusical from birth, and more. Illuminating, inspiring, and utterly unforgettable.

 

150 Glimpses of the Beatles by Craig Brown150 Glimpses of the Beatles

by Craig Brown

The fab four continue to occupy an utterly unique place in popular culture. Their influence extends far beyond music and into realms as diverse as fashion and fine art, sexual politics and religion. This wide-ranging portrait of the four lads from Liverpool rivals the unique spectacle of the band itself by delving into a vast catalog of heretofore unexamined lore.

 

Young Adult

One of our recommended books is Symphony For The City Of The Dead by M. T. AndersonSymphony for the City of the Dead

by M.T. Anderson

A brilliant and riveting account of the Siege of Leningrad and the role played by Russian composer Shostakovich and his Leningrad Symphony. This is the true story of a city under siege: the triumph of bravery and defiance in the face of terrifying odds. It is also a look at the power—and layered meaning—of music in beleaguered lives.

 

Music for Tigers by Michelle KadarusmanMusic for Tigers

by Michelle Kadarusman

Shipped halfway around the world to spend the summer with her mom’s eccentric Australian relatives, middle-schooler and passionate violinist Louisa is prepared to be resentful. But life at the family’s remote camp in the rainforest is intriguing, and she begins to suspect the key to saving the last Tasmanian tiger is her very own music.

 

One of our recommended books is Private Lessons by Cynthia SalaysayPrivate Lessons

by Cynthia Salaysay

After Claire Alalay’s father’s death, only music has helped her channel her grief. She likes herself best when she plays his old piano. When Claire auditions for Paul Avon, a prominent piano teacher, she soon loses herself in Paul’s world. Cynthia Salaysay composes a moving, beautifully written portrait of perfectionism, sexual awakening, and self-acceptance.

 

Fiction

One of our recommended books for 2019 is We Sold Our Souls by Grady HendrixWe Sold Our Souls

by Grady Hendrix

In this hard-rocking, spine-tingling supernatural thriller, the washed-up guitarist of a ’90s heavy metal band embarks on an epic road trip across America and deep into the web of a sinister conspiracy. Her journey will take her from the Pennsylvania rust belt to a celebrity rehab center to a satanic music festival, a furious power ballad about never giving up.

 

One of our recommended books is Ecstasy by Mary SharrattEcstasy

by Mary Sharratt

Young, beautiful Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. But Alma loses her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, nearly twenty years her senior. He demands that she give up her music as a condition for their marriage. Torn by her love and in awe of his genius, how will she remain true to herself and her artistic passion?

 

One of our recommended books is Adrianne Geffel by David HajduAdrianne Geffel

By David Hajdu

A poignant and hilarious oral history of a (fictitious) musical phenomenon. Adrianne Geffel was a genius, a one-of-a-kind artist, a pianist and composer. Despite her renown, Geffel vanished from public life, and her whereabouts remain a mystery to this day. David Hajdu tells, for the first time, the full story of her life and work in this slyly entertaining work of fiction.

Guitar photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Looking for more themed reading lists? Check out our back-to-school picks and books about food!