The best books that come with music

Who am I?

I never wrote anything longer than a 5-minute song before I was forty-five years old! My life has been spent on the road as a performing songwriter, dancing and playing, and (after our own twins were born) teaching kids to do the same. But one night I woke up from a dream I couldn’t wrangle into song length, and by the end of the day, I had written four chapters of The Locke Box. I naturally wrote songs as I wrote the book. I got curious about who else was doing that. So here’s a short list…

I wrote...

The Locke Box

By Jennifer Daniels,

Book cover of The Locke Box

What is my book about?

Family is where you find it when a bizarre car crash leaves two strangers to care for an orphaned baby, a pregnant cat, and the key to a mystery that hits close to home. Sensual but clean, suspenseful but cozy, funny, and endearing. For your next best love story, open The Locke Box. The corresponding music album, Songs from The Locke Box, fleshes out the story in musical snapshots from the character's point of view and is available at my website.

The books I picked & why

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Past Tense: A Jack Reacher Novel

By Lee Child,

Book cover of Past Tense: A Jack Reacher Novel

Why this book?

The Jack Reacher series is full of action and intrigue. Readers enjoy the hero’s bad attitude and quirky sense of humor. This particular book digs into Jack’s past when he visits his dad’s hometown only to learn that no Reacher has ever lived there. The reason it made this particular “top five best” list is because of a cool, corresponding roots-rock album written by the author and Baltimore based band Naked Blue. The album, Just the Clothes on My Back, will fascinate Jack Reacher fans who are sure to get some inside jokes and remember scenes from the novels.

A Theatre for Dreamers

By Polly Samson,

Book cover of A Theatre for Dreamers

Why this book?

Get lost on the Greek Isle of Hydra among an artistic commune of Bohemian proportion. The year is 1960. One of the characters in the book is real-life songwriter Leonard Cohen, who actually lived on the island at the time. Author Polly Samson and legendary songwriter/instrumentalist David Gilmour wrote the song Yes I Have Ghosts which is a line from the book. In an interview with American Songwriter, Samson said while she was writing the book, she wandered through a cemetery asking questions of her characters. She asked, “Do you believe in ghosts?” And one of her characters responded, “Yes I have ghosts. Not all of them are dead.”

East of Eden

By John Steinbeck,

Book cover of East of Eden

Why this book?

First released in 1952, East of Eden has become part of the American conscious. Maybe I should say conscience. It explores the free will of humans to bestow life and to steal it away. The Hebrew word “timshel” interested Steinbeck. It is one God spoke to Cain in the Biblical story of the first murder when Cain killed his own brother. Depending on the translation, God was saying that Cain would be able to conquer his urge to sin, or that he does not have the power of free will, that he must sin. The Irish band Mumford and Sons wrote the song Timshel in reaction to this iconic book.

The Poop Song

By Eric Litwin, Claudia Boldt (illustrator),

Book cover of The Poop Song

Why this book?

The Poop Song is a picture book with downloadable music. Eric Litwin is the master of preschool story structure (think Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes, also a musical book). After Eric married his lovely wife, a pediatric gastroenterologist, she convinced him of the need for a good poop song. So there you go. Super, playful illustrations by Claudia Boldt.

The Free Brontosaurus

By David Berkeley,

Book cover of The Free Brontosaurus

Why this book?

David Berkeley, a singer/songwriter, wrote this book of short stories, each one connected because the minor characters in one story are the major characters in another. David wrote a song for each story from the character’s point of view. The music album is called Cardboard Boat and you can find it on his homepage.

The Free Brontosaurus made this list because Berkeley's creative genius knows no bounds. He has been prolific in words and music for decades while raising a family and traveling the world. This particular work, with its interconnected set of characters, explores beauty and gratitude in unlikely circumstances.

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