The best books that bring the artistry of ballet and classical music to life

Adin Dalton Author Of Fate
By Adin Dalton

Who am I?

P. I. Tchaikovsky is a world-famous composer but few people know anything about him. Much of his life was hidden by the Soviet Union due to his homosexuality. As information finally came to light, the mystery of his death in 1893 became an obsession for me. The truth of it lies beyond the rumors of suicide or cholera, as particular circumstances exposed in my novel clearly show. I am a ballet historian and the writing of Fate was an eight-year endeavor. Readers of Fate can now be the proverbial fly on the wall while Tchaikovsky lives his life and creates his major works.

I wrote...


By Adin Dalton,

Book cover of Fate

What is my book about?

A 19th-century tale of love and music that brings the fascinating life of P.I. Tchaikovsky to light in a way never seen before... Based on letters written by the composer to friends and colleagues, historical documents, and recently uncovered facts, this epic novel finally brings to light the intimate personal story kept closely guarded by the man behind the music.

Deftly written, it follows the composer from the time of his youthful creation of the ballet Swan Lake up to his mysterious and controversial death. It brings forward the beautiful and at times tragic events that marked his life and the lovers who inspired his greatest creativity. Did society forgive him, or did fate have the last word? A fascinating read with a stunning ending.

The books I picked & why

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Nijinsky: A Life of Genius and Madness

By Richard Buckle,

Book cover of Nijinsky: A Life of Genius and Madness

Why this book?

I adore this book because it simply plunges the reader into Nijinsky's strange and wonderful world. As the greatest dancer-actor of his time, the pressure placed on him was tremendous and had a great effect on his delicate yet wildly creative mind. After reading this book, you will come away with a unique understanding of the world of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes at the turn of the last century.

Dancing for Degas

By Kathryn Wagner,

Book cover of Dancing for Degas

Why this book?

If you've ever found yourself captivated by those colorful, romantic paintings of ballerinas by impressionist Edgar Degas, treat yourself to this fascinating novel. Ms. Wagner brings a particular dancer to life, along with her family, in this fictional account. The world of the Paris Opera in the nineteenth century is yours for the taking in this easy-to-read and very imaginative story. It had special meaning for me because I love that world and had never been immersed in it before. 

A Dance Autobiography

By Natalia Makarova, Dina Makarova (photographer),

Book cover of A Dance Autobiography

Why this book?

For an intriguing, first-hand account of the art and life of the greatest ballerina of our time, don't miss this grand read. Natalia Makarova, the prima ballerina of them all gives this thrilling autobiography life as she describes not only her roles at the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg and at American Ballet Theatre in New York City, but also her daring escape from KGB agents in London where she defected. Glorious photography crowns this amazing achievement. On a personal note, my life changed after seeing her dance—first in a video of Giselle and then later in person at the Metropolitan Opera House. 

Anna Pavlova: Twentieth Century Ballerina

By Jane Pritchard, Caroline Hamilton,

Book cover of Anna Pavlova: Twentieth Century Ballerina

Why this book?

As a celebrity in her own time, Pavlova was groundbreaking. I enjoyed reading this book and learning more about the life of an extraordinary pioneer. She lived at a time when changes in the world were many, as the film of her performing the Dying Swan certainly proves. She toured the world in order to share her art with others and has name recognition that has lasted to this very day. If you're curious about her incredible life, don't miss this lovely book.   

Dancing on My Grave

By Gelsey Kirkland,

Book cover of Dancing on My Grave

Why this book?

I found that this sometimes funny but always emotional and moving account of Ms. Kirkland's life as a ballerina in New York City to be a real triumph. She brings to the pages an honesty that is rarely seen, even in autobiographies. From the illegal drug scene that nearly killed her to the everyday trials of an immensely talented dancer caught between two worlds, this is the stuff that nightmares are made of.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in classical music, ballet, and the Soviet Union?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about classical music, ballet, and the Soviet Union.

Classical Music Explore 27 books about classical music
Ballet Explore 12 books about ballet
The Soviet Union Explore 223 books about the Soviet Union

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Allegro, Listen to the Birds, and Canone Inverso if you like this list.