10 books like Lexicon of Musical Invective

By Nicolas Slonimsky,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Lexicon of Musical Invective. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Geek Love

By Katherine Dunn,

Book cover of Geek Love

Geek Love is one of the strangest, most fascinating, and thoroughly unsettling novels I’ve ever read. It tells the story of a carny family whose mother and father breed their own exhibit of human oddities with the help of a variety of illicit drugs, insecticides, and radioisotopes. I’ve certainly felt freakish at times, but compared to the Binewski spawn—a boy with flippers, a hunchbacked albino dwarf, resplendent piano-playing Siamese twins, and Fortunato, the normal-looking baby who has telekinetic powers—I feel downright ordinary! The story is beautiful, shocking, repulsive, exhilarating, and deeply moving all at once, and might challenge your conceptions of what you consider weird, deformed, beautiful, ugly, normal, or socially acceptable. Surprisingly, the novel was a bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award in 1989. 

Geek Love

By Katherine Dunn,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Geek Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A National Book Award Finalist: This 'wonderfully descriptive' novel from an author with a 'tremendous imagination' tells the unforgettable story of the Binewskis, a carny family whose mater- and paterfamilias have bred their own exhibit of human oddities. (The New York Times Book Review)

The Binewskis arex a circus-geek family whose matriarch and patriarch have bred their own exhibit of human oddities (with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes). Their offspring include Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers for limbs and a megalomaniac ambition worthy of Genghis Khan, Iphy and Elly, the lissome Siamese twins, albino hunchback Oly, and…


Harmonies of Heaven and Earth

By Joscelyn Godwin,

Book cover of Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: Mysticism in Music from Antiquity to the Avant-Garde

I remember reading this book over the summer when I was on the road with a recording company. It is filled with anecdotes about the metaphysical, transcendental, spiritual, and mystic properties of music. The thing I find so fascinating about these stories is not if they are true or not, but the belief systems of these ancient people, and the power and faith they put into music.

Harmonies of Heaven and Earth

By Joscelyn Godwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Harmonies of Heaven and Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Joscelyn Godwin explores music's effects on matter, living things, and human behavior. Turning to metaphysical accounts of the higher worlds and theories of celestial harmony, the author follows the path of musical inspiration on its descent to Earth, illuminating the archetypal currents that lie beneath Western musical history.


Cry to Heaven

By Anne Rice,

Book cover of Cry to Heaven

There’s a reason why so many books set in Venice revolve around death, heaven (aka Paradise), mystery, and love lost & found. There’s a story lying in wait around every alley corner, under every bridge, and at the bottom of every canal. It’s no surprise that Anne Rice, the queen of Vampire lit, set Cry to Heaven in Venice. Her novel is impeccably researched and written, bringing to life the castriti of the 18th century—men who were castrated to become sopranos for the opera houses and royal courts. Beneath the decadence of the surface of Anne Rice’s Venice lies a dark underbelly.

Cry to Heaven

By Anne Rice,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Cry to Heaven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a sweeping saga of music and vengeance, the acclaimed author of The Vampire Chronicles draws readers into eighteenth-century Italy, bringing to life the decadence beneath the shimmering surface of Venice, the wild frivolity of Naples, and the magnetic terror of its shadow, Vesuvius. This is the story of the castrati, the exquisite and otherworldly sopranos whose graceful bodies and glorious voices win the adulation of royal courts and grand opera houses throughout Europe. These men are revered as idols—and, at the same time, scorned for all they are not.
 
Praise for Anne Rice and Cry to Heaven
 
“Daring and…


The Music of the Spheres; Music, Science, and the Natural Order of the Universe

By Jamie James,

Book cover of The Music of the Spheres; Music, Science, and the Natural Order of the Universe

This book is a nonfiction history of the concept of Spherics – the idea that music and astronomy are intimately connected. It starts by talking about Pathagorous and works our way chronologically up to Einstein. There are a lot of books on the topic of Music of the Spheres (and a Coldplay album), but this is the best book I’ve found to fully understand the concept. 

The Music of the Spheres; Music, Science, and the Natural Order of the Universe

By Jamie James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Music of the Spheres; Music, Science, and the Natural Order of the Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For centuries, scientists and philosophers believed that the universe was a stately, ordered mechanism, both mathematical and musical. The perceived distances between objects in the sky mirrored (and were mirrored by) the spaces between notes forming chords and scales. The smooth operation of the cosmos created a divine harmony that composers sought to capture and express. Jamie James allows readers to see how this scientific philosophy emerged, how it was shattered by changing views of the universe and the rise of Romanticism, and to what extent it survives today - if at all. From Pythagoras to Newton, Bach to Beethoven,…


Liner Notes for the Revolution

By Daphne A. Brooks,

Book cover of Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound

Black feminist scholar and cultural critic Daphne A. Brooks has a solution to the vexing conundrum of the simultaneous centrality of African American women to the development of 20th and 21st-century music and the persistent devaluation of their contributions: she listens closely to their work in its historical, social, and aesthetic context. In her dazzling discussions of the cultural productions of an expansive array of musicians, artists, and critics—Pauline Hopkins, Zora Neale Hurston, Lorraine Hansberry, Abbey Lincoln, Valerie June, Janelle Monáe, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Beyoncé, Carrie Mae Weems, and Wangechi Mutu make appearances—Brooks offers incisive and provocative readings that highlight the transformative intellectual and creative labor of African American women. This luminous book reveals and exemplifies the radical possibilities of Black women’s sound.

Liner Notes for the Revolution

By Daphne A. Brooks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Liner Notes for the Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award
Winner of the MAAH Stone Book Award
A Rolling Stone Best Music Book of the Year
A Pitchfork Best Music Book of the Year

"Brooks traces all kinds of lines, finding unexpected points of connection...inviting voices to talk to one another, seeing what different perspectives can offer, opening up new ways of looking and listening by tracing lineages and calling for more space."
-New York Times

An award-winning Black feminist music critic takes us on an epic journey through radical sound from Bessie Smith to Beyonce.

Daphne A. Brooks explores more than a…


The Stardust Road

By Hoagy Carmichael,

Book cover of The Stardust Road

This book helped me understand the lives of young male jazz musicians in the early 20th century. A wacky, ecstatic, fragmented, kaleidoscopic, memoir—nostalgic always for Bloomington, Indiana, and his college days in the early 1920s. There Carmichael met his pals Monk and Bix, both of whom died too young. He dedicates the book to them and remembers them fondly. Monk, a surrealistic poet, and Bix, a great musical genius, they understood each other immediately. Bix responded to one of Monk’s poems saying, “I am not a swan.” There is a Dadaist flavor to Monk’s writing, as well as some of Hoagy’s: “The years had pants.” Intertwined with these memories is the slow, jerky progress of Carmichael’s journey from a would-be composer to a famous songwriter.

The Stardust Road

By Hoagy Carmichael,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Stardust Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The swing composer relates personal experiences in his musical career includi his association with such personalities as Bix Beiderbecks and William Moenkhaus.


Hangfire

By John H. Matthews,

Book cover of Hangfire: An Eddie Holland Novel

What makes Hangire such a great ass-kicking novel is that it’s clear the author knows guns and gunfight strategy. The action is crisp, but aggressively realistic. Tension never ceases—if it’s not shooting up bad guys, it’s with a dash of romance or a smidge of mystery. The writing is confident and action-packed. Even the title, am I right? 

Hangfire

By John H. Matthews,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hangfire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Eddie Holland is back. The former FBI agent turned private detective in Austin, Texas, returns for another fast paced mystery. Following on the heels of The South Coast and Ballyvaughan, Hangfire keeps you guessing until the very end. Clem Akins has gone missing, but not before sending a cryptic text message to Eddie. With little to go on, Eddie and Gus go looking for him, only to find the trail leads them to uncover a group of former Army soldiers on the run or in hiding, afraid of their treasonous pasts catching up to them.HANGFIRE is the third novel in…


Space Is the Place

By John Szwed,

Book cover of Space Is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra

Space Is the Place opened so many windows for me into a world of esoteric spirituality fused with mind-blowing musical and theatrical creativity. John Szwed was a member of my PhD dissertation committee, although it was pretty hard to track him down, and he was wrapping up this book as I finished my own. I’d seen Sun Ra at my college and thought of the Arkestra as a kind of spaced-out novelty act, not knowing anything about Ra’s history: his celestial epiphanies; his long immersion in big-band jazz, including his stint with the great Fletcher Henderson; the cadre of stellar musicians he recruited and molded for the Arkestra; his entrepreneurial streak. When I turned to the study of music and spirituality, Szwed’s biography became an indispensable source. Afrofuturism has become a very hot topic in contemporary cultural studies, and there’s no better way into its arcane mysteries than through this…

Space Is the Place

By John Szwed,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Space Is the Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Considered by many to be a founder of Afrofuturism, Sun Ra-aka Herman Blount-was a composer, keyboardist, bandleader, philosopher, entrepreneur, poet, and self-proclaimed extraterrestrial from Saturn. He recorded over 200 albums with his Arkestra, which, dressed in Egypto-space costumes, played everything from boogie-woogie and swing to fusion and free jazz. John Szwed's Space is the Place is the definitive biography of this musical polymath, who was one of the twentieth century's greatest avant-garde artists and intellectuals. Charting the whole of Sun Ra's life and career, Szwed outlines how after years in Chicago as a blues and swing band pianist, Sun Ra…


The World of Musical Comedy

By Stanley Green,

Book cover of The World of Musical Comedy

An early and still one of the best works on the subject, Green's The World of Musical Comedy is the book that introduced generations of musical theatre fans to the art form. It was first published in 1960 and that first edition was my first encounter with the great songwriters and musicals of the American theatre. Green later revised and updated the book and the fourth edition stops at 1980 but the book remains in print. I still recommend it as the best way to discover the classic works in the world of musicals.

The World of Musical Comedy

By Stanley Green,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The World of Musical Comedy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Acclaimed through three editions for its uniquely informative and entertaining style, this fourth edition of Stanley Green's World of Musical Comedy updates and enlarges the theatrical scope to include such recent shows as A Chorus Line, Barnum, They're Playing Our Song , and Annie . In a format that provides biographies of all the leading figures in the musical's development, Stanley Green manages to convey the spirit of the Broadway stage, its musical make-believe, and yet remain objective about the creative swings in its history and the careers of its individual creators. Everyone is here: Victor Herbert, Sigmund Romberg, Jerome…


Strange Mr. Satie

By M.T. Anderson, Petra Mathers (illustrator),

Book cover of Strange Mr. Satie: Composer of the Absurd

I love this picture book biography about composer Erik Satie. It has all the ingredients I love—lyrical language, fascinating details, and most of all a compelling story, in this case, about a man as odd and enchanting as his music that sounded happy and sad, like “kick line songs and ancient chants, but mixed together.” His most famous musical composition is Gymnopédie. Although Satie was a musical misfit and struggled throughout his life, in the end, he succeeded, leaving the world with a legacy of unforgettable music.

Strange Mr. Satie

By M.T. Anderson, Petra Mathers (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Strange Mr. Satie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a brilliant performance worthy of the composer, M. T. Anderson and Petra Mathers present a picture-book biography of the singular Erik Satie.

Throughout his life, Erik Satie wanted to make a new kind of music, a kind of music both very young and very old, very bold and very shy, that followed no rules but its own.

At first glance, Erik Satie looked as normal as anyone else in Paris one hundred years ago. Beyond his shy smile, however, was a mind like no other. When Satie sat down at the piano to compose or play music, his tunes…


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