95 books like Putting on the Ritz

By Joe Keenan,

Here are 95 books that Putting on the Ritz fans have personally recommended if you like Putting on the Ritz. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History

Marc Acito Author Of How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater

From my list on what life in the theatre is really like.

Who am I?

As a brainy, bullied Queer theater kid, I was 14 before I ever saw anyone like myself onstage or onscreen. Then—Wham—in June of 1980 I saw A Chorus Line on Broadway and Fame at the movies. But there weren’t any books that showed the theater life as it was actually lived. When I published my love letter to my high school theater friends in 2004, no one had written a novel about our kind. Today, as someone who’s managed to make a living as a writer-director of musicals, I strive to share the whole truth with the young artists I mentor. 

Marc's book list on what life in the theatre is really like

Marc Acito Why did Marc love this book?

Everything that can wrong in live theatre happened to Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark—and on the biggest scale possible. How Glen Berger, the only non-rich and famous person on the creative team of The Lion King director Julie Taymor and U2 rockers Bono and The Edge, managed to tell all without being sued is a mystery. Maybe it’s because the fights, failures, and firings are all just another day at work on Broadway—as are the accidents. Every outrageous incident Berger relates I have personally experienced in the musicals I’ve written—from on Broadway to Off-Off-Broadway and around the globe. Reading Song of Spider-Man prepared me for the worst, from producers applying Mafia-style pressure to witnessing an actor plummet to the stage like a dead weight. 

By Glen Berger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Song of Spider-Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As you might imagine, writing a Broadway musical has its challenges. But it turns out there are challenges one can't begin to imagine when collaborating with two rock legends and a superstar director to stage the biggest, most expensive production in theatre history. Renowned director Julie Taymor picked playwright Glen Berger to co-write the book for a $25 million Spider-Man musical. Together-along with U2's Bono and Edge-they would shape a work that was technically daring and emotionally profound, with a story fuelled by the hero's quest for love...and the villains' quest for revenge. Or at least, that's what they'd hoped…


Book cover of Singular Sensation: The Triumph of Broadway

Marc Acito Author Of How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater

From my list on what life in the theatre is really like.

Who am I?

As a brainy, bullied Queer theater kid, I was 14 before I ever saw anyone like myself onstage or onscreen. Then—Wham—in June of 1980 I saw A Chorus Line on Broadway and Fame at the movies. But there weren’t any books that showed the theater life as it was actually lived. When I published my love letter to my high school theater friends in 2004, no one had written a novel about our kind. Today, as someone who’s managed to make a living as a writer-director of musicals, I strive to share the whole truth with the young artists I mentor. 

Marc's book list on what life in the theatre is really like

Marc Acito Why did Marc love this book?

As a teacher of History and Musicals at NYU, I’ve seen how theatre students are most interested in the shows they know, which typically means those produced in their lifetime. So I try to meet them where they are and then journey backwards into the past. While Singular Sensation moves forward in time from the 1990s, it shows how the Broadway we know today came to be. And who could resist reading about Patti LuPone throwing a floor lamp out her dressing room window when Andrew Lloyd Webber fired her from Sunset Boulevard? So I hope you’ll come back for more and read Riedel’s equally dishy yet informative Razzle Dazzle, which is about Broadway in the 1970s, when someone could mug you at knifepoint in broad daylight on 42nd Street (and, in my case, did).

By Michael Riedel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The extraordinary story of a transformative decade on Broadway, featuring gripping behind-the-scenes accounts of shows such as Rent, Angels in America, Chicago, The Lion King, and The Producers-shows that changed the history of the American theater.



The 1990s was a decade of profound change on Broadway. At the dawn of the nineties, the British invasion of Broadway was in full swing, as musical spectacles like Les Miserables, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera dominated the box office. But Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard soon spelled the end of this era and ushered in a new wave of American musicals,…


Book cover of Trouble in Mind

Marc Acito Author Of How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater

From my list on what life in the theatre is really like.

Who am I?

As a brainy, bullied Queer theater kid, I was 14 before I ever saw anyone like myself onstage or onscreen. Then—Wham—in June of 1980 I saw A Chorus Line on Broadway and Fame at the movies. But there weren’t any books that showed the theater life as it was actually lived. When I published my love letter to my high school theater friends in 2004, no one had written a novel about our kind. Today, as someone who’s managed to make a living as a writer-director of musicals, I strive to share the whole truth with the young artists I mentor. 

Marc's book list on what life in the theatre is really like

Marc Acito Why did Marc love this book?

Like Hamlet says, “The play’s the thing,” so any reading list for theater people should include the reason we’re here in the first place. Alice Childress’s indictment of the degrading condescension inflicted on Black people in the theater by self-proclaimed white allies is as true today as when she wrote it in 1955. That makes me sad and angry, as does the fact it took 66 years for it to finally be produced on Broadway. But it also gives me hope when high-quality work gets recognized. And as a writer who finds the funny in any situation, I love how Childress serves up bitter pills of truth in spoonfuls of honeyed laughs. 

By Alice Childress,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A masterpiece . . . Trouble in Mind still contains astonishing power; it could have been written yesterday.” —Vulture

Ahead of its time, Trouble in Mind, written in 1955, follows the rehearsal process of an anti-lynching play preparing for its Broadway debut. When Wiletta, a Black actress and veteran of the stage, challenges the play’s stereotypical portrayal of the Black characters, unsettling biases come to the forefront and reveal the ways so-called progressive art can be used to uphold racist attitudes. Scheduled to open on Broadway in 1957, Childress objected to the requested changes in the script that would “sanitize”…


Book cover of Unprotected: A Memoir

Marc Acito Author Of How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater

From my list on what life in the theatre is really like.

Who am I?

As a brainy, bullied Queer theater kid, I was 14 before I ever saw anyone like myself onstage or onscreen. Then—Wham—in June of 1980 I saw A Chorus Line on Broadway and Fame at the movies. But there weren’t any books that showed the theater life as it was actually lived. When I published my love letter to my high school theater friends in 2004, no one had written a novel about our kind. Today, as someone who’s managed to make a living as a writer-director of musicals, I strive to share the whole truth with the young artists I mentor. 

Marc's book list on what life in the theatre is really like

Marc Acito Why did Marc love this book?

If you’ve ever seen Billy Porter werk the red carpet, you know he doesn’t hold anything back. His memoir is no exception. And while the challenges he’s faced as a Black, Queer person are as unique as his talent, every theatrer-maker can identify with his dreams, his passions, and his disappointments. I so admire his courage in calling out hypocrisy in our business while simultaneously demonstrating the grace to call in for healing. 

By Billy Porter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the incomparable Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award winner, a powerful and revealing autobiography about race, sexuality, and art

It's easy to be yourself when who and what you are is in vogue. But growing up Black and gay in America has never been easy. Before Billy Porter was slaying red carpets and giving an iconic performance in the celebrated TV show Pose; before he was the Tony Award-winning star of Broadway's Kinky Boots; and before he was an acclaimed recording artist, actor, playwright, and all-around diva, Porter was a young boy who didn't fit in. At five years old…


Book cover of The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway

Marcus Gorman Author Of Triceratops

From my list on pop culture primers.

Who am I?

Pop culture is my life, and I like my characters to be well-versed in it. There's no reason to pretend otherwise, as what we consume informs who we are as people. Plus, there’s something beautiful in something everybody collectively knows. I’ve worked hard to make pop culture not just an interest but a career path. I currently program films for the Seattle International Film Festival, work as a playwright and performer, cover film, theatre, and burlesque for The Ticket at the Seattle Times, am a frequent guest on podcasts such as Film at Fifty, and assist at various arts organizations all over the greater Seattle area.

Marcus' book list on pop culture primers

Marcus Gorman Why did Marcus love this book?

Writer William Goldman, most popular for penning The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and All the President’s Men, embeds himself in the Broadway world, seeing every show in the 1967-1968 season; to quote the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast, this book is the autopsy. It’s an enormously accessible book about American theatre, with a murderers’ row of interview subjects at Goldman’s disposal and the author’s ability to translate gossip into hard journalistic data. Even the more economics-based chapters, such as a fascinating one on how most plays live or die on presales to well-connected women’s social groups (a.k.a. “Theatre-Party Ladies”), are as breezy as Goldman’s Oscar-winning screenplays. (Content Warning: The book contains some unfortunate and dated language.)

By William Goldman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Playwright/novelist/screenwriter Goldman analyzes Broadway from the perspective of the audiences, playwrights, critics, producers and actors. “Very nearly perfect... It is a loose-limbed, gossipy, insider, savvy, nuts-and-bolts report on the annual search for the winning numbers that is now big-time American commercial theatre.” –Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times


Book cover of A is for Audra: Broadway's Leading Ladies from A to Z

Mark A. Robinson Author Of The Magical Mice of Broadway

From my list on theatre written for children.

Who am I?

As a longtime arts educator who has worked predominantly with kids ages 3 to 12, I initially set out to find books that could inspire them about theatre. For many years I have searched for the perfect books that achieve this and have used all of these books in my teaching.

Mark's book list on theatre written for children

Mark A. Robinson Why did Mark love this book?

This book is a whimsical, colorful, and delightful introduction to the women who have made the American Musical Theatre great. Kids learn all about such talented ladies as Audra McDonald, Liza Minnelli, Chita Rivera, Bernadette Peters, Lea Salonga, and Kristin Chenoweth, to name a few.

By John Robert Allman, Peter Emmerich (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A is for Audra as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"It's an incredible honor to be included in this amazing book of the greatest talent the Broadway stage has ever known!"
—AUDRA McDONALD, six-time Tony Award-winning actress

From Audra McDonald to Liza with a "Z," here is a showstopping alphabet book featuring your favorite leading ladies of the Broadway stage!

Step into the spotlight and celebrate a cavalcade of Broadway's legendary ladies. Start with "A" for six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, then sing and dance your way through the alphabet with beloved entertainers like Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, Chita Rivera, Lea Salonga, Kristin Chenoweth, Kelli O'Hara, and Liza Minnelli!…


Book cover of This Is New York

Tania de Regil Author Of A New Home

From my list on picture books about cities.

Who am I?

When I was a young girl, I was lucky to have friends from all over the world, so learning about a new country or a new city always fascinated me, and it still does. I’m always trying to learn new things, meet new people and whenever I can I like to travel the world. As a writer and illustrator, it’s always nice to experience new things, it helps to expand my imagination. I hope this list inspires you not only to read but to learn a few things here and there.  

Tania's book list on picture books about cities

Tania de Regil Why did Tania love this book?

Anyone who is curious about other cities and cultures will love the complete series of the This Is… books by Miroslav Sasek. They are filled with exciting facts and the colorful illustrations are truly delightful. From New York, to London, to Hong Kong, and many more, these books will inspire you to travel the world!

By Miroslav Sasek,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Is New York as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With the same wit and perception that distinguished his stylish books on Paris, London, and Rome, M. Sasek pictures fabulous, big-hearted New York City in This Is New York, first published in 1960 and now updated for the 21st century. The Dutchman who bought the island of Manhattan from the Native Americnas in 1626 for twenty-four dollars' worth of handy housewares little knew that his was the biggest bargain in American history. For everything about New York is big -- the buildings, the traffic jams, the cars, the stories, the Sunday papers. Here is the Staten Island Ferry, the Statute…


Book cover of All-Of-A-Kind Family

Pamela S. Nadell Author Of America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today

From my list on memoirs through the voices of women.

Who am I?

I am a professor of history and Jewish studies at American University and author of America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today, winner of the National Jewish Book Award – 2019 Jewish Book of the Year. Since childhood I have been reading stories of women’s lives and tales set in Jewish communities across time and space. Yet, the voices that so often best evoke the past are those captured on the pages of great memoirs.

Pamela's book list on memoirs through the voices of women

Pamela S. Nadell Why did Pamela love this book?

In 1951, Sydney Taylor invented the memorable Brenners—papa, mama, five sisters, and baby brother—a Jewish family on the Lower East Side in turn-of-the-century New York. Taylor’s words and Helen John’s illustrations in this book, the first in a series, set the scene. A calendar in the parlor announced that it was 1912. Tenements lined city streets. When I read these novels as a child, I did not yet know that they were closely based on Taylor’s own life. When the entire series was republished in 2014, I quipped: I became a Jewish historian because of these books. 

By Sydney Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All-Of-A-Kind Family as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Meet the All-of-a-Kind  Family -- Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie -- who live with their parents in New York City at the turn of the century.

Together they share adventures that find them searching for hidden buttons while dusting Mama's front parlor and visiting with the peddlers in Papa's shop on rainy days. The girls enjoy doing everything together, especially when it involves holidays and surprises.

But no one could have prepared them for the biggest surprise of all!


Book cover of Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion

Shastri Akella Author Of The Sea Elephants

From my list on international queer heroes.

Who am I?

When I first wrote The Sea Elephants, my protagonist (Shagun) and I were both asexual. My writing professor read the novel and said it’s dying to be a gay love story. Eventually, when I came out and rewrote the book from my newfound identity of queerness, I searched for queer stories that, like mine, were set outside the US or had non-American leads. And I realized that this is a significant gap that needs to be bridged. I felt a tremendous sense of solidarity with the books I did find. They made me feel less alone. Later, as an assistant professor of English, I’ve taught all of these books.

Shastri's book list on international queer heroes

Shastri Akella Why did Shastri love this book?

The rare South Asian diasporic novel with a queer lead, Bushra Rehman’s novel is set in the 1980s New York and follows Razia, a second generation Pakistani-American girl living in Queens as she finds strong female friendship with Taslima and eventually falls in love with Angela. But being Pakistani-American means, for Razia, making a difficult choice: home or love.

This novel will resonate deeply with anyone who loves New York or has found themselves on the fringes of their families because of who they are.

By Bushra Rehman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Razia Mirza grows up amid the wild grape vines and backyard sunflowers of Corona, Queens, with her best friend, Saima, by her side. When a family rift drives the girls apart, Razia's heart is broken. She finds solace in Taslima, a new girl in her close knit Pakistani-American community. They embark on a series of small rebellions: listening to scandalous music, wearing mini skirts, and cutting school to explore the city.

When Razia is accepted to Stuyvesant, a prestigious high school in Manhattan, the gulf between the person she is and the daughter her parents want her to be, widens.…


Book cover of Tough Jews: Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams

Paul M. Levitt Author Of Come with Me to Babylon

From my list on arresting gangsters.

Who am I?

My father came from Ukraine, and every summer took the family to stay on a farm in an immigrant community in southern New Jersey, Carmel, a community begun by the Baron de Hirsch Foundation, which settled Jews from all over Europe. Italian immigrants also settled there. I lived in a family that spoke to their siblings in three languages, Yiddish, Russian, and Ukrainian. Hence, I was privy to the loves and losses of people who felt estranged from their language and often yearned to return to their country of origin.

Paul's book list on arresting gangsters

Paul M. Levitt Why did Paul love this book?

Tough Jews is a short history of Jewish-American gangsters and their Italian colleagues with whom they made common cause. It is here for the first time that we understand why Arnold Rothstein was the most important gangster in America.  Having introduced "organized" into organized crime, he promised underworld figures the help of the famous attorney William Fallon if they landed in trouble and agreed to look after their families if they got sent up the Hudson (to Sing Sing). I am struck by the fact that Cohen makes his history personal, by means of his own contacts with the people who know the inside story of how the Jewish gangsters thrived—or didn't. He sits down with them; he eats with them; and he gets them to remember how it once was in the days of Dutch Schultz, Legs Diamond, and Arnold Rothstein.

By Rich Cohen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Tough Jews as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning writer Rich Cohen excavates the real stories behind the legend of infamous criminal enforcers Murder, Inc. and contemplates the question: Where did the tough Jews go?

In 1930s Brooklyn, there lived a breed of men who now exist only in legend and in the memories of a few old-timers: Jewish gangsters, fearless thugs with nicknames like Kid Twist Reles and Pittsburgh Phil Strauss. Growing up in Brownsville, they made their way from street fights to underworld power, becoming the execution squad for a national crime syndicate. Murder Inc. did for organized crime what Henry Ford did for the automobile,…


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