100 books like The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist

By Deirdre O'Connell,

Here are 100 books that The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist fans have personally recommended if you like The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist. 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 The Countdown Years 1974 - 1987: Glad All Over

Clinton Walker Author Of Stranded

From my list on music from Australia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art school dropout and recovering rock critic who, since 1981, has published a dozen books on Australian music and popular culture, plus worked extensively in television and as a freelance journalist. I'm too old to be called an enfant terrible, but with the way I still seem to be able to court controversy, I must remain some sort of loose cannon! Sydney’s Sun-Herald has called me "our best chronicler of Australian grass-roots culture," and that’s a tag I’m flattered by but which does get at what I’ve always been interested in. I consider myself a historian who finds resonances where most don’t even bother to look, in our own backyard, yesterday, and the fact that so much of my backlist including Inner City Sound, Highway to Hell, Buried Country, Golden Miles, History is Made at Night, and Stranded are still in print, I take as vindication I’m on the right track…

Clinton's book list on music from Australia

Clinton Walker Why did Clinton love this book?

Every Sunday night for nearly a decade between the mid-70s and early 80s, most young Australians could be found in one place – in front of the TV, watching Countdown. Countdown was the most powerful force in the local pop/rock scene, the maker and breaker of hits. Published in 1993 in the afterglow of the show’s long run, Glad All Over, by former Age journalist Peter Wilmoth, is an appropriately loving tribute, which includes acknowledging the many (like me!) who loved to hate the show but still always watched it! As mostly oral history, it’s a sparkling story, and if the Countdown phenomenon still begs harder analysis – because as much as it was a great booster for Australian music, it actually blocked just as much – that’s the nature of a new historiography: the field has to get opened up first, and then is subject to increasingly…

Book cover of Pig City

Clinton Walker Author Of Stranded

From my list on music from Australia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art school dropout and recovering rock critic who, since 1981, has published a dozen books on Australian music and popular culture, plus worked extensively in television and as a freelance journalist. I'm too old to be called an enfant terrible, but with the way I still seem to be able to court controversy, I must remain some sort of loose cannon! Sydney’s Sun-Herald has called me "our best chronicler of Australian grass-roots culture," and that’s a tag I’m flattered by but which does get at what I’ve always been interested in. I consider myself a historian who finds resonances where most don’t even bother to look, in our own backyard, yesterday, and the fact that so much of my backlist including Inner City Sound, Highway to Hell, Buried Country, Golden Miles, History is Made at Night, and Stranded are still in print, I take as vindication I’m on the right track…

Clinton's book list on music from Australia

Clinton Walker Why did Clinton love this book?

Cultural history is now a book business-standard. That wasn’t always the case. For me myself, I had to read Otto Freidrich’s City of Nets (1987) and Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming (1992) before I could properly formulate my 1996 book Stranded. Stalwart rock journalist Andrew Stafford’s debut book from 2004, Pig City, is a cultural history of the Brisbane music scene ‘from the Saints to Savage Garden’, which makes it a regional history too. What makes it gripping, next Stafford’s deft handling of the material, is the story itself, which is not just that of an erstwhile backwater finally coming of age, but up against and overcoming the oppressive jackboots of Queensland state premier, ‘hillbilly dictator’ Joh Bjelke-Peterson. Happily, that era is now long past, and BrisVegas is today a great music town; but wouldn’t have become so without the long struggle so vividly portrayed here.

By Andrew Stafford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From cult heroes the Saints and the Go-Betweens to national icons Powderfinger and international stars Savage Garden, Brisbane has produced more than its share of great bands. But behind the music lay a ghost city of malice and corruption. Pressed under the thumb of the Bjelke-Petersen government and its toughest enforcers—the police—Brisbane’s musicians, radio announcers, and political activists braved ignorance, harassment, and often violence to be heard. This updated, 10th anniversary edition features a scathing new introduction by the author, assessing the changing shape of Brisbane, its music, and troubling developments since the return of the state of Queensland to…


Book cover of Down Under

Clinton Walker Author Of Stranded

From my list on music from Australia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art school dropout and recovering rock critic who, since 1981, has published a dozen books on Australian music and popular culture, plus worked extensively in television and as a freelance journalist. I'm too old to be called an enfant terrible, but with the way I still seem to be able to court controversy, I must remain some sort of loose cannon! Sydney’s Sun-Herald has called me "our best chronicler of Australian grass-roots culture," and that’s a tag I’m flattered by but which does get at what I’ve always been interested in. I consider myself a historian who finds resonances where most don’t even bother to look, in our own backyard, yesterday, and the fact that so much of my backlist including Inner City Sound, Highway to Hell, Buried Country, Golden Miles, History is Made at Night, and Stranded are still in print, I take as vindication I’m on the right track…

Clinton's book list on music from Australia

Clinton Walker Why did Clinton love this book?

Sometimes a book comes completely out of nowhere. Such was the case with Trevor Conomy’s Down Under. Conomy was not an author with a pedigree in music journalism or anything like that, but when Down Under came out, in 2015, it spoke for itself. The life story of a song – Melbourne pub band Men At Work’s “Down Under” – what makes the book compelling is not so much the story of its fluky success, when in 1982 it become a huge hit all round the world, but rather the aftermath: How more than a quarter-century later the song went to court against a copyright infringement claim. That it lost the case was a travesty and a human tragedy, and Conomy’s short, punchy little book reveals why in all its gory detail.

By Trevor Conomy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the biography not of a person but of one of the most loved and controversial songs in the history of Australian music.

Originally released as a B-side in 1980, 'Down Under' made Men at Work the biggest band on the planet. The song became an alternative Australian anthem and its video (recorded on the sand dunes of Cronulla) became an image of Australia recognised the world over.

Even when Men at Work suddenly disappeared, 'Down Under' remained in the national psyche. Nearly three decades later, Spicks and Specks innocently revealed a link between the song and the tune…


Book cover of Wild about You!: The Sixties Beat Explosion in Australia and New Zealand

Clinton Walker Author Of Stranded

From my list on music from Australia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art school dropout and recovering rock critic who, since 1981, has published a dozen books on Australian music and popular culture, plus worked extensively in television and as a freelance journalist. I'm too old to be called an enfant terrible, but with the way I still seem to be able to court controversy, I must remain some sort of loose cannon! Sydney’s Sun-Herald has called me "our best chronicler of Australian grass-roots culture," and that’s a tag I’m flattered by but which does get at what I’ve always been interested in. I consider myself a historian who finds resonances where most don’t even bother to look, in our own backyard, yesterday, and the fact that so much of my backlist including Inner City Sound, Highway to Hell, Buried Country, Golden Miles, History is Made at Night, and Stranded are still in print, I take as vindication I’m on the right track…

Clinton's book list on music from Australia

Clinton Walker Why did Clinton love this book?

There’s a genre of music books, in which I plead guilty to form, that is almost scrapbook-like, that mixes and matches elements to make, at best, a seamless blend of words and images, the sort of book that is a work of art in its own right like you used to find buried down the back of the aisles at counter-culture bookstores. Wild About You is the concept writ large, perhaps not least because editors Iain McIntyre and Ian D. Marks went through a couple of other similar-styled books before getting it quite so right with this one. As a portrait of the post-Beatles beat boom in Australasia in the 60s, it is definitive, written with vibrancy and beautiful and evocative for its illustrations and design. I’m still waiting for this dynamic duo to move onto the 70s!

By Ian D. Marks (editor), Iain McIntyre (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wild about You! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The astonishing outpouring of rock 'n' roll in the 1960s in Australia and New Zealand gave birth to such iconic bands such as the Easybeats, the Masters Apprentices, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, the Purple Hearts, and the Missing Links. It also launched the careers of a generation of musicians who would go on to greater, international fame with their later groups (the Bee Gees, AC/DC, Little River Band, and more). Wild About You! includes chapters on 35 bands that made the scene, as well as the editors' list of the top 100 beat and garage songs of the era.…


Book cover of Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreno Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Melisa Fernández Nitsche Author Of Cantora: Mercedes Sosa, the Voice of Latin America

From my list on Hispanic and Latino heritage children's book.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author and illustrator from Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a Latin American, I think it's important to have books with stories about our realities and culture that feature Latino people as the protagonists. I hope you enjoy my recommendations!

Melisa's book list on Hispanic and Latino heritage children's book

Melisa Fernández Nitsche Why did Melisa love this book?

I love this book because it's about the power of music, and how songs are a means to express ourselves and communicate what we feel. These are all topics that I am passionate about.

In the book, the main character travels the world to play the piano, and people are drawn to the music because songs always create a sense of community.

By Margarita Engle, Rafael Lopez (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dancing Hands as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pura Belpre Illustrator Award
A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book

In soaring words and stunning illustrations, Margarita Engle and Rafael Lopez tell the story of Teresa Carreno, a child prodigy who played piano for Abraham Lincoln.

As a little girl, Teresa Carreno loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee…


Book cover of August Blue

Bridget van der Zijpp Author Of I Laugh Me Broken

From my list on women who travel far from home to gain perspective.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of three novels that all explore contemporary notions of fidentity. In 2016 I received a scholarship to travel from New Zealand to Berlin for three months and fell in love with the city. I ended up staying there for nearly four years, until the pandemic started. As a writer I liked the way that being detached from your regular life, and living in a country where you are unfamiliar with the language and the rules, makes you alert to the quirks. It helps you to gain a fresh perspective about the place that you came from, and also the place that you are in.

Bridget's book list on women who travel far from home to gain perspective

Bridget van der Zijpp Why did Bridget love this book?

Deborah Levy’s novels are often set in places where the location becomes a character – blazing hot Spain in Hot Milk, south of France in Swimming Home – but also estrangement unsettles her characters enough to begin to really consider who they are.

In her latest, August Blue, Elsa is a classical piano prodigy, still reeling from a catastrophic concert, when she sees her doppelganger in an Athens flea market. The encounter triggers gauzy memories of her upbringing, as she travels to Paris, to London, and then to Sardinia where the man who adopted her at the age of six and nurtured her talent is dying.

Each place is so viscerally described, I wanted to be physically there as Levy drops obscure metaphorical clues about Elsa’s true identity. 

By Deborah Levy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The mesmerising new novel from the twice Booker-shortlisted author of Hot Milk and Swimming Home

At the height of her career, concert pianist Elsa M. Anderson - former child prodigy, now in her thirties - walks off the stage in Vienna, mid-performance.

Now she is in Athens, watching as another young woman, a stranger but uncannily familiar - almost her double - purchases a pair of mechanical dancing horses at a flea market. Elsa wants the horses too, but there are no more for sale. She drifts to the ferry port, on the run from her talent and her history.…


Book cover of The Lost Melody

Michelle Griep Author Of Lost in Darkness

From my list on to satisfy Jane Austen and Jane Eyre lovers.

Why am I passionate about this?

Though I live in the foothills of the Ozarks, I’m an Anglophile at heart, loving all things Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. I spent much of my angsty adolescence tucked away in Regency and Victorian England with my nose stuck in a book. As a result, I now jump at every chance I get to skip across the pond and roam the English countryside, listening hard to hear all the voices from the past—which is why my stories are always tied to British history. So whether you love ballrooms or shadowy tales set in gothic manors, here’s a great list for you.

Michelle's book list on to satisfy Jane Austen and Jane Eyre lovers

Michelle Griep Why did Michelle love this book?

Sometimes you need a good read to curl up with on a rainy day, one that’s a bit melancholic yet romantic at the same time. I know I do, and The Lost Melody checked both those boxes. My heart ached for heroine Vivienne Mourdant, for have we not all struggled with reality now and then? And who wouldn’t if trapped within an insane asylum? This one kept me guessing until the very end as to how poor Vivienne would ever escape in one piece. 

Definitely more Jane Eyre than Jane Austen.

By Joanna Davidson Politano,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Darkly premised and brilliantly presented. The Lost Melody serves a pitch-perfect blend of history, romance, mystery, and faith."--Booklist starred review

***

When concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant's father dies, he leaves to her the care of an adult ward she knew nothing about. The woman is supposedly a patient at Hurstwell Asylum. The woman's portrait is shockingly familiar to Vivienne, so when the asylum claims she was never a patient there, Vivienne is compelled to discover what happened to the figure she remembers from childhood dreams.

The longer she lingers in the deep shadows and forgotten towers at Hurstwell, the fuzzier…


Book cover of The Secret Piano: From Mao's Labor Camps to Bach's Goldberg Variations

Dan Moller Author Of The Way of Bach: Three Years with the Man, the Music, and the Piano

From my list on Bach, music, and the piano.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland interested in politics, ethics, and art. Philosophers are often unpopular loners who are passionate about their ideas, and so are musicians like Bach. When I teach Socrates and the trial that led to his death I can’t help but think of Bach, who was rejected from job after job in favor of mediocrities, and whose music was considered offensive by parishioners and obsolete by musicians by the end of his life. These figures endear themselves to me not just because of the ideas themselves, but because they had to fight so hard for what they believed in.

Dan's book list on Bach, music, and the piano

Dan Moller Why did Dan love this book?

I came to the piano as an adult and felt pretty sorry for myself–how am I supposed to do all this torturous practicing before and after work?

Then I read Zhu Xiao-Mei’s account of studying the piano during the Cultural Revolution, and realized what real commitment looks like. Zhu is a brilliant concert pianist who had to master Bach while practicing in a labor camp freezer. Read this tragi-comedy of China, politics, and Bach, and surmount your (room-temperature) challenges.

By Zhu Xiao-Mei, Ellen Hinsey (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Secret Piano as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Zhu Xiao-Mei was born to middle-class parents in post-war China, and her musical proficiency became clear at an early age. Taught to play the piano by her mother, she developed quickly into a prodigy, immersing herself in the work of classical masters like Bach and Brahms. She was just eleven years old when she began a rigorous course of study at the Beijing Conservatory, laying the groundwork for what was sure to be an extraordinary career. But in 1966, when Xiao-Mei was seventeen, the Cultural Revolution began, and life as she knew it changed forever. One by one, her family…


Book cover of Monument Eternal: The Music of Alice Coltrane

Marcus Amaker Author Of Hold What Makes You Whole

From my list on an everlong fire of musical obsession.

Why am I passionate about this?

“Big Butt.” That’s all you need to know about me. It was the first song I wrote and recorded on a dusty cassette tape in 1986. I was 10 years old and an obsessive Prince fan. On the back of his records, he wrote some variation of “written, recorded, produced and performed by Prince.” Those words empowered me to be an artist. More specifically, here’s what I wrote as a 10-year-old: “When I grow up, I want to be a rock star like Prince.” Five years later, I started writing poetry, and all of the poems I wrote felt like songs. Music is the fuel for all that I create.

Marcus' book list on an everlong fire of musical obsession

Marcus Amaker Why did Marcus love this book?

Can we have more books on Alice Coltrane, please? I enjoy telling people I love “Coltrane” and then correcting them when they assume I’m talking about John.

John was great. He was transcendent. And so was Alice.

Alice came into her true self after John dropped his body. I am eternally fascinated by her music and where it takes me.

Franya J. Berkman’s book is tragically one of the few books where you can learn about Alice’s story. It’s expertly factual and insightful.

By Franya J. Berkman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Alice Coltrane was a composer, improviser, guru, and widow of John Coltrane. Over the course of her musical life, she synthesized a wide range of musical genres including gospel, rhythm-and-blues, bebop, free jazz, Indian devotional song, and Western art music. Her childhood experiences playing for African-American congregations in Detroit, the ecstatic and avant-garde improvisations she performed on the bandstand with her husband John Coltrane, and her religious pilgrimages to India reveal themselves on more than twenty albums of original music for the Impulse and Warner Brothers labels.

In the late 1970s Alice Coltrane became a swami, directing an alternative spiritual…


Book cover of The Loser

Caitlin Horrocks Author Of The Vexations

From my list on featuring classical music.

Why am I passionate about this?

I learned to read music at about the same time I learned to read words. I grew up taking piano lessons, studying almost entirely classical pieces that came weighted with history: everything I ever played had been played better by someone else. I still enjoyed my attempts, but realized that the relationship I had with those notes was not the one I wanted to have with words, which I felt drawn to assemble into my own arrangements, my own stories. So, as a weirdo who’s been thinking about interpretation and creation since childhood, I love books that delve into the challenges and emotional complexities of making music.

Caitlin's book list on featuring classical music

Caitlin Horrocks Why did Caitlin love this book?

To play music written in another century and played thousands of times since is to live and play inside infinite comparisons: between the way something sounds in your head, and the clumsier way your fingers deliver it; between your interpretation and a famous recording; between your effort and a classmate’s. In The Loser, Bernhard imagines the lives of two students studying piano alongside a fictional version of the real-life virtuoso Glenn Gould. Their recognition of Gould’s brilliance starts their own lives unravelling. The first-person narrator ruminates and rants without pauses or paragraph breaks, flapping memorably at the edges of the pages like a bird in a cage of its own making.

By Thomas Bernhard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thomas Bernhard was one of the most original writers of the twentieth century. His formal innovation ranks with Beckett and Kafka, his outrageously cantankerous voice recalls Dostoevsky, but his gift for lacerating, lyrical, provocative prose is incomparably his own.One of Bernhard's most acclaimed novels, The Loser centers on a fictional relationship between piano virtuoso Glenn Gould and two of his fellow students who feel compelled to renounce their musical ambitions in the face of Gould's incomparable genius. One commits suicide, while the other-- the obsessive, witty, and self-mocking narrator-- has retreated into obscurity. Written as a monologue in one remarkable…


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