10 books like The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist

By Deirdre O'Connell,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Countdown Years 1974 - 1987

By Peter Wilmoth,

Book cover of The Countdown Years 1974 - 1987: Glad All Over

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…

The Countdown Years 1974 - 1987

By Peter Wilmoth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Countdown Years 1974 - 1987 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Pig City

By Andrew Stafford,

Book cover of Pig City

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.

Pig City

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…


Down Under

By Trevor Conomy,

Book cover of Down Under

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.

Down Under

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…


Wild about You!

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

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

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!

Wild about You!

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.…


The Lost Melody

By Joanna Davidson Politano,

Book cover of The Lost Melody

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.

The Lost Melody

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…


The Unconsoled

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Book cover of The Unconsoled

I’ve always been fascinated by surrealism and expressionism—and The Unconsoled takes those dreamlike images and expresses them in a fascinating and disorienting story. Reading this novel makes you feel like you’re trapped in a terrifying and anxious nightmare—and I mean that in the best possible way. The novel uses dream logic: characters appear out of thin air and morph into other characters. The setting is a strange labyrinth in some nameless European city. If you like David Lynch movies, you’ll dig this. If you’re looking for a linear narrative, stay away!

The Unconsoled

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel Klara and the Sun is now available*

Ryder, a renowned pianist, arrives in a Central European city he cannot identify for a concert he cannot remember agreeing to give . . .

On first publication in 1995, The Unconsoled was met in some quarters with bewilderment and vilification, in others with the highest praise. One commentator asked, 'Has Ishiguro gone for greatness or has he gone mad?' Over the years, this uniquely strange and extraordinary novel about a man whose life has accelerated beyond his control has come to be seen by many as being the…


The Secret Piano

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

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

Zhu Xiao-Mei was born to middle-class parents in post-war China. Taught to play the piano by her mother at age 10, she developed into a prodigy.

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 members were scattered, sentenced to prison or labor camps. By 1969, the art schools had closed, and Xiao-Mei spent the next five years at a work camp. Life in the camp was nearly unbearable, thanks to horrific living conditions and intensive brainwashing. Yet through it all, Xiao-Mei clung to her passion for music.

Heartbreaking and heartwarming, The Secret Piano is the true story of one woman’s survival in the face of unbelievable odds—and in pursuit of a powerful dream.

The Secret Piano

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

Why should I read it?

1 author 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…


The Loser

By Thomas Bernhard,

Book cover of The Loser

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.

The Loser

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…


Circus

By Wayne Koestenbaum,

Book cover of Circus: Or, Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes

This is one of the first books I read by the prolific and gorgeous Wayne Koestenbaum. The novel encompasses the best of Koestenbaum’s passion for performance, his sense of humor and wit, and his poetic chops. We follow Theo as he plans his musical comeback through adventures in sex, obsession with 60s Italian circus star Moira Orfei, and various encounters with odd and uncanny characters. I loved it for the weirdness of the characters and their undying unreliability as they march across geographies and time. 

Circus

By Wayne Koestenbaum,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A new edition of a “dazzlingly seductive” fever dream written in “brilliant poetic vernacular” (Bookforum) by a beloved poet and cultural critic, now with an introduction by Rachel Kushner.

For five years, concert pianist Theo Mangrove has been living at his family’s home in East Kill, New York, recovering from a nervous breakdown that derailed his career, and attempting to relieve his relentless polysexual appetite in the company of male hustlers, random strangers, music students, his aunt, and occasionally his wife. As he prepares for a comeback recital in Aigues-Mortes, a walled medieval town in southern France, he becomes obsessed…


The Musical Life

By Helen Marquard,

Book cover of The Musical Life: Hedwig Stein: Emigree Pianist

Helen Marquard’s search for a piano teacher led her to Hedwig Stein who had fled Berlin in 1933 with her Russian Jewish husband, both concert pianists, to start again from nothing. A large, vivid woman, Hedwig freely shared her ideas on music, art, philosophy, literature. Later, Marquard discovered Hedwig had written a diary, and determined to bring us this story that would otherwise have been lost, enabling Hedwig and her husband to take their rightful place in the roll-call of émigrés who have contributed so much to UK cultural life. Hedwig put her husband’s career and her children first, yet she never gave up on her own career, which continued its own quiet flourishing after her husband’s sudden death. 

The Musical Life

By Helen Marquard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hedwig Stein was starting to make her mark as a concert pianist in Germany in the early 1930s when she fell in love with a Russian emigre pianist, Iso Elinson. He was half-Jewish, and quickly the pair knew they had little choice but to flee, despite vehement family opposition to that and to their proposed marriage. They chose England as their destination although neither had visited the country or spoke the language. They arrived with just twelve bags, a very small amount of money, a recommendation about Iso from Albert Einstein, and a few letters of introduction. Bit by bit,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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