93 books like The Last Prodigy

By Brendan G. Carroll,

Here are 93 books that The Last Prodigy fans have personally recommended if you like The Last Prodigy. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Music by Max Steiner: The Epic Life of Hollywood's Most Influential Composer

Gregory Camp Author Of Scoring the Hollywood Actor in the 1950s

From my list on film music.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been interested in classic Hollywood movies for as long as I can remember, starting especially with the MGM musicals, the comedies of Abbott and Costello, and anything by Alfred Hitchcock. When I became a musicologist, I started to understand more about how the music of these films contributed to my interest in them, so it seemed like a natural research project for me to explore the music in more depth. I slowly realized that what made the films of the 1950s unique was the combination of new styles of acting with new styles of music. The films continued to suck me in and now my interest has resulted in this book.

Gregory's book list on film music

Gregory Camp Why did Gregory love this book?

Smith’s comprehensive biography of one of film history’s most prolific composers is a must-read for anyone interested in golden-age Hollywood.

Steiner worked on a vast array of films, such as King Kong, Gone with the Wind, and The Big Sleep, and Smith goes through the production of all of them. He explores Steiner’s life in detail, as well as his production process with his collaborators. Reading this book provides not just the life story of one composer, but an understanding of how film music worked in Hollywood in the 1930s through ‘50s.

By Steven C. Smith,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Music by Max Steiner as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During a seven-decade career that spanned from 19th century Vienna to 1920s Broadway to the golden age of Hollywood, three-time Academy Award winner Max Steiner did more than any other composer to introduce and establish the language of film music. Indeed, revered contemporary film composers like John Williams and Danny Elfman use the same techniques that Steiner himself perfected in his iconic work for such classics as Casablanca, King Kong,
Gone with the Wind, The Searchers, Now, Voyager, the Astaire-Rogers musicals, and over 200 other titles. And Steiner's private life was a drama all its own. Born into a legendary…


Book cover of Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music

Jon Burlingame Author Of Music for Prime Time: A History of American Television Themes and Scoring

From my list on film and television composers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been a working journalist for 50 years, and as a child of TV, especially in the 1960s, I grew up with some of the most memorable TV themes ever written. I started writing about TV in the 1980s, and since moving to Los Angeles in 1986, have used every opportunity to meet and interview all of my favorite composers of movie and TV music. The result is this book, which looks at the history of TV themes and, in a larger sense, music written for TV generally. Every genre of TV, from crime to sitcoms, westerns to adventure, has had fun, often compelling, and truly memorable music, and I've tried to celebrate it here.

Jon's book list on film and television composers

Jon Burlingame Why did Jon love this book?

Mancini wrote "Moon River," "Days of Wine and Roses," the Pink Panther theme and, for TV, music for Peter Gunn, Newhart, and The Thorn Birds.

He was the first film composer to become a household name in the 1960s and '70s. His cool jazz for Peter Gunn was so popular and influential that every cop and detective for the next 20 years was accompanied by "crime jazz," as it became known.

This is less about Mancini's personal life than about his career (the composer covered that already in his autobiography, Did They Mention the Music?), but I was captivated, particularly with Caps' ability to convey the essence of Mancini's music in descriptive words and phrases.

And it's a thorough chronicle of the work.

By John Caps,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Through film composer Henry Mancini, mere background music in movies became part of pop culture--an expression of sophistication and wit with a modern sense of cool and a lasting lyricism that has not dated. The first comprehensive study of Mancini's music, Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music describes how the composer served as a bridge between the Big Band period of World War II and the impatient eclecticism of the Baby Boomer generation, between the grand formal orchestral film scores of the past and a modern American minimalist approach. Mancini's sound seemed to capture the bright, confident, welcoming voice of the…


Book cover of September in the Rain: The Life of Nelson Riddle

Jon Burlingame Author Of Music for Prime Time: A History of American Television Themes and Scoring

From my list on film and television composers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been a working journalist for 50 years, and as a child of TV, especially in the 1960s, I grew up with some of the most memorable TV themes ever written. I started writing about TV in the 1980s, and since moving to Los Angeles in 1986, have used every opportunity to meet and interview all of my favorite composers of movie and TV music. The result is this book, which looks at the history of TV themes and, in a larger sense, music written for TV generally. Every genre of TV, from crime to sitcoms, westerns to adventure, has had fun, often compelling, and truly memorable music, and I've tried to celebrate it here.

Jon's book list on film and television composers

Jon Burlingame Why did Jon love this book?

Longtime jazz publicist Peter Levinson wrote four books on musical figures and this is my favorite.

I'm fudging on the topic just a little bit because Riddle was far more than just a film and TV composer; he was arguably the greatest arranger of the 20th century, working with such giants as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, and Rosemary Clooney.

I was especially interested in Riddle's TV career, which included a hit theme for Route 66 but also music for The Untouchables, Batman, The Blue Knight, and Emergency (as well as film scores from Ocean's 11 to The Great Gatsby).

Levinson captures not only the ambiance of the recording studio but also the surprising insecurities and melancholy that dogged the composer throughout his career.

By Peter J. Levinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Known for single-handedly saving Frank Sinatra's career in the mid-1950s with his stunning orchestral arrangements, Riddle's "intelligent, seductive style" also attracted such singers as Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Johnny Mathis, and Linda Ronstadt. Peter Levinson, a friend of Riddle's, presents the musical side of Riddle as well as the private, including details of his marriage-ending affair with Rosemary Clooney.


Book cover of A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann

Jon Burlingame Author Of Music for Prime Time: A History of American Television Themes and Scoring

From my list on film and television composers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been a working journalist for 50 years, and as a child of TV, especially in the 1960s, I grew up with some of the most memorable TV themes ever written. I started writing about TV in the 1980s, and since moving to Los Angeles in 1986, have used every opportunity to meet and interview all of my favorite composers of movie and TV music. The result is this book, which looks at the history of TV themes and, in a larger sense, music written for TV generally. Every genre of TV, from crime to sitcoms, westerns to adventure, has had fun, often compelling, and truly memorable music, and I've tried to celebrate it here.

Jon's book list on film and television composers

Jon Burlingame Why did Jon love this book?

Bernard Herrmann is revered as one of the movies' greatest composers.

Imagine starting your Hollywood career with music for Citizen Kane!

He enjoyed a very productive 10-year relationship with director Alfred Hitchcock, which produced such masterpieces as Vertigo, Psycho, and North by Northwest; he also worked with Francois Truffaut on Fahrenheit 451, composed the original Twilight Zone theme, and capped his career with music for Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.

Yet he could be cantankerous and difficult, antagonizing both friends and colleagues with his temperamental behavior and insistence upon the highest standards of music and drama.

I love the fact that Smith writes as well about the music as he does about the composer, and the reader walks away knowing lots about both.

By Steven C. Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Heart at Fire's Center as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No composer contributed more to film than Bernard Herrmann, who in over 40 scores enriched the work of such directors as Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut, and Martin Scorsese. In this first major biography of the composer, Steven C. Smith explores the interrelationships between Herrmann's music and his turbulent personal life, using much previously unpublished information to illustrate Herrmann's often outrageous behavior, his working methods, and why his music has had such lasting impact. From his first film ("Citizen Kane") to his last ("Taxi Driver"), Herrmann was a master of evoking psychological nuance and dramatic tension through music, often…


Book cover of The Stardust Road

Jeff Stookey Author Of Chicago Blues

From my list on 1920s Chicago jazz musicians.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father, a huge Ella Fitzgerald fan, had a bunch of her records, and took us to hear her live once. So I knew mid-century jazz, but I had yet to discover its early origins. From the first, I knew my trilogy was set in the 1920s and one of the main characters had to be a jazz musician. I began collecting dozens of recordings by early jazz and blues artists, reading books about them, and I developed an enthusiasm for these early musicians. I found that the original “jazz maniacs” had the same passion for their music that I felt about rock and roll in the early 1960s.

Jeff's book list on 1920s Chicago jazz musicians

Jeff Stookey Why did Jeff love this book?

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.

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.


Book cover of Secret Lives of Great Composers: What Your Teachers Never Told You about the World's Musical Masters

Lenny Cavallaro Author Of Paganini Agitato

From my list on historical fiction about classical musicians.

Why am I passionate about this?

My doctorate is in music, and although I am now more active as a composer, I was at one time a performer (pianist). Thus, I have both personal ties to the author (my mother) and professional insights into the subject matter. I have also interviewed a number of the world’s leading violinists (Bell, Chase, Markov, Zukerman, and others) and composed two works for the instrument (my Op. 4 and Op. 5, published by Broadbent & Dunn). Moreover, my series, The Passion of Elena Bianchi, also involves classical music and musicians, and echoes Paganini Agitato with concerts, poker, the great love of a child, and elements of the supernatural and/or demonic.

Lenny's book list on historical fiction about classical musicians

Lenny Cavallaro Why did Lenny love this book?

Paganini is not one of the composers the author discusses. However, I consider Secret Lives an important book, simply because it “spills the beans” about a number of these giants.

Gioachino Rossini is portrayed with some of his numerous shortcomings (though Paganini’s dalliances achieved far more notoriety). I shall mention a few significant historical facts: (1) he and Paganini were very close friends, (2) Paganini wrote a set of brilliant variations, I Palpiti, based on an aria from Rossini’s opera, Tancredi, and (3) Paganini did indeed conduct the debut of another Rossini opera, Matilde di Shobran.


Secret Lives was also a source I tapped for some of the information I presented about composers (including, most notably, Richard Wagner)  in one of my own novels.

By Elizabeth Lunday, Mario Zucca (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Secret Lives of Great Composers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the fine tradition of "Secret Lives of Great Authors" and "Secret Lives of Great Artists" comes the latest entry in Quirk's successful series: "Secret Lives of Great Composers". You've heard their scores in countless movies, from "Fantasia" to "Apocalypse Now" - now get the skinny on their tumultuous lives, loves, and lunacy. You'll learn that Frederic Chopin had his heart removed before burial, due to his grave fear of being buried alive. Sergei Rachmaninoff hated the sound of his own music and despised performing it. Gustav Mahler was rarely invited to dinner parties because he would eat nothing but…


Book cover of Truckload of Art: The Life and Work of Terry Allen-An Authorized Biography

Jason Mellard Author Of Progressive Country: How the 1970s Transformed the Texan in Popular Culture

From my list on new books on Texas music.

Why am I passionate about this?

As the Director of the Center for Texas Music History at Texas State University, I’m excited to stay on top of all that’s being done in the field of Texas Music and let me assure you that it is a great way to spend one’s days. Texas music and culture reflect the state’s diverse and contested past, and every month, it seems that there is not only a new artist appearing on the stage to sing her or his truth but a writer helping us to understand how those truths fit into the larger narratives of Texas history. 

Jason's book list on new books on Texas music

Jason Mellard Why did Jason love this book?

This is one of the books that had me inserting an unsolicited “did you know that...” into just about every conversation I had while reading it. Terry Allen is a singular visual and musical artist whose story exemplifies what a rich and contrarian place Texas is. 

I knew something of what I might find in a Terry Allen biography, and yet there’s so much more: 1950s Lubbock wrestling promoters and Thai psychedelic bands, David Byrne and Marcel Duchamp, and, most compellingly, the lifelong love of partners Terry and Jo Harvey Allen. I cannot imagine many authors up for the task.

Brendan Greaves expertly delivers as one of those rare characters who understands that Allen’s roles in fine art and country music are not only on equal footing but of a piece. Greaves also oversaw the masterful reissue of Allen’s iconic albums Juarez and Lubbock on Everything, which makes it all…

By Brendan Greaves,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Drawing on hundreds of interviews with Allen himself, his family members (including actor and poet Jo Harvey Allen, his wife and artistic partner of more than sixty years), and his many notable friends, colleagues, and collaborators (from musicians like David Byrne and Kurt Vile to artists such as Bruce Nauman and Kiki Smith); full access to the artist's home, studio, and voluminous journals and archives; and over twenty years of collaboration and friendship with Allen, author Brendan Greaves limns a revealing portrait, as deeply researched as it is intimate, as provocative as it is poetic, of a singularly multivalent storyteller…


Book cover of Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist

Lisa Rogers Author Of Beautiful Noise: The Music of John Cage

From my list on music innovators.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since childhood, I’ve wondered about people who led inventive, innovative lives. How did they get their inspiration? Where did their ideas come from? How did they take that inspiration and change the world? I found information, but not the answers I was looking for, at the library. When I became an elementary library teacher, new forms of biographies – beautiful picture book biographies about people of all kinds – became available. My students loved them and so did I, and I became inspired to write for children. I’m excited that my first two picture book biographies, which received starred reviews, are out in the world – with more coming your way!

Lisa's book list on music innovators

Lisa Rogers Why did Lisa love this book?

I love this book because it shows how a musical icon discovered and developed his own personal style.

Juan García Esquivel had a passion for music but no formal training. Without knowing the typical ways of arranging notes, Esquivel was free to experiment–and that made his work so unique that anyone hearing his music knew right away that he was the composer.

I think this book is great for showing the value of thinking differently. I also love the joyful illustrations inspired by ancient Mexican art.

By Susan Wood, Duncan Tontiuh (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Juan Garcia Esquivel was born in Mexico and grew up to the sounds of mariachi bands. He loved music and became a musical explorer. Defying convention, he created music that made people laugh and planted images in their minds. Juan's space-age lounge music--popular in the fifties and sixties--has found a new generation of listeners. And Duncan Tonatiuh's fresh and quirky illustrations bring Esquivel's spirit to life.


Book cover of Up Above the City, Down Beneath the Stars

Cathi Unsworth Author Of Season of the Witch: The Book of Goth

From my list on the magical and horrible history of Goth.

Why am I passionate about this?

It was not hard to grow up Goth in an old farmhouse in Norfolk, one of the most haunted counties in England. Age 11, when the Eighties began, I genuinely believed that ghosts, witches, and a demon dog called Old Shuck stalked this land. John Peel's radio show kept the night terrors at bay and replaced them with the music that became my passion. By 19, I was writing for Sounds and would meet and work with many of the bands and artists who saw me through that dread decade. Forty years on, this is my love letter to a most maligned and misunderstood genre – and why it still matters.

Cathi's book list on the magical and horrible history of Goth

Cathi Unsworth Why did Cathi love this book?

The Manchester evoked by Joy Division and Barry Adamson's first band, Magazine, also entered the Eighties a ravaged post-industrial city, strafed first by the Luftwaffe and then its own planners, who erected Brutalist estates over its Victorian past.

The son of a white Mancunian mother and black Jamaican father, Adamson grew up in some of the worst of the city's social housing in the Hulme of the Sixties. Another Selby aficionado, Barry recounts the story his challenging childhood with a picaresque, magical realist flair.

Music offers both salvation and damnation – as he progresses through Magazine and into Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, so too do all his most self-sabotaging addictions, until death brings a reckoning and a salvation in the first fruit of his solo career, the LP Moss Side Story. 

By Barry Adamson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Up Above the City, Down Beneath the Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Up Above the City, Down Beneath the Stars, the enigmatic Barry Adamson shines a probing light into his own heart of darkness.

Born in the black and white world of post-industrial Manchester, Adamson saw music as a chance to turn his world technicolour. Propelled into punk via Magazine, he was the founding bass player in Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, before stumbling too far down a dark, drug-induced path.

Unflinchingly candid, Adamson steers the reader through a mix of harrowing, tragic, funny and often life-affirming straights. Throughout it all, music - be it bass lines, melodies or film…


Book cover of What Charlie Heard

Lisa Rogers Author Of Beautiful Noise: The Music of John Cage

From my list on music innovators.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since childhood, I’ve wondered about people who led inventive, innovative lives. How did they get their inspiration? Where did their ideas come from? How did they take that inspiration and change the world? I found information, but not the answers I was looking for, at the library. When I became an elementary library teacher, new forms of biographies – beautiful picture book biographies about people of all kinds – became available. My students loved them and so did I, and I became inspired to write for children. I’m excited that my first two picture book biographies, which received starred reviews, are out in the world – with more coming your way!

Lisa's book list on music innovators

Lisa Rogers Why did Lisa love this book?

I love this energetic book about experimental composer Charles Ives for its liveliness, beautiful language, and glorious sounds! It’s also an important example of staying true to yourself and following your own path.

Before he became a composer, young Charles Ives’s life was full of noise–glorious noise! Influenced by his father, a music educator and bandleader, Ives experimented with sound. Like John Cage, he faced ridicule and criticism, and faced roadblocks to having his music performed.

By Mordicai Gerstein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The extraordinary story of the composer Charles Ives.

"Sometimes little Charlie lay in his crib just listening. He heard
his mother’s long dress as she moved around his room. He heard big clocks and little clocks. He heard wagons and horse hooves. He heard dogs and crickets and the church bell next door."

Charlie listened all through his boyhood, and as he grew into a man, he found he wanted to re-create in music the sounds that he heard every day. But others couldn’t hear what Charlie heard. They didn’t hear it as music – only as noise. In this…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in composers, Austria, and Vienna?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about composers, Austria, and Vienna.

Composers Explore 38 books about composers
Austria Explore 57 books about Austria
Vienna Explore 55 books about Vienna