100 books like The Secret Piano

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

Here are 100 books that The Secret Piano fans have personally recommended if you like The Secret Piano. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Yehonathan Sharvit Author Of Data-Oriented Programming

From my list on become a great developer.

Why am I passionate about this?

I boast a two-decade-long career in the software industry. Over the years, I have diligently honed my programming skills across a multitude of languages, including JavaScript, C++, Java, Ruby, and Clojure. Throughout my career, I have taken on various management roles, from Team Leader to VP of Engineering. No matter the role, the thing I have enjoyed the most is to make complex topics easy to understand.

Yehonathan's book list on become a great developer

Yehonathan Sharvit Why did Yehonathan love this book?

This book profoundly influenced my thinking process, combining the worlds of mathematics, art, and music. I was captivated by how the book explores the deep connections between Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, Escher’s art, and Bach’s art of counterpoint.

The book’s puzzles and thought experiments pushed me to think more abstractly and critically. Despite being dense, I found it incredibly rewarding and eye-opening. I recommend this book to anyone interested in logic, creativity, and the nature of human thought. It’s a masterpiece!

By Douglas R. Hofstadter,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Gödel, Escher, Bach as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Douglas Hofstadter's book is concerned directly with the nature of maps" or links between formal systems. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental activity transcends the system that supports it. If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell, if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too will computers attain human intelligence. Goedel, Escher, Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more.


Book cover of With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

Will McLean Greeley Author Of A Connecticut Yankee Goes to Washington: Senator George P. McLean, Birdman of the Senate

From my list on inspiring biographies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in West Michigan, with a deep interest in American history, politics, and birds. Since boyhood I’ve wanted to learn the life story of my great-great uncle, Senator George P. McLean, who is credited with leading passage of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The MBTA represents a turning point in how the world views and now protects birds and the environment generally. Drawing upon my love of history, my degree in political science from the University of Michigan and a master's degree in Archives Administration, I spent over a year researching McLean’s life story. Thus began my four-year research and writing journey culminating in A Connecticut Yankee Goes to Washington. 

Will's book list on inspiring biographies

Will McLean Greeley Why did Will love this book?

This is a World War II memoir by United States Marine Eugene Sledge, first published in 1981. 

It is a powerful depiction of war, honest and authentic, describing what it was like to fight in some of the fiercest battles of World War II. The writing is vivid and gripping, sometimes humorous, but mostly reflective of the horrors of war. There is a very refreshing “non-commercial” tone to the narrative.

Sledge originally wrote this as a private memoir for his immediate family, a way to finally tell them what he could never verbalize in person. Sledge’s passion comes through on every page, a reminder that the best books come from the heart.  

By E.B. Sledge,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked With the Old Breed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The inspiration behind the HBO series THE PACIFIC

This was a brutish, primitive hatred, as characteristic of the horror of war in the Pacific as the palm trees and the islands...

Landing on the beach at Peleliu in 1944 as a twenty-year-old new recruit to the US Marines, Eugene Sledge can only try desperately to survive. At Peleliu and Okinawa - two of the fiercest and filthiest Pacific battles of WWII - he witnesses the dehumanising brutality displayed by both sides and the animal hatred that each soldier has for his enemy.

During temporary lapses in the fighting, conditions on…


Book cover of Flags of Our Fathers

J. Conrad Guest Author Of A World Without Music

From my list on PTSD and overcoming oppression of the human spirit.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father retired from the Marines before he married my mother. Sadly, he was more drill instructor to me than father. He never shared with me his experience on Okinawa, yet he was proud of his service. He kept in touch with several marines and attended many reunions. It was only after Dad’s death that I discovered With the Old Breed. Eugene Sledge told me everything my father withheld from me, and why he was the way he was. Today, Dad would be diagnosed with PTSD. Thus began a quest to read other accounts of wartime experiences, as soldiers and civilians, which led me to write A World Without Music.

J. Conrad's book list on PTSD and overcoming oppression of the human spirit

J. Conrad Guest Why did J. Conrad love this book?

In Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley recounts a story not so unlike my own and many other sons born of this generation of leathernecks. James is the son of John Bradley, who served on Iwo Jima as a corpsman and was awarded the Navy Cross for his service. He also was one of the boys who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi.

Flags is the result of James Bradley’s research and interviews with survivors of the battle for Iwo Jima, after his father’s passing. At times Flags reads like an action thriller, its battle sequences authentic not only in their depiction of all the clichés Hollywood made famous in the 1950s but in its realism of the true horrors of war, and the impact it had on the survivors.

By James Bradley, Ron Powers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • This is the true story behind the immortal photograph that has come to symbolize the courage and indomitable will of America

In this unforgettable chronicle of perhaps the most famous moment in American military history, James Bradley has captured the glory, the triumph, the heartbreak, and the legacy of the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. Here is the true story behind the immortal photograph that has come to symbolize the courage and indomitable will of America.

In February 1945, American Marines plunged into the surf at Iwo Jima—and into history.…


Book cover of Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet

Ronny Bruce Author Of The Grunts of Wrath: A Memoir Examining Modern War and Mental Health

From my list on infantry life during modern war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an OG ATLien (born in Atlanta, Georgia) and served in the US Marine Corps and the US Army. I hold a degree from Kennesaw State University and taught high school social studies from 2004 - 2006, before my military reenlistment which jumpstarted the events in my memoir.   

Ronny's book list on infantry life during modern war

Ronny Bruce Why did Ronny love this book?

Imagine being the son of the most legendary US Marine of all time? Think those are huge boots to fill?

Lewis B. Puller, Jr.’s father is Lieutenant General “Chesty” Puller – recipient of five Navy Crosses and one Distinguished Service Cross, making him the most decorated marine in history. Puller Jr.’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir chronicles his service as a marine lieutenant in Vietnam attempting to fill his father’s enormous shoes. But Junior arrives home early missing both legs, most of his left hand, and a thumb and finger on his right hand after tripping a booby-trapped mine.

Fortunate Son tells the story of a broken man returning to his family, and high-profile legendary father, to attempt to put together the pieces.  

By Lewis B. Puller Jr.,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Lewis B. Puller, Jr.'s memoir is a moving story of a man born into a proud military legacy who struggles to rebuild his world after the Vietnam War has shattered his body and his ideals. Raised in the shadow of his father, Marine General Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, a hero of five wars, young Lewis went to Southeast Asia at the height of the Vietnam War and served with distinction as an officer in his father's beloved Corps. But when he tripped a booby-trapped howitzer round, triggering an explosion that would cost him his legs,…


Book cover of Wave of Terror

J. Conrad Guest Author Of A World Without Music

From my list on PTSD and overcoming oppression of the human spirit.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father retired from the Marines before he married my mother. Sadly, he was more drill instructor to me than father. He never shared with me his experience on Okinawa, yet he was proud of his service. He kept in touch with several marines and attended many reunions. It was only after Dad’s death that I discovered With the Old Breed. Eugene Sledge told me everything my father withheld from me, and why he was the way he was. Today, Dad would be diagnosed with PTSD. Thus began a quest to read other accounts of wartime experiences, as soldiers and civilians, which led me to write A World Without Music.

J. Conrad's book list on PTSD and overcoming oppression of the human spirit

J. Conrad Guest Why did J. Conrad love this book?

Hidden from the English-speaking world for more than 50 years, this panoramic novel begins with the Red Army invasion of Belarus in 1939. Ivan Kulik has just become headmaster of school number 7 in Hlaby, a rural village in the Marsh of Pinsk. Through his eyes, I witnessed the tragedy of Stalinist domination where people are oppressed, randomly deported to labor camps, or tortured in Zovty Prison in Pinsk.

The author’s individual gift that sets him apart from his contemporaries is the range of his sympathies and his unromantic, unsentimental approach to the sensual lives of women. His debt to Chekhov is obvious in his ability to capture the internal drama of his characters with psychological conciseness.

This historical novel serves as a stern warning against adopting socialism in America.

By Theodore Odrach, Emma Odrach (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This panoramic novel hidden from the English-speaking world for more than 50 years begins with the Red Army invasion of Belarus in 1939. Ivan Kulik has just become Headmaster of school number 7 in Hlaby, a rural village in the Pinsk Marshes. Through his eyes we witness the tragedy of Stalinist domination where people are randomly deported to labour camps or tortured in Zovty Prison in Pinsk. The author's individual gift that sets him apart from his contemporaries is the range of his sympathies and his unromantic, unsentimental approach to the sensual lives of females. His debt to Chekhov is…


Book cover of Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment

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?

Most people think of Bach as a church composer, but the broader political context was that of Frederick the Great and the Enlightenment.

Bach was rationalizing music as much as he was putting it to liturgical use. The great cycles of the Well-Tempered Clavier and the Art of the Fugue are science as well as art. This book explores that idea by focusing on a bizarre encounter between Frederick and Bach, when he was invited to play for the king, in what may have been an early attempt at trolling.

By James Gaines,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In one corner, a godless young warrior, Voltaire's heralded 'philosopher-king', the It Boy of the Enlightenment. In the other, a devout if bad-tempered old composer of 'outdated' music, a scorned genius in his last years. The sparks from their brief conflict illuminate a turbulent age.

Behind the pomp and flash, Prussia's Frederick the Great was a tormented man, son of an abusive king who forced him to watch as his best friend (probably his lover) was beheaded. In what may have been one of history's crueler practical jokes, Frederick challenged "old Bach" to a musical duel, asking him to improvise…


Book cover of A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano

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’ve always had mixed feelings about the great Glenn Gould, one of the outstanding Bach pianists.

This book captures what I love and hate about him, through the lens of his pianos and his blind piano technician. Gould actually hated the piano in a sense, always pushing it toward something it wasn’t, thinning out its sound like a harpsichord, while also trying to make its hammers more continuous-sounding, like an orchestra.

He’s also insufferable in the way that most great artists are, and this book documents that, including his imagined injuries, senseless lawsuits, and the abuse his technicians endured, who kept his pianos alive until they were inevitably smashed.

By Katie Hafner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Romance on Three Legs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A grand tale of obsession about the brilliant Glenn Gould and the unique, temperamental instrument he came to love beyond all others, by a top New York Times writer.
Glenn Gould was one of the most complex, brilliant artists of the twentieth century, a musician famous for bizarre habits: he wore a hat and gloves even on the warmest summer day; refused to shake hands for fear of germs or damaged fingers; hummed and conducted himself while he played; and traveled the world with a battered old chair, refusing to perform while sitting on anything else.
But perhaps Gould’s greatest…


Book cover of The Tristan Chord: Wagner and Philosophy

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?

Bach the church mouse and Wagner the megalomaniac had more in common than people imagine.

They both favored dense, contrapuntal textures with central themes and motifs, and both had an irrepressible personal energy, albeit manifested differently. This book digests the philosophical aspects of music in unpretentious language that saves you from having to read Schopenhauer (phew!).

It makes you more interested in both philosophy and music by showing how to two are connected in Wagner.

By Bryan Magee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Richard Wagner's devotees have ranged from the subtlest minds (Proust) to the most brutal (Hitler). The enduring fascination with his works arises not only from his singular fusion of musical innovation and theatrical daring, but also from his largely overlooked engagement with the boldest investigations of modern philosophy. In this radically clarifying book, Bryan Magee traces Wagner's intellectual quests, from his youthful embrace of revolutionary socialism to the near-Buddhist resignation of his final years. Magee shows how abstract thought can permeate music and stimulate creations of great power and beauty. And he unflinchingly confronts the Wagner whose paranoia, egocentricity, and…


Book cover of The King of Trees

Michael Meyer Author Of The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed

From my list on set in China’s diverse regions.

Why am I passionate about this?

I arrived in China in 1995 as one of the country’s first Peace Corps volunteers, and for over a decade lived in rural Sichuan, historic Beijing, and arcadian Jilin. These settings inform my trilogy of books about daily life in corners of the country overlooked by correspondents. I’ve won a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Lowell Thomas Awards for travel writing, and I am currently a Fulbright Scholar in Taiwan. I’m a member of the National Committee on United States-China Relations‘ Public Intellectuals Program, a recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Fellowship, and a Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, where I teach nonfiction writing. 

Michael's book list on set in China’s diverse regions

Michael Meyer Why did Michael love this book?

Set in China’s southwestern mountainous rainforest borderland of Xishuangbanna, this novella is based on the author’s time as a “sent-down youth” during the Cultural Revolution. Politics take a backseat to the intimate friendships forged during those years, alongside the heedless degradation of the country’s lushest lands. The famed director Chen Kaige—who had served two mountains away from the author—made a faithful film adaptation.

By Ah Cheng, Bonnie S. McDougall (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When the three novellas in The King of Trees were published separately in China in the 1980s, "Ah Cheng fever" spread across the country. Never before had a fiction writer dealt with the Cultural Revolution in such Daoist-Confucian terms, discarding Mao-speak, and mixing both traditional and vernacular elements with an aesthetic that emphasized not the hardships and miseries of those years, but the joys of close, meaningful friendships. In The King of Chess, a student's obsession with finding worthy chess opponents symbolizes his pursuit of the dao; in The King of Children-made into an award-winning film by Chen Kaige, the…


Book cover of To Live

Fan Wu Author Of Beautiful as Yesterday

From my list on China’s cultural revolution.

Why am I passionate about this?

Born and raised in China, I grew up on a remote state-run farm where my parents, as condemned intellectuals during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, lived for 20 years. It wasn't until mid-80s they were allowed to return. I have heard many stories and read many books about this tumultuous period in China. I didn’t know much about my parents’ personal experiences until I was in my 30s. Today’s China is very different but I believe that history extends its roots deep into the present. As a writer, what interests me the most is the impact of history on individuals and society. My latest book is a historical wartime novel set in China and Europe.

Fan's book list on China’s cultural revolution

Fan Wu Why did Fan love this book?

I first read the book when I was at college in China, and over the years, I’ve read it several times. In China, Yu Hua is one of the few leading writers known as both a literary master and a popular writer with huge commercial success. His charm is well demonstrated in To Live, which has become a classic in modern Chinese literature. It’s a story of a common Chinese man named Fugui living through one after another social and political changes. The story is dramatic, sad, humorous, and sarcastic at times yet never sentimental and judgmental, and it draws you in with a simple but compelling question: after you lose everything dear to you, can you still go on to live? 

By Yu Hua, Michael Berry (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Originally banned in China but later named one of that nation’s most influential books, a searing novel that portrays one man’s transformation from the spoiled son of a landlord to a kindhearted peasant. 

“A work of astounding emotional power.” —Dai Sijie, author of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

From the author of Brothers and China in Ten Words: this celebrated contemporary classic of Chinese literature was also adapted for film by Zhang Yimou. After squandering his family’s fortune in gambling dens and brothels, the young, deeply penitent Fugui settles down to do the honest work of a farmer. Forced…


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