The best Broadway musical books 📚

Browse the best books on Broadway musicals as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Act One: An Autobiography

Act One: An Autobiography

By Moss Hart

Why this book?

In this 1959 memoir, the You Can’t Take It With You playwright tells the story of how he dreamed his way out of deepest, dreariest Brooklyn, inspired by an outlier aunt who turned him on to Broadway. Hart’s Promised Land is just a long subway ride away from his tenement home, but it takes a Moses-like journey to get him there for good—whereupon he renounces traveling by subway forevermore.

From the list:

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Book cover of Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops

Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops

By Ken Mandelbaum

Why this book?

Musical theatre fans delight in reading about the famous and not-so-famous disasters in the genre. Mandelbaum covers nearly 200 of these musical flops that opened (and often quickly closed) on Broadway between 1950 and 1990. It is a lively read, well researched, and has plenty of "what were they thinking?" attitude. Not much copy is given to one musical (except the title musical Carrie) but the coverage is comprehensive. A favorite among musical theatre fans, Not Since Carrie was the inspiration for Mark Robinson and myself when we continued Mandelbaum's chronicle with our own Musical Misfires.

From the list:

The best books about Broadway musicals

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Book cover of The Rise and Fall of the Broadway Musical

The Rise and Fall of the Broadway Musical

By Mark Grant

Why this book?

If you are looking for a highly opinionated and passionate account of the Broadway musical and the changes it has undergone over the decades, this book is for you. Grant does not pull his punches and the general tone is one of despair at the decline in the quality of musicals. But the book is well researched and offers many provocative ideas which the die-hard musical fan will find fascinating. It's the kind of work that you want to read after you have a solid knowledge of American musical theatre and you want to have your traditional ideas challenged.

From the list:

The best books about Broadway musicals

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Book cover of My Papi Has a Motorcycle

My Papi Has a Motorcycle

By Isabel Quintero, Zeke Peña

Why this book?

My Papi Has a Motorcycle is a unique look at not just a father-daughter relationship, but at how they connect with their whole community. My own dad had a motorcycle, and from waiting for him to get home from work, to slipping that big helmet on, to holding onto him tightly as we flew down the streets, I connected with this story and the bond between father and daughter. A special outing with Dad, or Papi, is always a treat, and this book brings that to life.

From the list:

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Book cover of Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch

By Eileen Spinelli, Paul Yalowitz

Why this book?

When we were kids, this was one of our all-time favorite books to have read to us each and every evening. While an especially good story to read around Valentine’s Day, we loved hearing it all year round. Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch is a picture book about a lonely, older man who one day receives an extra-large box of chocolate with the note “Somebody loves you!” attached to it. The gift spurs this quiet, isolated man to open his eyes and heart to the world around him and reach out to others through acts of kindness. The new friends…
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Book cover of The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built

The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built

By Jack Viertel

Why this book?

What? A scholarly book about Broadway to kick things off? Absolutely. If you think you know everything about musicals, Jack Viertel (a jack-of-all-trades with a career seeped in working in and around the stage) is here to take you a step deeper. From the evolution of what is “popular” and preferred, to the aspects that make a show into a hit, Viertel leads you through the decades of American musicals for a thorough education that is equal parts analysis and a shared love of the genre. The best part is that he loves Broadway as much as you do! He…

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