The best Broadway musical books

8 authors have picked their favorite books about Broadway musicals and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Act One

By Moss Hart,

Book cover of Act One: An Autobiography

While the prose style of Act One is a little fussy, florid, and overly eager to impress, this is still a moving, funny, and emotional biography of a talented, ambitious young man who is determined to make his mark as a Broadway playwright. And, at the end, when he single-handedly turns his out-of-town failure (co-written with George S. Kaufman) into a hit, you want to stand up and cheer.


Who am I?

Since adolescence I’ve written scripts, stories, and songs. For ten years I wrote songs and sketches for NPR’s Morning Edition  as “Moe Moskowitz and the Punsters.” Among my young-adult novels, my favorite remains Alex Icicle: A Romance in Ten Torrid Chapters, a literate howl of romantic obsession by an over-educated and under-loved madman. I think my funniest comedy novel is Who’s Killing the Great Writers of America? that not only kills off some famous writers, but simultaneously parodies their style. And, of course, Stephen King ends up solving the whole crazy conspiracy. I taught writing for many years, and I’m pleased to report that my students taught me more than anything I ever taught them.


I wrote...

Me and Orson Welles

By Robert Kaplow,

Book cover of Me and Orson Welles

What is my book about?

This is the story of one week in my life. I was seventeen. It was the week I slept in Orson Welles’s pajamas. It was the week I fell in love. It was the week I fell out of love. And it was the week I changed my middle name—twice.

Set against the background of Orson Welles’s debut production of the Mercury Theatre on Broadway, Me and Orson Welles is the tale of Richard Samuels, a stage-struck kid from New Jersey who, miraculously, ends up with a small role in Caesar, Welles’s brash and brilliant modern-dress version of Shakespeare’s play. Richard finds himself at the center of an exhilarating vortex of celebrity, ego, art, and love.  The novel was filmed by Richard Linklater starring Zac Efron, Christian McKay, and Claire Danes.

The Rise and Fall of the Broadway Musical

By Mark Grant,

Book cover of The Rise and Fall of the Broadway Musical

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.


Who am I?

Having taught college courses on and written books about theatre, film, and popular music for over forty years, I have great respect for those who write about the popular art form known as musical theatre. As a theatergoer, I've watched the Broadway (and Off-Broadway) musical develop, change, and sometimes decline. It seems musicals are more popular today than ever before; they certainly are more diverse. I grew up with the traditional Rodgers and Hammerstein model and have seen musicals take on new forms over the years. It is an exciting art form that deserves to be written about.


I wrote...

Musical Misfires: Three Decades of Broadway Musical Heartbreak

By Mark A. Robinson, Thomas S. Hischak,

Book cover of Musical Misfires: Three Decades of Broadway Musical Heartbreak

What is my book about?

Musical Misfires looks at 151 musicals that did not run long enough to be considered hits. Such shows were once called flops but that is no longer an appropriate description. Some of these were superb pieces of musical theatre that, for one reason or another, couldn't find an audience, did not please the critics, couldn't pay the high weekly bills, or just were not right for the time and place in which they opened. Oft-overlooked gems like The Scottsboro Boys and Caroline, or Change are explored alongside such famous musicals as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Seussical. A wide variety of musicals are included in this captivating look at Broadway shows from 1989 to 2020 and their search for success.

How Musicals Work

By Julian Woolford,

Book cover of How Musicals Work: And How to Write Your Own

Woolford describes his book as a prenatal guide for musicals and it is indeed just that. He breaks down the process from idea to opening night for a thorough examination of what goes into each part of writing a musical. From the tickle of inspiration—and everything that went into its construction after that point, including the steps back and sideways, trying to find the right formula for success—there isn’t much left out. Warning: You might be inspired to try your hand at writing once you finish this book! 

I felt as if I’d taken a college-level theatre course at the end of How Musicals Work, with an instructor who revels in the complicated chaos that is musicals! It opens up a whole extra level to watching/experiencing a musical.


Who am I?

I have been a Broadway fan since I discovered the 60’s vinyl cast albums my parents collected. Seeing them in person added another level to the magic, and after every show, while still basking in the creative spark, I’m already planning my next visit! Sharing a list of books instead of a playlist is my way of sharing a deeper view of the world we Broadway fans love so much. It’s also the list I used as the basis for my research, while writing my new series (which follows the journey of a fictional Broadway musical from script to opening night)!


I wrote...

Snowmageddon (Broadway or Bust Book 1)

By Tere Michaels,

Book cover of Snowmageddon (Broadway or Bust Book 1)

What is my book about?

Come the New Year, Luca Vocci is reluctantly headed to LA to start a new life he isn't sure he wants, far away from his beloved New York City and the lights of Broadway. Until then, he’s directionless, without his spark or any idea what to do next—so, with the holiday season upon him, Luca agrees to do a favor for an old friend and his high-school theater class.

Everything goes according to plan until a snowstorm traps Luca in a house with six rather dramatic teenagers, two chaperones with relationship problems, and three unexpected guests. For Luca, the house is full of memories—and now, music. Maybe the spark he’s looking for is hiding in plain sight.

Tradition!

By Barbara Isenberg,

Book cover of Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, the World's Most Beloved Musical

Full disclosure—Fiddler of the Roof is one of my favorite musicals of all time. I love the story, the music, the stage version, the movie, the various soundtracks…all of it. So it was an absolute pleasure to read this deep dive into the history of the show and understand the trials and tribulations that went into the journey to get it made.

Warning: This will incite you to listen to the soundtrack(s) and definitely want to watch the movie version (as of the writing of this piece, it was on Netflix!). You’ll be listening and watching with a new perspective of how Fiddler was an unexpected but well-earned hit.


Who am I?

I have been a Broadway fan since I discovered the 60’s vinyl cast albums my parents collected. Seeing them in person added another level to the magic, and after every show, while still basking in the creative spark, I’m already planning my next visit! Sharing a list of books instead of a playlist is my way of sharing a deeper view of the world we Broadway fans love so much. It’s also the list I used as the basis for my research, while writing my new series (which follows the journey of a fictional Broadway musical from script to opening night)!


I wrote...

Snowmageddon (Broadway or Bust Book 1)

By Tere Michaels,

Book cover of Snowmageddon (Broadway or Bust Book 1)

What is my book about?

Come the New Year, Luca Vocci is reluctantly headed to LA to start a new life he isn't sure he wants, far away from his beloved New York City and the lights of Broadway. Until then, he’s directionless, without his spark or any idea what to do next—so, with the holiday season upon him, Luca agrees to do a favor for an old friend and his high-school theater class.

Everything goes according to plan until a snowstorm traps Luca in a house with six rather dramatic teenagers, two chaperones with relationship problems, and three unexpected guests. For Luca, the house is full of memories—and now, music. Maybe the spark he’s looking for is hiding in plain sight.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

By Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, Lois Ehlert (illustrator)

Book cover of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

New parents are likely to need a little practice reading aloud, especially to an unseen audience. A perfect choice for your first-time read-aloud experience is the whimsical rhyming alphabet book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. In a simple, catchy tempo it describes the antics of the personified letters of the alphabet—great fun to read aloud! This story has all the qualities that babies in utero respond to rhythm, repetition, and rhyme. Once baby arrives, this rousing, romping tale will have your little one wriggling and cooing to the familiar beat! 


Who are we?

Did you know that babies can already hear and remember elements of language during pregnancy? Belly Books were inspired by abundant scientific evidence showing the profound benefits of prenatal reading for family bonding and children’s language and learning. These beautiful board books are uniquely shaped to curve over the growing baby bump, and specially written for expectant parents to bond with their baby in the womb while practicing the art of reading aloud. We are a literacy specialist and an editor who are dedicated to helping parents experience the amazing power of prenatal family storytime. Our blog, The Reading Womb, has been spreading the message everywhere: It’s never too early to read to your baby! 


We wrote...

Can't Wait to Show You

By Jacqueline Boyle, Susan Lupone Stonis, Laura Horton (illustrator)

Book cover of Can't Wait to Show You

What is our book about?

It’s never too early to read to your baby! This specially curved book fits perfectly around your baby bump or snuggles the baby on your lap. Celebrate the joy of new life, and bond with your baby-to-be, while laying the earliest foundation for your little one’s literacy and social development.

What makes Belly Books special? It's a truly unique baby shower gift: a sturdy board book perfect for frequent use from newborn to toddler ages, with beautiful illustrations and a touching story to share with children at any stage.

You're Going to Survive

By Alexandra Franzen,

Book cover of You're Going to Survive

When I began teaching online I drowned in the world of success stories. Every Facebook ad made my progress feel small and insignificant. “Do people ever struggle when they’re growing their business?” I wondered. In her book, You’re Going to Survive Alex interviews her friends - business owners who share some of the most challenging times in their work and how they overcame it. It’s a book featuring real stories, real people, and real survival tips to keep you going despite the hurdles. Knowing that you’re not alone and that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel is what we all need when our journey gets tough.


Who am I?

The start of my own online teaching business in 2010 felt both liberating and frustrating. I enjoyed working for myself but struggled to make my offers unique, attractive, sustainable, and successful. I had no idea how to make my voice heard in the highly-saturated and fast-growing online teaching industry. Following the advice of famous online business gurus, I lost track of what I wanted my business to accomplish and burned out following every online teaching trend there was. The books I’ve selected helped me align with my own vision and values, inspired me to overcome my limitations and succeed on my own terms.


I wrote...

Grounded Growth: Sustainable and Profitable Online Teaching Business On Your Own Terms

By Elena Mutonono,

Book cover of Grounded Growth: Sustainable and Profitable Online Teaching Business On Your Own Terms

What is my book about?

Grounded Growth is a book for online language teachers and coaches who struggle to make their businesses profitable and their 1:1 client work sustainable. When most of your income comes from client work, you find yourself exhausted and anxious about the future of your business, as client numbers may fluctuate.

Grounded Growth shows to you, in detail, how sustainability and profitability work in an online language teaching business, what stifles growth, how money shame can sabotage your success, and what action steps you need to take in order to make your business healthy on your own terms. Find detailed examples, budget templates, and new teaching formats that work for any small and budget-conscious online teaching business.

Song of Spider-Man

By Glen Berger,

Book cover of Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History

Everything that can wrong in live theatre happened to Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark—and on the biggest scale possible. How Glen Berger, the only non-rich and famous person on the creative team of The Lion King director Julie Taymor and U2 rockers Bono and The Edge, managed to tell all without being sued is a mystery. Maybe it’s because the fights, failures, and firings are all just another day at work on Broadway—as are the accidents. Every outrageous incident Berger relates I have personally experienced in the musicals I’ve written—from on Broadway to Off-Off-Broadway and around the globe. Reading Song of Spider-Man prepared me for the worst, from producers applying Mafia-style pressure to witnessing an actor plummet to the stage like a dead weight. 


Who am I?

As a brainy, bullied Queer theater kid, I was 14 before I ever saw anyone like myself onstage or onscreen. Then—Wham—in June of 1980 I saw A Chorus Line on Broadway and Fame at the movies. But there weren’t any books that showed the theater life as it was actually lived. When I published my love letter to my high school theater friends in 2004, no one had written a novel about our kind. Today, as someone who’s managed to make a living as a writer-director of musicals, I strive to share the whole truth with the young artists I mentor. 


I wrote...

How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater

By Marc Acito,

Book cover of How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater

What is my book about?

How I Paid for College is just true enough to embarrass my family and just fictional enough to shield me from prosecution. It’s about a teen actor who schemes to steal his college tuition money when his wealthy father refuses to pay for him to study acting at Juilliard. It won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction, was a New York Times Editor’s Choice, and has almost been a movie or TV series for nearly 20 years.

“A brilliant, laugh-out-loud novel” - City Magazine, London, “Acito has fantastic narrative chops, writing funny, fast and satisfying chapters…This is a book for mature readers that reminds us what a blast immaturity can be.” - People Magazine

The City of Endless Night

By Milo Hastings,

Book cover of The City of Endless Night

Milo Hastings’s book, The City of Endless Night, written right after the end of WWI, foretells Germany’s eventual rise to power again. The book’s main character Lyman De Forrest takes us through a socially stratified underground Berlin, where 300,000,000 people live. In the lower strata, every aspect of life, including how much a person gets to eat each day (based on their weight), is controlled. Despite being more than 100 years old, this book is surprisingly modern and the food politics are just as relevant.


Who am I?

I’ve always been surrounded by food culture. I grew up in a diner family. My parents started Lakey’s Cafe just before I was born. My first jobs as a kid were in that restaurant. After that, I worked in restaurants as a server for more than 10 years of my life. When the opportunity presented itself to throw in the napkin and become a writer, I did. My writing now as a professional writer centers around the food and beverage industry. One topic that I don’t see discussed enough is the role that food plays in science fiction and fantasy novels. Food in novels has a way of showing us something about ourselves.


I wrote...

The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky: The Noah and Clare Chronicles Book 1

By Buffy Naillon,

Book cover of The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky: The Noah and Clare Chronicles Book 1

What is my book about?

It’s the 22nd century, and America is ravaged by a dangerous new disease called Sudden Onset Anorexia (SOA). People who get this disease can eat and eat and eat and yet, they waste away to nothing.

At the center of this story is Clare King, a reality TV star. Her every move is recorded live… When she sleeps… Who she dates… And what she eats, or more importantly, what she’s not allowed to eat. In true miracle-in-disguise fashion, Clare manages to escape her life in front of the camera and find happiness and love for the first time. SOA, Clare’s life as a reality star on the run, and food politics come crashing together when Clare stumbles upon the horrifying origins of the 22nd century’s most deadly disease.

The Journal of the Institute for Hacks, Tomfoolery & Pranks at MIT

By Brian M. Leibowitz,

Book cover of The Journal of the Institute for Hacks, Tomfoolery & Pranks at MIT

The Journal of IHTFP (look up that acronym!) is a delightful introduction to the original hacking scene at MIT, where hacks were elaborate, extremely clever student pranks—handing out colored cards at a Harvard-Yale football game to spell MIT rather than BEAT YALE when raised by eleven hundred Harvard fans, for example, or sneaking a power supply, multi-piece wooden frame, and the outer metal parts of a Chevrolet Cavalier atop the school’s Great Dome, so it appeared that the building was mounted by a real police cruiser, complete with flashing lights and boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts. The oversized book includes numerous photographs. Now out of print, it has been replaced by Nightwork by T. F. Peterson, which includes more recent hacks.


Who am I?

Jeremy N. Smith is the author of three acclaimed narrative non-fiction books, including Breaking and Entering, about a female hacker called “Alien” and the birth of our information insecurity age. He has written for The Atlantic, Discover, Slate, and the New York Times, among other outlets, and he and his work have been featured by CNN, NPR, NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, and Wired. He hosts The Hacker Next Door podcast and lives in Missoula, Montana.


I wrote...

Breaking and Entering: The Extraordinary Story of a Hacker Called Alien

By Jeremy N. Smith,

Book cover of Breaking and Entering: The Extraordinary Story of a Hacker Called Alien

What is my book about?

This taut, true thriller dives into a dark world that touches us all, as seen through the brilliant, breakneck career of an extraordinary hacker, a woman known only as Alien. When she arrived at MIT in the 1990s, Alien was quickly drawn to the school's tradition of high-risk physical trespassing: the original hacking. Within a year, one of her hallmates was dead and two others were arraigned. Alien's adventures were only just beginning.

American Musical Theatre

By Gerald Bordman, Richard Norton,

Book cover of American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle

This weighty reference book is not something to be read from cover to cover but, for browsing or looking up a plot or commentary on Broadway musicals, it is still the leader in its field. Bordman published his Chronicle in 1978 and he revised it up until his death, critic Richard Norton helping on the fourth edition. The coverage is impressive: musicals from the late 1700s up to 2010. The writing is concise and to the point. This book discusses shows you're not likely to find in any other book or website.


Who am I?

Having taught college courses on and written books about theatre, film, and popular music for over forty years, I have great respect for those who write about the popular art form known as musical theatre. As a theatergoer, I've watched the Broadway (and Off-Broadway) musical develop, change, and sometimes decline. It seems musicals are more popular today than ever before; they certainly are more diverse. I grew up with the traditional Rodgers and Hammerstein model and have seen musicals take on new forms over the years. It is an exciting art form that deserves to be written about.


I wrote...

Musical Misfires: Three Decades of Broadway Musical Heartbreak

By Mark A. Robinson, Thomas S. Hischak,

Book cover of Musical Misfires: Three Decades of Broadway Musical Heartbreak

What is my book about?

Musical Misfires looks at 151 musicals that did not run long enough to be considered hits. Such shows were once called flops but that is no longer an appropriate description. Some of these were superb pieces of musical theatre that, for one reason or another, couldn't find an audience, did not please the critics, couldn't pay the high weekly bills, or just were not right for the time and place in which they opened. Oft-overlooked gems like The Scottsboro Boys and Caroline, or Change are explored alongside such famous musicals as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Seussical. A wide variety of musicals are included in this captivating look at Broadway shows from 1989 to 2020 and their search for success.

Or, view all 76 books about Broadway musicals

New book lists related to Broadway musicals

All book lists related to Broadway musicals

Bookshelves related to Broadway musicals