The best books on Frank Sinatra

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Frank Sinatra and why they recommend each book.

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This Is Not a Novel

By David Markson,

Book cover of This Is Not a Novel

Markson had early success writing traditional novels (one was even made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra) but his real body of work came after when he started writing novels that were criticized for not being novels. The first of these, This is Not a Novel, is narrated by a writer who asks whether it is possible to have a novel with no plot, no main character etc. In a form that visually resembles about 150 pages of tweets (but written before Twitter existed), Markson takes a spirited, enjoyable romp through the history of art, literature, and philosophy, with a sharp eye focused on how various creative people lived and loved, but especially on how they died. 


Who am I?

After publishing five books of poems, I found myself writing a long work I had no way of classifying. It involved the extensive use of facts but was also fiction. It read in part like a novel but was also lyrical. I decided to just write it and not worry about what genre it belonged to. It became A Monster’s Notes. I suspect in our internet age, the emergence of unclassifiable work is going to become more and more common. You can already see it happening. The web isn’t divided into sections the way a bookstore is; instead, it’s more like a spider’s web—you can follow this thread or that, but somehow they’re all connected. 


I wrote...

A Monster's Notes

By Laurie Sheck,

Book cover of A Monster's Notes

What is my book about?

What if Mary Shelley had not invented Frankenstein’s monster but had met him as a child of eight, sitting by her mother’s grave, and he came to her unbidden? What if he is still alive in the 21st century, and taking notes on everything from robotics to genetic privacy, John Cage, and the earth seen from outer space? In this riveting mix of fact and poetic license, Laurie Sheck’s genre-breaking novel gives us “the monster” in his own words as he recalls his life and reads Mary’s diary and letters, pondering the tragic tale of the Shelleys, and wondering about this strange race that created him yet fears and shuns him, as he tries to find his own freedom of mind. 

Home Before Daylight

By Steve Parish, Joe Layden,

Book cover of Home Before Daylight: My Life on the Road with the Grateful Dead

Researching a book on the lives and work of road crew was a fascinating, eye-opening, and thoroughly enjoyable, and enlightening experience. It also made me realise how few of those people have told their own stories. In fact, not nearly enough of them start writing road crew folk! But this book was a delightful revelation – a road crew guy, with a great way with words and insights – and telling us about his experiences with one of my favourite rock’n’roll bands of all time. What’s not to like. This may not be the easiest book to find – but like a Grateful Dead show, the reward is often the journey and what you find at the end.


Who am I?

Stuart Coupe is an Australian music journalist, author, band manager, promoter, publicist, and music label founder. He's best known for his work as a rock writer with Roadrunner, RAM (Rock Australia Magazine), The Sun Herald, and Dolly magazine; the music labels, GREEN Records and Laughing Outlaw; and the author of books including The Promoters, Gudinski, Paul Kelly and Roadies. Coupe is a former manager of the Australian bands the Hoodoo Gurus and Paul Kelly and is currently a presenter on Sydney radio stations 2SER and FBi Radio. He's also known for his writing as a reviewer of crime fiction for the Sydney Morning Herald and for founding the Australian crime fiction magazine, Mean Streets.


I wrote...

Roadies: The Secret History of Australian Rock'n'roll

By Stuart Coupe,

Book cover of Roadies: The Secret History of Australian Rock'n'roll

What is my book about?

This is your backstage pass to the hidden side of the music industry - the tantrums, the fights, the tensions, the indulgence, the sex, the alcohol, the drugs. The roadies see it all, and now they are sharing their secrets. Roadies are the unsung heroes of the Australian music industry. They unload the PAs and equipment, they set it all up, they make sure everything is running smoothly before, during, and after the gigs. Then they pack everything up in the middle of the night, put it in the back of the truck, and hit the road to another town - to do it all over again. They know everything about the pre-and post-show excesses. They bear witness to overdoses, the groupies, the obsessive fans. They are part of - and often organise - all the craziness that goes on behind the scenes of the concerts and pub gigs you go to.

From The Rolling Stones to AC/DC, Bob Marley to Courtney Love, Sherbet to The Ted Mulry Gang, INXS to Blondie - the roadies have seen it all. And now they're stepping onto the stage and talking.

Q

By Quincy Jones,

Book cover of Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones knows everybody. He’s worked with everybody. To study the life of Quincy Jones is to study popular music as we know it today. From jazz to soul to R&B to pop, Q has had a hand and a tapping toe in all genres and the lives of those who produced it. His love and passion for music of any genre are infectious. I’ve always been interested in not just the music itself, but in how it’s made, why it’s made, and who makes it, and this autobiography pulls back the curtain on it all. 


Who am I?

I was born in 1970. From my earliest memory there was music. But it’s never been just about the music, I have a natural curiosity for the people who make that music. The artist on the album cover, but also the side musicians, the producers, engineers, and promoters. I’m also fascinated by the roadmap from blues to rock to Laurel Canyon to disco to punk and on and on. Real music infuses and informs the fiction I write — by reading real-life accounts and listening to the songs, I’m put in the world from which it was all born.


I wrote...

Five Night Stand

By Richard J. Alley,

Book cover of Five Night Stand

What is my book about?

Legendary jazz pianist Oliver Pleasant finds himself alone at the end of his career, playing his last five shows, hoping the music will reunite his estranged family. Journalist Frank Severs, middle-aged, out-of-work, is at a crossroads as hope and marriage grind to a standstill. And piano prodigy Agnes Cassady grasps a dream before a debilitating disease wrenches control from her trembling fingers.

When Frank and Agnes visit New York, the force of Oliver’s music pulls them together. Over the course of five nights, they reflect on their triumphs and sorrows: family, regret, secrets. Their shared search for meaning and direction creates a bond that just might help them make sense of the past, find peace in the present, and muster the courage to face the future.

Ava Gardner

By Peter Evans, Ava Gardner,

Book cover of Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations

The Secret Conversations is a unique and intimate look into the life of legendary Hollywood actress, Ava Gardner. While writing my own book, this book helped me dive deeper into the head of a character like Rebekah Harkness. Similar to Rebekah (and our girl Tay), Ava was a tabloid darling who set out to live her best life. Fun Facts: Ava once married (and divorced) Frank Sinatra and eventually served as inspiration behind Taylor Jenkins Reid’s protagonist in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. During a GQ interview, Taylor Swift explained how The Secret Conversations inspired the concept for her "Wildest Dreams" music video.


Who am I?

Kristina Parro is a long-time Taylor Swift fan who dove deep into the stories and lyrics of folklore to help her overcome the tumultuous period she spent as a front-line healthcare worker during the pandemic. She discovered layers of deep meaning and surprising connections in the album, as well as throughout Taylor’s entire collection, that led her down a rabbit hole of her own. A quest that brought her to a more enlightened state of being. Lucky is Parro’s first novel. She's currently working on another adult-fiction manuscript. You can also find her hosting a live, weekly show on Instagram, during which she has insightful conversations with authors, artists, thinkers, creatives, and Taylor Swift fans! 


I wrote...

Lucky: A Novel

By Kristina Parro,

Book cover of Lucky: A Novel

What is my book about?

Calling all Swifties, we found a must-add to your TBR! folklore is a collection of songs and stories from singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. In the album’s primer, Taylor urges fans, “now it’s up to you to pass them down.” Kristina Parro did just that in her novel, Lucky, which was inspired by folklore and the incredible true story of Standard Oil heiress Rebekah Harkness. In Lucky, readers join Rhea Harmonía, America’s favorite pop star, as she learns the story of Rebekah Harkness and tumbles down the rabbit-hole, on a journey through history, philosophy, math, music, mythology, and time. Keep your eyes peeled for “Easter Eggs” and allusions to Swift’s entire discography hidden throughout the novel!

“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” Adventures of a Curious Character

By Richard P. Feynman,

Book cover of “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” Adventures of a Curious Character

Nobel prize-winner Richard Feynman was renowned not only as a physicist but for his antics away from science (not all of them good). This memoir is a collection of stories throughout his life and proves his incredible skills as a raconteur. You might pick up a little science along the way – he was famous for making incredibly complex ideas easy to understand – but you’ll ache with laughter at some of his adventures. They include breaking into other peoples’ safes while making the atomic bomb, going around Las Vegas with ‘Mr. Big’ (probably Frank Sinatra), and absconding to Brazil to join a samba band.


Who am I?

I’m an award-winning science journalist at Falmouth University, UK, and have written for just about every major science magazine going. When I’m not teaching, I try and emulate Indiana Jones by going off on incredible adventures – so far, my hunt for stories in the name of science has taken me to 75 countries and every continent. Science writing doesn’t have to be dull: I adore the weird, quirky stories of science history, about humans being brilliant idiots and somehow making our world a better place.


I wrote...

Racing Green: How Motorsport Science Can Save the World

By Kit Chapman,

Book cover of Racing Green: How Motorsport Science Can Save the World

What is my book about?

Racing Green is the story of spin-off technologies from motorsport, and how they’ve changed our world in ways we can barely imagine. If we’re going to beat climate change, we need green technologies that are being trialled on professional race circuits around the world. 

From cars made of flax and tyres made of dandelions to electric- and hydrogen-powered racers, to 3D-printing and AI drivers, future technologies are pioneered in a world where the difference between victory and defeat can be a tenth of a second. During the COVID pandemic, race even played a part in protecting the sick and saving lives.  Motorsport has already changed our world. And now it’s going to play a role in saving it.

Good Vibes

By Terry Gibbs, Cary Ginell,

Book cover of Good Vibes: A Life in Jazz

Terry Gibbs played vibes (vibraphone) with several of the most famous big bands during the Swing Era, than formed his own small groups, then led big bands himself starting in 1956. Steeped in Swing, he also held his own with the modernists. Perhaps his most amazing accomplishment was putting together his Dream Band, which recorded at least 68 selections, arranged by all the best arrangers in the business, in four different clubs in Hollywood, mostly in 1959. It was a 'dream band' because although the big band era was over, all the best musicians on the West Coast wanted to play in this one because the music was so much fun. Gibbs was in his 90s when his book came out; he knew how lucky he had been, and his book is full of joy and love.

Who am I?

I started buying records 70 years ago. I worked in a car factory for a decade, then landed a job in publishing, having written a couple of magazine articles, and finally got a chance to do what I was born to do: write about my favorite subject. Music has been the most important thing in the world to me ever since I heard the hits of the 1940s on the radio, playing on the kitchen floor while my mother did the ironing. I believe music is a mystery, more important than we can know, in every way: intellectual, psychological, emotional, philosophical. That is why it is such a big business, even if the business itself is often less than salubrious.


I wrote...

Billie Holiday: Wishing On The Moon

By Donald Clarke,

Book cover of Billie Holiday: Wishing On The Moon

What is my book about?

Mine was the first book to make full use of a treasure trove of interviews with people who knew Billie Holiday from the time she was a kid in Baltimore. Her real name is Eleanora Harris; I discovered her birth certificate. Her doomy, gloomy so-called autobiography, Lady Sings The Blues, was written to sell to the movies; there was much more to her than that. (Her ghostwriter, Bill Dufty, described her as the funniest woman he had ever known.)

I wanted to write about her because after listening to her music for decades, I knew she was not a tragic figure, but a feisty girl who made a lot of money, spent it all, and mostly did as she pleased. Helen Oakley Dance, her close friend, wrote about my book that "We shall probably have to wait a long time for another life of Billie Holiday to supersede Donald Clarke's achievement." The book is about her music as well as her life.

The Man with the Golden Arm

By Nelson Algren,

Book cover of The Man with the Golden Arm

Algren has been called a proletarian writer. Working primarily in Chicago from the 1930s to the 1950s, he was intensely concerned with the plight of the common man. His milieux were the gambling dens, the sawdust bars, the decaying hooker-prowled streets, the beat-down police stations, the shooting galleries, the slums, the cheap walk-up flats where broken men and women fought each other in desperate battles to survive one more miserable day. His characters were the poor, the ignorant, the addicted, tramps, bums, card sharps, petty crims, accidental murderers... But in all of them he found something human, something that might have been good, might have been worthy of a decent life – if only it had been given half a chance.


Who am I?

Matthew Stokoe has been translated and published around the world, his books have set new boundaries in urban horror and gritty, pull-no-punches noir. After Cows, Stokoe turned his sights on Hollywood, producing the now-famous High Life – both a page-turning mystery and one of the most brutal critiques of Tinsel Town ever committed to fiction. Stokoe has continued to explore his uniquely dark view of lives lived in the modern world, and in 2014 was nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière – France’s most prestigious crime writing award – for his novel, Empty Mile. Colony of Whores, is his latest novel.


I wrote...

Colony of Whores

By Matthew Stokoe,

Book cover of Colony of Whores

What is my book about?

When a failed screenwriter inherits a screenplay that may hold the key to both a sensational Hollywood murder and to his own sister's death, he is drawn into the dangerous twilight world that lurks at the edge of the movie business. Aided by a disgraced former journalist and a maverick female filmmaker bent on destroying the traditional Hollywood hierarchy, he begins a journey of revenge and personal salvation that will pit him against the owners of one of the most powerful and corrupt film companies in Los Angeles.

Making Records

By Phil Ramone,

Book cover of Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music

Phil Ramone has been involved in producing records for some of the biggest acts in music, including Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, and Paul Simon. Ostensibly, his book is about record production, but really it’s about people. Yes, Ramone worked with some big names over the course of his long career, but at the end of the day (as he emphasizes throughout the book), they’re all human beings, and while some degree of technical expertise is necessary when it comes to making music, what really matters is knowing how to talk to people. At the end of the day, making music is all about making human connections. 


Who am I?

Music is a major passion of mine. I’m highly involved in making and promoting independent music both locally and internationally via social media. The primary focus of all my endeavors is promoting a do-it-yourself ethos. Whenever I work with musicians, I’m always fascinated by how their creativity allows them to do a lot with a little. Hence, I suppose, the story of Frankie Lumlit. It’s a story about falling in love with music and finding a way to make it even when the world says no.


I wrote...

Frankie Lumlit's Janky Drumkit

By Marc Schuster,

Book cover of Frankie Lumlit's Janky Drumkit

What is my book about?

When his parents tell him that he can’t have a drumkit, Frankie Lumlit builds one out of odds and ends he finds in the family recycling bin. Frankie’s excitement, however, is dimmed when his friend Alfonse laughs at his creation. But then Frankie’s favorite band overhears his drumming and asks if they can borrow his drums. As a token of appreciation, they invite him to that night’s concert where Frankie Lumlit’s janky drumkit takes center stage. 

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