The most recommended books about musical theatre

Who picked these books? Meet our 69 experts.

69 authors created a book list connected to musical theatre, and here are their favorite musical theatre books.
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Book cover of The One I Want

Marci Wilson Author Of Turn the Page

From my list on little-known small-town romances series starters.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having spent most of my life in the Midwest, I know a little (or a lot) about growing up in a small-town environment. When I was younger, I was annoyed by all the things I now find charming about this genre of romance books. The nosy neighbor, the know-it-all jock, the downtrodden wallflower? Stereotypical but oh-so-real. I have written several series set in small towns and have come to love them all. It’s now my go-to genre when I want to sit and relax. 

Marci's book list on little-known small-town romances series starters

Marci Wilson Why did Marci love this book?

One of the things a series starter has to do is build a world readers want to revisit. Chelle Sloan has done an amazing job of that with this book.

I loved the characters and universe, which is crucial for drawing me into the rest of the series. This book is perfect for readers who adore witty characters and swoony romance, which I absolutely do!

Book cover of Make Believe: The Broadway Musical in the 1920's

Thomas S. Hischak Author Of Musical Misfires: Three Decades of Broadway Musical Heartbreak

From my list on Broadway musicals.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Thomas' book list on Broadway musicals

Thomas S. Hischak Why did Thomas love this book?

Mordden has written books about musicals from several decades of the Twentieth Century but my favorite remains Make Believe about the 1920s. Too few American musicals from that decade are still performed today. Show Boat and No No Nanette are two memorable exceptions. So most of the shows in the book are not familiar to theatergoers. But Mordden brings these musicals to life with his vivid writing and enthusiasm for what was a Golden Age for the art form.

By Ethan Mordden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The 1920s represented a turning point in the history of the Broadway musical, breaking with the vaudeville traditions of the early twentieth century to anticipate the more complex, sophisticated musicals of today. Composers Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and their contemporaries revitalized the musical with the sound of jazz and other new influences. Productions became more elaborate, with dazzling sets, tumultuous choreography, and
staging tricks, all woven into tightly constructed story lines. These dramatic changes of the 1920s ushered in the "golden age" of the American musical theater.
Ethan Mordden captures the excitement and the atmosphere of…


Book cover of Where the Action Is: The Meetings That Make or Break Your Organization

Steven G. Rogelberg Author Of The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance

From my list on navigating out of meeting hell.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an organizational psychologist, I am driven to study and work to improve work activities that are causing great frustration and not working effectively—meetings are the perfect fit. And, for 20 years I have been actively publishing in this space and have spoken to well over 100,000 leaders through my keynotes/events/videos. What excites me is that meeting science can truly help leaders, teams, and organizations. The books I recommend are well-aligned with the science, and can be difference makers. I hope you enjoy them and find them helpful.  

Steven's book list on navigating out of meeting hell

Steven G. Rogelberg Why did Steven love this book?

There are many reasons to really like this book. It is certainly thoughtful, intriguing, and well-grounded. The advice and guidance around meetings are plentiful and meaningful. I particularly appreciated that it addresses meeting practices that high-performing organizations use to drive results and build an excellent meeting culture. Overall, I appreciate the systems-based approach to addressing meeting issues.

By J. Elise Keith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where the Action Is as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How well you meet determines what your group can achieve

When you ask leaders in a high performing organization about the key to their success, the answers are all over the place: failing fast, radical transparency, operational excellence, strong core values... so many different North Stars to follow.

Then, if you ask them for an example–to tell you what that looks like in practice–they will all describe a meeting. Leaders at these organizations have learned to design a sequence of tailored meetings that create a healthy organizational culture and drive forward momentum. They know that meetings are where the action…


Book cover of 1776: A Musical Play

Joseph D'Agnese Author Of Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence

From my list on the Declaration of Independence that bring the signers to life.

Why am I passionate about this?

Joseph D’Agnese grew up in the Bicentennial-fueled excitement of the 1970s, and spent 1976 fake-playing a fife and sporting a tricorn hat in various school events. Besides teaching him how to get in and out of Revolutionary-period knickers, this experience awakened in him a love for the Founding Era of American history. He has since authored three history titles with his wife, The New York Times bestselling author Denise Kiernan. 

Joseph's book list on the Declaration of Independence that bring the signers to life

Joseph D'Agnese Why did Joseph love this book?

When I was kid, it was a rite of passage to watch the movie version of this musical with my parents on TV during Fourth of July week in the U.S.. I’ve since seen regional theater productions as well.

Yes, the play is fun and funny, but what did not sink in until I’d done my own research into the lives of the signers was how marvelously the words and lyrics lay out the history. When one of the flashy South Carolina delegates sings “Molasses to Rum,” you understand the underlying economics of the slave trade. The songs still hold up and advance the plot, as all great Broadway songs must do.

But if you miss the words in the 1972 film or modern staged versions, the only way to absorb it all is to dip into the official libretto itself.

By Peter Stone, Sherman Edwards,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 1776 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of five 1969 Tony Awards, including Best Book and Best Musical, this oft-produced musical play is an imaginative re-creation of the events from May 8 to July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia, when the second Continental Congress argued about, voted on, and signed the Declaration of Independence.


Book cover of Below Zero

Chris Callaghan Author Of The Great Chocoplot

From my list on reluctant readers to discover a love of reading.

Why am I passionate about this?

I didn’t read much when I was young. But I’ve always loved stories, and found them in TV, films, and comics. It wasn’t until I was older that I found that books can contain the most amazing adventures that connect with your imagination and makes them seem even more real than on the big screen. Discovering children’s books with my daughter, and writing my own, I wished I could have read more when I was young. I try my best to encourage young people to find the joy in reading, in the hope that they don’t miss out on all those amazing stories.

Chris' book list on reluctant readers to discover a love of reading

Chris Callaghan Why did Chris love this book?

This is a book for older readers who love action and adventure. All of Dan Smith’s books are dynamic and engrossing stories, but as I’ve always been drawn to colder climates, I think this is my favourite. The breathless action takes place at Outpost Zero in Antarctica where secrets and all kinds of new technology are discovered. 

I’m a huge film fan and could definitely imagine this as a big-screen blockbuster. But be warned: be prepared for thrills and chills!

By Dan Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Zak's plane crash-lands on Outpost Zero, a small Antarctic research
base in one of the most isolated places on Earth, he discovers
a cold, dark nightmare. The power's out and the people who
live there have disappeared. Worse, as he searches for answers, bizarre
visions suggest a link to something else - deep beneath the
ice - which only he can understand .


Book cover of The 39 Steps

Clemens P. Suter Author Of Rebound

From my list on people with guts.

Why am I passionate about this?

Clemens P. Suter is an author of adventure novels. His books deal with people that overcome impossible, life-changing situations. These are entertaining adventure books, with dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and Scifi elements.

Clemens' book list on people with guts

Clemens P. Suter Why did Clemens love this book?

Buchan’s books are full of DIY heroes, men thrown into impossible situations but who manage to survive through their wits, a healthy dose of humor - and if necessary, with their fists. The book follows the hero Hannay, as he tries to escape German spies, first through England and then the wilderness of Scotland. The odds are stacked high against Hannay, but his bravura and strong will help him solve the mystery and dissolve the spy ring. Some of the views expressed in Buchan’s books are no longer politically correct and his works should always be understood in the context of his times, yet they make for very compelling reading.

By John Buchan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The 39 Steps as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the Movie by Alfred Hitchcock, Licensed by ITV Global Entertainment Limited and an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon Characters: 3m, 1f Comedy WINNER! 2 Tony® and Drama Desk Awards, 2008 WINNER! BEST NEW COMEDY Laurence Olivier Award, 2007 The 39 Steps, is Broadway's longest running comedy, playing its 500th performance on Broadway, May 19th, 2009! Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, add a dash of Monty Python and you have The 39 Steps, a fast-paced who


Book cover of The Notebook

Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau Author Of Memento: A Novel in Dreams, Thoughts, and Images

From Cordelia's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Psychoanalyst Reader True friend Jazz fan Contemporary Art lover

Cordelia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Cordelia Schmidt-Hellerau Why did Cordelia love this book?

This is a book like no other! With its first sentences, it gripped me, and I couldn't put it down till the very end. The same happened to everybody I recommended it to. 

Formally, it is part of a trilogy, and I loved to read all three of them. Its style is dry and almost merely reporting, and yet it is emotionally involved in a powerful way. 

Is what we are told meant to be real? Or is it only the product of a traumatized mind trying to cope with war, poverty, pain, abuse, and the endless yearning for what is lost? Are the twins, the protagonists of this trilogy, really two separate fictional characters or rather one with a dissociated mind? A thrilling question till the end.

By Agota Kristof, Alan Sheridan (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Twin brothers, left with their evil grandmother at a time when war has blurred all distinctions between good and evil, learn to steal and kill in the name of survival and create their own loveless morality


Book cover of The Secret Syllabus: A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of College Success

Mark William Roche Author Of Why Choose the Liberal Arts?

From my list on books for students about to enter college.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a graduate of Williams College and Princeton University and now a professor and former dean of arts and letters at the University of Notre Dame. As dean, I learned that too many of Notre Dame’s students were majoring in business. Invariably, when I asked them about their rationale, they would confess that their favorite courses were in the arts and sciences. They might have followed their passions, I thought, if they and their parents had a deeper sense of the value of a liberal arts education, so I wrote this book to answer their questions and give them justified confidence in the value of liberal arts courses.  

Mark's book list on books for students about to enter college

Mark William Roche Why did Mark love this book?

When students come to college, everything is new. This book offers well-seasoned advice on how to make the most of office hours, how to study effectively, why not to worry about your major or career path too early, and at the same time, how to plan ahead.

Lots of nuts and bolts advice, a perfect high school graduation gift.

By Jay Phelan, Terry Burnham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The unwritten rules of success that every student must follow to thrive in college

The Secret Syllabus equips students with the tools they need to succeed, revealing the unwritten rules and cultural norms and expectations not included in the official curriculum. Left to figure out on their own how the academic world works, students frequently stumble, underperform, and miss opportunities. Without mastery of the secret syllabus, too many miss out on the full, rich experience available to them in college.

Jay Phelan and Terry Burnham share the essential lessons they have learned from struggling, unfocused students as well as award-winning…


Book cover of Tales of Potential: The Cinderella Story You Haven't Heard

Tissa Richards Author Of No Permission Needed: Unlock Your Leadership Potential and Eliminate Self-Doubt

From my list on leveling up your leadership.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a TedX and keynote speaker, leadership expert, and corporate facilitator. I’m also a repeat software founder and CEO. I work extensively with Fortune 1000 and hyperscale organizations to connect leadership and culture directly to organizational outcomes, as well as diversifying C-suites and corporate boardrooms. I’m passionate about guiding leaders to measurable outcomes and helping others learn from failure (yes, it happens to all of us!) Over the years, I’ve learned the key is understanding and embodying your own values so you can build resilience for yourself as an individual, your team, and your organization as a whole. I hope my list of recommended books helps you do just that!

Tissa's book list on leveling up your leadership

Tissa Richards Why did Tissa love this book?

I love a book you can actually take action on and Tales of Potential delivers!

Joanna Bloor makes the case that most decisions about your career happen in a room you’re not in – which means you have to rely on someone else to tell your story and be your advocate. This book outlines exactly how to distill your story down to the most important elements, so it’s easy for others to tell effectively.

You’ll learn how to clearly communicate your potential and capabilities in a way that will have a lasting impact on your life.

Book cover of Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction

Peter Lovesey Author Of The Last Detective

From my list on the secrets of great mystery writing.

Why am I passionate about this?

My introduction to mystery writing was a competition for a first crime novel. I was lucky enough to win with Wobble to Death, about a Victorian long-distance race. When I went to collect the prize, I was startled to be asked if I was already at work on the next one. The publishers Macmillan had started a crime list and were looking for a career writer. I knew practically nothing about the genre and had to give myself a crash course. How I needed the support of books like these! After five years, I had the confidence to give up the day job and have made my living from mystery writing for almost fifty years. 

Peter's book list on the secrets of great mystery writing

Peter Lovesey Why did Peter love this book?

No one can deny that Patricia Highsmith knew how to create suspense. Alfred Hitchcock saw that Strangers on a Train was the ideal spine-tingler for a great movie. Other directors have found the Ripley series perfect nail-biting stories to work with. Highsmith takes us through the process of building suspense from the germ of an idea through the plotting, the drafts, and the revisions, using examples from her own work, short stories, and novels. I’m not surprised this book has stayed in print for over fifty years. I still dip into it and get inspired.

By Patricia Highsmith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named by The Times as the all-time number one crime writer, Patricia Highsmith was an author who broke new ground and defied genre cliches with novels such as The Talented Mr Ripley and Strangers on a Train.
In the classic creative writing guide Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, Highsmith reveals her secrets for producing world-class crime and thrillers, from imaginative tips for generating ideas to useful ways of turning them into stunning stories.