The best books about musicians

1 authors have picked their favorite books about musicians and why they recommend each book.

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Lament

By Maggie Stiefvater,

Book cover of Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception

In the first of two books, Stiefvater introduces us to Deirdre, an accomplished teen musician who has just met the mysterious Luke—who just happens to be a faerie that none of her friends or family can see. Oh, and he’s also an assassin. Caught between a mundane life of music recitals, school, and her family on one side, and the dangerous world of faerie on the other, what’s a girl to do? As a nerd and a loner growing up, what I wouldn’t have given for a secret faerie friend who dragged me into a world of magic and danger! Although Stiefvater has gone on to write more complex novels, her faerie duology will always have a place in my heart.

Who am I?

Tales of magic have captivated me since I was a small child, and I started writing fantasy stories in high school. But it was only when I discovered the YA faerie subgenre several years ago that I truly found my niche. As my book recommendations will demonstrate, there’s a delicious connection between faerie magic and teenage angst, and it’s the tension that arises that makes for fantastic worldbuilding and storytelling. I hope that you enjoy my top books in the genre and find a new favorite for yourself!


I wrote...

The Favor Faeries

By Jackie Dana,

Book cover of The Favor Faeries

What is my book about?

The Favor Faeries is my YA fantasy novel series. Everyone knows about the Favor Faeries, mysterious beings that grant small wishes in exchange for trinkets and snacks. But most people claim the faeries are a hoax or a fraud, and the authorities even passed laws making it illegal to seek them out. Teenagers, however, are never particularly good at following the rules, especially when they want something only magic can make happen.

Rather than traditional book publication platforms, I’m serializing the novels on my Substack newsletter Story Cauldron. Each week my paid subscribers receive new chapters as well as related photos, artwork, and behind-the-scenes details sent directly to their email, and they can also be read on the website. As the books conclude, paid members also have the option to download the text in full before it gets published elsewhere.

Mother of Souls

By Heather Rose Jones,

Book cover of Mother of Souls

More music-and-magic—this one is an alternate history, part of a series set in the invented European country of Alpennia that explores the lives of a community of queer women in the early 19th century. While not exactly a romance, Mother of Souls focuses on the relationship between Serafina, who can see magic, and Luzie, who has musical powers that only Serafina can perceive. Both women are struggling in different ways, and I loved seeing the way their relationship and their musical connection helped them both to move forward. I also loved the depth of the worldbuilding—the city of Rotenek feels as real as any place I’ve been to.


Who am I?

It’s often been said of musical theatre that the point when the characters begin to sing is the point their emotions become too much to express in words alone. I think that’s one reason I’m so obsessed with books about people connecting over music, art, and performance—it allows for so much passion and intensity. Having sung and played instruments over the years, I know how powerful it can feel to make music with other people, even when you’re not in love! These days, though, I spend more time reading and writing about music than I do playing it.


I wrote...

A Duet for Invisible Strings

By Llinos Cathryn Thomas,

Book cover of A Duet for Invisible Strings

What is my book about?

Heledd, leader of the first violins, has been in love with her irrepressible conductor Rosemary for years. She’s keeping a secret that means she can never be with Rosemary, but the time they spend working and performing together is enough for her—until a near miss with a speeding car forces her to reevaluate everything she thought she knew.

When the orchestra is mysteriously summoned to perform in the Welsh village where Heledd grew up—a village she hasn’t returned to in decades—the life she’s made for herself begins to unravel, and her secrets threaten to escape.

Because

By Mo Williams, Amber Ren (illustrator),

Book cover of Because

Mo Williams has hit all the right notes in this lushly illustrated book for young readers. How does one grow up to be a classical musician? Well… one beautiful moment leads to another…and another…and another.

Just as in this book, one magical experience in my young life changed everything. Because my 4th grade teacher took our class to see the original Disney Fantasia film, I heard, for the first time, the sound of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Shadows of violin bows danced across the panoramic movie screen as the musicians, conducted by Leopold Stokowski, performed Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Because of how that moment sounded and felt, I found my calling ̶ the violin. That’s how it happens. One precious musical moment leads to another, to places you never dreamed you would go.


Who am I?

I have been a professional violinist and teacher for over 30 years. I perform in the Washington-Idaho Symphony and specialize in the Suzuki method. My studio at the University of Idaho Preparatory Division includes violin and viola students ages 5-18. My career as an author began when I searched the shelves at my local library for books for my students to read. Only a few books about classical music graced the shelves. So I decided to try to do something about the void I noticed. My second book, about a trailblazing woman composer erased in history because of her gender, is forthcoming from Bushel & Peck Books.


I wrote...

In One Ear and Out the Other: Antonia Brico and her Amazingly Musical Life

By Diane Worthey, Morgana Wallace (illustrator),

Book cover of In One Ear and Out the Other: Antonia Brico and her Amazingly Musical Life

What is my book about?

Antonia Brico didn’t listen to discouraging words. Those words went in one ear and out the other. In One Ear and Out the Other tells the story of one woman’s fight to gain recognition as a conductor in an era when men dominated classical music. The first woman to guest-conduct the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Antonia Brico never secured a permanent conducting job with a major symphony—but her contributions paved the way for the many women conductors to follow. A true visionary in the long fight for equal opportunities for women. The book is a Junior Library Gold Standard Selection and is the 2021 winner of the Paterson Prize For Young Readers in grades 4-6.

Music for Mister Moon

By Phillip C. Stead, Erin E. Stead (illustrator),

Book cover of Music for Mister Moon

The magical tale, Music for Mister Moon, is about a little girl named Harriet, who likes to be called Hank. She loves nothing more than to play her cello, alone. When her parents suggest how wonderful it would be to play in a big orchestra someday, she retreats into her room playing her cello. When the owl hoots outside her window she loses her temper and throws a teacup. And so begins her imaginative journey that tickles the reader's imagination. On Hank’s adventure with Mr. Moon, they encounter kind and thoughtful animals with a profound understanding of acceptance and giving. Each time I read this book, I can almost hear the music of the cello float out the window, the crash of the teacup, the smell of the smoke that fills the little house. Harriet’s emotional journey comes full circle with a most satisfying ending. A must-read, over and…

Who am I?

I was born into a large, unique family. Our house was nestled in the Colorado foothill mountains. Our small tv with the rabbit ear antenna had one fuzzy station, so we depended upon our imaginations for entertainment. We read fairy tales, performed puppet shows, fed fairies on the full moon, painted, drew, wrote stories, explored the canyon. I once observed a small pebbled cylinder inch its way across a puddle. I thought it was magic! It was a caddis fly larvae. That spark of excitement from nature, imagination, and whimsy are what inspire me today when I create. I hope these books will inspire you–or at least make you laugh.


I wrote...

I Am Goose!

By Dorothia Rohner, Vanya Nastanlieva (illustrator),

Book cover of I Am Goose!

What is my book about?

I am Goose! was inspired by the children at Head-Start. They loved playing Duck, Duck Goose, but not all of the children cared about the rules. The story starts out with a simple, friendly game of Duck, Duck, Goose. It goes off the rails in giggle-inducing confusion when a silly goose tries to make it all about him. “Are you kidding me? I am Goose!”

A literal-minded goose derails a favorite childhood game—Duck, Duck, Goose—by objecting when Pig, Fox, Dodo, and other players are tapped as “Goose”. Distraction, squabbling, and asking for snacks threaten to end the game completely. Bossy Rabbit restores calm, but Goose doesn’t understand what the problem is until he gets a taste of his own medicine.

Soul Music

By Terry Pratchett,

Book cover of Soul Music

And speaking of funny, they don’t get much better than Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Though they’re usually classified as fantasy, they’re really very pointed satire. He sends up everything from movies to opera to the postal system. Soul Music takes on popular music, and it’s one of his best. 


Who am I?

Though I’m not personally an orphan, I’ve always been drawn to books that feature them. Maybe it’s because I felt the lack of a father; mine wasn’t around much during my childhood, since he worked at a job in the city through the week. The absent or distant father is a recurring theme in my novels, including the Shakespeare Stealer series, Moonshine, The Imposter, The Year of the Hangman, and Curiosity. Of course, when you write for young readers, orphans also make ideal protagonists, since they’re forced to use their own resources to confront and resolve the story’s conflict, rather than relying on grownups.


I wrote...

Curiosity

By Gary Blackwood,

Book cover of Curiosity

What is my book about?

Intrigue, danger, chess, and a real-life hoax combine in this historical novel from the author of The Shakespeare Stealer.

Philadelphia, PA, 1835. Rufus, a twelve-year-old chess prodigy, is recruited by a shady showman named Maelzel to secretly operate a mechanical chess player called the Turk. The Turk wows ticket-paying audience members and players, who do not realize that Rufus, the true chess master, is hidden inside the contraption. But Rufus’s job working the automaton must be kept secret, and he fears he may never be able to escape his unscrupulous master. And what has happened to the previous operators of the Turk, who seem to disappear as soon as Maelzel no longer needs them? Creeping suspense, plenty of mystery, and cameos from Edgar Allan Poe and P. T. Barnum mark Gary Blackwood’s triumphant return to middle-grade fiction.

Outside the Jukebox

By Scott Bradlee,

Book cover of Outside the Jukebox: How I Turned My Vintage Music Obsession Into My Dream Gig

Nobody really knows what makes a video go viral on social media. Scott Bradlee is a jazz pianist who turned his love of 20s music into a YouTube phenomenon with over 4Bn hits: Postmodern Jukebox. He explains how you can turn this (often unexpected) instant attraction into a series of robust business models.


Who am I?

I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 40 years and now pass on that knowledge to mentees and university students. The key to success in business is being able to attract and then learn from mentors, who, in my opinion, always should provide their knowledge, wisdom, and connections free of charge. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to go down ‘The Dark Side’, especially if the pursuit of money and power becomes overwhelming. Many famous billionaires are not especially nice people. But there are many nice businesspeople out there and I aspire to be one of those, hence my pursuit of a daily advancement in esoteric, hermetic, and other knowledge.


I wrote...

The Beermat Entrepreneur: Turn Your good idea into a great business

By Mike Southon, Chris West,

Book cover of The Beermat Entrepreneur: Turn Your good idea into a great business

What is my book about?

The Beermat Entrepreneur helps you convert your jotted notes about your business idea into a big and successful business. With wit and humour, this quick-to-read and simple-to-use book could turn your beermat inspiration into reality.

You’ve got a bright idea. An idea that you think maybe, just maybe, could become a brilliant business. But what next? The Beermat Entrepreneur is the answer. It takes you through all the crucial stages between those first notes on a beermat and a business that is sound, lasting, and profitable. It tells you what the other books don’t – the lessons that most people have to learn by bitter experience; the tricks that all entrepreneurs wish somebody had told them before they set out. From testing your idea and finding a mentor, through selecting and motivating the right people and securing your first customer, to deciding when to ‘go for growth’ – this is the guide to turning good ideas into real businesses.

Stranger Than Kindness

By Nick Cave,

Book cover of Stranger Than Kindness

While Nick Cave is primarily a musician/songwriter, this book is a visual record of Cave’s creative journey filled with his early sketchbooks, photos, drawings, and typewritten song lyrics annotated by hand. Many of us artists work in sketchbooks where we can feel free to be messy and exploratory and pour our hearts onto the page. Some of us need words as well as images to explore the world around us, decipher our feelings and uncover our work. I love musing over Nick’s here—so messy and wild to begin and a little more ordered as he ages as one might expect. The book is filled with photos of different parts of his life, drawings and doodles, tight handwritten scripts and taped over typewritten lyrics gone yellow with age. It’s a compendium of a wonderful artist’s creative process. A real joy to sit down with and muse over.


Who am I?

I’ve been an artist all my life. In childhood, I was always drawing and after graduating from university I became an illustrator doing hundreds of drawings for major newspapers and publishers in the United States for over 25 years. It was my mission, no matter what was going on in the world, to find some humor and lightness to share through my drawings. About 15 years ago, I also began to teach drawing to adults and was amazed to discover that everyone can draw. When I saw how people seemed to become happier and bolder making art I became passionate about sharing how we can grow our creativity by developing an art practice. It makes for a beautiful life and quite possibly a more beautiful world.


I wrote...

The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind

By Cat Bennett,

Book cover of The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind

What is my book about?

The simple act of drawing can connect us with our true creative selves and this book shows how. Everyone can draw and use drawing as both a means to make art and a way to explore creative ideas. The book shows how to deepen our focus in a yogic way by immersing ourselves in the moment and letting everything else fall away. In this place we find inspiration. The book encourages us to take chances, observe the world and our work with clear eyes, stay open and respond to inspiration when it comes. And just be who we are as artists. It also looks at how by going to the edge of our abilities and mindset we grow our ideas and creative confidence. The book also offers practical drawing exercises for the reader to try and is illustrated with full-color examples from a variety of artists.

The Confident Creative was a 2011 gold medal winner in the Nautilus Book Awards.

Pokko and the Drum

By Matthew Forsythe,

Book cover of Pokko and the Drum

Pokko’s parents give her a drum and soon regret it, as you might imagine. (In my own book, Mom says, “don’t even think about a drum kit.”) But sending Pokko outside begins a beautiful symphonic journey that turns Pokko into a leader who makes sure her bandmates don’t eat each other. In the end, even her parents are swept away (literally) by the beautiful music.


Who am I?

I am not a rock star but I do play a mean (computer) keyboard. My debut picture book, How to Be a Rock Star, was inspired by my musical children and our endless hours jamming as a family band. I was always on the lookout for books to inspire my little rock star, and because they were hard to come by, I wrote one! These books will inspire your budding musician, or just help you embrace a spirit of creative play in any way they want to rock.


I wrote...

How to Be a Rock Star

By Lisa Tolin, Daniel Duncan (illustrator),

Book cover of How to Be a Rock Star

What is my book about?

How to Be a Rock Star is a tongue-in-cheek guide to everything a kid needs to know to start a rock band. Becoming a rock star isn't easy. From finding the right instrument to mastering the best dance moves, to taking your band on the road, there's a lot to consider! And that's not to mention dealing with critics, crazed fans, and a little brother with a chocolate milk problem.... Luckily, this giggle-inducing book has everything you need to know to make it big.

“A joyous, raucous must-have manual for little rock stars everywhere.” - Savannah Guthrie, Today show co-anchor

The Boy & the Bindi

By Vivek Shraya, Rajni Perera (illustrator),

Book cover of The Boy & the Bindi

I love lyrical picture books with colorful illustrations. If you do too, you’ll enjoy The Boy & the Bindi. Vivek Shraya tells the story of a boy who wants to wear a bindi, the red dot Southeast Asian women often wear on their foreheads to show where creation began. Instead of chastising him for wanting to do something reserved for women, the boy’s mother welcomes him into the beauty of the bindi, explaining its significance. This book does a wonderful job of meeting children who are exploring their gender exactly where they are. 


Who am I?

When I was a kid, I knew that my gender was different. I didn’t feel like a boy or a girl, but I didn’t know the word “nonbinary.” There were no kid’s books about people like me. I grew up with a lot of questions, which drove me to become a doctor of Women’s and Gender Studies and an expert on transgender history. Now I’m passionate about writing the kind of picture books that I needed as a child. If you want the kids in your life to understand transgender identity and feel loved whatever their gender may be, you’ll enjoy the books on my list. 


I wrote...

Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution!: The Story of the Trans Women of Color Who Made LGBTQ+ History

By Joy Ellison, Teshika Silver (illustrator),

Book cover of Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution!: The Story of the Trans Women of Color Who Made LGBTQ+ History

What is my book about?

"Someday girls like us will be able to wear whatever we want. People will call us by the names we choose. They'll respect that we are women. The cops will leave us alone and no one will go hungry."

Sylvia and Marsha are closer than sisters. They are kind and brave and not afraid to speak their truth, even when it makes other people angry. This illustrated book introduces children to the story of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, the two transgender women of color who helped kickstart the Stonewall Riots and dedicated their lives to fighting for queer and trans liberation.

The Sky Is Everywhere

By Jandy Nelson,

Book cover of The Sky Is Everywhere

I read The Sky is Everywhere shortly after it was published in 2010, very early in my own pursuit to become a published author. So clearly, I remember absorbing the novel’s final words, closing its cover, and thinking I want people to feel like this after reading the stories I write. In other words: enchanted, affected, and wonderfully content. Lennie’s story of loss and recovery, punctuated by rash decisions, dreamy poetry, and swoony first love, is one that’s stayed with me for more than a decade. 


Who am I?

I’ve been reading YA since I was a young adult myself, and I’ve always favored stories with a strong romantic angle. As a kid, I loved The Baby-Sitters Club’s starry-eyed Stacey and Sweet Valley High’s boy-crazy Jessica; as an adult, I flock to the romance section of bookstores and libraries. When the urge to try my hand at writing struck, I drafted young adult romances without even considering other categories or genres. I will always choose a meet-cute, witty banter, and sizzling chemistry over fast-paced action, clever twists, and high-concepts plots. When it comes to reading and writing, I love love! 


I wrote...

Kissing Max Holden

By Katy Upperman,

Book cover of Kissing Max Holden

What is my book about?

After his father’s life-altering stroke, Max isn't himself; his long-time friend Jillian doesn’t know how to help. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows she should send him away, but when he leans in for a kiss, she can’t resist. Caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it'll never happen again. 

But with her parents fighting constantly and her dream of culinary school up in the air, Jill starts spending a lot of time with bad-boy Max. And though he has a girlfriend and her dad disapproves, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart and let their friendship blossom into more, or will she stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?

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