The most recommended books about pianists

Who picked these books? Meet our 20 experts.

20 authors created a book list connected to pianists, and here are their favorite pianist books.
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What type of pianist book?



By Wayne Koestenbaum,

Book cover of Circus: Or, Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes

Laura Raicovich Author Of At the Lightning Field

From the list on reimagining the present.

Who am I?

How might we live and write otherwise? I am preoccupied by this question, and am fairly certain that at minimum we have to start by imagining it. As a culture worker and writer I hope my projects and experiments do just this. There is so much to reinvent, and so much that interconnects us. I am inspired by the ways the authors of these books take on their times and passions, and tell stories in ways I find unexpected. Their abilities to integrate divergent avenues of thought, deep research, and truly weird characters and circumstances has lit my imagination and I hope it does yours as well!

Laura's book list on reimagining the present

Why did Laura love this book?

This is one of the first books I read by the prolific and gorgeous Wayne Koestenbaum. The novel encompasses the best of Koestenbaum’s passion for performance, his sense of humor and wit, and his poetic chops. We follow Theo as he plans his musical comeback through adventures in sex, obsession with 60s Italian circus star Moira Orfei, and various encounters with odd and uncanny characters. I loved it for the weirdness of the characters and their undying unreliability as they march across geographies and time. 

By Wayne Koestenbaum,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A new edition of a “dazzlingly seductive” fever dream written in “brilliant poetic vernacular” (Bookforum) by a beloved poet and cultural critic, now with an introduction by Rachel Kushner.

For five years, concert pianist Theo Mangrove has been living at his family’s home in East Kill, New York, recovering from a nervous breakdown that derailed his career, and attempting to relieve his relentless polysexual appetite in the company of male hustlers, random strangers, music students, his aunt, and occasionally his wife. As he prepares for a comeback recital in Aigues-Mortes, a walled medieval town in southern France, he becomes obsessed…


By Janice Galloway,

Book cover of Clara

Joanne Limburg Author Of A Want of Kindness

From the list on bringing you closest to historical figures.

Who am I?

I’m an academic and non-fiction writer as well as a novelist. My favourite part of writing is the research phase, when you catch the scent of something fascinating, and hitherto unknown, and never know where it might lead you. As you’ve probably guessed from my recommendations, I have a soft spot for the quiet, unflashy, overlooked figures. Recently I’ve returned to the subject of overlooked women, although in non-fiction, in my book Letters to my Weird Sisters: On Autism and Feminism. For my next novel, I’m learning all about the bluestocking women of eighteenth-century Britain, and their attempt to create an ideal community. Perfect characters aren’t interesting to me – flawed ones are so much better.

Joanne's book list on bringing you closest to historical figures

Why did Joanne love this book?

One of the great things historical novels can do is bring previously sidelined figures into the centre, and Galloway’s book is perhaps my favourite example of this. The title character is the nineteenth-century German pianist and composer, Clara Schumann, nee Wieck. We first meet her as a child prodigy, controlled by her overbearing father, and then come to know her as Clara Schumann, hardworking musician, mother, and wife to the increasingly erratic Robert Schumann. Galloway makes you feel as if you know what it’s like to live as a nineteenth-century woman, and a famous and gifted one at that.

By Janice Galloway,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......

An Equal Music

By Vikram Seth,

Book cover of An Equal Music

Yiannis Gabriel Author Of Music and Story: A Two-Part Invention

From the list on falling in love with classical music.

Who am I?

Classical music has been one of the great passions of my life, ever since at the age of 6 my father introduced me to the magic of Chopin’s Polonaise héroïque, by improvising the story that the music was telling, creating a magical mosaic of notes and words. I then realized that music tells stories and that musical stories do not only offer pleasure, excitement, and consolation, but also act as sources of insight into the world we inhabit, in all its complexity and drama. I have since made classical music a regular part of my life, Bach, Mozart, Chopin, and Beethoven being intimate friends and acquaintances, not distant historical figures. 

Yiannis' book list on falling in love with classical music

Why did Yiannis love this book?

Among the many works of fiction inspired by classical music, that include Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata, Mann’s Doctor Faustus, and Tremain’s Music and Silence, I have opted for Vikram Seth’s, exquisitely written and highly personal novel of unrequited love, loss, and longing, because his intimate knowledge of the world of classical music, the music and the characters is unsurpassed. 

The novel’s protagonist is a member of a successful string quartet, haunted by memories of a relationship he had had ten years previously. An unlikely reunion with the object of his infatuation, a pianist now happily married with a son, unleashes all kinds of personal and musical dynamics against the magical setups of Venice, Vienna, and… Manchester. The music performed by the different characters and the emotions that music triggers and unleashes are described with consummate sensitivity and insight. Every music lover will love this novel which is a treasure-trove…

By Vikram Seth,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked An Equal Music as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set in the present, with flashbacks, An Equal Music (the title is a phrase from a John Donne sermon) is a story of obsessive love narrated by Michael, a violinist from Rochdale in the north of England. He plays in a trio in Vienna in which Julia, half Scottish, half Austrian, is the pianist. He is much taken with her and she with him. But the trio splits up and the participants go their separate ways. Michael goes to London, where he joins a string quartet as second violinist. He feels the absence of Julia from his life keenly. One…

The Unconsoled

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Book cover of The Unconsoled

Jon Bassoff Author Of Beneath Cruel Waters

From the list on that are relentlessly twisted.

Who am I?

When I completed one of my early novels, a really demented one called Factory Town, a fellow author emailed me with great concern for my mental health. He was convinced I was heading down a dark cave that I couldn’t be rescued from. But it wasn’t true. Writing and reading these dark novels doesn’t make me depressed. It makes me feel creatively revitalized. Dark literature reminds us that being alive is painful—but it’s also wonderful. I hope to never spend any real time with people as terrifying as the ones I’ve found on these pages. But I’m incredibly thankful they were a part of my imagined world for a time. 

Jon's book list on that are relentlessly twisted

Why did Jon love this book?

I’ve always been fascinated by surrealism and expressionism—and The Unconsoled takes those dreamlike images and expresses them in a fascinating and disorienting story. Reading this novel makes you feel like you’re trapped in a terrifying and anxious nightmare—and I mean that in the best possible way. The novel uses dream logic: characters appear out of thin air and morph into other characters. The setting is a strange labyrinth in some nameless European city. If you like David Lynch movies, you’ll dig this. If you’re looking for a linear narrative, stay away!

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel Klara and the Sun is now available*

Ryder, a renowned pianist, arrives in a Central European city he cannot identify for a concert he cannot remember agreeing to give . . .

On first publication in 1995, The Unconsoled was met in some quarters with bewilderment and vilification, in others with the highest praise. One commentator asked, 'Has Ishiguro gone for greatness or has he gone mad?' Over the years, this uniquely strange and extraordinary novel about a man whose life has accelerated beyond his control has come to be seen by many as being the…

Every Note Played

By Lisa Genova,

Book cover of Every Note Played

Kate Mueser Author Of The Girl with Twenty Fingers

From the list on proving music is two-faced.

Who am I?

I’m a used-to-be, going-to-be pianist, like Sarah, the protagonist in my book. Even though I didn’t take to the concert stage after studying music, I have integrated music throughout my career as a culture journalist and now as a novelist. I interviewed young bands as a radio host, presented German pop music as a TV host, spoke with A-level conductors as an online journalist, and have written two books about musicians who’ve had to rethink their life paths. Now as mom to three young children, including twins, I am known to sing either Schumann’s Dichterliebe or The Itsy Bitsy Spider too loudly during bathtime. 

Kate's book list on proving music is two-faced

Why did Kate love this book?

Concert pianist Richard, divorced and estranged from his daughter, gets ALS and loses his ability to play as he dies a slow and horrible death. Sound like an uplifting read? Actually, neuroscientist and author Lisa Genova takes an elegant and engaging approach to what is much more multifaceted than just a sad story. Richard’s ex-wife, unhappy as a local piano teacher, takes on his care and the two poignantly find their way back to each other. Music is identity, work, longing, fulfillment—and the backdrop to a book that gets to the essence of being human. A while after I read this novel, a close relative was diagnosed with ALS, giving it even greater significance for me. 

By Lisa Genova,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce-his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next.

Three years ago, Karina…

In the Key of Genius

By Adam Ockelford,

Book cover of In the Key of Genius: The Extraordinary Life of Derek Paravicini

Paul Harris Author Of You Can Read Music: The Practical Guide

From the list on musical pedagogy.

Who am I?

Paul Harris is one of the UK’s most influential music educationalists. He studied the clarinet at the Royal Academy of Music, where he won the August Manns Prize for outstanding performance in clarinet playing and where he now teaches. He is in great demand as a teacher, composer, and writer (he has written over 600 books); and his inspirational masterclasses and workshops continue to influence thousands of young musicians and teachers all over the world in both the principles and practice of musical performance and education.

Paul's book list on musical pedagogy

Why did Paul love this book?

This is a wonderfully inspiring and motivating book, for anyone involved in developing as a musician. It’s the story of Derek Paravicini who was born blind, with severe learning difficulties and autism. At a very young age, his parents found him picking out melodic fragments on an old keyboard; now Derek is a world-famous pianist specialising in Jazz but able to play anything you like. The story is told beautifully by his teacher, Adam Ockelford, who has been his mentor from the very beginning. Again, it highlights the power and importance of music as a means of maintaining humanity. 

By Adam Ockelford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Key of Genius as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Derek Paravicini is blind, can't tell his right hand from his left and needs round-the-clock care. But he has an extremely rare gift - he is a musical prodigy with perfect pitch whose piano-playing has thrilled audiences at venues from Ronnie Scott's to Las Vegas, the Barbican to Buckingham Palace.

Born prematurely, Derek remained in hospital for three months and technically 'died' several times before he was finally strong enough to go home. It was not long before his blindness became apparent and later it became clear that he had severe learning difficulties and autism.

Desperately trying to find something…

Book cover of Skating Over Thin Ice

Lorna Schultz Nicholson Author Of When You Least Expect It

From the list on determination and perseverance.

Who am I?

As a child I loved to read and write but I also loved sports. I played every sport I could, and races and games fueled me. My mother called me the “joiner.” Teams create bonds and friendships and I’m still in touch with former teammates. This gives me inspiration to write human interactions. Determination and perseverance are part of being an athlete and I write about strong characters who want to succeed but often meet obstacles along the way. I honestly believe that my sports background has helped me survive publishing, because both are full of highs and lows. Please, enjoy my recommended list because they’re books with heart.

Lorna's book list on determination and perseverance

Why did Lorna love this book?

This is such a beautifully written book that combines art and sport, two of my passions. Imogene is a piano prodigy and there wasn’t one moment in the book where I didn’t root for her. The teen love story between her and the suspended hockey player is so believable and not like typical teen romance novels. I liked that Mills didn’t sugarcoat the work that goes into being successful at something. The book was real and honest which made the ending completely realistic. 

By Jean Mills,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Skating Over Thin Ice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Imogen St. Pierre is a musical prodigy, a classical pianist touring Canada and abroad in a trio with her father and grandfather. Though clearly accomplished she is also painfully awkward socially, getting lost in the music even after it's over.

Imogen's in the final year in a private boarding school where she meets a boy of the same age, Nathan McCormick, who turns out to be the Next great hockey player. Nathan however has recently been penalized for a vicious fight in an international tournament. Imogen and Nathan don't exactly become an item, but there's an elusive special quality to…

The Stolen Child

By Keith Donohue,

Book cover of The Stolen Child

Fran Laniado Author Of Beautiful: A Tale of Beauties and Beasts

From the list on faerie tales (that aren’t for children).

Who am I?

Since I was a child, I’ve loved stories of people who live, unseen, among or close to us. I prefer the spelling “Faerie.” Fairies are pretty, butterfly-like creatures that fly around gardens. “Faeries” suggest, to my mind, the word “fear.” They can be both benevolent and malevolent, but are primarily other. In my novel, Beautiful, and the follow up that’s in progress, faeries feature as characters both in their own realm and ours. They can cause a lot of trouble for humans, but also be well-intentioned. These books feature faeries that play similarly ambiguous roles. 

Fran's book list on faerie tales (that aren’t for children)

Why did Fran love this book?

The publishers describe this as “a bedtime story for adults.” Like the best bedtime stories, this novel straddles the lines between comforting, unsettling, and thought-provoking. Inspired by the poem of the same name, by William Butler Yeats, it tells the story of a child, stolen at the age of seven by a group of wild, childlike creatures. He is turned into one of them, and In his place, they leave one of their own. The two changelings grow up in parallel and the setting alternates between small town America in the mid-20th century and a strange community of creatures who may soon be nothing more than a story. 

By Keith Donohue,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Seven-year-old Henry Day is kidnapped by fairy changelings living in the dark forest near his home - ageless beings whose secret community is threatened by encroaching modern life. They give Henry a new name, Aniday, and the gift of agelessness - now and forever, he will be seven years old.

The group has left another child in Henry's place. This changeling boy, who has morphed himself into Henry's duplicate, must adjust to a new way of life and hide his true identity from the Day family. But he can't hide his extraordinary talent for the piano, and his near-perfect performances…

Monument Eternal

By Franya J. Berkman,

Book cover of Monument Eternal: The Music of Alice Coltrane

Marcus Amaker Author Of Hold What Makes You Whole

From the list on an everlong fire of musical obsession.

Who am I?

“Big Butt.” That’s all you need to know about me. It was the first song I wrote and recorded on a dusty cassette tape in 1986. I was 10 years old and an obsessive Prince fan. On the back of his records, he wrote some variation of “written, recorded, produced and performed by Prince.” Those words empowered me to be an artist. More specifically, here’s what I wrote as a 10-year-old: “When I grow up, I want to be a rock star like Prince.” Five years later, I started writing poetry, and all of the poems I wrote felt like songs. Music is the fuel for all that I create.

Marcus' book list on an everlong fire of musical obsession

Why did Marcus love this book?

Can we have more books on Alice Coltrane, please? I enjoy telling people I love “Coltrane” and then correcting them when they assume I’m talking about John.

John was great. He was transcendent. And so was Alice.

Alice came into her true self after John dropped his body. I am eternally fascinated by her music and where it takes me.

Franya J. Berkman’s book is tragically one of the few books where you can learn about Alice’s story. It’s expertly factual and insightful.

By Franya J. Berkman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Alice Coltrane was a composer, improviser, guru, and widow of John Coltrane. Over the course of her musical life, she synthesized a wide range of musical genres including gospel, rhythm-and-blues, bebop, free jazz, Indian devotional song, and Western art music. Her childhood experiences playing for African-American congregations in Detroit, the ecstatic and avant-garde improvisations she performed on the bandstand with her husband John Coltrane, and her religious pilgrimages to India reveal themselves on more than twenty albums of original music for the Impulse and Warner Brothers labels.

In the late 1970s Alice Coltrane became a swami, directing an alternative spiritual…

The Loser

By Thomas Bernhard,

Book cover of The Loser

Caitlin Horrocks Author Of The Vexations

From the list on featuring classical music.

Who am I?

I learned to read music at about the same time I learned to read words. I grew up taking piano lessons, studying almost entirely classical pieces that came weighted with history: everything I ever played had been played better by someone else. I still enjoyed my attempts, but realized that the relationship I had with those notes was not the one I wanted to have with words, which I felt drawn to assemble into my own arrangements, my own stories. So, as a weirdo who’s been thinking about interpretation and creation since childhood, I love books that delve into the challenges and emotional complexities of making music.

Caitlin's book list on featuring classical music

Why did Caitlin love this book?

To play music written in another century and played thousands of times since is to live and play inside infinite comparisons: between the way something sounds in your head, and the clumsier way your fingers deliver it; between your interpretation and a famous recording; between your effort and a classmate’s. In The Loser, Bernhard imagines the lives of two students studying piano alongside a fictional version of the real-life virtuoso Glenn Gould. Their recognition of Gould’s brilliance starts their own lives unravelling. The first-person narrator ruminates and rants without pauses or paragraph breaks, flapping memorably at the edges of the pages like a bird in a cage of its own making.

By Thomas Bernhard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thomas Bernhard was one of the most original writers of the twentieth century. His formal innovation ranks with Beckett and Kafka, his outrageously cantankerous voice recalls Dostoevsky, but his gift for lacerating, lyrical, provocative prose is incomparably his own.One of Bernhard's most acclaimed novels, The Loser centers on a fictional relationship between piano virtuoso Glenn Gould and two of his fellow students who feel compelled to renounce their musical ambitions in the face of Gould's incomparable genius. One commits suicide, while the other-- the obsessive, witty, and self-mocking narrator-- has retreated into obscurity. Written as a monologue in one remarkable…

The Secret Piano

By Zhu Xiao-Mei, Ellen Hinsey (translator),

Book cover of The Secret Piano: From Mao's Labor Camps to Bach's Goldberg Variations

J. Conrad Guest Author Of A World Without Music

From the list on PTSD and overcoming oppression of the human spirit.

Who am I?

My father retired from the Marines before he married my mother. Sadly, he was more drill instructor to me than father. He never shared with me his experience on Okinawa, yet he was proud of his service. He kept in touch with several marines and attended many reunions. It was only after Dad’s death that I discovered With the Old Breed. Eugene Sledge told me everything my father withheld from me, and why he was the way he was. Today, Dad would be diagnosed with PTSD. Thus began a quest to read other accounts of wartime experiences, as soldiers and civilians, which led me to write A World Without Music.

J. Conrad's book list on PTSD and overcoming oppression of the human spirit

Why did J. Conrad love this book?

Zhu Xiao-Mei was born to middle-class parents in post-war China. Taught to play the piano by her mother at age 10, she developed into a prodigy.

But in 1966, when Xiao-Mei was seventeen, the Cultural Revolution began, and life as she knew it changed forever. One by one, her family members were scattered, sentenced to prison or labor camps. By 1969, the art schools had closed, and Xiao-Mei spent the next five years at a work camp. Life in the camp was nearly unbearable, thanks to horrific living conditions and intensive brainwashing. Yet through it all, Xiao-Mei clung to her passion for music.

Heartbreaking and heartwarming, The Secret Piano is the true story of one woman’s survival in the face of unbelievable odds—and in pursuit of a powerful dream.

By Zhu Xiao-Mei, Ellen Hinsey (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Zhu Xiao-Mei was born to middle-class parents in post-war China, and her musical proficiency became clear at an early age. Taught to play the piano by her mother, she developed quickly into a prodigy, immersing herself in the work of classical masters like Bach and Brahms. She was just eleven years old when she began a rigorous course of study at the Beijing Conservatory, laying the groundwork for what was sure to be an extraordinary career. But in 1966, when Xiao-Mei was seventeen, the Cultural Revolution began, and life as she knew it changed forever. One by one, her family…

My Beautiful Hippie

By Janet Nichols Lynch,

Book cover of My Beautiful Hippie

Lillah Lawson Author Of So Long, Bobby

From the list on what it was like to come of age in the 60s and 90s.

Who am I?

As an author of historical fiction, I have a number of time periods that I go back to again and again. Both the 1960s (specifically, the late 1960s) and the 1990s are two of those eras that I just can’t get enough of. The parallels between these two time periods are very compelling: both were times of political upheaval and amazing music, with young people leading the charge, hoping to create a better world than the one they were disenchanted with. 

Lillah's book list on what it was like to come of age in the 60s and 90s

Why did Lillah love this book?

A sweet story of a young woman named Joanne, coming of age in California during the height of the Flower Power movement, who meets and falls in love with a “hippie”, much to the chagrin of her parents.

Martin introduces her to a world of drugs, protests, and music, and her life will never be the same. 

By Janet Nichols Lynch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It's 1967 and fifteen-year-old Joanne's San Francisco neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury has become inundated with hippies for the "Summer of Love," which thrills her but appalls the rest of her family. In the midst of preparations for her sister's wedding, Joanne meets Martin, an enigmatic and irresistible hippie, and begins to see him secretly. Over the course of the next year, Joanne discovers a world of drugs, antiwar demonstrations, and psychedelic dances that both fascinates and frightens her. As this world collides with her family's values, Joanne must decide whether to stay with her middle-class family and pursue her love of…


By Jack Higgins,

Book cover of Solo

Julian D. Parrott Author Of Fit For Purpose

From the list on world-weary agents of espionage.

Who am I?

I have loved espionage and crime thrillers—beach reads and lit fictionsince my early teens. If the plots involve ordinary people being pulled into extraordinary events with action and romance, then I’m hooked. I have studied Ian Fleming and James Bond and have taught university classes on the subject. I believe that we can learn a lot about our culture, society, and human nature from a well-written novel. I enjoy the flexibility the genre allows and I have added resonant events, history, music, and connections to my Welsh homeland in my novels.

Julian's book list on world-weary agents of espionage

Why did Julian love this book?

Higgins is probably best known for the brilliant The Eagle Has Landed but it was Solo that inspired my love of thrillers. Solo is an unabashed, fast paced, edge-of-your-seat action thriller. The characters are engaging; Mikali a concert pianist who is an international assassin and Morgan the “amateur,” although a skilled soldier, bereaved father hell-bent on revenge. There is complicated romance, something that always adds an interesting frisson in a thriller, and exotic locales too and it’s evident that Higgins took time to develop his characters, especially Mikali. Higgins so carefully crafted his protagonists that you feel a connection and sympathy for both. Solo is just great storytelling, it made me want to attempt to write such a thriller.

By Jack Higgins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The New York Times–bestselling author of The Eagle Has Landed delivers a pulse-pounding story of a father out for revenge against a master assassin.
John Mikali is known throughout the world as a brilliant concert pianist and playboy. But his true vocation is far more interesting and lucrative: He is a peerless international assassin. His music and fame give him entrée to complete his assignments all over the world without fail. He believes himself truly untouchable—until he makes one fatal mistake.
Col. Asa Morgan is a military man to the bone. A veteran of wars both declared and undeclared, he’s…

The Musical Life

By Helen Marquard,

Book cover of The Musical Life: Hedwig Stein: Emigree Pianist

Caroline Studdert Author Of Hellcat of The Hague: The Nel Slis Story

From the list on about and by madly inspiring women.

Who am I?

I’ve always adored stories of courageous, sometimes outrageous women who forge ahead into the unknown, survive in strange lands in troubled times, pursue their career dreams. Like my favourite picks, I’ve relished my own adventures in distant countries (Libya, Czechia, Kyrgystan, Mongolia…), while always earning my crust from writing. From motivational research in Dublin and London, I switched to financial journalism in Holland, where I met and was inspired by ground-breaking journalist Nel Slis whose story I’ve told in my book Hellcat of the Hague. Now I’m settled in London to concentrate on my novels and short stories and be near my family, I hope you love these books too.

Caroline's book list on about and by madly inspiring women

Why did Caroline love this book?

Helen Marquard’s search for a piano teacher led her to Hedwig Stein who had fled Berlin in 1933 with her Russian Jewish husband, both concert pianists, to start again from nothing. A large, vivid woman, Hedwig freely shared her ideas on music, art, philosophy, literature. Later, Marquard discovered Hedwig had written a diary, and determined to bring us this story that would otherwise have been lost, enabling Hedwig and her husband to take their rightful place in the roll-call of émigrés who have contributed so much to UK cultural life. Hedwig put her husband’s career and her children first, yet she never gave up on her own career, which continued its own quiet flourishing after her husband’s sudden death. 

By Helen Marquard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hedwig Stein was starting to make her mark as a concert pianist in Germany in the early 1930s when she fell in love with a Russian emigre pianist, Iso Elinson. He was half-Jewish, and quickly the pair knew they had little choice but to flee, despite vehement family opposition to that and to their proposed marriage. They chose England as their destination although neither had visited the country or spoke the language. They arrived with just twelve bags, a very small amount of money, a recommendation about Iso from Albert Einstein, and a few letters of introduction. Bit by bit,…

August Blue

By Deborah Levy,

Book cover of August Blue

Bridget van der Zijpp Author Of I Laugh Me Broken

From the list on women who travel far from home to gain perspective.

Who am I?

I am the author of three novels that all explore contemporary notions of fidentity. In 2016 I received a scholarship to travel from New Zealand to Berlin for three months and fell in love with the city. I ended up staying there for nearly four years, until the pandemic started. As a writer I liked the way that being detached from your regular life, and living in a country where you are unfamiliar with the language and the rules, makes you alert to the quirks. It helps you to gain a fresh perspective about the place that you came from, and also the place that you are in.

Bridget's book list on women who travel far from home to gain perspective

Why did Bridget love this book?

Deborah Levy’s novels are often set in places where the location becomes a character – blazing hot Spain in Hot Milk, south of France in Swimming Home – but also estrangement unsettles her characters enough to begin to really consider who they are.

In her latest, August Blue, Elsa is a classical piano prodigy, still reeling from a catastrophic concert, when she sees her doppelganger in an Athens flea market. The encounter triggers gauzy memories of her upbringing, as she travels to Paris, to London, and then to Sardinia where the man who adopted her at the age of six and nurtured her talent is dying.

Each place is so viscerally described, I wanted to be physically there as Levy drops obscure metaphorical clues about Elsa’s true identity. 

By Deborah Levy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The mesmerising new novel from the twice Booker-shortlisted author of Hot Milk and Swimming Home

At the height of her career, concert pianist Elsa M. Anderson - former child prodigy, now in her thirties - walks off the stage in Vienna, mid-performance.

Now she is in Athens, watching as another young woman, a stranger but uncannily familiar - almost her double - purchases a pair of mechanical dancing horses at a flea market. Elsa wants the horses too, but there are no more for sale. She drifts to the ferry port, on the run from her talent and her history.…

The Lost Concerto

By Helaine Mario,

Book cover of The Lost Concerto

Barbara Linn Probst Author Of The Sound Between the Notes

From the list on music seen through the eyes of a musician.

Who am I?

I’m often asked: “Are you a musician? You must be, in order to write so beautifully and convincingly, through the eyes of a musician!” Actually, I’m what’s known as a “serious amateur”—which means that I study the piano “seriously” but not professionally, purely for the love of it. In fact, my understanding of the piano deepened tremendously as I worked on this book, as if my protagonist required that of me, in order to bring her to life the way she needed.  The piano has become more and more vital to me, as a writer, because it allows me to explore and express in ways that don’t depend on words. 

Barbara's book list on music seen through the eyes of a musician

Why did Barbara love this book?

In The Lost Concerto a woman has set aside her career as a classical pianist, for deeply personal reasons—then finds herself not only reclaiming her music, but also finding answers to a past mystery as well as new connections in the present. Both novels are about loss, love, and the power of music to lift and heal us. What makes The Lost Concerto especially appealing is its cross-genre blend of suspense, intrigue, stolen art, and the journey from vengeance to courage. You won’t be able to put it down!

By Helaine Mario,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

SILVER WINNER: 2016 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards

FINALIST: 2016 National Indie Excellence Awards

FINALIST: 2016 International Book Award  – Mystery/Suspense Category 

A woman and her young son flee to a convent on a remote island off the Breton coast of France.  Generations of seafarers have named the place Ile de la Brume, or Fog Island. In a chapel high on a cliff, a tragic death occurs and a terrified child vanishes into the mist.

The child’s godmother, Maggie O’Shea, haunted by the violent deaths of her husband and best friend, has withdrawn from her life as a classical pianist. But…

Book cover of The Ballad of Blind Tom, Slave Pianist: America's Lost Musical Genius

Clinton Walker Author Of Stranded

From the list on music from Australia.

Who am I?

I am an art school dropout and recovering rock critic who, since 1981, has published a dozen books on Australian music and popular culture, plus worked extensively in television and as a freelance journalist. I'm too old to be called an enfant terrible, but with the way I still seem to be able to court controversy, I must remain some sort of loose cannon! Sydney’s Sun-Herald has called me "our best chronicler of Australian grass-roots culture," and that’s a tag I’m flattered by but which does get at what I’ve always been interested in. I consider myself a historian who finds resonances where most don’t even bother to look, in our own backyard, yesterday, and the fact that so much of my backlist including Inner City Sound, Highway to Hell, Buried Country, Golden Miles, History is Made at Night, and Stranded are still in print, I take as vindication I’m on the right track…

Clinton's book list on music from Australia

Why did Clinton love this book?

This book illustrates why this list had to be called the best Australian books about music. Because it’s an Australian author writing about an American musician. This is an exchange that works both ways: just this year, British musician/author Tracy Thorn published a book about Go-Betweens drummer Lindy Morrison, called My Rock’n’Roll Friend. Blind Tom is a biography of slave pianist Tom Wiggins, one of the first African-American musicians to crossover to success with white audiences, and remarkably he had not been so accounted for until Deidre O’Connell took up the cudgels. O’Connell is an academic, but thankfully doesn’t write like one, and this her first and thus far only book is totally engrossing. I hope she writes some more.

The Lost Melody

By Joanna Davidson Politano,

Book cover of The Lost Melody

Michelle Griep Author Of Lost in Darkness

From the list on to satisfy Jane Austen and Jane Eyre lovers.

Who am I?

Though I live in the foothills of the Ozarks, I’m an Anglophile at heart, loving all things Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. I spent much of my angsty adolescence tucked away in Regency and Victorian England with my nose stuck in a book. As a result, I now jump at every chance I get to skip across the pond and roam the English countryside, listening hard to hear all the voices from the past—which is why my stories are always tied to British history. So whether you love ballrooms or shadowy tales set in gothic manors, here’s a great list for you.

Michelle's book list on to satisfy Jane Austen and Jane Eyre lovers

Why did Michelle love this book?

Sometimes you need a good read to curl up with on a rainy day, one that’s a bit melancholic yet romantic at the same time. I know I do, and The Lost Melody checked both those boxes. My heart ached for heroine Vivienne Mourdant, for have we not all struggled with reality now and then? And who wouldn’t if trapped within an insane asylum? This one kept me guessing until the very end as to how poor Vivienne would ever escape in one piece. 

Definitely more Jane Eyre than Jane Austen.

By Joanna Davidson Politano,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Darkly premised and brilliantly presented. The Lost Melody serves a pitch-perfect blend of history, romance, mystery, and faith."--Booklist starred review


When concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant's father dies, he leaves to her the care of an adult ward she knew nothing about. The woman is supposedly a patient at Hurstwell Asylum. The woman's portrait is shockingly familiar to Vivienne, so when the asylum claims she was never a patient there, Vivienne is compelled to discover what happened to the figure she remembers from childhood dreams.

The longer she lingers in the deep shadows and forgotten towers at Hurstwell, the fuzzier…