The best piano books

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

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S Is for Story

By Esther Hershenhorn, Zachary Pullen (illustrator),

Book cover of S Is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet

Like my book, this book is filled with tips and terms from A to Z to connect readers to the writerly process and life. There are inspiring quotes sprinkled throughout and the illustrations by Pullen are bright and vivid. It’s the perfect backdrop to the beautiful poetry and prose written by author Hershenhorn. 

H is for Hero and Heroine, 

   their journey grand tales to be told,

      of beaten foes, 

         and bested woes,

            of triumps, alas, to behold.

I return to this book time and time again for inspiration and to spark my imagination.


Who am I?

I once spotted a mama black bear and her cubs on a camping trip in Manitoba, Canada. I kept a safe distance watching in awe as the cubs climbed trees. I’ve been fascinated with bears ever since. Most of the books I publish center around strong themes of family, friendship, making a difference in the world, and many have a bear as a secondary character. I think there’s always room for more bear stories in the world, don’t you?


I wrote...

Bears Make the Best Writing Buddies

By Carmen Oliver, Jean Claude (illustrator),

Book cover of Bears Make the Best Writing Buddies

What is my book about?

I wanted to write a book that showcased the fun and freedom of writing stories only you can tell. There’s nothing you can’t say when it comes from your heart. Because your voice is your voice—no two are the same. In this book, Adelaide and Bear love writing but Theo does not. Thankfully Adelaide and Bear are ready to team up and convince the entire class, including Mrs. Fitz-Pea, why bears make the best writing buddies? After all, who better to teach you how to fish and forage for new ideas than a bear? If you like this book check out the other books in the Bears Make the Best…series.

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

By Thad Carhart,

Book cover of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier

Everyone knows that there are no “French people.” Each region has its particular culture, and Paris is a country unto itself. Focusing on one particular artisan, his clients, and his neighborhood, Carhart helps us to understand what it means to inhabit a single quartier of Paris. It’s one of the most beautiful memoirs I’ve ever read – and I don’t even play the piano!


Who am I?

I started out as a religion major in college, but soon became frustrated with the abstract thoughts of privileged white males. I wanted to understand the passions and struggles of ordinary people, and soon became convinced that the examination of the distant past sheds important light on the present. It’s not that I don’t care about the world around me right now. Rather, I am convinced that those who look only at this decade, this century, or even the last century fail to recognize some of the most powerful cultural forces that have shaped our most fundamental understandings of gender, wealth, poverty, work, and so much more.


I wrote...

Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris: Gender, Ideology, and the Daily Lives of the Poor

By Sharon Farmer,

Book cover of Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris: Gender, Ideology, and the Daily Lives of the Poor

What is my book about?

Plenty of books have been written about medieval hospitals and charity – that is to say, about the ways in which medieval religious and secular elites defined, approached, and attempted to ameliorate or control poverty and the poor in the high and late Middle Ages. Mine was the first study to attempt to depict the on-the-ground daily lives of the poor themselves, and to outline the ways in which elites drew on socio-economic and religious differences in order to create subcategories of the genders “male” and “female.”

Player Piano

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Book cover of Player Piano

Like many people, I went through a Vonnegut reading fest in my late teens or early twenties. The ending of Player Piano stuck with me. I’m sure it wasn’t my first exposure to the cycle of people creating their own messes, but it was blunt and solid and memorable. Tempered optimism is key to a good dystopian novel.

Also, science fiction stories of past eras are an opportunity for a glimpse into the psyche of their times. I like that sort of thing.


Who am I?

I think of dystopian fiction as simulations writers conduct to see how things will go if we don’t wise up. Given that the nonsense of everyday life today leads to these future scenarios, we are inherently part of their stories. That makes them personal. Optimistic tales of future utopias don’t manage the same trick. There’s no part of life today that appears to be the seed for Star Fleet to form and dedicate itself to exploration and knowledge. We can hope for that, but any turning point towards it hasn’t happened. When I look at futures of ecological ruin or commodified genetic code, I feel connected because those seeds are being cultivated as we speak.


I wrote...

Piggyback to the End of the World

By David Thurlow,

Book cover of Piggyback to the End of the World

What is my book about?

Nil Steivenson and Lucy Wu are not exactly mad scientists. They are a pair of furious, misanthropic bio-engineers. Nil has lost his family to horrifying legislation, coupled with the perverse misuse of technology he pioneered. Lucy, a genius by any standard, has had the future she was promised all her life abruptly crushed by a glass ceiling set so low she’s stuck in her parent’s basement.

Having lost everything but their friendship, the pair enlist the help of a stolen corporate artificial intelligence to beat the world at its own game and set humanity on a better course. That’s plan A, anyway. Unfortunately, Plan B is much more likely. Plan B keeps them up at night. Plan B might be the end of the world.

The Unconsoled

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Book cover of The Unconsoled

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!


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. 


I wrote...

Beneath Cruel Waters

By Jon Bassoff,

Book cover of Beneath Cruel Waters

What is my book about?

When Holt Davidson learns that his estranged mother has taken her own life, he returns to his hometown for the funeral, hoping to make peace with the past. He spends the night at his childhood home, but instead of nostalgic souvenirs, he discovers a gun, a love letter, and a Polaroid photograph of a man lying in his own blood.

Who is the dead man? Was his mother the one who killed him, and, if so, why? Who sent the love letter? And what role did his sister, institutionalized since she was a teenager, play in this act of violence? As his own traumatic memories begin to resurface, Holt begins an investigation into his mother’s and sister’s pasts—as well as his own.

The Bear and the Piano

By David Litchfield,

Book cover of The Bear and the Piano

We often fear change and it’s for this reason that we don’t dare try something new. We’re afraid we won’t be able to go back to the way things were before in case we don’t succeed. It’s important to realize that the people who truly appreciate and love us will always support our endeavors and welcome us back regardless of whether we succeeded or failed. The Bear and the Piano relates this message in a gentle and inspiring way for me.


Who am I?

When I first started writing in English, which is my second language, I was reluctant to share my work with others. I was terrified they would find it lacking. It takes a lot of effort and research to write authentically for a foreign audience. I studied creative writing at different universities around the world to gain knowledge and experience. I published short stories and poems in online and print journals. Bit by bit, I gathered the courage to submit my first picture book manuscript.


I wrote...

The Pirate Tree

By Brigita Orel, Jennie Poh (illustrator),

Book cover of The Pirate Tree

What is my book about?

The gnarled tree on the hill sometimes turns into a pirate ship. A rope serves as an anchor, a sheet as a sail, and Sam is its fearless captain. But one day another sailor approaches, and he’s not from Sam’s street. Can they find something more precious than diamonds and gold? Can they find…friendship?

The Whatifs

By Emily Kilgore, Zoe Persico (illustrator),

Book cover of The Whatifs

Cora has a bad case of the whatifs, whimiscal bug-like creatures that follow her everywhere. They fill her head with worries like “what if the dog runs away?” or “what if I forget my homework?” The whatifs become almost unbearable as Cora prepares for her big piano recital. What if no one comes? What if she makes a mistake? But through the help of her friend, Cora learns there are also happy whatifs. A good introduction to replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. 


Who am I?

I am a children’s book creator and a parent. Raising an anxious child can be challenging. Events that many children find fun and exciting can be overwhelming and scary for your child. Seemingly small changes in their daily routine can throw some youngsters into a swirl of emotions that is upsetting to them and to those who love them. When I was searching for picture books to help the young worrier in my life, I looked for books that acknowledged their distressing feelings while giving them some strategies with which to cope with their overwhelming emotions. That premise became the theme of my Maud the Koala book series. 


I wrote...

Much Too Much Birthday (Maud the Koala)

By J.E. Morris,

Book cover of Much Too Much Birthday (Maud the Koala)

What is my book about?

Maud the Koala is excited. Today is her birthday and she is getting ready for her big party, after all, big birthdays are the best birthdays. Right? But Maud’s mother has some concerns when she discovers Maud invited 56 children to her backyard celebration. As the crowd builds, Maud starts feeling dizzy and slips behind a bush to find some peace and quiet. In the shrubbery, she finds Simon who is also overwhelmed by the hubbub. Slowly Maud and Simon reengage with the party at their own pace. Socially anxious children will relate to Maud and Simon as they realize big crowds aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.

K.D. 30 Compositions

By Kenny Dorham,

Book cover of K.D. 30 Compositions

First of all, the compositions are incredibly beautiful. Kenny Dorham is the ultimate romantic. As an added bonus, Walter Davis arranges these often complex tunes in a way that is accessible for the intermediate pianist. The simple and economical voicings offer insights that you just can’t get from fake books. 


Who am I?

I’ve been the pianist for the Heath Brothers and the Jimmy Heath Quartet for over 20 years. Since moving to NYC in 1996, I’ve had the honor of playing and recording with an assortment of jazz luminaries including Charles McPherson, Roberta Gambarini, Lewis Nash, Winard Harper, Rodney Green, Michael Rodriguez, David Wong, among many others. During that time, I’ve also been actively involved in teaching, arranging, and writing, having three books published by Chuck Sher since 2013, An Approach to Comping Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and Introduction to Jazz Piano, A Deep Dive.


I wrote...

Introduction to Jazz Piano, A Deep Dive

By Jeb Patton,

Book cover of Introduction to Jazz Piano, A Deep Dive

What is my book about?

Introduction to Jazz Piano, A Deep Dive is a fully immersive course designed to shed light on the inner workings of jazz piano and to help you attain skills necessary for basic comping (accompanying) and soloing. The 60 workouts highlight the importance of playing along with real classic jazz records in real time with accessible exercises that take you inside the rhythm section. You’ll be learning the basics of jazz piano while, at the same time, becoming acquainted with some of the classic jazz canons.

Thelonious Monk - Intermediate Piano Solos

By Ronnie Mathews, Thelonious Monk,

Book cover of Thelonious Monk - Intermediate Piano Solos

I love the way Mr. Mathews retains Monk’s personal and instantly recognizable sound while presenting very playable and economical jazz piano arrangements. I would recommend this to jazz piano students looking for a way to play Monk’s music as solo piano pieces. It's nice to be able to reference how to voice these tunes from a master who actually exchanged ideas with Monk himself. The collection includes some of the most popular Monk compositions along with some lesser-known gems.


Who am I?

I’ve been the pianist for the Heath Brothers and the Jimmy Heath Quartet for over 20 years. Since moving to NYC in 1996, I’ve had the honor of playing and recording with an assortment of jazz luminaries including Charles McPherson, Roberta Gambarini, Lewis Nash, Winard Harper, Rodney Green, Michael Rodriguez, David Wong, among many others. During that time, I’ve also been actively involved in teaching, arranging, and writing, having three books published by Chuck Sher since 2013, An Approach to Comping Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and Introduction to Jazz Piano, A Deep Dive.


I wrote...

Introduction to Jazz Piano, A Deep Dive

By Jeb Patton,

Book cover of Introduction to Jazz Piano, A Deep Dive

What is my book about?

Introduction to Jazz Piano, A Deep Dive is a fully immersive course designed to shed light on the inner workings of jazz piano and to help you attain skills necessary for basic comping (accompanying) and soloing. The 60 workouts highlight the importance of playing along with real classic jazz records in real time with accessible exercises that take you inside the rhythm section. You’ll be learning the basics of jazz piano while, at the same time, becoming acquainted with some of the classic jazz canons.

Dick Hyman's Professional Chord Changes and Substitutions for 100 Tunes Every Musician Should Know

By Dick Hyman,

Book cover of Dick Hyman's Professional Chord Changes and Substitutions for 100 Tunes Every Musician Should Know

This songbook is an incredible window into the world of chord movement and voice leading. Mr. Hyman offers the original chord symbols from chord sheets (often lost to history), professional substitutions that are frequently played, and his own substitutions offering some fresh new harmonic options. Because each measure of music is teeming with chords and little movements, it makes you think precisely about chord extensions and what’s unnecessary in your voicings. 


Who am I?

I’ve been the pianist for the Heath Brothers and the Jimmy Heath Quartet for over 20 years. Since moving to NYC in 1996, I’ve had the honor of playing and recording with an assortment of jazz luminaries including Charles McPherson, Roberta Gambarini, Lewis Nash, Winard Harper, Rodney Green, Michael Rodriguez, David Wong, among many others. During that time, I’ve also been actively involved in teaching, arranging, and writing, having three books published by Chuck Sher since 2013, An Approach to Comping Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and Introduction to Jazz Piano, A Deep Dive.


I wrote...

Introduction to Jazz Piano, A Deep Dive

By Jeb Patton,

Book cover of Introduction to Jazz Piano, A Deep Dive

What is my book about?

Introduction to Jazz Piano, A Deep Dive is a fully immersive course designed to shed light on the inner workings of jazz piano and to help you attain skills necessary for basic comping (accompanying) and soloing. The 60 workouts highlight the importance of playing along with real classic jazz records in real time with accessible exercises that take you inside the rhythm section. You’ll be learning the basics of jazz piano while, at the same time, becoming acquainted with some of the classic jazz canons.

Froth on the Daydream

By Boris Vian, Stanley Chapman (translator),

Book cover of Froth on the Daydream

In an alternative version of our own society, where jazz music serves all the functions of our present-day internet and cats and mice can talk, there exist two couples who are heading towards disaster because of philosophy and love. In the meantime, they enjoy everything life has to offer, including cocktails made by playing a special type of piano (wrong notes produce alarming flavours) and the fact that inanimate objects can respond to their emotional states. The novel is genuinely poignant as well as incredibly odd, and the evolving story, and the language in which it is told, are always surprising. 


Who am I?

The world is a strange place and life can feel very weird at times, and I have long had the suspicion that a truly imaginative and inventive comedy has more to say about reality, albeit in an exaggerated and oblique way, than much serious gloomy work. Comedy has a wider range than people often think. It doesn’t have to be sweet, light, and uplifting all the time. It can be dark, unsettling and suspenseful, or profoundly philosophical. It can be political, mystical, paradoxical. There are humorous fantasy novels and short story collections that have been sadly neglected or unjustly forgotten, and I try to recommend those books to readers whenever I can.


I wrote...

My Rabbit's Shadow Looks Like a Hand

By Rhys Hughes,

Book cover of My Rabbit's Shadow Looks Like a Hand

What is my book about?

A novella that makes use of playful experimental techniques to tell the strange story of an entertainer who specialises in creating rabbits from shadows. He creates twelve special shadow rabbits who communicate with him via stories and poems that are fully contained works but also interact with each other to form a bigger story. These twelve narratives are set in a frame by another story and it turns out that this framing story is also potentially framed in a much larger cosmos. My Rabbit's Shadow Looks Like a Hand is a fantasy tale, a romance, and an example of philosophical speculative fiction with a humorous slant.

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