The most recommended books about singers

Who picked these books? Meet our 67 experts.

67 authors created a book list connected to singers, and here are their favorite singer books.
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What type of singer book?


The Walker Brothers

By John Walker, Gary Walker,

Book cover of The Walker Brothers: No Regrets: Our Story

Sean Michael Wilson Author Of Clear Away the Clichés: A Guide Book for Students about Communism, Capitalism, Anarchism and Post-Capitalism

From Sean's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Graphic novel writer Journalist Political commentator SDG campaigner

Sean's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Sean love this book?

This is a book written by two members of a band that I really love deeply – The Walker Brothers.

Hardly a contemporary book since their main period of chart success was the 1960s, but good music is eternal. It’s from the point of view of John and Gary, the two lesser known members, since most people focus on the main singer, Scott Walker. He was of course, fantastic beyond words, but the experiences and contributions of John and Gary should be known and respected too.

We read in this book, in their own words, the ups and downs of the musical careers and their personal lives. I learned a lot more about this band I love. 

By John Walker, Gary Walker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Walker Brothers - John, Scott and Gary - were one of the biggest pop groups of the 1960s. Gifted with stunning voices and drop-dead-gorgeous looks, their appeal was irresistible. Massive hits such as 'Make It Easy On Yourself' and 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore' have become evergreen classics. This is their story.

Shine Bright

By Danyel Smith,

Book cover of Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop

Elayne Fluker Author Of Get Over "I Got It"

From the list on nonfiction that embody Black girl magic.

Who am I?

I am all about support, and support is a big part of Black Girl Magic. I believe that every woman should have a support system and community that values each and every person in it. Many of these authors have been featured on my podcast Support is Sexy, an interview-based podcast that introduces dynamic women professionals and the stories of their journeys to my audiences around the world. I recommended the books of these women because I love their message of self-care, self-love, support, and nurturing a healthy community. 

Elayne's book list on nonfiction that embody Black girl magic

Why did Elayne love this book?

I have known the amazing author Danyel Smith for over 15 years. At first, I only knew her through her incredible writing, but I grew to know her personally when she hired me as a Managing Editor at Vibe magazine when she was the Editor-in-Chief. During that time, I was able to personally witness her knowledge of music and the entertainment industry, as well as her unwavering passion for storytelling behind the music. 

Her new book, Shine Bright, which she has been writing for more than five years, seems so fitting as part of her journey. Described as “a weave of biography, criticism, and memoir” it’s a history of Black women’s music as the foundational story of American pop.

By Danyel Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

American pop music is arguably this country’s greatest cultural contribution to the world, and its singular voice and virtuosity were created by a shining thread of Black women geniuses stretching back to the country’s founding. This is their surprising, heartbreaking, soaring story—from “one of the generation’s greatest, most insightful, most nuanced writers in pop culture” (Shea Serrano)

“Sparkling . . . the overdue singing of a Black girl’s song, with perfect pitch . . . delicious to read.”—Oprah Daily

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: NPR, Esquire, Publishers Weekly


A weave…

Sing Backwards and Weep

By Mark Lanegan,

Book cover of Sing Backwards and Weep

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?

This non-fiction work is the definitive grunge memoir, told in stark – sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking – detail.

Lanegan is candid and honest about his own struggles as well as those of his music colleagues and friends like Layne Staley, Kurt Cobain, and others, always keeping their humanity at the forefront.

A must-read for anyone interested in the grunge scene of the Seattle ‘90s. 

By Mark Lanegan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


"Mark Lanegan-primitive, brutal, and apocalyptic. What's not to love?" Nick Cave

"A stoned cold classic" Ian Rankin

"Powerfully written and brutally, frighteningly honest" Lucinda Williams

From the back of the van to the front of the bar, from the hotel room to the emergency room, onstage, backstage, and everywhere in between, Sing Backwards and Weep reveals the abrasive reality beneath one of the most romanticized decades in rock history-from a survivor who lived to tell the tale.

When Mark Lanegan first arrived in Seattle in the mid-1980s, he was just "an arrogant, self-loathing redneck waster seeking…

A Little Bit Wicked

By Kristin Chenoweth,

Book cover of A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages

Heather Hach Author Of The Trouble with Drowning

From the list on a nod to Broadway.

Who am I?

I’m a writer, forever tap-tap-tapping away on my computer, looking to create that lyrical rhythm on the page that I feel in my heart. I’m also usually singing, whether it’s made up ditties to my dogs, 80s indie pop, or Broadway showtimes. Bottom line, I’m a storyteller, and nothing thrills me as much as a great tale well told, either on the page, on the stage, or around a table. Here are a few stories I’ve loved along the way that include a nod to Broadway, another love of mine long before I was hired to write the book for Legally Blonde the Musical.

Heather's book list on a nod to Broadway

Why did Heather love this book?

What can I say, I love blondes. I also adore Kristin Chenoweth, though I realize I’m not the only one. She’s so damned adorable and heroically gifted, and her life is as interesting as her talent.

I love her honesty and you can feel her life on the page. Kristin is a force of nature and a damn good storyteller herself. 

By Kristin Chenoweth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Little Bit Wicked as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A lively, laugh-out-loud journey from Oklahoma beauty queen to show biz sensation.

“Life’s too short. I’m not.”

You might know her as a Tony Award–winning Broadway star who originated the role of Galinda the Good Witch in the smash musical Wicked. Or you may recognize her from her starring roles on TV—The West Wing, Pushing Daisies, and Sesame Street. At four foot eleven, Kristin Chenoweth is an immense talent in a petite but powerful package. Through a combination of talent, hard work, and (she’s quick to add) the grace of God, Kristin took Broadway and Hollywood by storm. But of…

Saving American Beach

By Heidi Tyline King, Ekua Holmes (illustrator),

Book cover of Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch

Alison Hawkins Author Of Time to Go, Larry

From the list on children’s illustrated stories by Black artists.

Who am I?

I have always been a lover of the arts and spent a lot of time coloring and drawing as a young person. I remember the feeling of being fully immersed in picture books and cartoons. My interests led to a career as a graphic designer which turned into a career as an illustrator and author. There are so many wonderful children’s books that can engage young (and not so young!) readers that it was hard to choose just 5. Here are a few from artists that will wow you with creativity, humor, and imagination.

Alison's book list on children’s illustrated stories by Black artists

Why did Alison love this book?

Saving American Beach is a biography of MaVynee Betsch, an American activist and environmentalist.

Betsch is best known for her campaign to conserve American Beach, a historically Black community in Jacksonville, FL. Euka Holmes is an award-winning illustrator. She uses acrylic paint and paper collage to create absolutely gorgeous landscapes and portraits from the life of Betsch and her American Beach.

In my favorite spreads, you can honestly feel a peaceful, seaside breeze that will give you goosebumps.

By Heidi Tyline King, Ekua Holmes (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This heartfelt picture book biography illustrated by the Caldecott Honoree Ekua Holmes, tells the story of MaVynee Betsch, an African American opera singer turned environmentalist and the legacy she preserved.

MaVynee loved going to the beach. But in the days of Jim Crow, she couldn't just go to any beach--most of the beaches in Jacksonville were for whites only. Knowing something must be done, her grandfather bought a beach that African American families could enjoy without being reminded they were second class citizens; he called it American Beach. Artists like Zora Neale Hurston and Ray Charles vacationed on its sunny…

Spaceships Over Glasgow

By Stuart Braithwaite,

Book cover of Spaceships Over Glasgow: Mogwai, Mayhem and Misspent Youth

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?

The moment I realized I was getting older was the moment I put two little pieces of toilet paper in my ears in the middle of a Mogwai show in Asheville, NC.

It was the loudest show I’d ever attended. And it was phenomenal.

Mogwai has been making cinematic music for a long time, and I came into awareness of the band with 2008’s “The Hawk is Howling.” They are epic, funny, mysterious, meditative, and relentless.

It’s no surprise that  Stuart Braithwaite’s book is perfect for the Mogwai fanbase in that it gives some insight into the band’s philosophy while maintaining a sense of mystery. I also like that Braithwaite doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously.

By Stuart Braithwaite,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Born the son of Scotland's last telescope-maker, Stuart Braithwaite was perhaps always destined for a life of psychedelic adventuring on the furthest frontiers of noise in MOGWAI, one of the best loved and most ground-breaking post-rock bands of the past three decades.

Modestly delinquent at school, Stuart developed an early appetite for 'alternative' music in what might arguably be described as its halcyon days, the late '80s. Discovering bands like Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, and Jesus and Mary Chain, and attending seminal gigs (often incongruously incognito as a young girl with long hair to compensate for his babyface features)…

The Blue Aspic

By Edward Gorey,

Book cover of The Blue Aspic

Rosalyn Schanzer

From the list on terrifying tales weaved together with magnificent art.

Who am I?

I am a spy aiming to uncover hidden documents, private journals, and secret messages penned in the distant past. I am a detective racing to reveal the world’s most dastardly deeds and daring escapades. I am an adventurer zooming around the planet along with history’s bravest heroes and most despicable villains. I am an artist whose illustrations transform ancient stone-cold statues by turning them into living, breathing human beings that laugh and cry, win and lose, love and hate, and spring vividly to life. And I am a storyteller striving to lure readers of all ages, whether they are children or adults.

Rosalyn's book list on terrifying tales weaved together with magnificent art

Why did Rosalyn love this book?

Destitute Jasper Ankle will pay any price to attend his beloved opera. But when its most famous diva chokes to death on an admirer’s candied violet, a hitherto unknown beauty named Ortenzia Caviglia takes her place, and as her star rises, everyone who might stand in her way conveniently drops dead. But as her fame and fortune increase, Jasper Ankle becomes more and more impoverished, and if you are familiar with Edward Gorey’s dreadfully terrifying tales and his delicate, elegantly devilish black and white penmanship, perhaps you can imagine what is happening herein. (By the way, Gorey is also dead but you can still get hold of his evil little books.)

By Edward Gorey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ortenzia Caviglia is an undiscovered opera understudy whose lucky break results from the mysterious murder of the reigning diva. Upon hearing her sing, Jasper Ankle becomes her deepest admirer, undaunted by perilous weather and abject poverty in his quest to hear her sing. As Ortenzia's star rises, Jasper sinks further into despair, until performer and fan collide in true Edward Gorey fashion. Exquisitely illustrated with Gorey's signature pen-and-ink crosshatching, The Blue Aspic is a heart-wrenching and oddly hilarious tale of unrequited love and the dangers of celebrity.

Bel Canto

By Ann Patchett,

Book cover of Bel Canto

Heidi Matonis Author Of Hatching Love

From the list on optimists and animal lovers.

Who am I?

I am an optimist. I jump out of bed in the morning ready to read and write. With my dog and cat by my side and a cup of coffee in hand, I lose myself in whatever I am working on. I am deeply curious about a gamut of subjects and constantly challenge myself to learn more. I am persistent and not afraid of hard work. Nature and animals are my bottomless well of inspiration and joy. I very much believe life is a journey and I try to enjoy each step.

Heidi's book list on optimists and animal lovers

Why did Heidi love this book?

If you read one book in your life, read Bel Canto. 

Ann Patchett’s writing is always sublime but her characters in this book are unforgettable. She stages a hostage situation in an undisclosed South American country. Over time, the young terrorists and the group of international strangers find a way to live and even thrive together. 

The novel revolves around the one female hostage, a beautiful opera singer. Her singing charms the most hardened terrorists and most skeptical politicians.

By Ann Patchett,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Bel Canto as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of The Women's Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

The poignant - and at times very funny - novel from the author of The Dutch House and Commonwealth.

Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honour of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxane Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerised the international guests with her singing.

It is a perfect evening - until a band of gun-wielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves…

Rat Girl

By Kristin Hersh,

Book cover of Rat Girl: A Memoir

Mike Hipple Author Of Lived Through That: '90s Musicians Today

From the list on music memoirs that aren't necessarily about music.

Who am I?

Sadly, I was born without an ounce of musical talent. After realizing I was never going to effortlessly play the guitar or sing in tune, I focused a lot of my energies on listening to music. I came of age in the 80s and the rise of MTV brought loads of fantastic music to explore: punk, new-wave, post-punk, pop. My love for music grew and expanded as I grew up in the 90s. It was those I reached back to musical memories in creating my books, 80s Redux and Lived Through That. I also host a popular podcast called Lived Through That that combines my love of music and storytelling.  

Mike's book list on music memoirs that aren't necessarily about music

Why did Mike love this book?

Kristin Hersh’s book documents a pivotal year in the Throwing Muses’ singer and songwriter’s life. The book is at times funny and warm, sometimes confounding – she befriended Betty Hutton, an American film star in the 30s. What?! As I was reading the book, memories of seeing her band in the early 90s kept flashing through my mind – the intensity of her performances and songs make a lot more sense after reading her story.

By Kristin Hersh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"One of the 25 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time” --Rolling Stone Magazine (#8)

“Sensitive and emotionally raw… it’s also wildly funny”--The New York Times Book Review

A powerfully original memoir of pregnancy and mental illness by the legendary founder of the seminal rock band Throwing Muses, 'a magnificently charged union of Sylvia Plath and Patti Smith'  - The Guardian

Kristin Hersh was a preternaturally bright teenager, starting college at fifteen and with her band, Throwing Muses, playing rock clubs she was too young to frequent. By the age of seventeen she was living in her car, unable to sleep…

Starting Over

By La Toya Jackson, Jeffré Phillips,

Book cover of Starting Over

Jamilla Counts Author Of A Counts Duty: Assembling the Pieces of Me

From the list on finding peace from family history, secrets, and abuse.

Who am I?

Jamilla Counts born in Chicago during 1973 and raised in Memphis, Tennessee where she currently resides now. Graduated from Pulaski Technical college in Arkansas. Moving on to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock presuing a Bachelor's Degree in Social work. I'm featured in a book released by Tiffany Ludwig in the Rutgers University Press; Fifth or Later Edition (November 30, 2007) called Trappings: Stories of Women, Power, and Clothing, I'm a single parent of two daughters and one grandchild.

Jamilla's book list on finding peace from family history, secrets, and abuse

Why did Jamilla love this book?

In an account sure to send shock waves around the world. La Toya sheds new light on the dynamics of the Jackson family in her book Starting Over, many times in my life this has occurred. The Hollywood curtains of secrecy surrounded this whole family since they became stars in the ’60s and ’70s. Being a fan of Micheal Jackson for decades. This was a must-read. I could feel his pain with "The Man in Mirror," in my case woman. We share the same birthday just fifteen years apart.

This book has touched the hearts of the millions who are fans of the Jacksons. This memoir can inspire anyone to pick up the pieces of their life with a positive outcome.

By La Toya Jackson, Jeffré Phillips,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

La Toya Jackson was always closer to Michael than anyone knew. In this heartfelt memoir, she pays tribute to his tortured soul—revealing the intimate moments she shared with the deeply troubled pop legend. The first sibling to arrive at the hospital after Michael was rushed there, and the informant on his death certificate, La Toya noticed suspicious details and demanded a second autopsy. For the first time, she unveils shocking behind-the-scenes dealings that she believes led to her brother’s death, and she provides unprecedented insight into the destruction of one of the most dynamic artist/performers in history.

In an account…

George Michael

By James Gavin,

Book cover of George Michael: A Life

David S. Pederson Author Of Murder at the Oasis

From David's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author History buff Reader Adventurer Gay man

David's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did David love this book?

This, for me, was a true page-turner. I highly recommend this biography, even if you’re not, or weren’t, a George Michael fan.

I knew of George Michael’s music, but I knew next to nothing about who he was, where he came from, or what drove him to succeed. In this book, it’s all here, the difficult childhood with an overbearing father, the awkward early years, the chance meeting and life-long friendship with Andrew Ridgley, and George’s sordid sex life.

James Gavin shares with us all the intimate details, up to and including his death, and does it in a heartfelt, honest way. 

By James Gavin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

George Michael was an extravagantly gifted, openhearted soul singer whose work was both pained and smolderingly erotic. He was a songwriter of true craft and substance, and his music swept the world, starting in the mid-1980s. His fabricated image-that of a hypermacho sex god-loomed large in the pop culture of his day. It also hid-for a time-the secret he fought against revealing: Michael was gay. Soon his obsession with fame would start to backfire. As one of the industry's most privileged yet tortured men began to self-destruct, the press showed little sympathy. George Michael: A Life explores the compelling story…

A Song for a New Day

By Sarah Pinsker,

Book cover of A Song for a New Day

Carrie Vaughn Author Of Bannerless

From the list on imagining life after an apocalypse.

Who am I?

I have an idea. A conviction, let's call it, that humanity is not doomed. The Mad Max scenario where civilization collapses, thrusting us into an anarchic hellscape in which the living envy the dead, is totally unrealistic and not likely to happen. So let's imagine a post-apocalyptic scenario in which people come together to help each other, to save what knowledge they can, to build something new and useful. To learn the lessons from the destruction that came before. This is what I tried to imagine in my novel Bannerless, and this is why this topic interests me so much.

Carrie's book list on imagining life after an apocalypse

Why did Carrie love this book?

So, this is a novel about a world in which a global pandemic means that large gatherings are illegal and everyone has adapted to life at home in isolation. It was published in 2019, and I read it summer of 2020. I'm not sure I've ever read anything that was this spookily, horrifyingly prophetic. That said, it's also really punk and ultimately uplifting. One of the characters is the lead singer of the band who it turns out inadvertently gave the last public concert ever, and she's trying to revive live music with underground concerts. Another character is the virtual talent scout who joins her cause. The story is about how you peel yourself out of trauma and disaster to find community again. Be warned, at this historical moment this one's a bit of a kick in the teeth.

By Sarah Pinsker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Song for a New Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'In A Song for a New Day, liberty and creative endeavour are compromised by political and socioeconomic reality. Pinsker presents a frighteningly real near-future US [and] movingly charts Rosemary's coming-of-age story as her world and Luce's collide' Guardian

Luce is on the road. Success is finally within grasp: her songs are getting airtime; the venues she's playing are getting larger. But mass shootings, bombings and now a strange contagion are closing America down around her...

Rosemary is too young to remember the Before. She's grown up in a world where proximity to others is not only unusual, it…

Simple Dreams

By Linda Ronstadt,

Book cover of Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir

Bonnie Morris Author Of The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture

From the list on women in rock, folk, and blues.

Who am I?

My expertise as a scholar of the women’s music movement spans 40 years--ever since I attended my first concert and music festival in 1981. A lecturer at UC-Berkeley, I’m the author of 19 books on women’s history, and published the first book on women’s music festivals, Eden Built By Eves, in 1999 (now out of print.) More recently I’ve organized exhibits on the women’s music movement for the Library of Congress, co-authored The Feminist Revolution (which made Oprah’s list), and I’m now the archivist and historian for Olivia Records.

Bonnie's book list on women in rock, folk, and blues

Why did Bonnie love this book?

This wonderfully written memoir by one of the most successful singers in American rock and popular music offers a thoughtful look at the artist’s rise to fame in multiple musical genres—from folk clubs to sold-out stadium concerts, to Broadway, torch songs, and the Mexican Canciones music of the author’s Sonora heritage. The book is a keen glimpse at the pressures of the road (and expectations for women in the spotlight), but a triumphant story of talent and artistic innovation.

By Linda Ronstadt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Linda Ronstadt was born in 1946 to a modest family outside Tucson. From an early age, she, her brother and sister began making their own music, eventually performing their own shows in the folk and Mexican traditions of the area.

By the time Ronstadt was in community college, she realized the music scene in LA was where she wanted to be, just in time for the folk revival that was sweeping the nation. Despite some setbacks with her first band-the Stone Poneys-she quickly found her niche as a soloist with the new record label run by David Geffen. Soon she…

Me Llamo Celia/My Name Is Celia

By Monica Brown, Rafael López (illustrator),

Book cover of Me Llamo Celia/My Name Is Celia: La Vida de Celia Cruz/The Life Of Celia Cruz

Bobbito Garcia Author Of Aim High, Little Giant, Aim High!

From the list on BIPOC Shorties for kids.

Who am I?

I’m a parent who along with my co-parent is raising a Black and Puerto Rican child in a world that is consumed with misunderstanding our communities of people. We seek books that speak volumes to our core, and that can expand our son’s horizons so that he understands himself as well as others.

Bobbito's book list on BIPOC Shorties for kids

Why did Bobbito love this book?

I honestly think I enjoyed this book even more than my son, ha ha!

The richness of the illustrations are stunning, and Celia’s narrative is groundbreaking. Ultimately, it’s a wonderful story told in both Spanish and English, which has worked to connect us to two languages that are dear to our family.

By Monica Brown, Rafael López (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Me Llamo Celia/My Name Is Celia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This bilingual book allows young readers to enter Celia Cruz's life as she becomes a well-known singer in her homeland of Cuba, then moves to New York City and Miami where she and others create a new type of music called salsa. School Library Journal has named My Name is Celia "[a]n exuberant picture-book biography ...a brilliant introduction to a significant woman and her music."

When Marian Sang

By Pam Muñoz Ryan, Brian Selznick (illustrator),

Book cover of When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson

Diane Stanley Author Of Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer

From the list on picture book biographies.

Who am I?

I have always loved history—not so much the politics, the kings and wars and battles, but the remarkable, often eccentric people who stood out in the age in which they lived. When I started writing books for children, I fell naturally into writing biographies. Each book I’ve written has been an adventure, with research that took me into vanished worlds and introduced me to remarkable people, from Shakespeare and Joan of Arc to Peter the Great, Michelangelo, Cleopatra, and Leonardo da Vinci. I got to read their letters, learn little personal details about their lives, and live vicariously in their worlds. It’s been my life’s joyful work, and I appreciate the brilliant work of other authors who write biography too.

Diane's book list on picture book biographies

Why did Diane love this book?

This is such a gorgeous book! Beautifully told by Pam Muñoz Ryan, this is the story of Marian Anderson, a little girl with a beautiful voice who battled racial prejudice in the pre-Civil Rights era to become one of America’s greatest singers. Brian Selznick’s illustrations are exquisite, done in soft sepia tones to give a feel for the period. And the book’s unique format will delight readers of any age. This is a book that inspires, touching hearts, and teaching young readers what courage, perseverance, and generosity can accomplish.

By Pam Muñoz Ryan, Brian Selznick (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked When Marian Sang as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A harmonious introduction to one of our country's most important singers and role models--as envisioned by Newbery Honoree Pam Muñoz Ryan and Caldecott Medalist Brian Selznick.

Marian Anderson is best known for her historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, which drew an integrated crowd of 75,000 people in pre-Civil Rights America. While this momentous event showcased the uniqueness of her voice, the strength of her character, and the struggles of the times in which she lived, it is only part of her story. Like the operatic arias Marian would come to sing, Ryan's text is as moving as…

Goodbye Without Leaving

By Laurie Colwin,

Book cover of Goodbye Without Leaving

JoAnneh Nagler Author Of Stay with Me, Wisconsin

From the list on sensual fiction (that doesn’t leave out the good stuff).

Who am I?

I love realm of the sensual. I sometimes call it The Magic Kingdom—the experience that sets us apart from our childhoods and teenage years. Intimacy—not just with people or lovers, but with the stuff we love as adults—is a compelling quest. For me, it lives in writing, cooking, singing, painting, befriending, loving—the things that lift my life out of the ordinary into time-stopping moments. Sharing it my writing, especially in my new fiction (Stay with Me, Wisconsin and my upcoming novel The Seven Mile Bridge) has been an experience of helping us all get our hands and hearts and skin into the things we love and then abide there as long as life allows us.

Joanneh's book list on sensual fiction (that doesn’t leave out the good stuff)

Why did Joanneh love this book?

Laurie Colwin is by far my favorite fiction writer. She died in 1992 at the age of 48, and Goodbye Without Leaving is one of my all-time favorite books of hers.

In it, Geraldine Coleshares—a privileged graduate student who is unmoved by her insulated and expectation-laden world—goes on the road as backup singer for Ruby Shakely and the Shakettes—an Ike and Tina Turner-type rock and roll band.

Her parents are horrified and will barely speak to her when she calls them from the road, but there’s nothing she loves more than to stand on stage in a day-glow fringed dress, singing her heart out.

When love finds her in the form of a straight-ahead lawyer who adores her and knows every rock n roll and rhythm and blues artist from the last century, she grudgingly lets him in, and though she knows she loves him, she resists marriage at every…

By Laurie Colwin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Goodbye Without Leaving as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most beloved novels from the critically acclaimed novelist Laurie Colwin, Goodbye Without Leaving explores a woman’s attempts to reconcile her rock-and-roll past with her significantly more sedate family life as a wife and mother.

As a bored graduate student, Geraldine Colshares is plucked from her too-tame existence when she is invited to tour as the only White backup singer for Vernon and Ruby Shakely and the Shakettes. The exciting years she spends as a Shakette are a mixed blessing, however, because when she ultimately submits to a conventional life of marriage and children, she finds herself stuck…


By Traci N. Todd, Christian Robinson (illustrator),

Book cover of Nina: A Story of Nina Simone

Lisa Rogers Author Of Beautiful Noise: The Music of John Cage

From the list on music innovators.

Who am I?

Ever since childhood, I’ve wondered about people who led inventive, innovative lives. How did they get their inspiration? Where did their ideas come from? How did they take that inspiration and change the world? I found information, but not the answers I was looking for, at the library. When I became an elementary library teacher, new forms of biographies – beautiful picture book biographies about people of all kinds – became available. My students loved them and so did I, and I became inspired to write for children. I’m excited that my first two picture book biographies, which received starred reviews, are out in the world – with more coming your way!

Lisa's book list on music innovators

Why did Lisa love this book?

I’m always fascinated by the transformative moment – how and when people decide to use their voices for change.

Nina Simone’s musical talent was recognized early, and she faced discrimination early, too. As the Civil Rights Movement grew, Simone at first focused on building her career. Her transformative moment was born of rage at the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers and the Birmingham, Alabama, 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four young girls and severely injured another.

Protest songs poured out of her, and she became the fearless voice of the Civil Rights Movement. Powerful and inspirational!

By Traci N. Todd, Christian Robinson (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards

This illuminating and defining biography from bestselling author Traci N. Todd, with illustrations from award-winner Christian Robinson, tells the story of Eunice Waymon, who grew up to become Nina Simone - and shares her bold, defiant, and exultant legacy with a new generation.

With passion and unparalleled skill, Traci N. Todd and Christian Robinson bring this iconic singer's story to young readers and their families. Meet young Eunice, who sang before she could talk, and journey with her from the piano stool she shared with her father…

Positively 4th Street

By David Hajdu,

Book cover of Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina

Amanda Cockrell Author Of Coyote Weather

From the list on the Sixties and the Vietnam War era.

Who am I?

Almost all of my books have been historical novels, but this one is the one most dear to me, an attempt to understand the fault line that the Vietnam War laid across American society, leaving almost every man of my generation with scars physical or psychic. My picks are all books that illuminate the multiple upheavals of that time.

Amanda's book list on the Sixties and the Vietnam War era

Why did Amanda love this book?

If there is any cultural icon that defines this era, it is music.

Positively 4th Street chronicles the personal and musical lives of these four, a portrait of extravagant, quarrelsome genius and the transformation of folk music from academic song-collecting to an era-defining musical form, by way of Greenwich Village, the anti-war movement, and shifting personal entanglements.

By David Hajdu,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Positively 4th Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When twenty-five-year-old Bob Dylan wrecked his motorcycle near Woodstock in 1966 and dropped out of the public eye, he was already recognized as a genius, a youth idol with an acid wit and a barbwire throat; and Greenwich Village, where he first made his mark, was unquestionably the center of youth culture.

In Positively 4th Street, David Hajdu recounts the emergence of folk music from cult practice to popular and enduring art form as the story of a colorful foursome: not only Dylan but also his part-time lover Joan Baez -- the first voice of the new generation; her sister…

Women Who Rock

By Evelyn McDonnell,

Book cover of Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyonce. Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl.

R. P. Rioux Author Of Swimming Through the Dawn

From the list on for starting your own band.

Who am I?

Since childhood, I've been in love with musicians, the world they live in, and the fruits of their labor. I spent years listening to my parent's record collection, which covered everything from pop, rock, and country, to jazz and classical. Today, music continues to stir my passion like nothing else. Though an industry career was never in the cards for me personally, I've frequently hovered around its periphery. My goal was to write a band story, one that strayed from common tropes to explore, through humor and heartbreak, the many joys and pitfalls of life in this mercurial and often nonsensical industry. The result was my trilogy, Idol Pursuits. Enjoy.

R. P.'s book list on for starting your own band

Why did R. P. love this book?

In many ways, my trilogy is an open love letter to the many female singers and musicians I've admired ever since I was young. While extensively referencing numerous artists as befitting the context of my story, it pained me I had to leave out many noteworthy examples for practical purposes. Women Who Rock goes a long way towards making up the difference. This powerhouse book represents a compendium of extraordinary ladies who have contributed to the evolution of pop music in our culture, but who rarely get as much credit as they deserve collectively. The assembled stories force you to sit up and take notice of their impressive accomplishments. 

By Evelyn McDonnell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Bessie Smith and The Supremes to Joan Baez, Madonna, Beyonce, Amy Winehouse, Dolly Parton, Sleater-Kinney, Taylor Swift, and scores more, women have played an essential and undeniable role in the evolution of popular music including blues, rock and roll, country, folk, glam rock, punk, and hip hop. Today, in a world traditionally dominated by male artists, women have a stronger influence on popular music than ever before. Yet, not since the late nineteen-nineties has there been a major work that acknowledges and pays tribute to the female artists who have contributed to, defined, and continue to make inroads in…

Boys in the Trees

By Carly Simon,

Book cover of Boys in the Trees: A Memoir

Liisa Kyle Author Of Be More Creative: 101 Activities to Unleash and Grow Your Creativity

From the list on the early lives of rock stars.

Who am I?

As a life coach and author of two dozen self-help books, I’ve spent the past twenty years helping people to be more creative. I love reading about the early lives of artists because it is an engaging way to learn about the creative process. Even rock stars have doubts, insecurities, regrets, and setbacks. Yet, fueled by their passions, they persist. They overcome their obstacles and pursue unique paths to success. These books are inspirational and informative for anyone with a creative dream.

Liisa's book list on the early lives of rock stars

Why did Liisa love this book?

This is a candid autobiography of an unlikely rock star. Relying on her early journals, Carly Simon conveys the details of her privileged childhood and storybook career as a singer/songwriter. Woven through her musical accomplishments are her relationships – primarily her marriage to James Taylor – but also with Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger, Jack Nicholson, Cat Stephens, and Kris Kristofferson. 

By Carly Simon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Boys in the Trees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times Bestseller A People Magazine Top Ten Book of the Year 'A sensational memoir ...brilliantly well written. Carly Simon is incapable of writing a boring sentence can forgive anything for the unparalleled brilliance of her writing' - Lynn Barber, Sunday Times 'Hugely affecting memoir ...heartfelt and remarkable' - Fiona Sturges, Independent Carly Simon is a household name. She was the staple of the '70s and '80s Billboard charts and was famously married to James Taylor with whom she has two children. She has had a career that has spanned four decades, resulting in thirteen top 40…