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If you like books for music lovers or you just love to read about musicians and the music industry during different points in time, oh do I have some book recommendations for you!
There’s something so electric (pun intended!) about reading on the lives of musicians, and as someone who doesn’t have a musical bone in her body, I love to live vicariously through talented musicians!
Solo singers, band members, a hidden talent of some beautiful instrument . . . or maybe just the whole musical vibe, culture, scene, whatever.
All of these fiction books for music lovers capture what it means to be in love with music, and how the universal love of music can change everything.
9 Mesmerizing Fiction Books about Musicians
The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith
The Unsinkable Greta James is such a sweet read, and I read this one recently. Greta James is rising in popularity as an indie rock musician right as her mother passes way, which leads her to hit rock bottom in her relationships and her career. In her grief and guilt, she stumbles into a weeklong cruise with her emotionally distant father.
This is a story about reconnection, holding onto strength and hope in the midst of grief, and backing yourself when you feel like you’ve lost everything.
Any musician who’s ever known what it feels like to struggle with identity—to fall apart on stage or flop or fail in a performance only to get back on the horse when the time comes—will fall in love with this book.
Here’s the synopsis:
An indie musician reeling from tragedy reconnects with her estranged father on a week-long cruise in this tale of grief, fame, and love from bestselling author Jennifer E. Smith.
Greta James’s meteoric rise to indie stardom was hard-won. Before she graced magazine covers and sold out venues, she spent her girlhood strumming her guitar in the family garage.
Her first fan was her mother, Helen, whose face shone bright in the dusty downtown bars where she got her start—but not everyone encouraged Greta to follow her dreams. While many daydream about a crowd chanting their name, her father, Conrad, saw only a precarious life ahead for his daughter.
Greta has spent her life trying to prove him wrong, but three months after Helen’s sudden death, and weeks before the launch of her high-stakes sophomore album, Greta has an onstage meltdown that goes viral.
Attempting to outrun the humiliation and heartbreak, she reluctantly agrees to accompany her father on a week-long Alaskan cruise, the very one that her parents had booked to celebrate their fortieth anniversary.
This could be the James family’s last chance to heal old wounds and will prove to be a voyage of discovery for them, as well as for Ben Wilder, a historian also struggling with a major upheaval in his life.
Ben is on board to lecture about Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, the adventure story Greta’s mother adored, and he captures Greta’s attention after her streak of dating hanger-ons.
As Greta works to build up her confidence and heal, and Ben confronts his uncertain future, they must rely on one another to make sense of life’s difficult choices. In the end, Greta must make the most challenging decision of all: to listen to the song within her or make peace with those who love her.
The Unsinkable Greta James was published on March 1, 2022, from Ballantine Books.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Bel Canto is Italian for “beautiful singing” or “beautiful song,” and this is really the heart of this incredible book. Aside from the spell-binding prose and intense focus on Opera singer Roxane Coss, Bel Canto illustrates the magnitude of the beauty of music—how it unites and captivates people.
I love that when Ann Patchett wrote Bel Canto, she wanted to write a book that was similar to opera in its structure and grandeur.
That is certainly what she’s done. This book is all melodrama, but it also moves from still, quiet moments to a crescendo of emotion in heavier, more condensed moments.
Here’s the synopsis:
Ann Patchett’s award winning, bestselling novel that balances themes of love and crisis as disparate characters learn that music is their only common language.
Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxanne Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerized 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 into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots, intimate friends, and lovers.
Bel Canto was published on May 22, 2001, from Harper Perennial.
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Okay, Echo is very different than other books on this list! This is one of the most beautiful middle grade books I’ve ever read. It’s told in four different stories, all connected by the same enchanted harmonica.
Music lovers will adore this book because of the sense of wonder and magic that unfolds! The beautiful, historical stories take us to Germany, Pennsylvania, and California.
This middle grade book is perfect for readers who want to learn about the Holocaust, segregation, and Japanese Internment camps. While the stories are heavy, they all tie together with a thread of hope and wonder. Fairy tale vibes, for sure.
Here’s the synopsis:
Music, magic, and a real-life miracle meld in this virtuosic, genre-defying tour de force from storytelling maestro Pam Munoz Ryan.
Lost and alone in the forbidden Black Forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.
Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives, binding them by an invisible thread of destiny.
All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. How their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.
Richly imagined and structurally innovative, Echo pushes the boundaries of form and shows us what is possible in how we tell stories.
Echo was published on December 8, 2014, from Scholastic Press.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
It’s no secret that I love Station Eleven something fierce for its sprawling storytelling centered on art and humanity. The traveling symphony—and the cello player we follow—brave a world shattered by illness and death to preserve beauty.
This post-apocalyptic book isn’t just about music, but music lovers will appreciate it all the same.
When the world as we know it is stripped away, music is like muscle memory. It carries us through and helps us triumph over heartaches too heavy to even imagine.
Here’s the synopsis:
Set in the days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve.
Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.
Station Eleven was published on September 9, 2014, from Knopf.
The Ensemble by Aja Gabel
The Ensemble is a beautifully written novel about four friends and musicians who become family. Jana, Brit, Daniel, and Henry all live in the world of classical music, and their quartet carries them through all the twists and turns of life.
Volatile and complex at times, their relationships with one another are incredibly intimate. They witness heartache, loss, success, and failure together, all while playing different instruments and becoming different people.
The Ensemble is a gorgeous book about music and the hard nature of ambition and perfectionism. But it’s also about the love of music in its purest form. Music lovers—especially classic music lovers—will love this book and the dynamic, flawed, and beautiful characters.
Here’s the synopsis:
The addictive novel about four young friends navigating the cutthroat world of classical music and their complex relationships with each other, as ambition, passion, and love intertwine over the course of their lives.
Jana. Brit. Daniel. Henry. They would never have been friends if they hadn’t needed each other. They would never have found each other except for the art which drew them together. They would never have become family without their love for the music, for each other.
Brit is the second violinist, a beautiful and quiet orphan; on the viola is Henry, a prodigy who’s always had it easy; the cellist is Daniel, the oldest and an angry skeptic who sleeps around; and on first violin is Jana, their flinty, resilient leader.
Together, they are the Van Ness Quartet. After the group’s youthful, rocky start, they experience devastating failure and wild success, heartbreak and marriage, triumph and loss, betrayal and enduring loyalty.
They are always tied to each other—by career, by the intensity of their art, by the secrets they carry, by choosing each other over and over again.
Following these four unforgettable characters, Aja Gabel’s debut novel gives a riveting look into the high-stakes, cutthroat world of musicians, and of lives made in concert. The story of Brit and Henry and Daniel and Jana, The Ensemble is a heart-skipping portrait of ambition, friendship, and the tenderness of youth.
The Ensemble was published on May 15, 2018, from Putnam Publishing Group.
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Is it any surprise that Daisy Jones & the Six made the list for the best books for music lovers?! I devoured this book.
This addictive fiction book is told in a Rolling Stone–style interview, unpacking the mystery behind why the famous 1970s rock group broke up all those years ago. If you like listening to audiobooks, you should try this one on audio.
We get to know Daisy Jones intimately, and her rise to stardom as she comes into her own voice as an early teen is the stuff dreams are made of. But as she joins the rest of the members of the band, The Six, the group becomes iconic, and the sex, drugs, and fame change everything.
I haven’t watched the series adaptation yet (aaaah!), but I’ve heard it’s amazing, so I plan to watch it very soon!
Here’s the synopsis:
A gripping novel about the whirlwind rise of an iconic 1970s rock group and their beautiful lead singer, revealing the mystery behind their infamous break up.
Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the real reason why they split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.
Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go-Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most.
By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.
Another band getting noticed is The Six, led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.
Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.
Daisy Jones & the Six was published on March 5, 2019, from Ballantine Books.
Meant to Be Mine by Hannah Orenstein
This is the cutest premise. Meant to Be Mine is about a girl named Edie who just so happens to know the date she’ll meet her true love! Her Grandmother, Gloria, sees visions and accurately predicts when members of her family will meet their significant others.
Well, Edie meets a beautiful musician on an airplane the day her grandmother predicts she will meet the love of her life, and the rest is history. Or is it? Edie can’t quite shake the feeling that something isn’t right. What follows is a propulsive story about a girl who has to lay hold of her own fate.
Music lovers will appreciate the musician in the story, Theo, and the behind-the-scenes glimpses into the music industry in New York City.
It’s much more than a story about music, but if you’re looking for a lighthearted, fun read that will make you question everything you’ve ever thought about soulmates, check this one out.
Here’s the synopsis:
What if you knew exactly when you’d meet the love of your life? Edie Meyer knows. When her Grandma Gloria was a young woman, she had a vision of the exact day she would meet her soul mate—and then Grandpa Ray showed up.
Since then, Gloria has accurately predicted the day every single member of the family has met their match. Edie’s day arrives on June 24, 2022, when she’s twenty-nine years old. She has been waiting for it half her life. That morning, she boards an airplane to her twin sister’s surprise engagement, and when a handsome musician sits beside her, she knows it’s meant to be.
But fate comes with more complications than Edie expected and she can’t fight the nagging suspicion that her perfect guy doesn’t have perfect timing. After a tragedy and a shocking revelation rock Edie’s carefully constructed world, she’s forced to consider whether love chooses us, as simple as destiny, or if we choose it ourselves.
Meant to Be Mine was published on June 7, 2022, from Atria Books.
Kings County by David Goodwillie
Kings County is a love story with a mystery thrown in and an honest, bare look at the music scene in Brooklyn in the early 2000s. The writing is gorgeous, and if you want a little taste of the indie rock scene in Brooklyn at the time, you’re going to love this book.
This coming-of-age story is beautifully told, but I also really loved reading about Audrey’s work with bands and the behind-the-scenes, cutthroat nature of the music industry in the 2000s. I also loved reading about Theo’s work in the publishing world (obviously!).
The plot is a slow burn, so just know that going in. But the characters are well developed, and it’s very atmospheric. I really felt like I was in NYC with all of his descriptions!
Here’s the synopsis:
It’s the early 2000s and like generations of ambitious young people before her, Audrey Benton arrives in New York City on a bus from nowhere. Broke but resourceful, she soon finds a home for herself amid the burgeoning music scene in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
But the city’s freedom comes with risks, and Audrey makes compromises to survive. As she becomes a minor celebrity in indie rock circles, she finds an unlikely match in Theo Gorski, a shy but idealistic mill-town kid who’s struggling to establish himself in the still-patrician world of books.
But then an old acquaintance of Audrey’s disappears under mysterious circumstances, sparking a series of escalating crises that force the couple to confront a dangerous secret from her past.
From the raucous heights of Occupy Wall Street to the comical lows of the publishing industry, from million-dollar art auctions to Bushwick drug dens, Kings County captures New York City at a moment of cultural reckoning.
Grappling with the resonant issues and themes of our time—sex and violence, art and commerce, friendship and family—it is an epic coming-of-age tale about love, consequences, bravery, and fighting for one’s place in an ever-changing world.
Kings County was published on July 28, 2020, from Avid Reader Press.
The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang
The Heart Principle so perfectly captures the all-consuming obsession some musicians have for their music—and the fear of burnout and failure! Violinist Anna Sun’s performance accidentally goes viral, and suddenly, she’s a huge success.
But she can’t seem to let herself enjoy music again for fear of messing up, and the weight of other people’s expectations is slowly killing her joy as a violinist.
And that’s just the part of the plot that has to do with music! There’s a whole romance that is truly swoon-worthy, and a lot about being a caregiver for a terminally ill family member.
Anna also gets diagnosed with autism early on in the book, which really creates so many interesting layers to the story. There are many facets to this book. It’s sweet, tender, funny, charming, heavy, dark, and full of self-realization and growth.
Just keep in mind, music lovers, that this is a very steamy book—definitely an open door romance.
Here’s the synopsis:
A woman struggling with burnout learns to embrace the unexpected—and the man she enlists to help her—in this new New York Times bestselling romance by Helen Hoang.
When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment.
And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too.
Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.
That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she herself has just started to understand.
However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.
The Heart Principle was published on August 31, 2021, from Corvus.
Music-Centric Books on My Radar
These are the books for music lovers that I can’t wait to pick up next!
- Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
- Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
- Play for Me by Libby Hubsher
- The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
- The People We Keep by Allison Larkin
What books about music are you anticipating reading next?