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When Music and Books Collide: A List of My Favorite Musically Centered Books

March 2nd brought us Read Across America Day, and if there are two things I love the most, it’s reading and music. And also, making book recommendations to anyone who will listen! Below you will find some of my top recommendations for books that feature music or musicians. Some of these are non-fiction while other are…not. I can assure you there will be something on the list for everyone, and I would encourage you to pick one to give a try. It may not be Read Across America Day anymore, but it’s always a good day to pick up a good book!

Non-Fiction: I don’t typically read a lot of non-fiction books; however, there are several that I have in my collection that I would highly recommend based on my own perusal of them or a friend’s recommendation. 

  1. Journals by Kurt Cobain: You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t heard of Kurt Cobain, so it’s clear why this book is on my list. This is a book of his personal journals that was published posthumously. It lets readers see parts of his rise and fall as an artist that can maybe help us understand his struggles with drug addiction and ultimate suicide. 

  2. The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl: Another music icon who has undoubtedly had a profound impact on many of us, young and old. Written by the legend himself, this book takes readers on a journey into the life experiences of Dave in his own words. Fans can peel back the layers and get a better insight into what makes Dave, Dave.

  3. The  Woman in Me by Britney Spears: If you were a teen in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, Britney likely featured prominently throughout your childhood from Disney to beyond. As we all know, not everything was as glamorous as it seems, and Spears finally had the chance and an outlet to tell her side of the stories. The Woman in Me is a deeply moving story about the struggles and triumphs from Britney herself.

  4. Me by Elton John: There have been many books written about this music icon, but this is the official autobiography that takes readers through all five decades of his career. The book also explores Elton’s struggle with drug addiction and the journey to get clean, find love, and become a father. He may be officially retired, but this Rock and Roll icon will forever be a part of our hearts.

  5. Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yarm: What happens when you take 250 interviews from some of grunge's biggest names and compile them into a compelling story? You get a fascinating story that takes you on a journey from the beginning to the, well, the end of an era. With words from musicians, producers, managers, and more, Yarm takes the reader on a journey from the start of grunge in Seattle in the 90’s to the worldwide success of the Big 4 grunge bands. 

Fiction: If fictional stories centered around music is more your speed, this list is for you! There’s an infinite number of books to pull from here, so I’ve pulled some of my favorites from multiple genres. From spicy to same, there will be something on the list for every reader.

  1. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn: This one is for my quirky friends out there. It’s a YA book that tells the story of two teenagers that alternates points-of-view every chapter. Set in NYC, Nick and Nora find love in an unusual way with tons of music references and humor and angst typical of teenagers. It’s short and quirky in all the right ways.

  2. How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo: Music journalist meets songwriter and lead singer in this contemporary romance book. It features a band called Bananafish that gets signed to big label and then things go tits up. But don’t worry, romances have a guaranteed happy ending so the rockstar gets the girl in the end.

  3. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess: This might be a stretch, but music plays a critical role towards the end of this book for the main character. I won’t say too much and give anything away, but Alex, the main character, endures a trauma that impacts his ability to listen to the music he likes. This is for all the horror fans, but be warned, this one is pretty dark so proceed at your own risk!

  4. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I would be remiss if I did not include this one on the list! While there is a tv series of this, it is best read as the story because the writing format lends itself wonderfully to the story. Set in LA, it follows Daisy Jones in the late 60’s as she and The Six cross paths. It’s a brilliant historical fiction novel that captures the time perfectly in a way only Jenkins Reid can.

  5. Drive by Kate Stewart: This one is a beautiful contemporary romance that surprisingly gets to the heart of how music can impact a person. It’s said exclusively from Stella’s point of view that the story will break your heart then slowly put it back together. Set against a two-day road trip and one playlist, it’s a story sure to leave you in your feelings long after it’s done.

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