6 Books for Music Lovers to read
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6 Must Read Fictional Books for Music Lovers

Wish you could play an instrument? I mean really play? Me, too. I can peck away at a piano and tease a few notes out of a kazoo, but what comes out doesn’t really count as music. More like half-dead donkey. My daughter, on the other hand, seems to have a natural gift for music…

6 Books for Music Lovers to read

Wish you could play an instrument? I mean really play? Me, too. I can peck away at a piano and tease a few notes out of a kazoo, but what comes out doesn’t really count as music. More like half-dead donkey. My daughter, on the other hand, seems to have a natural gift for music making. Ever since she was a tween and discovered a keyboard, she could sit at a piano while listening over and over to her favorite pop artist. Within what seemed like minutes, she could play the tune! Lately, she’s taken up strumming the ukulele. It’s such an adorable little instrument. She even got one signed by her favorite Ukulele playing teen idol – Grace Vanderwaal!Grace Vanderwaal signing a Ukulele

The 2018 Read & Go Challenge category to read a book featuring an instrument is encouraging me to try to learn to play the ukulele, too.  Or, maybe I’ll take up piano, instead? Or, perhaps, the trumpet? My neighbors might not like if I gave drums a whirl, but why not! The possibilities are endless. I might even pick up that French horn I banished from my life in middle school!

I went in search for motivation and found these fantastic books! Whether you love to play and play well, or just looking for some musical-literary entertainment to inspire you, here are a few books for music lovers that you won’t be able to put down.

6 Books for Music Lovers 

1. Stargirl

Author: Jerry Spinelli
Genre: Young Adult
Instrument: Ukulele

This is a wonderful young adult novel. The main character is a sophomore in high school. She is an eccentric non-conformist and plays her ukulele during lunch every day. It’s one of the most perfect books for music lovers and nonconformists interested in playing the ukulele. If you want some guidance on getting started, you might be interested in this ukulele forum

From the Publisher:

Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’ s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.

Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love. Stargirl is a modern-day classic and New York Times bestseller that celebrates the power of individuality and personal expression from beloved Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli.

2. The Bear Comes Home

Author: Rafi Zabor
Genre: Literary Fiction
Instrument: Alto Sax

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction: “A hilarious, richly imagined bear’s eye view of love, music, alienation, manhood and humanity . . . that recalls Pynchon at his most controlled.”―Publishers Weekly 

Ted Gioia of The Daily Beast calls The Bear Comes Home, “the most honest and realistic jazz novel you will ever read.” I say it ranks right up there with the beary best books for music lovers.

From the Publisher: The hero of this sensational first novel is an alto-sax virtuoso trying to evolve a personal style out of Coltrane and Rollins. He also happens to be a walking, talking, Blake- and Shakespeare-quoting bear whose musical, spiritual, and romantic adventures add up to perhaps the best novel, ursine or human, ever written about jazz. “Poignant and touching moments combine with hilarious descriptions of the bear’s struggle in a story that anyone ― whether familiar with jazz or not ― will find compelling and entertaining.”―David Amram, Los Angeles Times Book Review “Zabor’s knack for detail makes the absurd premise believable . . . and neatly turns the weighty subject ― the painful and ungainly growth of an artist ― into a comic gem.”―The New Yorker  “In fluent, witty prose Zabor conveys with remarkable vividness the texture of group improvisation. . . . It swings.”―A. O. Scott, New York Newsday “Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you. Get the Bear.”―David Nicholson, Washington Post  “Zabor . . . conveys the mingled joy and terror of musical improvisation. He also displays a mean wit.”―New York Times Book Review One of the Los Angeles Times Book Review‘s 100 best books of 1997 Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

3. The Loser

Author: Thomas Bernhard
Genre: Literary Fiction
Instrument: Piano

Although this novel references real-life individuals, music lovers should not expect to find historically correct information. However, this is the perfect book for music lovers who want a glimpse of what musical genius demands of itself—and how it can destroy others, less talented, who struggle in its shadow.

From the Publisher: 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 unbroken paragraph, The Loser is a brilliant meditation on success, failure, genius, and fame.

4. The Tin Drum

Author: Günter Grass
Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction
Instrument: Drums

This postwar classic is in the category of historical fiction books for music lovers that offers a profound yet humorous perspective on both German history and the human condition in the modern world.The Tin Drum became a runaway bestseller in 1959 and catapulted its young author to the forefront of world literature.

From the Publisher: After fifty years, The Tin Drum has, if anything, gained in power and relevance. All of Grass’s amazing evocations are still there, and still amazing: Oskar Matzerath, the indomitable drummer; his grandmother, Anna Koljaiczek; his mother, Agnes; Alfred Matzerath and Jan Bronski, his presumptive fathers; Oskar’s midget friends—Bebra, the great circus master and Roswitha Raguna, the famous somnambulist; Sister Scholastica and Sister Agatha, the Right Reverend Father Wiehnke; the Greffs, the Schefflers, Herr Fajngold, all Kashubians, Poles, Germans, and Jews—waiting to be discovered and re-discovered.

5. Reservation Blues

Author: Sherman Alexie
Genre: Fiction/ Magical Realist
Instrument: Guitar

If you liked Alexie’s, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and you are a blues lover, then you’ll definitely enjoy this musical fiction masterpiece.

Many may remember the tale of Robert Johnson, the musician who sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for being the best blues guitarist around.

What many may not know is that after this tragic deal in Mississippi, Johnson ended up in a small town on the Spokane Indian reservation in Washington state-at least that’s how author Sherman Alexie tells it.

In his new book Reservation Blues, Alxie spins the fictional tale of Johnson’s adventure at a new crossroads, this one in a small town called Wellpinit, Wash. It is here that he comes to seek out Big Mom, a local medicine woman, and, in so doing, leaves his famous guitar in the hands of misfit storyteller Thomas Builds-the-Fire.

Builds-the-Fire, brought back from Alexie’s last book, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, takes up Johnson’s magical guitar and, along with Victor Joseph, Junior Polatkin and two Flathead Indian sisters named Chess and Checkers, goes on to build a reservation blues band that takes the Northwest by storm…

As the band plays club after club, Alexie uses music as a crosscultural bridge, without compromising the cultural integrity of his characters. The band members seem to take on the gamut of problems faced by Indians on the reservation today, battling everything from alcoholism to violence, political corruption to sexual abuse.

It would make a great gift book for the music lover in your life.

6.  A Devil to Play: One Man’s Year-Long Quest to Master the Orchestra’s Most Difficult Instrument

Author: Jasper Rees
Genre: Memoir
Instrument: French horn

This book appeals to me, personally. When I was in middle school we had to pick an instrument to learn to play. I fell in love with the look and sound of the French horn. What I didn’t like was having to lug it back and forth from school. I’ll never forget the day I forgot my horn in the music room. Unfortunately, I remembered just as I was about to exit the school to go to my bus. I turned and ran down the hall, dashed into the music room, grabbed the enormous case and galloped back toward the bus exit as quickly as was possible with a half ton instrument the size of an elephant slamming against my 10 year old legs. I missed the bus. I couldn’t believe it just left without me!

A month later I happily switched over to the Oboe.  (Yeah, I was kinda obsessed with the lesser known instruments!). But, maybe I’ll rent a French horn for a month and see what melodic memory remains!

From the publisher:

A charming and deeply funny memoir of musical obsession, A Devil to Play is the story of Jasper Rees, a man who unearths his childhood French horn, and begins a quixotic but obsessively serious challenge: to play a Mozart concerto—alone—for a paying audience within one year’s time. It’s an endearing, inspiring tale of perseverance and achievement, relayed masterfully, one side-splittingly off-key note at a time. It’s a book that every music lover and aspiring music maker can relate to!


Bonus Book for Music Lovers who also like to Travel!

7. Market Blues

Author: Kirsty Murray
Genre: YA/Historical fiction
Instrument: Trumpet

Another travel blogger friend, Sarah, from World Unlost, recommends Market Blues both for its adventurous story about an ordinary 21st-century kid who accidentally travels back in time, (thanks to a time portal unlocked through playing the trumpet), as well as its “vivid mix of the contemporary urban life with the bygone city of yesteryear.” She found that same combination of old-meets-new at the Goods Line, an old, disused railway corridor recently restored as a linear park and pedestrian walkway in Sydney, Australia. Sarah read Market Blues as a teenager and loved following the adventures of protagonist Sam, who finds himself in the early 1900s  — it’s a fish out of water trope in a coming-of-age story with historical fiction thrown in.

From the publisher: Things unravel so fast. One day Sam is a kid with a straightforward life, next moment he’s sucked into a time warp and flung back a hundred years. Meeting Flea, Gertie and the gang is just the start of a crazy adventure with Sam on the run from police, sleeping outside the morgue, laying bets on horse races, fighting thieves and larrikins. An accident in a shooting gallery confronts Sam with the hardest decision he’s ever had to make. Can he change the past – and his own future?

Market Blues is a fast-moving drama about city kids then and now, about change, choice and responsibility.


Know someone looking for books for music lovers? Please share! Have a favorite book involving an instrument? Let us know in the comments. If you’re looking for a community of book lovers who like to try new activities? Join The Novel Tourist Facebook Group.  We’d love to hear from you!




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