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Best Novels about Music & Musicians

The musician’s life is inherently fascinating!  Some of the best musician memoirs and biographies have given us a front-row seat and real-life examples of what happens behind the scenes.  From solo artists to bands, the lives they lead are often beyond our wildest imagination.   So it is no surprise novelists are taking inspiration, capitalizing on the fantasy of the rock star, and incorporating it into their books.

The novels on this list will let you live out your rock star fantasy.  But beware, it’s not only just glamour; there are gritty moments too.  So either way, select a book or two and get ready to jump into the crowd because it’s going to be a wild ride!

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

A gripping novel about the whirlwind rise of an iconic 1970s rock group and their beautiful lead singer, revealing the mystery behind their infamous breakup.

Utopia Avenue David Mitchell

Utopia Avenue David Mitchell

Utopia Avenue is the strangest British band you’ve never heard of.  David Mitchell’s kaleidoscopic novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue’s turbulent life and times; of fame’s Faustian pact and stardom’s wobbly ladder; of the families we choose and the ones we don’t; of voices in the head, and the truths and lies they whisper; of music, madness, and idealism.

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

An electrifying novel about the meteoric rise of an iconic interracial rock duo in the 1970s, their sensational breakup, and the dark secrets unearthed when they try to reunite decades later for one last tour.

Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Set in the lush Big Band era of the 1940s and World War II, this spellbinding saga from beloved New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani tells the story of two talented working class kids who marry and become a successful singing act, until time, temptation, and the responsibilities of home and family derail their dreams.

Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce

Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce

In a stirring and impeccably researched novel of Jazz-age Chicago in all its vibrant life, two stories intertwine nearly a hundred years apart, as a chorus girl and a film student deal with loss, forgiveness, and love…in all its joy, sadness, and imperfections.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Two brown girls dream of being dancers–but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.

Tracey makes it to the chorus line but struggles with adult life, while her friend leaves the old neighborhood behind, traveling the world as an assistant to a famous singer, Aimee, observing close up how the one percent live.

Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan

Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan

For Jackie Pierce, everything changed the summer of 1979, when she spent three months of infinite freedom at her bohemian uncle’s sprawling estate on the California coast. As musicians, artists, and free spirits gathered at The Sandcastle for the season in pursuit of inspiration and communal living, Jackie and her cousin Willa fell into a fast friendship, testing their limits along the rocky beach and in the wild woods… until the summer abruptly ended in tragedy, and Willa silently slipped away into the night.

Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

In this powerful portrait of the self-making of an artist, Willa Cather created one of her most extraordinary heroines. Thea Kronborg, a minister’s daughter in a provincial Colorado town, seems destined from childhood for a place in the wider world. But as her path to the world stage leads her ever farther from the humble town she can’t forget and from the man she can’t afford to love, Thea learns that her exceptional musical talent and fierce ambition are not enough.

The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

In the first volume of the Barrytown Trilogy, Roddy Doyle introduces The Commitments, a group of fame-starved, working-class Irish youths with a paradoxical passion for the music of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding and a mission–to bring Soul to Dublin.

Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie

Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie

A transporting love story of music, stardom, heartbreak, and a gifted young singer-songwriter who must find her own voice.

Bootleg Stardust by Glenn Dixon

Bootleg Stardust by Glenn Dixon

A novel about a young musician who auditions for a band and is suddenly catapulted into the wild world of rock and roll stardom, where nothing is quite what it seems.

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

A 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.

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

A quintessential Nick Hornby tale of music, super fandom, and the truths and lies we tell ourselves about life and love. Now a major motion picture starring Ethan Hawke.

Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould

Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould

It’s the early days of the new millennium, and Laura has arrived in New York City’s East Village in the hopes of recording her first album. A songwriter with a one-of-a-kind talent, she’s just beginning to book gigs with her beautiful best friend when she falls hard for a troubled but magnetic musician whose star is on the rise. Their time together is stormy and short-lived–but will reverberate for the rest of Laura’s life.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

A Spanish war orphan born in a burning church and raised by a blind guitar teacher, Frankie Presto was gifted with extraordinary musical abilities that shape not only his life but the lives of those around him. At nine years old, Frankie meets the love of his life, Aurora; that same day, civil war tears apart his home and he is sent to America, smuggled in the bottom of a boat with only guitar and six strings imbued with the power to change lives.

The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles

The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles

The story of an intense female friendship fueled by affection, envy and pride–and each woman’s fear that she would be nothing without the other.  One has a voice like a songbird; the other feels melodies in her soul and composes lyrics to match. Music will become their shared passion, the source of their partnership and their rivalry, and for each, the only way out of the life to which each was born. But only one of the two is destined to be a star. Their intimate, volatile bond will determine each of their fortunes–and haunt their memories.

Have you read any of these novels?

Are any of these books on your TBR?  Have you read any books from this list?  What books would you add to this list?

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