Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel Daisy Jones & The Six kicked off an obsession with music-inspired novels, and we can’t get enough of these reads that give us all the Stevie Nicks, music industry, part-of-the-band vibes. We’ve rounded up some of our music-themed literary favorites—fiction, nonfiction, and memoirs—to add to your #TBR pile. Don’t forget to throw on some great background jams!
Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau
Mary Jane lives a sheltered and quiet life in 1970s Baltimore. When she gets a summer job as a nanny for a local doctor’s daughter, she’s excited about something different. But when she gets there, she finds out that the doctor is actually a psychiatrist, and this summer, he’ll have a former rock star and his wife staying with them to help keep him sober. Mary Jane is whirled into a world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. This world is so vastly different from her life at home with her parents, and Mary Jane finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew and wondering about the person she actually wants to be.
Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
This collection of short stories follows five different musicians who have new realizations about their lives. There’s a once-famous singer who is walking away from his one love, a music junky with nothing but opinions to offer, a songwriter who accidentally wrecks a marriage, a jazz musician convinced that his appearance is holding him back, and a cellist with a tutor who comes up with a new way to nurture his skill.
Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie
Jane Quinn’s mother wrote songs for famous musicians, and it was inevitable that Jane too would find herself in the music industry. When folk legend Jesse Reid discovers Jane singing, her career begins, as well as a passionate affair. As Jane’s band joins Jesse’s on tour, she’s determined to keep their relationship private to avoid negative press. But when Jane discovers the dark truth behind Jesse’s music, she’s blindsided, heartbroken, and blackballed by the industry. Set in the early 70s music scene, this novel explores music, love, sex, and the truth about fame.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Two brown girls, Tracy and Aimee, dream of being dancers. The problem is, only Tracy has the talent to do so. Aimee has ideas and concepts for rhythm, time, black music, and life in general. Their childhood friendship is close, but complicated, and comes to a sudden end in their early twenties. Now Tracy is a dancer but finds adult life challenging. Aimee has a front seat to the lives of the one percent as she travels the world as a famous singer’s assistant. Spanning West Africa to London, Zadie Smith explores friendship, music, dance, roots, and the way these things shape us.
Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell
Utopia Avenue is a British boyband that starts up in 1967 during London’s psychedelic scene. The band begins in seedy clubs, finds glory in Amsterdam, ends up in prison in Rome, and much more. This novel tells the story of the band’s whirlwind life, and the way music and madness can go hand in hand.
Fast Lane by Kristen Ashley
If you enjoyed an interview storytelling style that is similar to Daisy Jones and the Six, then Fast Lane is the perfect next read! The story follows the formation and journey of The Roadmasters, a rock band led by Preacher McCade. Soon comes Lyla, Preacher’s muse and the love of his life that centers the entire band. The novel tells the ups and downs of rock and roll, as well as true love.
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
Sunny Shelton, a music journalist, is set on interviewing Opal and Nev about their rumored reunion that is set to happen in 2016. Opal and Nev, an unlikely pair, formed a band with unique funk and flair in the 1970s. However, when Opal protests against a rival band’s showcase of the Confederate flag, it sets off a chain reaction of changes and repercussions, especially for Opal, a Black woman. So, decades later, Shelton tries to dive deeper into their history through a series of interviews.
Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield
This memoir is not only a love story, but it is also a love story about music. Rob Sheffield, a rock and culture critic for Rolling Stone, shares his story of falling in love with music as well as his departed wife. Throughout their relationship, they made and exchanged mix tapes for each other, all for different occasions. Told through a series of mix tapes shared between the couple, Rob tells the story of love, loss and rock’n’roll.
At the End of the Matinee by Keiichirō Hirano
Staoshi Makino, a classical guitarist, is performing at a concert in Tokyo when he and Yoko Komine, a journalist, first see each other. The two are immediately drawn to each other but are separated over the years of concerts and stories. Told through a series of years and quick reunions, At the End of the Matinee follows the love story of Staoshi and Yoko as they try to keep contact and face the trials of love.
Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett
Singer-songwriter Cass Wheeler hasn’t been in the spotlight for ten years after she stopped performing. However, one day alone in the studio, Cass looks back at the most important moments of her life, spanning from childhood to her fall from fame. She picks sixteen tracks that defined individual moments of her life to curate her Greatest Hits album. Pick this book up for an unforgettable story about love, fame and self-discovery.
How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo
Eliza Caelum moves to New York City to follow her new career as a music journalist where she meets Paul Hudson, the lead singer of Bananafish. The two fall in love over their strong, shared love for rock and their relationship grows from there. However, when Bananafish is signed by a corporate label, their relationship is threatened, and decisions are made that eventually results in Paul’s mysterious disappearance.
Atheists Who Kneel and Pray by Tarryn Fisher
Yara Phillips is known to not stay in one place for long; she hops from city to city, man to man. She eventually meets David Lisey, a talented musician that is in need of a muse like Yara in the midst of his creative slump. Yara fully believes that she can inspire him by giving him a broken heart—however, David believes that all he needs is love from Yara.
Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould
Laura has always wanted to record an album, so she moves to New York City to follow her dream with her best friend. She soon meets an alluring music star, but their time together is cut short and she stops chasing her dreams. Fifteen years later, her daughter, Marie, wants to learn more about her mother’s lover and past but Laura refuses to look back at what could have been. However, her best friend and Marie make it difficult for Laura to give up on her dreams and encourage her to reach new heights.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
This story is told through thirteen different narratives that span across multiple, interconnected characters and multiple years. Each one takes the reader back to Bennie Salazar, a former punk Rockstar and record executive, and his assistant, Sasha. The reader dives into multiple perspectives concerning music, redemption, PowerPoints, and the progress of time.
Doxology by Nell Zink
In the late 90s, Pam, Daniel and Joe are trying to create hits for their struggling punk band until surprises arise within the band. Pam and Daniel welcome their baby, Flora, into the world as Joe’s musical career takes off to new highs, resulting in the band’s eventual break up. The trio works to support each other’s successes until tragedy strikes on September 11, 2001. The story then goes to follow Flora as she grows and eventually works hard to fight for environmental and political change during the 2016 election.
Craving more books with a ’70s vibe and complex relationships? With the highly anticipated adaptation of Daisy Jones & The Six on Amazon Prime, we’ve got a list of books to keep you going after bingeing all the episodes.
Against the Loveless World by Susan Albuhawa
Against The Loveless World is an intricately woven journey filled with rich history and resilient, unforgettable female characters. Reading this book means opening your heart and discovering the power of family and love in dark times. Nahr recounts the eye-opening and heartbreaking events that led her further from her dreams of true love and resulted in her solitary confinement which will stick with readers long after the last page.
On A Night of A Thousand Stars by Andrea Yaryura Clark
On A Night of a Thousand Stars by Andrea Yaryura Clark follows a young couple as Argentina’s Dirty War erupts in the 1970s and twenty years later, our main character, Paloma, seeks to unravel her father’s involvement. But what she discovers puts her life in danger. If only she had heeded his warning to leave the past in the past.
Take My Hand by Dolan Perkins-Valdez
An unforgettable story inspired by true case of the Relf sisters and a common practice to reduce minority populations, Perkins-Valdez brings to light the reproductive injustices against young Black girls and women. Through our main character, Civil Townsend, grapples with the weight of executing her job responsibilities and what is ethical behavior. In Montgomery, Alabama, Civil Townsend is in the epicenter of civil rights and social mobility of Black communities. Following her father’s footsteps into healthcare by becoming a nurse, she is determined to make an impact on surrounding ill-served communities. However, Civil soon learns that she is part of the problem and not the solution but her unwavering commitment to health equity will lead her to places far beyond the city limits of Montgomery, Alabama.
Another Brooklyn by Deckle Edge
Another Brooklyn begins with August, a twelve-year-old Black girl adjusting to her new life in Brooklyn and follows her journey into womanhood. As August fosters friendships with Sylvia, Angela, and Gigi, being a young Black girl is exciting and scary at the same time. August has her friends to celebrate the achievements and endure the tragedies of her teenage years as they search for their purpose. But August soon discovers that even when you make friends, you can still feel lovely.
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin eloquently explores the dynamics between race, injustice, classism, family and love. Tish is a nineteen-year-old girl madly in love with Fonny. When the two discover they will be expecting a baby, nothing will stand in their way of creating a beautiful life together. However, their world is turned upside down when Fonny is wrongly accused of a crime and sentenced to jail.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
An intriguing novel spanning multiple decades and countries taking readers on a journey filled with vibrant characters. A Brief History of Seven Killings demonstrates Marlon James’ extraordinary storytelling skills as he explores poverty, politics, and culture.
A Girl Is A Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
A captivating coming of age novel bursting with tradition, folklore and family, Kirabo is a determined young girl willing to go to extreme lengths to discover who her mother is and her own voice in a world that is determined to silence women.
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