Music has an incredible power to bring people together. It also serves as the basis for some of our favorite novels. In these books, family, friends, and relationships are driven and defined by music. Through music we hear love and longing, and in these books we see music’s ability to tell a story all on its own.
Strike Up the Book! 5 Reads As Beautiful As Music to Our Ears
A powerful story about marriage and loss, EVERY NOTE PLAYED follows a concert pianist, Richard, who is ailing from ALS. Richard has lost the ability to play the piano. His failing marriage to Karina hasn’t improved, either – Karina has long since given up on them and blames Richard for their problems. But as Richard deteriorates, Karina becomes his unwilling caretaker. Though her music career is part of what came between them in the first place, the pair attempts to use music to heal their relationship before it’s too late.
“Unsparing in her depiction of the disease’s harrowing effects, neuroscientist Genova also celebrates humanity.” —People
“Sometimes it’s easier to tell truth in fiction…And she tells it with heart and hope.” —NPR
“Her juxtaposition of scientific detail with compassionate, heartfelt storytelling is unparalleled.” —Bookreporter
“Every Note Played will grip and gut you.” —The Boston Globe
From neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice comes a powerful exploration of regret, forgiveness, freedom, and what it means to be alive.
An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.
Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.
He knows his left arm will go next.
Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.
When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.
Poignant and powerful, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.
Fifteen-year-old Marie lives a nice, stable life in Brooklyn. But when she starts asking questions about her mother’s life prior to her birth, Marie must be prepared for the answers. Her mother, Laura was a songwriter who came to New York to pursue her music career in the East Village, where she was swept up in a romance with a troubled musician – Marie’s father. Marie, filled with questions and confusion, is still determined to help her mother achieve her dreams. The two of them embark on a journey of discovery and hope, while learning about each other’s biggest aspirations and fears in this thoughtful, tenderhearted novel.
“Perfect Tunes is an intoxicating blend of music, love, and family from one of the essential writers of the internet generation.” —STEPHANIE DANLER
“Perfect Tunes is a zippy and profound story of love, loss, heredity, and parenthood. I gulped it down, as will all mothers, New Yorkers, music fans, and lovers of quick-moving novels that are both funny and deep. I loved every page.” —EMMA STRAUB
“Perfect Tunes is mind-blowing….Full of unspeakable insights, or at least I thought they were unspeakable, but there they are. Now I want everyone I know to read this book and talk about it with me.” —ELIF BATUMAN
Have you ever wondered what your mother was like before she became your mother, and what she gave up in order to have you?
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.
Fifteen years later, Laura’s teenage daughter, Marie, is asking questions about her father, questions that Laura does not want to answer. Laura has built a stable life in Brooklyn that bears little resemblance to the one she envisioned when she left Ohio all those years ago, and she’s taken pains to close the door on what was and what might have been. But neither her best friend, now a famous musician who relies on Laura’s songwriting skills, nor her depressed and searching daughter will let her give up on her dreams.
Funny, wise, and tenderhearted, Perfect Tunes explores the fault lines in our most important relationships, and asks whether dreams deferred can ever be reclaimed. It is a delightful and poignant tale of music and motherhood, ambition and compromise—of life, in all its dissonance and harmony.
Lilliet Berne is the star of the Paris Opera. But she’s missing one thing; an original role, the thing that will make any soprano go down in history. When she finally does get the role of a lifetime, she realizes that it’s based on her real-life and the secret past that only a handful of people know. Lilliet sets out to unravel the mystery of who betrayed her, a story that follows Lilliet’s life as an orphan to the star of the Paris Opera, and all the cons she performed along the way that allowed her to transform into a French courtesan and a legend. THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT is a remarkable book that blends real history.
Lilliet Berne, legendary soprano at the Paris Opera, is offered a coveted original role, but realizes with horror that this new opera is based on the dark secrets of her own past. Who betrayed her? This thrilling historical drama is filled with so many things I love: mystery, political intrigue, opera, and treachery. —Sarah Jane
This collection of five short stories are each about music and the people who make it. Ranging from a jazz musician to a classical cellist to a pop singer, each musician is at a turning point in their career, and on a quest for love, inspiration, and their big break. Each of the five stories are vibrant and moving, and weaves together a symphony of stories that rises off the page.
In this inspired quintet, literary virtuoso Kazuo Ishiguro interlocks the stories of five individuals who find both solace and heartbreak in music. Haunting and reflective, it showcases the persistent influence of music, even as all else fades into twilight.
Told in interlocking narratives, A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD tells the story of Bernie Salazar, an aging record executive, and Sasha, a young woman who works for him. Though Bernie and Sasha never discuss their lives with each other, the two narratives travel through time and space, and deliver astounding character studies woven together by pain, loss, love, and music. Just as Bernie and Sasha’s stories create an arc that comes together seamlessly, the novel uses music as a connection to show that while time may pass, people never change.
Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals the pasts of two music industry veterans in this Pulitzer Prize–winning novel. With music pulsing on every page, this masterpiece is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.
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