Tuneful Reads for the Music Lover

Article by keaton

If you’ve ever overheard Mark and me talking in the store, chances are good that we were discussing music as well as books. For many of us here at Brazos, music is just as important as the printed word. So, recently, when I reviewed Richard Powers’ brilliant new novel ORFEO--the story of an avant-garde composer who finds himself wanted by Homeland Security--I started thinking about other great novels involving musicians and music. As it turns out, there’s a plethora of stellar music-related fiction out there.

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Orfeo Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393240825
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - January 20th, 2014

If, upon finishing ORFEO, you find yourself looking for another mind-bending novel set in the heady world of classical music, try Thomas Mann’s re-imagining of the Faust legend, DOCTOR FAUSTUS. Mann replaces the eponymous scholar who sold his soul to the devil for knowledge with a brilliant composer lusting after Nietzschean greatness. Mann’s final novel is a powerful allegory for the turmoil permeating early twentieth-century Germany that presages the rise of the Third Reich.

Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkuhn as Told by a Friend (Vintage International) Cover Image
By Thomas Mann, John E. Woods (Translator)
ISBN: 9780375701160
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - July 27th, 1999

If you prefer more contemporary music, pick up Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD. Featuring an ensemble cast of characters who came of age during rock’s golden era and whose lives take unforeseen turns as they grow older and more disillusioned, GOON SQUAD is a fascinating meditation on the urge toward self-destruction that seems common among denizens of the music business.

A Visit from the Goon Squad Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307477477
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor Books - March 22nd, 2011

It turns out that growing older with the music you love is a popular motif in novels about music. In THE GUTS--Roddy Doyle’s hilarious follow-up to THE COMMITMENTS, his classic ode to Dublin and soul music--Doyle’s irrepressible music-loving hustler protagonist, Jimmy Rabbitte, returns. Now middle-aged and recently diagnosed with cancer, Jimmy is staring mortality in the face, but his family, friends, and of course a few good tunes give him all the support he needs.

The Guts Cover Image
ISBN: 9780670016433
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Viking Books - January 23rd, 2014

If you’re more of a funk aficionado, look no further than Michael Chabon’s latest, TELEGRAPH AVENUE. Set in a independent record store nestled between Berkeley and Oakland, this novel follows two long-time bandmates/business partners who struggle to survive as gentrification besets their beloved neighborhood. Written with Chabon’s trademark wit, this novel is a humorous yet emotionally poignant read filled with enough trivia to make any music nerd’s head explode.

Telegraph Avenue: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061493355
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - September 10th, 2013

DON’T START ME TALKIN’ the first full-length novel by Tom Williams, is a comedic road-romp following the tour of Brother Ben--the Last True Delta Bluesman--and his accompanist Silent Sam. Filled to the brim with obscure Blues knowledge and with a cover design modeled after an old record, Don’t Start Me Talkin’ screams authenticity. But it’s that troublesome word, authenticity, that lies at the heart of this novel. Ben and Sam are actually Wilton and Peter, extremely talented bluesmen who nonetheless feel confined by the schtick they must put on for the benefit of their mostly white audience. This novel is a love letter to the blues, but also an incisive exploration of how African-American music and culture are exploited and co-opted.

Don't Start Me Talkin' Cover Image
ISBN: 9780988480445
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Curbside Splendor Publishing - February 11th, 2014

Musically inclined teens have got to read Len Vlahos’ new YA novel, THE SCAR BOYS (9781606844397), which is written in the form of a college application essay. The novel recounts the coming-of-age of a disfigured young man and his exploits as a guitarist for a punk band. This one is a very cool read that captures the importance of self-confidence and the furious ideals of punk. It’s sure to be a hit with any teen who wants to rock. Seriously, show us a teen who doesn’t!

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