Books

Seven Novels That Explore the Power of Music


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There’s something about music that just brings people together. Whether it’s a parent lulling their baby to sleep, a couple of friends singing obnoxiously loud in the car, or a roaring crowd of strangers at a concert. Music transcends the boundaries of logic and language to speak to us on an emotional level.

It makes us cry and smile. It makes us want to curl up in bed or jump up and dance. It brings back memories of lost friends, long family road trips, Christmas at Grandma’s, and hot Texas summers. Music has a power that can’t quite be explained.

These seven novels explore that power and the immense effect music can have on our lives.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

This unique collaboration between two of the country’s biggest names in YA contemporary romance captured the nation’s heart and inspired the blockbuster film adaptation. Through alternating points of view — the authors sending chapters back and forth — this rock-n-roll romance follows two teen music geeks over a wild night of adventure.

It all started when Nick, a sensitive musician nursing a broken heart, kissed Norah, the privileged daughter of a recording exec who loves nothing more than music. Though the two have nothing in common except for their taste in music, they soon embark on an outrageous all-night musical adventure. Filled with humor, teen angst, loveable side characters and an abundance of musical references, this is a love story you won’t soon forget.

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Frank had an odd childhood. The only thing his not-so-nurturing, nontraditional mom ever taught him about was music. Now a single man outside of London, Frank owns a small music shop on a rundown street. He has given up on the possibility of love and seems content in his role as a music expert, matching customers and friends to songs he thinks they need to know. Until one day a beautiful young woman, Isle, shows up at his shop and asks him to teach her about music. The two grow closer over their weekly sessions and love begins to bloom, but their attachments to the past feed into their fears for the future, holding them both back.

The Music Shop is a quirky love story that will make you laugh and cry. You’re sure to fall in love with the odd characters, the painstaking journey, and Joyce’s message that music can bring anybody together. (Read BookTrib’s review here.)

The Music We Make by Michelle Rene DeBellis

The Music We Make by Michelle Rene DeBellis

One fateful night, Santiago’s world turns upside down after a tragic accident takes his mother’s life and leads him down a road of opioid addiction. But a silver lining appears in an opiate-clouded vision when he hears four notes ringing out. His mother has sent him a song from beyond the grave, one that will help him to power through his grief and feel more connected to her. As Santiago struggles with his grief and makes it his mission to complete the song, romantic and familial obstacles tumble into his path, leading to a moment where Santiago must decide the real value of his life.

Inspired by the story of DeBellis’s husband, The Music We Make is a melodic debut that touches on the emotional challenges of losing someone you love. It shows that there is hope when the world seems at its darkest, and music can be an anchor to pull you through. It reminds readers that life is beautiful, it is worth living, and there is always a chance for forgiveness. (Read BookTrib’s review here.)

Nocturnes  by Kazuo Ishiguro

Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

From one of the century’s most celebrated writers and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature comes five interconnected stories about the necessity of music. The stories follow a variety of characters who find music a central part of their lives. A once-popular singer desperate to make a comeback and willing to turn his back on the one thing he truly loves. A music junky whose value seems to lie only in his musical wisdom. A struggling singer-songwriter who inadvertently breaks up a marriage. A gifted jazz musician who thinks plastic surgery will help his career. A young cellist whose tutor intends to unearth his potential. Each holds a deep passion for music, and music will eventually lead them to a moment of reckoning.

The Piano Tuner by Chiang-Sheng Kuo

The Piano Tuner by Chiang-Sheng Kuo

This bestseller and winner of every major literary award in Taiwan is a poignant novel about love and loss, broken dreams and desolate hearts — and music. At the heart of the story is the nameless narrator, the piano tuner. In his forties, he is balding and ugly, a loser by any standard. But he was once a musical prodigy. What betrayal and what heartbreak made him walk away from greatness?

With a cadence and precision that bring to mind Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes, and Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country, this short novel may be a portrait of the artist as a “failure,” but it also describes a pursuit of the ultimate beauty in music and in love. (Read the BookTrib review here.)

An Equal Music by Vikram Seth

An Equal Music by Vikram Seth

A powerful and profound romantic story of two gifted musicians. Michael, a violinist, has long been haunted by memories of the woman he left years ago. Julia, a concert pianist and, now, a wife and mother, unexpectedly reenters his life. As their romance is rekindled against the backdrop of contemporary London, Venice and Vienna, the two unravel dark secrets and confront the truth of their love. Known across the globe for his poetic and poignant language, Seth paints a dazzling portrait of love amidst the international music scene. An Equal Music is an unforgettable tale of love lost and nearly regained, and an exploration of the music that can unite us — and divide us.

The Sound Between the Notes by Barbara Linn Probst

The Sound Between the Notes by Barbara Linn Probst

Susannah gave up her promising career in music in order to raise her son, James. The choice for her was all or nothing in those younger years; as an adoptee, she questioned why she was given away, haunted by rejection, and vowed to ensure her son felt her love with no distraction. Then an exceptional opportunity to play piano in front of a special audience arises, a desire she harbored before she became a mom. But her husband, Aaron, is not as supportive as Susannah would have hoped. Struggling to discover who she is without her music and haunted by the past, Susannah’s identity comes into question as she begins to ask herself: Who am I, and where do I belong? (Read BookTrib’s author interview here.)

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