• Natasha Hart

Discover Our 7 Favourite Musical Fiction Books

Music is great.

Everybody loves music.

Be it classical, pop, or heavy metal, music brings us together. It bonds us, and everyone can relate to a good song.

So many authors use music within their stories to bring to life their characters, to set the scene or mood, or to add depth to the world they’ve created. Ultimately, author’s use music in their narratives to draw you, the reader, into the world where their story is taking place, to make it more tangible.

It’s like if someone mentioned swing music to you, automatically you’ll be transported to 1920s America. If someone mentioned violin folk music though, your mind would travel to Ireland instead perhaps.

Music adds that 3rd dimension to a story. One that is both real within the story and in your own life, too. Like what Victor Hugo said, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”. Music is a powerful element in any writer’s toolbox.

So, if you’ve ever wondered if there are any good fiction books out there that use music to add that extra something-something to their stories, here’s a list of 7 great books that do just that.

1. A Visit from The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

This book is like no other on this list. It has an unusual narrative structure with 13 different inter-connecting stories told by 13 separate narrators. They are all however, linked together by Bennie Salazar, a record company executive. We follow these 13 characters from the 1970s to present day, watching the highs and lows of their lives and the choices they make. Music plays a pivotal part in the characters’ lives, with various real-life artists being mentioned. Music is used to add an authenticity to the plot, and ultimately add a gravity that cannot be reached by words alone. A Visit from the Goon Squad is the perfect read if you’re feeling a little ‘lost’ at the moment.

2. Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro

Nocturnes is a beautiful short-story collection focusing on music and musicians and their connection to the closing of the day. There are 5 stories in the collection in total, each focusing on the main idea of unfulfilled potential. Set in various countries as well, these stories will ignite your love of different cultures as well as music.

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is the classic story that everyone knows and loves. Follow millionaire Jay Gatsby as he becomes obsessed with winning back the hand of Daisy Buchanan, his now married former lover, amidst the glamour of the roaring 1920s American landscape. Music is everywhere in this novel, from luxurious parties thrown by Gatsby, to the street music of New York City. 1920s America is known for its jazz music, and no novel set during this time would be complete without reference to it.

4. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas is a compilation of 6 nested stories from several different time periods throughout history, including the future, that when viewed together, depict the life of one turbulent soul. The title itself, Cloud Atlas, is the title of a piece of music by Japanese composer Toshi Ichiyanagi. Music is pivotal to several of the stories, especially the story of Robert Frobisher where he writes his Cloud Atlas Sextet. Cloud Atlas uses music to link its plots together; art transgresses time.

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

As the title suggests, this whole plot of this book is framed by music. It’s the story of Nick, a guy in a rock band, and Norah, the daughter of a music producer. The narrative is one very long date over one very long night – one that’s full of joy, anxiety, and excitement. There’re loads of music references in this story thanks to the protagonists, so if you’re into your alternative bands, this would be a great book for you.

6. The Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor

This story is on another planet compared to others on this list, but it’s still about music, and so it has earned its place on this list. If you love science fiction, not-based-in-reality books, then you’ll love this. It’s a story about a bear that plays the saxophone, and his involvement in the jazz world as he searches for the answers to love, truth, and perfection.

7. Swing Time by Zadie Smith

This coming-of-age tale begins in 1980s London, were two mixed-race, black and white girls meet in a tap class. They are drawn together as they have the same skin colour, and they soon become best-friends. This tale follows them into adulthood, through addiction and fame. As the title suggests, the story revolves around swing music.

Music at The Book Nook

We hope you enjoyed our list of musical fiction books. We love music at The Book Nook, and if you didn’t know, we stock classic vinyl too for you to browse through and enjoy. We love to spend our Sunday afternoons reading and listening to our collection; it’s the perfect weekend activity. We have various albums to choose from and can order in any that you like. So, pop into The Book Nook soon to see what musical magic we have in-store for you.

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