Thursday night, Kansas City Public Library rocked the house with some honest conversation about the state of the music scene in Kansas City. After the panel discussion, which was recorded live for the Real Modern Show podcast, panelists repaired to the library’s rooftop for hors d’oeuvres and hot jams. The Blackbird Revue, a popular local band, set up on the library’s outdoor chessboard and played a set of tunes that provided a perfect soundtrack for these books.
Today, Saturday, April 16, is Record Store Day—if you already knew that, you’re going to be too busy shopping to read. If you’re a reluctant recruit in the hunt for vinyl, however, you might want to bring one of these books to hep you wait while your friends flip through every. Single. Elvis. Costello. Record. Ever.
And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You, by Kathi Kamen Goldmark
A backup singer on tour with one of country music’s hottest female stars is summarily fired when a novelty song she tossed off streaks up the charts and past the diva’s latest hit. Cue those awesome country song titles we all secretly adore like, “My Baby Used to Hold Me (Now He’s Putting Me on Hold).” Breezy, goofy fun.
Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
Audrey is the most hated teen on the pop charts. Her morose ex-boyfriend, Evan, has just penned a song about their break-up (none of it true) that has become a hit. For the most part, the instant fame is kinda cool, until it gets in the way of Audrey’s regular life and everyone wants to see a reconciliation between Audrey and Evan.
The Big Rewind, by Libby Cudmore
Death by mixtape. Jett’s move to New York is supposed to be the first step to becoming a music journalist, not not a proofreading temp. At least she likes her tragically hip neighbors, an assorted lot of artists, musicians, and writers. But aside from the obvious reasons, who’d want to kill the hipster queen bee, KitKat, and leave her pot brownies burning in the oven?
Black Dogs, by Jason Buhrmester
In 1973, Led Zeppelin lost over $200k in concert earnings from a safe deposit box in New York Drake Hotel. What could a bunch of musical losers from Baltimore possibly know about that? A rock ‘n’ roll caper novel about a crime that could have happened.
Blood Music, by Jessie Prichard Hunter
Can music soothe the savage beast? Not the “Symphony Slasher,” a New York serial killer preying on blonde women. Zelly is slowly coming to the conclusion that the killer might be her husband.
Bobby Rex’s Greatest Hit, by Marianne Gingher
Just because Bobby Rex scored a hit single in 1961 with “Pally Thompson,” it doesn’t mean that he and Pally had a torrid affair down by the creek that summer. Try telling that to Pally’s boyfriend and the townsfolk.
The Commitments, by Roddy Doyle
A hardscrabble lot of Irish working-class folk come together for the briefest of glorious careers as The Commitments, Dublin’s hardest working band. The songs of James Brown, Percy Sledge, and Sam Cooke resonate with the locals, all in need of a little “Dublin soul.”
Fat Kid Rules the World, by K. L. Going
The unlikeliest of bands forms when one homeless teen, a local legend on punk guitar, saves another from a subway suicide and recruits him to play drums. Troy, a 300-pound fish out of water, hasn’t touched an inedible drumstick since seventh grade; Curt, meanwhile, channels his drug and dysfunctional family problems into raucous heart-ripping guitar riffs.
Five Flavors of Dumb, by Antony John
High-school senior Piper is determined to get her school’s most popular rock band, Dumb, a paying gig since her parents have just raided her college fund. Tough enough that Piper is a girl fighting her way through a male-dominated business, but she’s deaf, too.
High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby
The modern classic serves up a Peter Pan–like record-store owner finding solace from heartbreak in an esoteric classification system for his vinyl and Mallomar wisdom dispensed by his clerks. The standard to which all other music novels are held.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Punk guitarist Nick and music aficionado Norah take turns telling the story of a five-minute relationship that stretches into a Manhattan-music-scene-fueled “Before Sunrise” type of all-night romance.
Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock ‘N’ Roll as Literature and Literature as Rock ‘N’ Roll, by Lester Bangs
Everyone has an opinion on music. Lester’s is just more incendiary than yours. In this legendary collection, Bangs casts a gimlet eye on the music scene and finds many icons wanting.
The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song from Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed, by Shea Serrano
Take a narrative and illustrated tour of rap music from its origins to present day—complete with infographics, lyric maps, short essays, and more. Explore artists’ backgrounds, the role of race, the rise of hip-hop, and the larger-than-life personalities from East Coast to West Coast.
This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, by Daniel J. Levitin
The author, a neuroscientist with a musical background, studies what music does to our minds. This is a lively, invigorating look at how science and art converge to create a wholly unique human experience.
Vexation Lullaby, by Justin Tussing
Rock ‘n’ roll can claim your life as it has Arthur Pennyman’s. He’s the number-one fan of aging rock star, Jimmy Cross, and hasn’t missed a tour stop yet. Dr. Peter Silver is living a decidedly “un-rock and roll life”—that is, until he’s summoned by Jimmy’s people and becomes the “first physician embedded in a rock tour.” Can the good doctor loosen up? Can Arthur settle down? And what’s Jimmy’s connection to both?
The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax, by Andrew Cartmel
You can hire a detective to find anything, not just missing persons. In his debut, the Vinyl Detective is hired to find a rare jazz LP from an obscure 1950s LA jazz label. The music is killer—and that may be the musically nosy hero’s swan song.
The Wishbones, by Tom Perrotta
A rock-star-turned-grown-up coming-of-age novel. Thirty-one-year-old Dave suffers a crisis of mortality and pops the question to his long-time girlfriend. But is he really ready to fade away in a suburban marriage instead of burning out with his going-nowhere band, The Wishbones?
Your Song Changed My Life, by Bob Boilen
Imagine hearing a few notes of music and setting a new course for your life. Our favorite musicians found inspiration in unusual, humorous, telling places. Broadway musicals, funk, punk, and folk have fueled the creativity of musical minds who turned that inspiration into new notes.