Living in Nashville, it’s easy to feel like this is our city’s “moment.” We already knew we were cool, but it doesn’t hurt the ole ego to read all those New York Times articles about our food scene and local bookstore.
Oh yes, and there’s that 42-minute weekly commercial for our fine city. Yep, I’m talking about “Nashville.” I don’t usually watch a lot of prime-time soaps, but I’m already hooked on this story of a faded country star’s attempted relaunch of her career. The romantic subplots, feisty up-and-coming country star, stellar soundtrack and sweeping views of downtown Nashville don’t hurt either. (Y’all come visit. It really is that beautiful.)
Are you as hooked as I am? Is 42 minutes not enough of a weekly dose of Music City? There are plenty of contemporary books that delve into Nashville culture—and even the music industry. Here are a few favorites:
Want a fictional story of a rising country star—written by a woman who’s lived it?
Read Restless Heart by Wynonna Judd. The story may be a bit predictable, but the pages turn fast as main character Destiny Hart fights for stardom in Music City. If you watch “Nashville,” this might give you some insight into how a person like Juliette Barnes gets to the point where she’s headlining tours and playing at the Opry. Read an excerpt here.
Want to read the aspiring-country-star narrative from a teenage point of view?
You’ll love Somebody Everybody Listens To by Suzanne Supplee, a YA novel published in 2010. BookPage reviewer Kimberly Giarratano explains why readers will enjoy this book: “Retta is a hard-working soul who just needs a lucky break, and readers will root for her to rise above her humble circumstances. In addition, Supplee precedes each chapter with a brief biography of a country legend, such as Patsy Cline, Shania Twain and Dolly Parton. These entries highlight the difficult road to stardom and complement Retta’s own struggles and successes.”
Want a funny backstage look at the music biz?
Read And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You by Kathi Kamen Goldmark, the founder of the author rock band the Rock Bottom Remainders—and closer to our hearts, BookPage’s late author enabler. Goldmark passed away in May of this year, but her wisecracking debut about love and family and honky-tonk music is sure to delight readers for years. Our reviewer loved it when the novel came out in 2002.
Want a mystery set on Music Row?
Read Murder on Music Row (what else?!) by Stuart Dill. Besides being a good whodunit, the book provides a fascinating look at how the music industry actually operates. (The author should know. Dill has been in the business for 25+ years and manages high-profile acts like Billy Ray Cyrus and Jo Dee Messina.) We interviewd Dill when the book came out—read the conversation here.
Want a heartfelt tribute to Nashville from the people who’ve made it great?
Read They Came to Nashville by the inimitable Marshall Chapman. As reviewer Henry Carrigan wrote in his review, reading this book is like “sitting in on intimate conversations between old friends reminiscing about good times and bad in a city where the promise of a music career inspires musicians to persevere doggedly in pursuit of their dreams.” In the book, Chapman interviews 15 of her friends (people like Emmylou Harris) who came to Nashville and grew to love it.
Want to know the real story of Music Row?
Read How Nashville Became Music City, U.S.A. by veteran Nashville journalist Michael Kosser. Former country music editor of Billboard (and longtime BookPage contributor!) Edward Morris reviewed this book for us in 2006. Morris gave readers some context with a nice description of The Row: “Visitors new to Nashville are invariably surprised at how small, compact and unassuming the area known as Music Row is. Roughly three streets wide and eight blocks long, it still looks more like a residential neighborhood than a multibillion-dollar entertainment capital. Housed within this deceptive geography are major record companies, music publishers, talent managers, booking agencies, entertainment lawyers, recording studios, trade organizations and kindred enterprises.” It still looks like that today.
Don’t care anything about country music—but want to read a great story set in Nashville?
There are too many good books out there to provide a comprehensive listing, but here are a few of our (recent) favorites:
- Like thrillers? Read J.T. Ellison’s Taylor Jackson series.
- Like funny-cause-they’re-painfully-true-to-life family dramas? Read Bowling Avenue by Ann Shayne. (Find an excerpt here.)
- Like Civil Rights-era fiction and coming-of-age stories? Read The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore. (Read an interview with the author here.)
Do you have any Nashville books to add to our list?
Or, boost our ego a bit: Why do you think Nashville’s wonderful?