Hilli Levin

Whether you’re shopping for a burgeoning Bach or someone who can’t carry a tune in a bucket, these books will play on any music lover’s heartstrings.

What do you get for the music obsessive on your list in the age of streaming? Skip the Spotify gift subscriptions and try one of these lovingly curated coffee table books instead. Whether you’re buying for a Woodstock fan who wants to relive the good ol’ days or for someone who’s always hoping to discover their next favorite artist, these are sure to please the person at your holiday gathering who always asks, “Hey, do you mind if I change the music?”

She Can Really Lay It Down by Rachel Frankel
“The present—if long overdue—push toward a more progressive, feminist reading of our cultural history requires disabusing ourselves of known canons, and some pretty deeply entrenched ideas about the history of popular music,” writes Amanda Petrusich in the foreword to the celebratory book She Can Really Lay It Down: 50 Rebels, Rockers, and Musical Revolutionaries. Author Rachel Frankel gamely sets out to help us reconsider the history of popular music with short but thorough essays on big names like Beyoncé, Selena and Dolly Parton. However, the most exciting pages in Frankel’s book shine a light on figures like guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe, folk musician Violeta Parra, South African singer-songwriter Miriam Makeba and other women who have been overlooked for too long. This incisive compilation delivers more than just surface-level girl power, and it would make an excellent gift for anyone with a deep interest in music, creativity and popular culture. I’d especially recommend putting this in the hands of a teenage girl.

Supreme Glamour by Mary Wilson
From the vantage point of 2019, it’s easy to wax poetic about the essential give-and-take between fashion and music, but that relationship certainly wasn’t a given when the Supremes began performing together and crafting their iconic looks in 1961. Mary Wilson, a founding member and anchor of the legendary musical group, takes us through the group’s sartorial evolution with Supreme Glamour, a collection of more than 400 photographs of their most influential sequined, bedazzled and brightly colored outfits. Wilson’s personal musings about the group’s journey perfectly accompany the glossy full-page spreads of dazzling gowns embellished with crystals and pearls, sequined show-stoppers seen on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and marabou-trimmed couture made for their Broadway performances. Fashion lovers will especially appreciate the attention to detail, with notes that include the material, embellishments and notable appearances of the outfits along with other interesting historical tidbits.

Country Music: An Illustrated History by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns
As PBS devotees know, a new Ken Burns documentary is cause for celebration, and “Country Music” is already being hailed as one of his best. Although a big ol’ coffee table book that ties in with a television series can be a tough sell, Country Music: An Illustrated History is definitely a worthy companion piece. Country music afficionados are often left a little high and dry, as music journalists tend to reserve their ink for rock ’n’ roll heroes. But authors Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns dive deep into the roots and rise of this genre: the African American banjo players and Scottish American fiddlers who laid the foundations of the genre, the gospel-infused songs from groups like the Carter Family that helped radio stations get on board, the surprising rise of Hank Williams, the storied Nashville Sound of the 1960s, the outlaw swagger of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, the rise of modern pop-country and everything in between. This tome packs in hundreds of rare photographs, excellent historical asides and interviews with influential figures like singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris. I’d wager that this will be one of the more popular gifts for music lovers this year.

Woodstock Live: 50 Years by Julien Bitoun
It’s the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, and, like it or not, this music festival on a dairy farm in upstate New York remains one of the most influential cultural events in modern history. Long before “festival fashion” was even a part of the zeitgeist, more than 500,000 Woodstock attendees jammed out in harmony with each other, in the rain and mud, while watching performances that have reached near-mythological status. Guitarist and author Julien Bitoun revisits the weekend with Woodstock Live: 50 Years, an attractive giftbook that includes a short and reverential summary of each performance, along with every performer’s setlist, their accompanying musicians, the amount of time they spent on stage and striking photographs from each gig. Bitoun begins with Richie Havens’ improvised opening set at 5:07 on Friday and ends with Jimi Hendrix’s guitar-burning closer on Monday morning, then wraps it all up in an extensive epilogue that runs through notable absentees, the most iconic guitars played at the festival and how the weekend is remembered today. This will make a great gift for anyone hoping to relive the experience, or those who dream about traveling back in time to attend.

What do you get the music obsessive on your list in the age of streaming? Skip the Spotify gift subscriptions and try one of these lovingly curated coffee table books instead.

Julie Berry explores passion and destruction in her latest historical YA novel, Lovely War

I love a World War II novel, but it’s so refreshing to see a World War I story. And for American readers, this is far off our radars. What made you choose this time period?
My grandmothers were teenage girls during WWI, so they would have been contemporaries of Hazel and the main characters in the story. I found myself thinking, now why did WWI start again? And it’s murkier, it’s more confusing. We talked about it last in high school history, and we haven’t talked about it since. I’m really drawn to stories that are less known and moments in history that we might overlook.

How did you decide to weave in the mythology and have Greek gods narrate?
I kept wrestling with the questions of a vantage point. How can you write about something as enormous as this war and encapsulate something of its enormity while still having an intimate relationship with one or two or three mere mortals?

When you focus in on one girl, you gain intimacy into her heart and mind, but you forfeit anything she can’t see or experience. I just really wrestled with who was in a position to show how big this war actually was. I knew I wanted to tell a love story and a war story. And I thought, what if there was a way for love and war personified to tell this story? I realized, we already have love and war personified . . . and they’re lovers! My feeling is there is no Hazel or James without Aphrodite and Ares. We can’t know them unless we see them through those divine eyes—there’s no other way. My belief is that they are absolutely the creations of their divine creators. This wasn’t a stunt, so to speak. I couldn’t find Hazel until Aphrodite revealed her to me.

I’m sure that changed the whole game!
It was a hard book to write. I was determined that I wasn’t going to create events that didn’t really happen in the war. So to construct a story and attach it to real historical events wasn’t simple, but I absolutely felt that these gods carried it in their capable hands. They were in control, and that sounds hokey, but it’s kind of true! [Laughs]

Your novels often explore how violence can upend communities and young lives in particular. With this book, did you find any fresh angles that you hadn’t previously explored?
It’s funny you say that. Why do I keep writing stories where war and conflict keep happening? I’ve never lived in a war—I’m not sure why I keep going there! Maybe it’s partly because I grew up hearing about my mom’s and dad’s experiences living through the wars. I think that there is something about a war that strips away everything you thought you knew about who you were and what was important. There’s this dramatic recalibration of priorities, both for the individual and for a community and society. I guess artistically that moment of truth really interests me, where the complacencies of life are no longer possible.

The romance in Lovely War feels so universal—everyone remembers their first love. That’s a powerful topic to write about.
From your lips to god’s ears—any god! [Laughs] I wanted to write a young adult novel, but the war aged everyone who was involved in it. I just found that no matter how old you were, when your life was touched by this war, you grew up overnight. So I wondered about how that would translate into a YA novel—this sort of sobering, aging aspect of the hardships and the horrors of the war. And ultimately, I just had to say, well, it is what it is. A lot of teens have to grow up overnight.

This book is so powerful. I’m curious what you hope readers will take away from it.
My hope is that I can offer characters and a story so compelling that readers will really open their hearts to them and feel those experiences in a new way. I think if we can see ourselves in the past and realize that, just like us, our forebears were doing the best they could with a really hard time, it creates a kind of empathy and a kind of healing.


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a review of Lovely War.

Julie Berry explores passion and destruction in her latest historical YA novel, Lovely War

Award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson talks about the difficult and healing process of writing her new memoir, SHOUT, her hope for the future of YA literature, her advice for today’s teens and more.

How did you decide to write this memoir in verse? Did it allow you more freedom to explore certain memories or emotions than prose?
I conceived SHOUT on a trip to New York City in late 2017. The #MeToo movement (started by Tarana Burke in 2006) was gaining visibility and generating both support and push-back. The criticism of the survivors coming forward infuriated me. Lines of poetry boiled up from somewhere very deep inside and I scribbled them down. That was when I knew that a) I had to write this book and b) I wanted it to be in verse.

Writing in verse allows for a more visceral experience, which made it the perfect form for my raw and intense subject matter.

How did you decompress and practice self-care while writing this memoir, which delves into some very difficult subjects?
I took a lot of very long walks, usually listening to an audiobook. (Being able to borrow audiobooks from my library with the Libby app has changed my life!) I also gave myself permission to grieve. Writing SHOUT brought up old pain, but it also gave me perspective on why I made some bad choices when I was a kid. Reexamining those years left me awash in gratitude for all the people who tried to love me when I was so broken.

Was there any part of this writing process that surprised you?
The poem “calving iceberg” gutted me. It tells of moving into my university dorm room after living at home and attending community college. Writing it dredged up oceans of painful feelings—I never moved home after this move, and we all knew that was the plan—of loss and sadness. I had packed those feeling away so securely that unleashing them came as a shock.

The other unexpected thing was that writing this book has allowed me to enjoy the music of my teens and 20’s. I’ve always been able to listen to a song or two (hello, Fleetwood Mac and Boston), but listening to entire albums or playlists were uncomfortable. Now I understand why; too much of the music carried unresolved sorrow. Working on SHOUT helped transmute the sorrow into compassion and gave me back lots of great music.

What advice do you have for young adults who might be struggling right now with the current social and political climate?
Thank you for caring! Your commitment to each other and to a healthier culture, with equal justice, opportunities and respect for all gives me life. Revolutions are always bloody and usually led by the young, but you have the most at stake. Stay true to your cause, build your communities of kindred spirits, and take care of each other, please. Together, we will make the world better for everyone.

You’ve made a name for yourself by challenging the kinds of stories that we open up for young adults. What are your thoughts on the genre today, which is now one of the biggest segments of publishing?
It’s fabulous to see more writers of color and LGBTQIA writers being published, though we have far to go in the publishing industry in terms of representation. The boundary between YA and adult literature has become porous, which benefits all readers. I believe YA thrives because it examines the critical development point where so many of us stumble: adolescence. Once you can make peace with the events of your teens, you usually become a happier person. I suspect YA lit will be a dominant segment of publishing for quite a while.

Your debut novel, Speak, just had its 20th anniversary. Do you think we're finally at a cultural tipping point in terms of how we talk about sexual assault and consent?
We’re at the tipping point in terms of beginning to have these conversations. Beginning. I’m still hearing from high school teachers who want to teach Speak, but have to deal with parents who refuse to let their kids read a book about sexual violence. I talk to female survivors of rape who—when they disclosed their assault to family and friends—were greeted with “What were you wearing?” and “Did you lead him on?”

But we have start somewhere, right? I’m grateful for the progress we’ve made and am impatient for much, much more.

What are some of your other favorite memoirs that young adult readers would enjoy?
There are so many great ones!

Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories, Sarah Lerner, ed.

Spinning by Tillie Walden

The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman’s Journey to Love and Islam by G. Willow Wilson

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings

Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White by Lila Quintero Weaver

Educated by Tara Westover

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti

Hey Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt With Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes (coming 10/8/19)

What project are you working on next?
I’ve just finished up a graphic novel about Wonder Woman for DC Comics that will be published in 2020. I’m juggling a couple of secret projects right now, but I can’t talk about them until they’re further developed. Stay tuned!


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of SHOUT.

Author photo by Randy Fontanilla.

Award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson talks about the difficult and healing process of writing her new memoir, SHOUT, her hope for the future of YA literature, her advice for today’s teens and more.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s groundbreaking 1999 novel, Speak, drastically changed the ways in which authors wrote about teenage characters, helping to usher in the modern young adult genre as we know it today. After Anderson’s story of a high school student reckoning with the rage and pain of her rape became a bestseller, the dark and painful parts of adolescent life were up for exploring, and the coming-of-age experience was worth writing about.

Now, Anderson is breaking ground again with a memoir-in-verse that challenges categorization and the ways we’ve thought about the YA genre for the past 20 years.

Anderson, now 57, begins with short glimpses into her tumultuous early childhood in upstate New York, and we quickly learn about her veteran father’s PTSD and ensuing domestic violence, which informed her 2014 novel, The Impossible Knife of Memory. But the ferociously raw, burning heart of this memoir is the recounting of her rape at the age of 13. In searing free verse, Anderson unloads decades of trauma on these pages. Although younger teens will benefit from being able to unpack and discuss many passages with an emotionally available adult, there’s good reason to believe that SHOUT will become popular assigned reading in classrooms around the country—especially in light of our atrocious cultural problem with rape, sexual abuse and consent.

Longtime Anderson fans will appreciate this deeply personal look into how the author channeled her pain into the writing of Speak, and readers new to her work will be swept up in her singular style, which melds bold honesty with fluttering moments of lyrical beauty. 

Longtime Laurie Hale Anderson fans will appreciate this deeply personal look into how the author channeled her pain into the writing of Speak, and readers new to her work will be swept up in her singular style, which melds bold honesty with fluttering moments of lyrical beauty. 

We all should be so lucky to find love—in family and friends as well as in romantic partners. These six new books fit into anyone’s life, regardless of relationship status. 

How to be Loved: A Memoir of Lifesaving Friendship
By Eva Hagberg Fisher

Eva Hagberg Fisher built a career writing about architecture in her 20s, but her raw and honest debut memoir, How to be Loved, is quite a departure from chronicling design and the hottest goings-on in New York real estate. Fisher doesn’t sugarcoat her journey from a confused social climber who was struggling with addiction to a person who discovers, for the first time in her young life, true friendship with Allison, an older woman in her recovery group. Fisher confesses to being selfish and withholding for most of her early adult life, seeing her relationships with men and women as means to an end, whether that end be social status, housing when she was jobless or artistic fulfillment. But when Fisher was diagnosed with a brain tumor, it was Allison, steadily coping with her own cancer diagnosis, who gently but persistently loved and cared for her. Allison showed Fisher a way to engage with another person to an extent she didn’t know was possible, which in turn helped prepare her for her relationship with her current husband. Grab a box of tissues for this one and have your best friend on speed dial. You’ll definitely want to call them after you turn the last page. 

Hard to Love: Essays and Confessions
By Briallen Hopper

As Fisher’s memoir proves, romantic partnerships aren’t the only life-altering relationships built on love. And in Briallen Hopper’s first collection of essays, Hard to Love, she takes a deep dive into many essential but far less glamorized types of relationships: found families, platonic friendships, emotional connections with inanimate objects, fandom (you’ll never look at the classic Ted Dansen-helmed sitcom “Cheers” or its theme song the same way ever again) and the hard-won beauty of learning to love yourself. And yes, Hopper even spares some ink to cover marriage and romance, but as a whole, this is a refreshing collection that probes the expanse of the human heart.

Love Understood: The Science of Who, How and Why We Love
By Laura Mucha

If you have a dogeared copy of Aziz Ansari’s 2015 bestseller, Modern Love, then British poet and artist Laura Mucha’s Love Understood, a well-researched and deeply human study of the intricacies and science of love, is right up your alley. After observing her grandparents’ strong, decades-long relationship, Mucha decided to spend some time trying to figure out how love works. She interviewed strangers from all over the world in order to better understand love’s common themes, and she presents their stories alongside related scientific studies. You’ll find sections on dating, love at first sight, monogamy, cheating and how people heal from lost love. 

How to Date Men When You Hate Men
By Blythe Roberson

Do you struggle to connect with men in the midst of our inescapably patriarchal society? Well, Blythe Roberson, New Yorker contributor and researcher for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” definitely has her fair share of complaints. In her hilarious and relatable How to Date Men When You Hate Men, the 27-year-old chronicles her many false starts (like many Millennials, she’s never had a boyfriend in the traditional sense), rants about rape culture, parses her “type,” offers her own thoughts on the complicated dance of defining the relationship, champions the pleasures of being single and more. It’s a very funny read from someone who has many thoughts on love but never claims to be an expert.

Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
By John Gottman & Julie Schwartz Gottman

John and Julie Gottman know that a strong and healthy relationship is built on the small, everyday gestures and moments of intentional connection. So they’re burning a candle for one of the most overlooked aspects of modern relationships: date night. “Make dedicated, non-negotiable time for each other a priority, and never stop being curious about your partner,” they write in the introduction to Eight Dates. If you’re really looking to see some results, then this is the book for you—the Gottmans’ ideas are based on hard data and proven studies. Although the dates all focus on different topics of conversation, they apply to any relationship, young or old.

You Always Change the Love of Your Life (for Another Love or Another Life)
By Amalia Andrade

If you’ve ever gone through a breakup, you probably know that you’ll get the same pat advice over and over again. Looking for a new, more hands-on approach to processing your feelings and dealing with heartbreak? Chilean-born author and illustrator Amalia Andrade’s You Always Change the Love of Your Life blends charming, down-to-earth advice with cheeky cartoons, illustrations, journal prompts, soul-warming recipes, playlists and more.


This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

We all should be so lucky to find love—in family and friends as well as in romantic partners. These six new books fit into anyone’s life, regardless of relationship status.  How to be Loved: A Memoir of Lifesaving Friendship By Eva Hagberg Fisher Eva Hagberg Fisher built a career writing about architecture in her 20s, […]

From award-winning authors and illustrators to up-and-coming stars of the kidlit world, there are plenty of stellar picture books and middle grade novels to look forward to in 2019. From reluctant readers to voracious bookworms, there’s something for every young reader in your life.


Another by Christian Robinson 
March 5 | Atheneum

In this playful wordless picture book from Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honor-winner Robinson, readers follow a young girl and her cat as they journey through a portal to an upside-down dimension. 

Tomorrow Most Likely by Dave Eggers and Lane Smith
April 2 | Chronicle

Bedtime books are always one of my personal favorites, so I can't wait to read what this dream team has cooked up. Instead of focusing on getting to sleep, a young boy imagines all of the fun and adventures that the next day could bring.

A Piglet Named Mercy by Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen 
April 2 | Candlewick

In this prequel to the popular Mercy Watson series, the life of a sweet couple is shaken up when a charming little piglet named Mercy shows up on their doorstep in this new picture book from Newbery Medal-winning author DiCamillo. 

High Five by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri
April 16 | Dial

If you know a child who adored the bestseller Dragons Love Tacos, then you’ll want to pick up a copy of the newest picture book from this hilarious duo. Just expect to be giving out a lot of high fives after reading this one aloud.

This Book of Mine by Sarah Stewart and David Small
August 27 | FSG

The Caldecott Honor-winning author and illustrator of The Gardener return with this “celebration of the power of reading, of the ways in which books launch our adventures, give us comfort, challenge our imaginations and offer us connection.”


Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt 
February 5 | Clarion

With interest in Mary Poppins renewed thanks to the 2018 film, the Newbery-winning author’s latest book about a fumbling American boy whose grandfather sends his family a plucky English butler is sure to be a favorite.

Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu
February 12 | Katherine Tegen

After a family experiences a tragedy, they pack up and move to a little utopia known as Eventown. Everything seems perfect until 11-year-old Elodee starts uncovering some dark secrets that might threaten the townspeople's lives as they know it.

The Moon Within by Aida Salazar 
February 26 | Arthur A. Levine

This gorgeous novel-in-verse follows Celi Rivera as she attempts to make sense of her Xicana / Puerto Rican heritage, her changing body, her place in the world, her friends, her family and her hopes for the future.  

The Size of the Truth by Andrew Smith
March 26 | Simon & Schuster

The bestselling author of Winger’s first foray into middle grade is a quirky (what else?) story about a young boy battling PTSD who befriends a talking armadillo named Bartleby and ventures underground to hang out with him. Hilarity is sure to ensue. 

The Line Tender by Kate Allen 
April 16 | Dutton
This talked-about debut that has grabbed the attention of some bestselling authors follows 12-year-old Lucy Everhart as she attempts to sort through her grief after the loss of her marine biologist mother. During one summer in Maine, Lucy learns about sharks and reconnects with her mother as she attempts to sort through her unfinished research on Great Whites. Each chapter begins with a detailed sketch of a different shark species, meaning young readers are sure to get swept up in this immersive novel.

From award-winning authors and illustrators to up-and-coming stars of the kidlit world, there's plenty of stellar picture books and middle grade novels to look forward to in 2019. From reluctant readers to voracious bookworms, there's something for every young reader in your life.

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Trending Features

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!