by Kathy Kucsan, Ph.D.

My idea of summer beach reading is more like summer-in-the-shadows-of-the-gorgeous-Flatirons reading, which I’m very happy to do. Here’s a short list of some wonderful, musical books you might enjoy this summer (and maybe you’ll be visiting an actual beach!)

Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) First, Jan Swafford, the author, is coming to Boulder to speak about Beethoven! (July 31, 6:30 pm, The Academy Boulder). Of course you should read this book before you hear his talk. This “magnificent new biography of Ludwig van Beethoven peels away layers of legend to get to the living, breathing human being who composed some of the world’s most iconic music.”


Listen to This

A collection of connected essays by Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, illuminates the many things to listen for in music of all genres. Ross talks about Björk, Schubert, “Opera as Popular Art,” and something alarming to me, “The Crisis in Music Education.” (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2010).

The Prague Sonata

A novel by Bradford Morrow (Grove Press, 2017). Who knew that a piece of music could generate mystery and intrigue? A young musicologist comes across a movement of an original sonata, dating from the early 19th Century. Who wrote it? Where’s the rest of it? The protagonist, Meta Taverner, travels to the Czech Republic to try and uncover the answer. And of course, meets with said intrigue along the way…

The World in Six Songs

Authored by Daniel Levitin, who also wrote This is Your Brain on Music, this book presents an “audacious theory about how music has shaped humanity and cultures throughout history.” Levitin shows how the six songs (spoiler alert): Friendship, Joy, Comfort, Knowledge, Religion and Love – have evolved to shape our lives and understanding. (Dutton, 2008)

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

By the late Oliver Sacks, gives us an amazing look at the unusual: “amusia,” which is the inability to recognize pitch or musical sound; Music and Williams Syndrome, which causes people to be hypermusical; and my favorite, the guy who was stuck by lightning and suddenly became a pianist at age 42. Fascinating read. (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007)


Will we see you at the Center for Musical Arts this summer? If so, stop in and let’s chat about any (or all) of these books!