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5 Great Novels About Art and Artists

A lot of us writers love writing about art and artists. 90% of the things I’ve written deal with artists or musicians or music lovers in some way. There was my play, Painted, about a painter. My play, The Spins, is about an alcoholic musician. I have a young adult time travel book where a Whitney Houston song literally sends a girl back to 1987.

So it should come as no surprise that there’s no shortage of fiction about art, artists, creativity, and inspiration. Here’s a list of five of my favorites:

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

A lot of you are probably thinking “but I’ve already seen that movie.” The film is (I think) a good adaptation of the novel as it captures the essence of it really well. But I still think the novel is great, especially for us music junkies.

What’s the book about?

Rob is a pop music junkie who runs his own semi-failing record store. His girlfriend, Laura, has just left him for the guy upstairs, and Rob is both miserable and relieved. After all, could he have spent his life with someone who has a bad record collection? Rob seeks refuge in the company of the offbeat clerks at his store, who endlessly review their top five films; top five Elvis Costello songs; top five episodes of Cheers. 

Rob tries dating a singer, but maybe it’s just that he’s always wanted to sleep with someone who has a record contract. Then he sees Laura again. And Rob begins to think that life with kids, marriage, barbecues, and soft rock CDs might not be so bad. 

High Fidelity on Amazon
High Fidelity on Barnes and Noble

Trilby by George Du Maurier

In college, I took an entire literature class that featured books about artists. This was one of my favorites from that class. The character, Svengali, is actually kind of an inspiration for Vincent and the idea of the Muses in my trilogy, The Muse Chronicles. 

What’s the book about?

First published in 1894, the story of the diva Trilby O’Ferrall and her mesmeric mentor, Svengali, has entered the mythology of the time alongside Dracula and Sherlock Holmes.

Immensely popular for a number of years, the novel led to a hit play, a series of popular films, and the trilby hat. The setting of the story reflects the author’s bohemian years as an art student in Paris; indeed James McNeill Whistler was to recognize himself in one of the early serialized installments. George Du Maurier was a celebrated caricaturist for Punch magazine and his drawings for the novel form part of its appeal – this edition includes his most significant illustrations.

Trilby on Amazon
Trilby on Barnes and Noble

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

This is one of my favorite young adult books, and I think it really captures how much music can mean to someone, especially growing up. I think it’s a great read for people of all ages, though, because I think the idea of music saving someone’s life is something many of us music lovers have experienced at many ages.

What’s it about?

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing. 

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, Leila Sales’ THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together.

This Song Will Save Your Life on Amazon
This Song Will Save Your Life on Barnes and Noble

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

This book is about a lot more than just artists–it’s often described as Orange is the New Black Swan–but ballet is a huge part of the story, and I like Suma really got what a lot of ballerinas are like. There’s also kind of an obsession over being a good ballerina in this book and the relationship between two of the characters reminds me a little of Salieri and Mozart in Amadeus. 

What’s it about?

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices–one still living and one dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old ballerina days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.

The Walls Around Us on Amazon
The Walls Around Us on Barnes and Noble

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This book is a classic that everyone should read, even if you don’t consider yourself to be creative. (Although if you don’t consider yourself to be creative, why are you on a blog about unleashing your creativity? Maybe you just need to actually unleash your creativity!) I think I am due for a re-read of this book as the last time I read it was at least ten years ago, but it’s one of my favorites.

What’s it about?

In this celebrated work, his only novel, Wilde forged a devastating portrait of the effects of evil and debauchery on a young aesthete in late-19th-century England. Combining elements of the Gothic horror novel and decadent French fiction, the book centers on a striking premise: As Dorian Gray sinks into a life of crime and gross sensuality, his body retains perfect youth and vigor while his recently painted portrait grows day by day into a hideous record of evil, which he must keep hidden from the world. For over a century, this mesmerizing tale of horror and suspense has enjoyed wide popularity. It ranks as one of Wilde’s most important creations and among the classic achievements of its kind.

The Picture of Dorian Gray on Amazon
The Picture of Dorian Gray on Barnes and Noble


So there you have it. Five novels about art and artists that are awesome. And while you’re reading about art and artists, check out my first two books in The Muse Chronicles: We Own the Sky and Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.

Here’s the description for We Own the Sky:

16-year-old musician, Sylvia Baker, has always been different. She’s the only one who can see the “flickering people.” When she sees a gorgeous flickering man named Vincent, she learns that they are Muses.

With his help, she finds herself creating exquisite songs that she loves almost as much as songs by her favorite bands–Radiohead, M83, and The Black Keys–and she is falling in love in a way she never knew was possible. While trying to maintain her newfound friendships and her band, she falls deeper into the world of the Muses.

When the original Greek Muses wake to find a world in which the internet has given everyone the tools to be an artist, a battle between traditional and new methods of creation ensues. As Sylvia discovers how she is connected to the world of the Muses, she learns that this war may put her music, her love, her very life at stake.