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4 Books about Music City until Nashville returns

in Fiction by

I have always been fascinated by musical TV shows. I’ve watched Glee with, well, glee. I was probably the only person on earth who was sad when Smash got canceled. But no melodious show has hooked me quite the way Nashville has.

Can you blame me? The music, the romance, the drama…did I mention the music? On Nashville it is unapologetically good. As in, downloading and playing on repeat for hours good. Just listen to this song and try not to love it:

 

Aside from the songwriting, there’s a never-ending roller coaster of drama to keep you hooked. The show follows a large cast, all at different stages of the country music industry. Legendary singer Rayna Jaymes (played by the always delightful Connie Britton) has a longtime love in guitarist Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten), though secrets, a complicated past, and Deacon’s sobriety keep them from fully getting it together. Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) is a tough young country star, her fame loosely based on singers like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep herself in the spotlight, including burning bridges left and right, trusting the wrong people, falling in and out of love, etc. But one of the most compelling love stories is between just-starting-out Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen), who discover they make excellent songwriting partners—and maybe more.

Nashville is now in season three, and the drama is so complicated it’s verging on soap opera territory—just the way I like it. The show returns on February 4, and I for one cannot wait to see what happens now that Rayna has ditched her Tim McGraw-style superstar fiancé, Luke Wheeler (Will Chase). But while we’re all waiting to see if Deacon finally, finally gets his shot, here are four Nashville-friendly books to keep you company:

Cash: The Autobiography by Johnny Cash

Who wouldn’t want to read a book about one of the coolest men who ever lived? Johnny Cash came up in Nashville with stars like Elvis and Bob Dylan, and he has stories about them all. This autobiography delves into his rise to fame, his faith, his family, and his legendary love, June Carter Cash. Since Nashville is all about how love creates beautiful music, it’s impossible not to see Carter and Cash as inspirations.

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Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

If you’re looking for a character somewhere in the middle of Juliette and Scarlett, then Bailey in Dirty Little Secret is for you. A little wild, a little wounded, Bailey used to play with her sister, Julie, before Julie was signed to a solo career and Bailey was ousted from their duo. Now Bailey is determined to leave the industry behind. That is, until she meets Sam, a talented guitarist looking for a fiddler in his band. Part of the charm of Nashville is watching young artists try to make it and getting an inside look at how the industry really works. Dirty Little Secret gives you an even broader sense of how fame, art, and love work together in a city like Nashville.

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Backstage at the Grand Ole Opry by Brenda Colladay and Dan Rogers

Released by the Opry itself, this collection of photographs and stories shed some light on what really goes down behind the scenes of Nashville’s world famous music venue. Featuring exclusive photographs, trivia, and never-before-shared anecdotes, Backstage gives you some great dish on the biggest stars in country music. Anyone who loves Nashville knows that the Opry is the place to be, which makes this book a must-read for any country music fan.

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A big part of Nashville is dealing with how fame changes you—whether you’re just starting out, in the height of your career, or struggling to stay relevant. On that note, try A Visit From the Goon Squad, Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The book is a collection of narratives, all dealing with the recording industry in some way—assistants, producers, rockers, etc. —and the music is just as much of a character. Since Nashville is all about the music (and the complicated industry!), then Goon Squad will not disappoint.

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Rachel Carter grew up surrounded by trees and snow and mountains. She graduated from the University of Vermont and Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction writing. She is the author of the So Close to You series with Harperteen. These days you can find her working on her next novel in the woods of Vermont.

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