Did you know that National Book Lover’s Day is August 9th? We love to celebrate it every year!

This is the music therapist’s version of a TBR (“to be read”, for those of you that aren’t as bookish as us) in honor of this special day!

Here are five books we think every music therapist should read!


1. This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J Levitin

This one is for everyone who loves science and also music, or anyone interested in neurological processes of the brain and how music affects them. This book is chock-full of scientific research written by an author with a background in both science and art. While thorough and heavily laden with terminology such as “neurotransmitters” and  “mirror neurons,” This is Your Brain on Music is written in a way that it is still approachable for anyone, regardless of science or music experience. This book is important for music therapists to check out, especially those interested in Neurologic Music Therapy or anyone that ever works in rehabilitation with stroke or Parkinson’s patients. That’s because it describes the way music is processed in different parts of the brain, and how music can help stimulate still-healthy lobes of the brain to perform certain tasks. Fascinating information, and a great start before diving into more recent research on this subject!


2. Ido in Autismland by Ido Kedar

If you’ve never learned about Autism from a person who is actually diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, then you should, right away! A nonverbal young man on the spectrum, Ido writes about the frustrations of his life- being fully cognitively aware and intelligent but not able to communicate his thoughts except for by pointing on a letter board or typing. In addition, his honest voice calls out the errors in Autism theory and treatment, as it used to be understood and is sometimes continually carried out today. This is a very important book for anyone to read, but especially music therapists, educators, behavioral therapists, occupational therapists, and special education administration because it is a firsthand account of Ido’s experience in the world, and the ways we have failed him because we simply think differently than he does. A touching, honest, humorous, and witty memoir, Ido in Autismland is essential. Add this to your TBR immediately!


3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

It’s important to note that this book is not written by a person with Autism. The author, Mark Haddon, worked as a caretaker in Scotland and witnessed firsthand a lot of behaviors of neuro-diverse clients, which later influenced his writing. This novel is written from the perspective of a fifteen year old boy with Autism, Christopher (a fictional character), and describes his quirks, mannerisms, peculiarities, and preferences as you, the reader, perceive the world through his inner monologue. In the story, he finds his neighbor’s dog stabbed with a pitchfork, which starts a process of Christopher trying to solve the murder and uncovering much more than he originally intended. Although not a story credited to a person who has had similar lived experiences as Christopher, this book is still beneficial if you want to try to understand the mind of a person with Autism, but in a creative kind of way. Definitely worth a read!


4. Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

Here’s another great book for those interested in learning more about the science of music and your brain! This thought-provoking novel was written by Oliver Sacks, who once was a professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. He recounts his experiences with his patients, interactions with his students, and peppers in compelling bits of researchMusicophilia is written in first person prose, and reads like a memoir or autobiography- almost as if you were in one of Professor Sacks’ lectures yourself, or sitting in an armchair by a fire listening to his stories. Deeply intellectual but also human, this is a must-read for anyone who has ever wondered about music’s great and powerful effect on our humanity!


5. Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin

Although originally published two decades ago,Thinking in Pictures is a remarkable novel written by Temple Grandin, a truly amazing woman. Not only did she grow up in a time that Autism was not widely understood or even known about, she also received a Ph.D. in Animal Science and has designed one third of all livestock-handling facilities in the U.S. and worldwide. This book describes her thought processes as a visual thinker with Autism; how she really does think in pictures, and has an exceptional photographic memory that allows her to completely build livestock machinery fully in her mind and test run it for errors. She has amazed many people with this ability, but she has also had to overcome and learn a lot (by “storing” information, like a computer) about how to navigate social situations that neurotypical thinkers handle with ease. This book is noteworthy because it was one of the first of its kind, written by someone who knew exactly what it was like to live as a person with Autism, and that has spent her life advocating for the voiceless (like Ido- see above). This is an important read because it tells the history of a woman who was met with every obstacle, but still turned her life into one so meaningful and inspiring!

It’s no secret in the music therapy world that many of the clients you will see in your career may have Autism or other intellectual disabilities. Clients with Autism benefit much from music therapy because of the effects of music on the brain, and these books break down that complex thought into novel-sized chunks that anyone can read to understand this phenomenon a bit better. Knowledge really is power, and as American psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg states, “Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.”

"Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing."

There you have it! Whether you’re a music therapist, studying to become one, or you know or work with clients who are considered neuro-diverse (chances are, that’s all of you reading this!), these are great books to reference to better understand the people we love to serve! 


Written by Molly Harrell, MT-BC



Harvey, Branden. “63 Best Empathy Quotes from Empaths & World Changers.” Good Good Good, 24 Feb. 2023, http://www.goodgoodgood.co/articles/empathy-quotes.

“Mark Haddon.” Mark Haddon | Biography, Books and Facts, http://www.famousauthors.org/mark-haddon.