11 Must-Read Books for Music Therapists in 2020

by Annie Roberson, MT-BC

Did you make a resolution to read more books in 2020? Perhaps you set an ambitious reading challenge for yourself on Goodreads and are wondering where to start? The Heart and Harmony team has compiled our list of  11 must-read books for music therapists to get you started on your 2020 literary journey!

1. Ido in Autismland by Ido Kedar

What is this book about?

Ido in Autismland is a collection of autobiographical essays written by Ido Kedar, a non-verbal Autistic boy who spent the first seven years of his life without any method of communication.

Why should music therapists read this book?

It’s important for music therapists to directly center the voices of the clients and communities we work with, and Ido in Autismland is an important reminder to music therapists to always presume competence and work to communicate with our clients in the way that best benefits the individual.

2. Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism by Temple Grandin

What is this book about?

Thinking in Pictures in the first-hand account of Temple Grandin’s experience navigating the world as both a world-renowned scientist and an autistic individual.

Why should music therapists read this book?

Thinking in Pictures is a stunning look into Grandin’s unique mind and life. Read in conjunction with Ido in Autismland, it provides great contrast on perspectives from a verbal and non-verbal individual with autism growing up in different eras.

3. It’s In God’s Hands by Tim Siegel

What is this book about?

It’s In God’s Hands is an impactful first-hand narrative of the Siegel family’s ongoing journey to support their son, Luke, after he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a golf cart accident.

Why should music therapists read this book?

Music therapists don’t always get to see the behind the scenes work being done by our clients and their families once we leave the session. This book gives a compelling personal perspective on the reality of traumatic brain injury.  

Bonus: Madison and Lilah wrote a book review with more information about this book as well as a summary of the neurologic processes at play in Luke’s music therapy treatment – check it out!

4. A Disability History of the United States by Kim E. Nielson

What is this book about?

A Disability History gives a comprehensive look at how humanity’s understanding of disability has evolved and shifted throughout time and shines a light on the ways that disability itself has shaped the course of history from pre-1492 to present.

Why should music therapists read this book?

A Disability History is not just the development of a fringe movement – it’s a reframing of the stories we’re already familiar with to show us that disability history is everybody’s history too. Music therapists serve clients and coordinate with caregivers who have experienced dramatically different understandings of disability throughout the decades. A Disability History gives music therapists an overview of the understanding and treatment of various disabilities throughout American history as well as a chance to contextualize our own practice in the current era.

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

What is this book about?

This Is Your Brain on Music provides a comprehensive but approachable overview of how music works in the brain. You’ll learn where different aspects of music are processed in the brain as well as how music ties into neurologic phenomenons like mirror neurons and neuroplasticity.

Why should music therapists read this book?

This book gives a crash course on the neurology at work behind the work we do every day! Levitin writes in a clear and succinct manner that makes this book easy to read, even if you have no prior knowledge of NMT foundations or techniques.

Bonus: former Heart and Harmony intern Molly wrote a book review with more in-depth information about this book – check it out!

6. Leaders Around Me: Autobiographics of Autistics who Type, Point, and Spell to Communicate by Edlyn Vallejo Peña

What is this book about?

Leaders Around Me is a collection of essays written by Autistics who used various forms of adapted communication to communicate with the world around them. Each essay ends is followed by discussion questions to encourage engagement of neurotypical and neurodivergent readers alike.

Why should music therapists read this book?

Many of the essay authors in this book communicate using some form of Rapid Prompting Method (RPM), a widely contested method used to teach communication considered to be pseudoscience by the larger scientific community. With its thought-provoking discussion questions at the end of each essay as well as its heavy involvement in the world of RPM, Leaders Around Me can be a fascinating jumping-off point for discussions involving not only RPM, but also methods of Augmentative and Adapted Communication (AAC) that are firmly supported in research and their potential benefits to our clients.

7. Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom

What is this book about?

Written by one of the leading existential psychotherapists. Vignettes of experiences with clients and how he responded. He also reflects at the end of the book on how he’s grown as a therapist since writing the book. A good look at the client experience from the lens of a therapist and the importance of the relationship in therapy.

Why should music therapists read this book? 

If you’re into mental health at all, this provides some great insight. It’s got some great nuggets of wisdom but some controversial takes, too. It shows the reader that even the “best” therapists are human and make mistakes.

8. The Courage to Create by Rollo May

What is this book about?

The Courage to Create explores creativity from a psychological and philosophical view. What is creativity? What makes us creative? Who is creative? 

Why should music therapists read this book? Music is an inherently creative act. The Courage to Create describes creativity and the creative encounter, and broadens our horizons and outlook on what it means for us and our clients to create with one another.

9. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

What is this book about? 

Big Magic answers the questions: How can we be our best and most creative selves? How long do we ride the wave of creativity and what do we do when it eludes us?

Why should music therapists read this book? 

As musicians and music therapists, we all have experienced creative highs and slumps. How do we navigate these challenging waters? This book gives a good look at how music therapists treat ourselves as creatives. 

10. Your Song Changed My Life: From Jimmy Page to St. Vincent, Smokey Robinson to Hozier, Thirty-Five Beloved Artists on Their Journey and the Music That Inspired It by Bob Boilen

What is this book about? 

Host of NPR’s All Songs Considered and the Tiny Desk Concerts, Bob Boilen interviews some of the most influential artists of our time to find out who made them. Who and what influenced Jimmy Page and Dave Grohl? 

Why should music therapists read this book? 

There’s a lot of really good information about these artists, their songs, and their thoughts on music and their influences. It sheds new light on songs and artists we think we know, and maybe some we don’t. The podcast is worth a listen, too!

11. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang

What is this book about? 

Ever wonder how and where rap music started? This book traces the humble beginnings of what is now a cultural and worldwide phenomenon. It takes a look at the music, dance, and other cultural influences of rap music and artists. 

Why should music therapists read this book? 

Truly incredible insight into the history of rap that most people don’t know much about. It takes a look at rap from multiple perspectives and provides a great rationale to how it came to be what it is today.

Bonus resource!

Find all of these books, track your progress, and share your own music therapy must-reads on this public Goodnotes list!

 What are some of your must-reads for music therapists this year? Leave us a comment and let us know, then add your books to the Goodreads list linked above.

Annie Roberson, MT-BC

Music Therapist – Board Certified

annie@heartandharmony.com