The Undisputed Top 20 Rock Novels of All Time — Early 2020 Edition

If we haven’t yet given up all of our longterm memory to Silicon Valley, we might remember that it’s been a pretty great decade for rock novels.

It started when A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, a fictional exploration of the New York music business, garnered the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2011. This was followed by Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson, about straight-edge rock culture, being named one of the top five notable fiction titles by the New York Times in 2011. Neither of these is even my favorite rock novel of 2011. That title goes to Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta, about a sister fascinated with her pop music genius older brother. The rock novel canon continued to expand throughout the decade with How the Mistakes were Made by Tyler McMahon, Wonderland by Stacey d’Erasmo, and more recently Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid and This is Memorial Device by David Keenan.

All of the above titles were published by major publishers, but indie publishers also featured many compelling rock-tinged offerings during the past decade by the likes of Carson Mell, Justin Tussing, and Brian Costello. In short, you won’t find a ten-year span with so many rock novels published, and with those titles receiving so much praise. I’ll take this as a positive sign that fiction with rock backdrops has a place in the lit world going forward. If I’m wrong, don’t correct me.

Without further ado, here is the undisputed list of the top 20 rock novels of all time, early 2020 edition:

20 You Don’t Love Me Yet by Jonathan Lethem

19 This is Memorial Device by David Keenan

18 A and R by Bill Flanagan

17 The King of Good Intentions II by John Andrew Fredrick

16 Wise Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin

15 Saguaro: The Life and Adventures of Bobby Allen Bird by Carson Mell

14 A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

13 Wonderland by Stacey D’Erasmo

12 Great Jones Street by Don DeLillo

11 Vexation Lullaby by Justin Tussing

10 How the Mistakes Were Made by Tyler McMahon

9 Losing in Gainesville by Brian Costello

8 The Blue Bourbon Orchestra by Carson Mell

7 The Wishbones by Tom Perrotta

6 Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

5 Never Mind the Pollacks by Neal Pollack

4 Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta

3 High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

2 The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

1 Banned for Life by D. R. Haney

Art Edwards is a co-founder of the Refreshments. His latest solo album, Loving Every Other Minute of It, came out in November 2020.

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