With folk rock so catchy and drama so juicy, it’s hard to believe Daisy Jones & the Six were never an actual band. From the volatile chemistry between dual lead singers Billy and Daisy to the painful addictions that plague them both — not to mention the gorgeous original songs that emerge amid the chaos — every aspect of the group feels rooted in California’s illustrious musical history. If you’ve watched the series, or loved Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2019 book, you’re probably clamoring for more tales of ’70s rock intrigue, combustible romance, and drug-fueled melodrama — fictional or not. Whether you want to learn more about the actual Laurel Canyon scene that spawned your new favorite fake band or to check out other music-inspired novels, there’s something on this list that’s bound to be your jam.
Imagine Daisy Jones’s world as interpolated by a straitlaced teenager whose world is inextricably altered by a summer-long encounter with a legendary rockstar and his celebrity wife in 1970s suburban Baltimore. That’s the premise of this novel, which finds the titular Mary Jane working as a nanny for an eccentric psychiatrist’s family and their high-profile live-in patients. The free-spirited musician challenges Mary Jane’s every notion of propriety and social convention with the usual sexual escapades and druggy antics. The summer job leads her on a self-actualizing journey, as she transforms from Sunday School–going good girl to countercultural devotee.
The clever oral-history format that worked so well for the book version of Daisy Jones (and many nonfiction music-related titles) is intimate, immersive, and just as deftly deployed in this novel following a fictional ’70s rock duo. Yes, they too have a meteoric rise as well as a tumultuous breakup. However, the interracial pair at the story’s core decide to reunite decades later unearthing dark secrets in the process. It’s a well-worn narrative given new life and a provocative dimension with its fierce Afro-punk protagonist and timely social commentary.
Rumours is an album chock full of sensational hits with just as much sensational interpersonal drama behind it. It’s an obvious inspiration for Daisy Jones & the Six’s Aurora — if you’re familiar with the dynamics within Fleetwood Mac you’ll quickly recognize the parallels. The 1977 record gave us the songs that earwormed their way up the Billboard charts, onto our TikTok feeds, and deep into our lovelorn hearts for decades. If you’re interested in learning more about how Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s screaming matches (much akin to Billy and Daisy’s) resulted in the stone-cold pop classics, this is the read for you.
In the first episode of the series, long before Daisy Jones joins the Six, she plays a Carole King record and gushes over King’s songwriting and the power of her voice. Based on Daisy’s love for the Tapestry artist, it’s not a stretch to guess she would probably like Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon too. The quiet, confessional intimacy of their songs was a force to be reckoned with in and beyond the 1970s. Not to mention how their music provided an equally valid and necessary alternative to the machismo cock rock of the era. Through a blend of biographical insight and music criticism, Girls Like Us profiles this trifecta of singer-songwriters and their massive legacy on not only music but culture at large.
Few neighborhoods have seen as much rock history as Laurel Canyon, where Daisy Jones & the Six find their California home. At its late-’60s/early-’70s peak, the legendary Los Angeles enclave was occupied by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; Jim Morrison; Joni Mitchell; the Eagles; the Mamas and the Papas; and countless others, all of which are covered in Walker’s book. If you’re looking to learn more about this nearly mythic setting and how it spawned an eternally cool, sun-kissed folk-rock aesthetic that’s still going strong on Spotify playlists and Instagram filters decades later, this is the read for you.
Much like Daisy Jones, Songs in Ursa Major chronicles the personal and professional relationship between two musicians in the early ’70s. The passionate, and at times toxic, love affair that transpires ultimately leaves folk singer Jane Quinn heartbroken and reeling, all of which take a toll on her career. Inspired by the real-life romance between Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, Songs in Ursa Major explores female ambition and sacrifice through the lens of what gets devalued and forsaken in a sexist, male-dominated music industry.
For What It’s Worth is a quirky young-adult novel that adds a paranormal twist to the usual SoCal music scene antics. Amidst the backdrop of 1970s Laurel Canyon, 14-year-old music nerd Quinn contacts the ghosts of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison via an Ouija board. The cryptic messages he receives help him and his girlfriend Caroline navigate their way through a tumultuous adolescence ripe with familial discord and the horrors of Vietnam.
When college dropout Faun Novak moves to Los Angeles in the summer of ’77, she becomes an obsessive fan of rock band Holiday Sun. She’s soon a devoted groupie and photographer, one among an entire network of young women and girls who support and document the band’s every whim. As her life abounds with newfound glamor and fame, Faun soon becomes enmeshed in the darker side of the groupie lifestyle, sacrificing her own ambition for the expectations of others. Reckless choices and drug-fueled decisions abound in this coming-of-age tale which captures how easy it is to spiral out of control when you love something that doesn’t love you back.