The Soloist

The Soloist

A Lost Dream, An Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music

Book - 2008
Average Rating:
Rate this:
The true story of Nathaniel Ayers, a musician who becomes schizophrenic and homeless, and his friendship with Steve Lopez, the Los Angeles columnist who discovers and writes about him in the newspaper.
Publisher: New York : Berkley Books, c2008
ISBN: 9780425226001
Branch Call Number: ML418.A96 L66 2008cx
787.2092 22
787.2 L864s
Characteristics: xi, 289 p. ; 21 cm


Featured Blogs and Events

Music and Mental Health

 "Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast," wrote William Congreve in his 1697 play, "The Mourning Bride." It has been long known that music can have the power of soothing us when we are sad, anxious, angry, or otherwise upset. We seem to be instinctively drawn to particular music depending on our moods. The music may soothe us, but it may also serve to energize us and help us to continue… (more)

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Aug 01, 2016

A schizophrenic homeless man is "adopted" by an LA Times reporter after he discovers his musical talents.

Mar 13, 2015

What a lovely book! An emotional read, great story, well written, really enjoyed it and definitely recommend!

Sep 20, 2011

I really enjoyed reading this book. I really didn't know much about paranoid schizophrenia before reading this story. It was a huge eye opener about one man's life who was a musical genius with a mental illness. At the end of the story, I wonder what Nathaniel is doing right now. Is he still in his apartment or back on the streets? Is he taking any meds? How is the friendship with Lopez today?

Jul 30, 2011

A heartwarming portrayal of Nathaniel Ayers and Skid Row life. I write this speaking as a former resident of Skid Row LA. I remember Nate Ayers at LAMP and how he used to lecture us about smoking and discarded cigarette butts on the ground. It was emotional and thrilling.

Mar 24, 2011

Gives me a perspective of the difficulties of mental illness. A dear friend had problems with bipolar and this was an interesting insight into her life and the challenges she faced. Also available on Ebook.

Dec 02, 2010

I enjoyed this book. I had to read it for my college composition class. It's one of only a few books that I've had to read for school that I actually enjoyed. It is much better than the movie. They changed way too much in the movie.

Nov 29, 2010

Fascinating to read this right on the heels of Outliers... Nathaniel Ayers was nothing if not a naturally gifted individual who took advantage of unusual opportunities to work with amazing teachers and attend an amazing school. Turns out sometimes the world is a bit random, and severe mental illness throws a curveball into a situation where success seems otherwise inevitable. But enough about Outliers...

The story of the Soloist is pretty well known by now: newspaper columnist observes interesting and talented homeless musician, gets caught up in his story, and finds his life changed as a result. The book interweaves several interesting social themes: the appalling treatment of the homeless in America, the complexities of helping an individual with a mental illness, and the redemptive power of music to enrich the soul. The story is compelling, inspiring, and easy to get caught up in - I read the book in one sitting, which I haven't done with any other book in years (although to be fair I was on a four hour flight.)

Lopez has the spare, punchy style of really effective newspaper columnists. Short sentences comprising short chapters. An ear for compelling dialogue. An ability to paint a complex picture in just one paragraph. The ability to read people and provide insight into their personalities and their actions.

My only criticism of the book has to do with a couple of unanswered questions. Of course, I'm dying to know what happens next, as the story ends with the opening of a new music studio where Ayers will serve as Artist-in-residence (circa 2006). But my greater questions have to do with the author. Lopez alludes many times to the ways that being involved with Ayers changed his life. Throughout the book, he also raises interesting questions about journalistic ethics, what it means to get so personally involved with a subject he's writing about. However, he never fully answers the questions he raises, and I'd be curious to know more about the lasting impacts of Ayers on Lopez's life and his future work.

However, this is a minor criticism. The story is terrific, the characters are thoroughly compelling, the treatment of sensitive issues is simultaneously informative and caring, and the book packs a real emotional punch. Ayers' emotional outburst late in the book after he feels his trust has been violated was one of the most gripping passages I've read in a while. And I'll certainly see the film - the story is custom made for an Oscar-worthy picture and individual performances, and I'd like to spend more time with Lopez and Ayers.

Nov 04, 2010


sapl3 Jul 23, 2010

He actually started as a double bass player not a violinist at Julliard.

ontherideau Apr 18, 2010

An insight into the world of professional musicians, journalists, street people and schizophreics written in an engaging way. Some coarse language directly related to the story but this would be a good Teen read as well.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at BPL

To Top