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The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music
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The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  9,352 ratings  ·  1,479 reviews
"When Steve Lopez sees Nathaniel Ayers playing his heart out on a two-string violin on Los Angeles' Skid Row, he finds it impossible to walk away. At first, he is drawn by the opportunity to crank out another column for the Los Angeles Times, just one more item on an ever-growing to-do list: "Violin Man."

But what Lopez begins to unearth about the mysterious street musicia
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published April 17th 2008 by Putnam Adult (first published January 1st 2008)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  9,352 ratings  ·  1,479 reviews

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Jul 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Becca by: Genevieve
Shelves: book-club
There was a homeless guy that my dad let stay in our unfinished house when I was a kid-- Greg. He stacked up all the slate tiles neatly... and sliced apart the antique bannister poles. I fell once and he rushed over with a first aid kit and doused my knee with witch hazel and bandaged me up. Then he stole the radio and threatened to kill my dad with a baseball bat. After he got violent, cops came, and Greg didn't come back to the house. As a kid I was fascinated and terrified and curious, and to ...more
Dec 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Soloist"'s story is so well-known at this point -- grizzled newspaper columnist befriends once-promising classical musician whose schizophrenia has left him long homeless -- that there's little need for me to recount it here. Steve Lopez's writing is less that of a top-tier author and more that of a solid reporter (today's poetry is tomorrow's birdcage liner), but the true story is well-served by Lopez's relatively unadorned and straightforward prose.

While Nathaniel Anthony Ayers's story wa
Mitch Albom
Nov 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I work with the homeless in Detroit, so Steve Lopez's account of a stunningly gifted violinist living in the street didn't shock me. But it brought to light how much talent is out there unnourished, needing only a chance to grow. The fact that Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers had their differences kept it real, and you wonder how many others like Ayers are homeless right now. ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Geez, where to start? Whenever I've passed by a homeless person, I've always thought "how did you end up here?" This was a beautifully sad story of one such person. So talented but mentally ill. A vicious cycle of they should be on meds but the meds don't make them feel right so they don't take them, etc. I am holding out hope for Nathaniel. ...more
Nov 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Josh by: Ladies Book Club
This book is not a novel, though that is unclear from the cover of my edition. It is a true story based on investigative journalism, which eventually tells more about the author than the subject. So I tried not to judge it by the standards of a novel.

The trouble is that Lopez is a journalist, and has been for decades. So he writes like one. The tropes of newsmen get old fast, which is Ok in newspapers b/c you're probably only reading one article anyway.

But it gets pretty tiresome in a long book
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As another reviewer has pointed out, the story and movie has had plenty of publicity and I see no reason to tell it over again in my review. Debated on 3 or 4 stars. Gave up and settled on 4. The book was a struggle to listen to. An eye opener to the struggle of the homeless, especially how really bad the homeless plight was (and still is apparently) in Los Angeles. Steve Lopez calls Los Angeles the homeless capital of the USA in the book. Recently the current governor of California Gavin Newsom ...more
Liz Dunham
Jan 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: homelessness
I was originally skeptical of this book presenting too polished a case of "saving" a homeless man. Similar to "Have You Found Her," Mr. Lopez undergoes a personal development in essentially entering the social work field. He is naive, shocked, etc. Then he is intrigued, obsessed, dedicated. But he, too, crosses into a phase of boundary issues. He makes himself and his resources available to Nathaniel without a sense of boundaries or limits. He also begins his dedication before understanding the ...more
Steve Lopez does a wonderful job in capturing and sharing the story of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers; homeless man, who, in his prime, was a musical protege in Julliard. Steve Lopez puts a face to the disease paranoid schizophrenia and mental illness as a whole. Lopez reaches into a downtrodden and forgotten community of people to help a man who was left to fend for himself out in the streets without support, family, and treatment for close to 30 years.

Lopez writes this biography in a journalistic na
May 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Review by Alan Rich

Back in September 1964, Jascha Heifetz, the formidable fiddler, was attempting an ill-advised comeback recital at Carnegie Hall. The crowd out front was enormous, and it naturally included many people with long faces hoping for a turned-back ticket to this sold-out event. I was covering it as a music critic for the New York Herald Tribune of lamented memory. At that time, there was a violinist, 20 or so, nice Jewish boy, reasonably talented, who played in a regular spot in fro
Jeff Grogan
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite music-centered books I've read in my life. Lopez perfectly blends the dizzying world of schizophrenia with the counter-dizzying world of music in a story that will charm musicians and laymen everywhere.
Being a real person, Nathaniel was not just dialogue and description on the page, but he walked and spoke and pushed his cart through the room as I read. Lopez's wording was straightforward, journalistic, and simultaneously deeply personal. Although I have never seen an
Brenda Bissett-steinhofer
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Thank you Steve Lopez for reserving us a front row seat at this symphony in the big city in "The Soloist." The story was both eye-opening and heartbreaking, a score of stunning human crescendo and stark morendo, blowing the doors wide open on the stigmas and misconceptions associated with mental illness and homelessness. We are glad that Nathaniel Ayers has emerged from the shadows and that his story has been told. Anyone who has ever passed a person sleeping in a doorway or with their belonging ...more
Mar 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is soooooo good. Its so heartwarming, I guess you can say. Haha. Its a book for everyoneeee
Nicole R
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
I just finished this book and am having a hard time coming up with words to describe how I feel about it. Steve Lopez is a columnist for the LA Times who stumbles across a homeless man in a tunnel who is playing a two stringed violin. Mr. Lopez begins talking to the man, who obviously has a mental illness, and learns that he previously attended Juliard on a scholarship for the bass. Mr. Lopez leaves the meeting thinking that if this mans story checks out it would be an interesting column....and ...more
Dec 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I was attracted to this book when I realized it was about a subject close to my heart (schizophrenia), music and that it was the true story of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers. To top it off, the book is also a major motion picture starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. to be released in April. I had to read it.

I finished the book today having started it just two days ago. I could've read it quicker had I no distractions. The author, L.A. Times Columnist Steve Lopez, is not the next great American no
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story could be straight out of fiction -- a seasoned journalist discovers a talented, homeless, mentally ill musician, befriends him, struggles to improve his quality of life, and finds him outlets for his talent. It's no Disney movie, though, and I give Lopez credit for acknowledging the three-dimensional aspects of this story. If the schizophrenic musician resists others' attempts to offer him housing, to what extent should his wishes be respected? Is it possible to eliminate the ego appe ...more
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to TL by: Heard about the movie and read the book first
Shelves: favorites
Story and writing: four stars
Narrator for audiobook; four stars

Short review since I gotta work:
I'm not sure when I first heard about this but the movie trailer inspired me to go pick up the book... I was intrigued by Nathaniel's story and what happened to him.

Second time around: Still captivated :) Mr. Lopez does a wonderful job and justice to his friend's story.

Nathaniel steals your heart and you root for him to get better. His achievements, history, and low moments make you smile/cringe but y
Trixie St. Claire
Nov 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I read this on flights between Raleigh, NC - Atlanta, GA and Tampa, FL. It was a very quick read, but moving and honest. Usually stories like this get sugar-coated and the "helper" becomes the hero. I am glad this book didn't turn into a fairy tale ending where everything is wrapped up neat in a bow. I was glad the book focused that mental illness recovery is not linear- that you can go two steps forward and ten steps back. I hope the upcoming movie of this book doesn't ruin the lovely story. ...more
May 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I suffer from mental illness and l like to read about how others fare, even if it’s difficult. I’ve read a few books about mentally ill street dwellers and this is one that shows how an astonishingly talented person with profound difficulties can progress in a positive way. I do believe the author may have been really blessed by his often frustrating relationship with his friend.
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 12, 2009 rated it liked it
The Soloist reads like a book written by a columnist, which is to say it's clear, it's compelling and it's easy to read. The subject matter is not so easy. Many reviewers have said that this book puts a face on mental illness and the homeless and that's true. The mentally ill central character of the book is not just an illness, he's a real person, with a family, a history, hopes, dreams and problems. That being said, the book also shows how difficult it is to treat mental illness, and how much ...more
Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
In case you haven't seen the movie trailer: Lopez is a journalist for the LA Times whose soul is touched by the violin music of a man who's homeless. Then he discovers that the man, Nathaniel, attended Julliard, and his interest is piqued. Apparently he ran a series of columns in the Times about Nathaniel, and this book is an expansion of them, as well as the story about his telling Nathaniel's story.

Nathaniel's story is a fascinating one, and it takes us through genius. mental illness, race re
Emi Bevacqua
Oct 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
I love reading books by newspaper columnists (Marley and Me, Dan Savage's The Kid, and anything by Dave Barry), and Steve Lopez was one of my favorites. I'd seen the trailer to the upcoming movie before I started reading this, and that's unfortunate because I kept seeing Jamie Fox and Robert Downey Jr... whereas I'd never have cast them myself in my head for these roles. The story is poignant, I was rooting for both men as they progressed and evolved, and I was touched and humbled by the story. ...more
Oct 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Interesting story told in a news reporter style. A story about a friendship between a newsman and a mentally ill gifted musician who lives on the streets near Skid Row in Los Angeles. Nathaniel Ayers was attending Julliard when his life was turned upside down by the onslaught of schizophrenia. He is forced to leave Julliard and ends up a home less bum. Steve Lopez discovers Nathanial and tries to help him. The relationship helps both of them, but is fraught with tensions and conflicts along the ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very good; relatively quick and easy read. Prose was clear.

Ben Mackillop
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sunjay Sood
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Maricarmen Estrada M
3.5 Stars - There are some great things about this book that kept me interested and connected to the story, which is actually great. Mental illnesses became something I took a lot of interest in quite a few years ago. "The Soloist" deals with schizophrenia through the eyes of Steve Lopez, a journalist who meets Nathaniel, a musician that lives in the streets of the underworld of Los Angeles who ended up there after having been a Juilliard student because of his mental illness. The story of their ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had seen the movie without reading the book. The movie was very good; the book was excellent! I appreciated the author's writing style, honesty, and vulnerability as he told this true story. I had two key take-aways from reading this book: I have a new appreciation for and interest in classical music, and relationships change our brain chemistry. Steve Lopez's relationship with Nathaniel Ayer was complex and not easy, but it was a special and rich relationship for both of them. It actually cha ...more
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Steven M. López (born 1953) is an American journalist who has been a columnist for The Los Ángeles Times since 2001. He is the son of Spanish and Italian immigrants.


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