Taste is a weird and wonderful mystery!
It’s just as funny how some music doesn’t work along side the written word. Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan are amazing song writer story tellers. Perhaps it is this very descriptive narrative structure that puts me off reading alongside them. Even on the bus, if I shuffle to a track by either of these gents, I end up staring out the window rather then reading for the duration. Kimya Dawson too now I think of it (which is additionally odd, as I CAN read throughout the Juno soundtrack!). Radiohead, despite being a terrific band, don’t take on other emotional characteristics in my experience than the music offers. I’m more likely to view the book through Radiohead “headphones”, than I am to alter my initial perceptions and responses to the music.…
And moods do change, so what was appropriate yesterday, might not be tomorrow.
Below I’ve included some general music that I think enhances a reading trance session. On ones with an especial emotional connection, I provide a little more detail.
Initially introduced to this French duo via the 10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack. Providing perfectly etherial and magical mood music, Air manage to be both haunting in places, and artificially cheerful in others.
I enjoy listening to this when I’m reading deep and serious books – in fact, I’ve pulled this album out for two #BookerChallenge reads recently.
Though I had heard bits and pieces before, I really became addicted to this band during my Leaving Certificate examinations (A Level equivalents). We had a perfect routine for those most exhausting and stressful of weeks while exams were being sat. After each one, my mum would pick me up from the school, pop the cassette in (though Hole wouldn’t exactly be my Leonard Cohen loving parent’s first choice), and give me a few moments to relax before asking how the day had been. By the 4th song, we’d both be singing along, and heaps more relaxed.
Hole are such a divisive group. So many times, I’ve had a song on in the background which someone likes, till they realise who it is. Courtney Love’s larger than life personality and her apparent inability to avoid both drama and tragedy overpowers her music. The controversies that roll off her like water off a duck leave people with strong opinions one way or another, with Hole – the group – often baring the brunt.
I was actually in two minds about including this album, as it has become linked in my mind with the passing of my grandmother. Around that time, I had been reading The Diary of Anne Frank for the 27500th time. The tragedy I was experiencing; coupled with the book and the premature death of such a talented musician; somehow brought me a sense of perspective and not a little peace. And although I can never interact with either without the association of these past events, the passage of time has only heightened my appreciation.
Jeff Buckley had an astounding range vocally, and was in total control of his instrument. A perfectionist, he hated to release anything without feeling that it was as close to the best as it could be. I think that this intensity shines through in every track. Although I think his (to my mind definitive) version of Hallelujah is hailed near universally, it is Last Goodbye that I time with certain books. That song has the depth and capacity to leave me howling in despair, or ready to face the world anew, depending on what else is happening around me.
I can’t possibly do justice to The Diary of Anne Frank and the three versions released during my lifetime alone in this piece. Suffice to say, I have loved this book for two thirds of my life. It will never be irrelevant to me.
Anne and her family are real, living, breathing people between these pages, and a moment in time – albeit one of the worst humanity has ever inflicted upon itself – is captured and described in evocative and universal terms. Anne was an extraordinary writer, living in extraordinary times. I – like everyone else who has read this diary – can’t help but wonder what she might have achieved had she lived.
The only downside to mentioning it here, is that I now really want to read it again. I have to stop doing this to myself!
Right, this post ended up being longer than expected, so I shall draw to a close now. Please let me know what you’re thinking by sharing your thoughts with us in the comments section, or on twitter.
On twitter, the following albums/artists have been recommended to read along to:
Regina Spektor – in the bath with a glass of wine (clearly, @Carrie_l_hall is a soul sister of mine)
Zero 7 – The Garden was the offering of @Zoe28, who must be both cool and mellow, if music tastes are any indication!
Belle & Sebastian – Put the book back on the shelf (don’t agree with the sentiment but the music is lovely, as suggested by @SimonRowbotham!)
Sugar – Copper Blue – used by @NickRowan27 as a revision tool. After all, an album can’t distract when you know it inside and out!!
Moby – Play – provided @SaraTeresaPhoto with her studying soundtrack at university, and she still experiences french conjugation flashbacks when she hears any of the tracks! This actually makes her lucky. Everytime I hear Moby, an advert appears in my head 😦
On the other hand, book clubbers @MonkeySon and @Meulop prefer lyric-less music, or nowt at all, to avoid distracting them from their books!
2 thoughts on “Music To Read Books By”
Great article 🙂
I can see how Air and Moby might work. And top marks for suggesting Belle and Sebastian. They're one of my favourite bands – but possibly one where the lyrics are too good to ignore. But the vocals are soft, and I've played them so much that I could let them fade into the background and know what they sound like without actually listening…
I might experiment with some appropriate movie scores – music that is supposed to be on in the background.
You are totally right about music and books, not a lot of people can understand that different kind of music go with different type of books, I for example, instead of albums or styles, have songs for every book I read, and if they are series is the same song for the series. For example, I like to read some o f the Pride and Prejudice variations or spin off with a song form a group called Sonora: Buscando L'amor. Or the Vampire Academy and Bloodline series of Richelle Mead with “Awake and Alive” from Skillet.