Literary Mixtape: Sherlock Holmes


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s master detective.

Sherlock Holmes, though his story is often beloved by children, is somewhat of a dark hero. He’s a master of logical reasoning and can assume any disguise, but he is arrogant at times and only happy when he’s working on a case. Described by Dr. Watson, his (possibly) heterosexual life partner, as “bohemian,” he plays by his own rules — aggressively — all the time and is mostly a loner. He delights in chaos and can’t bear to be strangled by regulations or even, sometimes, moral codes — though he is a patriot — and prefers to spend his time thinking about the task at hand, solving it by any means necessary and puffing on his signature pipe. Here’s what we think Holmes would ponder, intuit, and call things “elementary” to.

“The Devil’s Workday” – Modest Mouse

Holmes would love this dark, anxious stomping song. Just imagine him stalking down the street to it, the tiny details and snatches of conversation he’d picked up that day swirling around in his subconscious. Plus, it rather fits his personality: “I could hang myself for treason / For I am my own damn god”

“Life on Mars” – David Bowie

Aside from his complex relationship with one Dr. Watson, our dear detective is a serious loner, and we think he would appreciate Bowie’s classic song of alienation and the strangeness of the modern world.

“Police & Thieves” – The Clash

Holmes is against thieves, and he’s mostly against the police as well. He prefers his own special brand of inquiry and justice. We admit, we do too.

“Read, Eat, Sleep” – The Books

If Holmes is anything like we think he is, that’s all he wants to do. And oh, nab bad guys too.

“Atlas” – Battles

Though we’re sure that, as a logic addict, Holmes would be a fan of math rock in general, we think he’d particularly like this creepy, crazy track. And he just might be smart enough to figure out the words.

“Bandits” – Midlake

Even Sherlock Holmes needs some pipe-smoking music to unwind to in the evenings.

“Asia” – Salem

For all his quirky habits and snooty diatribes, Holmes is actually kind of dark. He might be one of the few people who can listen to Witch House and make it look good. We can see him now, standing in the back of a Salem show with his hands in his pockets and a half smile forming around his pipe.

“Colorshow” – The Avett Brothers

If Holmes listened to the Avett Brothers, he’d definitely only like the screamy songs. They’re the best anyway. Plus, for a secretive detective, he might feel some affinity to the lyrics: “Head down don’t you make a sound / Keep your plans all to yourself / They’ll come true they follow you / They’re what you’re obligated to / Don’t you listen to nobody else…”

“Man of Mystery” – The Shadows

If this isn’t case-solving music, we don’t know what is.

“Hafsól” – Sigur Rós

Not only would Holmes enjoy the complexity of Sigur Rós, but the shifting tonalities and building tension would give him something to analyze. We know he loves that.