Reading a book while listening to music that relies heavily on a singer is a difficult challenge, as the lyrics that are being crooned or screamed into your ears (or both, if you’re going through Nick Cave’s discography) could interfere with your ability to soak up every word on the page. But let’s say you really want to listen to Nick Cave while you’re reading. What works best if you want to really concentrate on a book while listening to music? In honor of the current cold snap, which may well be keeping you inside with your paperback and vinyl libraries, we present a second round of suggestions.
Read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road while listening to the Nick Cave and Warren Ellis score for The Road.
If you’re one of the few folks left who still hasn’t found the time to read McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic Pulitzer Prize winner, let us suggest cracking it open while listening to the very forbidding Cave-Ellis score that was made for the film adaptation. Then watch the movie so you can see how well the two members of the Bad Seeds nailed the feeling McCarthy was going for.
Listen to Marrissa Nadler’s Ballads of Living and Dying while reading Flannery O’Connor’s short stories.
We’re cheating on this one, since Nadler does have an unbelievably beautiful voice that she uses for all of her music, but her dark folk sound works especially well with the O’Connor stories you could and should read over and over.
Read Matt Bell’s In the House upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods while listening to Clear Moon by Mount Eerie.
I can personally attest that these two things go very well together. Bell’s spooky meditation on family and nature works with this album almost in the same spooky way Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon corresponds to The Wizard of Oz.
Read Denis Johnson’s Already Dead while listening to Explosions in the Sky’s All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone.
We could also tell you to read the book Friday Night Lights while listening to the band that did the music for the television show, but a more inspired choice is this underrated Johnson novel about a California fuck-up getting in over his head in the marijuana business. Once this album is out, you can either play it again, or just pick another Explosions in the Sky album. The choice is up to you.
Read Adam Gopnik’s Winter: Five Windows on the Season while listening to Juliana Barwick’s Nepenthe.
Since Gopnik went to all the trouble of writing this beautiful meditation on the coldest part of the year, the least you can do is listen to it along with an album that is as beautiful as a frozen field of virgin snow.
Read The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis while listening to Stars of the Lid’s And Their Refinement of the Decline.
You could probably take in several of the short, sparse stories Davis is famous for in the span of one Stars of the Lid song. Yet the slow flow of the Texas duo’s ambient compositions perfectly eases the transition from one Davis story to the next.
Read Chang-Rae Lee’s Native Speaker while listening to Copia by Eluvium.
So you just read On Such a Full Sea, and you want to go back and read everything Chang-Rae Lee has ever written. Start with his award-winning debut while listening to Eluvium do that quiet-to-bombastic thing he does so well. It will make you appreciate this great book — which also boasts quite the narrative crescendo — even more.
Read The Waves by Virginia Woolf while listening to Philip Glass’ original score for The Hours.
Sure, we could tell you to read Michael Cunningham’s Virginia Woolf-riffing book that was the basis for the film, but you can put this Glass score to even better use as a tool to focus your attention on Woolf’s most experimental novel.
Read Moby-Dick while listening to You Are There by Mono.
Mono have the ability to go from wind quiet to booming thunder in seconds, which works pretty well with Melville’s epic. However, we suggest you also move on to other albums in the Japanese band’s discography while reading about Ahab, Ishmael, and the white whale.
Read Haunted Houses by Lynne Tillman while listening to Dustin Wong’s Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads.
Wong is a new master of minimalism, and this album shimmers and shines in a way unlike anything else we’ve ever heard. We kinda feel the same way about a lot of Tillman’s work.