Read Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams while listening to “They Shoot, We Score” by Yo La Tengo
On track to end up as the best essay collection to come out in 2014, Jamison’s brilliant explorations into how we look at both others and ourselves go really nicely with this collection of Yo La Tengo soundtrack jams.
Read Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence while listening to Music for Egon Schiele by Rachel’s
Even though Rachel’s mid-1990s chamber classic is based on the life of the Austrian painter Egon Schiele, it works perfectly if you just want to spend a night inside with Newland, Countess Olenska, and a cranked-up air conditioner.
Read Scott McClanahan’s Hill William while listening to The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death by John Fahey
As somebody who sat around drinking whiskey and listening to Fahey while reading both of McClanahan’s books that came out last year, I can personally attest that those three things together make for a winning combination.
Read Porochista Khakpour’s The Last Illusion while listening to Sunbather by Deafheaven
Khakpour’s dazzling second novel and Deafheaven’s mix of black metal and shoegaze both prove that things that might seem sad, strange, or scary can also be incredibly beautiful and moving.
Read Teju Cole’s Every Day Is for the Thief while listening to Millions Now Living Will Never Die by Tortoise
As you let Cole’s narrator take you through Lagos, mixing observations with memories, the slow build of the first song on this album (clocking in at just under 21 minutes) really adds to the experience of reading this fine book.
Read Rudolph Wurlitzer’s Nog while listening to Songs of Townes Van Zandt by Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till
Thomas Pynchon was a fan of Wurlitzer’s postmodern psychedelic classic, which relates the tale of a lost man in the late ’60s just wandering around the West. The two members of the band Neurosis doing acoustic covers of Townes Van Zandt really goes along nicely as you accompany him on his journey to nowhere. This one works especially well if you have a few days you can donate to getting drunk and sitting on the beach.
Read Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans while listening to Michael Nyman’s score to The Libertine
Since this book is pretty massive, we’d actually just suggest you go ahead and find all the music Nyman has written, make one big playlist, and enjoy spending your summer reading Stein’s greatest work, all the while listening to Nyman on infinite loop.
Read Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life while listening to The End of Trying by Dakota Suite
So you’re using up vacation days and looking to play catch-up on all the books you missed out on over the last year or so? Atkinson’s novel — which an indie bookseller could handsell by saying, “It’s like a classed up Groundhog Day for book nerds” — works beautifully with this album.
Read Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude while listening to Citay by Citay
Márquez’s passing may haven gotten you thinking about how you wanted to spend a good chunk of the summer paying the greatest tribute to the Nobel Prize winner that you could think of: reading his work. Citay’s blissed-out acoustic jams add a little extra magic to the summer of magical realism you’re about to experience.
Read Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping while listening to Aheym by Kronos Quartet and Bryce Dessner
You need to get caught up on Robinson’s oeuvre before her new book comes out this fall. A healthy dose of this album can prove very good for your concentration.