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#SummerofAtom our music to read to: part one

Reading books and listening to music at the same time isn’t always ideal – neither the head nor the heart can take too much stimulation at once! Most of us choose silence most of the time. That said, when music and books DO fit together … like cinnamon and apple, like Harry and Sally, it just works.

With that in mind, we asked our team and our wonderful authors for their thoughts on music to read books by. Here is what they had to say. As ever, we would love to hear your own recommendations!


David Owen, author of Panther (his much-anticipated next book, The Fallen Children, is out in 2017)

I listen *very* rarely listen to anything while reading. If I do, it’ll be something to match the mood of the book. If it’s something quite fast-paced and exciting it’ll be the likes of Iron Maiden or Strapping Young Lad, for example. More generally, I’d plump for something ambient and unobtrusive, the likes of Eluvium, Tim Hecker, Oneohtrix Point Never.

But if I have to pick one song, I submit what I believe might be the saddest piece of music ever written: ‘Requiem for Dying Mothers, Part 2’ by Stars of the Lid.

Rebecca Denton, author of forthcoming This Beats Perfect

It has to be music that can fall back into the walls and not penetrate – Anna Cavali, Let’s Eat Grandma, The XX, Sufjan Stevens – all incredible artists who create that fabric of sound which doesn’t impose.  But for that perfect, whimsical, starry nights sound I’m going for Beach House, ‘Zebra’. (The whole album will do you well!)

Matthew Crow, author of In Bloom (his wonderful next novel, Another Place, is coming to get you in 2017)

I’m not really one for rituals or routines, so generally the music I listen to when reading is whatever happens to be playing as I pick up a book. Inevitably this is either Kate Bush or Beyoncé. And, as Lemonade is still so fresh that I become tearful and feral at the merest hint of its opening bars, I’ll pick from the Bush until I’m cool with the Bey.

I’d go with something from The Dreaming. It’s my favourite of Kate Bush’s albums and one that begins with a meditation on epistemology, and ends by braying like a mule to deter burglars (as all great albums should.) Let’s say ‘Sat In Your Lap’, which tackles the all too familiar themes of wanting to be smarter than you are but also being too bloody knackered to do anything about it.

Preach, Sista!

Keren David, author of Cuckoo

Music to read to? A bit pointless for me, because my brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time. It’s the words that get in the way the most, so if I were going to try to read with music I’d probably pick something  without words or not in English. So my choice is ‘Im Telech’ by the Idan Raichel Project. Gorgeous music drawn from many traditions, and I don’t understand a word.  

I often hear editors talk about how much reading they get done on commutes to and from work. It drives me wild with envy. I’ve tried, I really have, but there’s so much working against me and my book: the anxiety of being in moving or unmoving traffic on the Wild West of London’s roads; the dude who has just sat down next to me, manspreading his legs and god knows what else into my personal space; the twat talking at volume (ALWAYS about something wildly inappropriate)… How can anyone concentrate on reading in these conditions?

But one adapts. Over the years I have realised that I can sometimes do it with noise-cancelling earphones, Spotify and a piece of music distracting enough to keep the outside world out, but lilting and emotive enough keep me cocooned and focussed inside my book. At the moment, it’s back to some fundamentals: Max Richter, Sigur Ros, Nils Frahm, Explosions in the Sky – spacious, beautiful, melodic soundscapes that hug you close, settle you down and allow words on the page to rise up and sink in.

I’ll pick ‘Your Hand in Mine’ by Explosions in the Sky, from their record The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place.

We’ll be sharing more music choices soon- watch this space!

For the full playlist, visit Spotify and follow Atom Books! 

Posted on Tuesday, August 16th 2016