Perfect Pairings: Books and Songs

Do you ever make your own playlists to fit the tone of the book you’re reading? Books and music are two things that have the magical ability of being able to take us to another place – put the two together and that experience becomes even more ethereal. You could be reading a fantasy novel while listening to video game soundtracks and suddenly you are the hero, not just reading about them. You could be reading a musician’s memoir and listening to the music they mention, and what they wrote about it comes to you in a whole new level. Sometimes even if you hear a song, it could make you think about something you read, or vice versa. So many possibilities! So, taking this as a challenge, I decided to come up with some pairings of books and songs!

Missing, Presumed + Rhye’s “Open”

Missing, Presumed (HarperCollins Canada’s latest HCC Fan Choice pick!) is more of a suspenseful psychological look at characters than it is a thriller. You really get a sense for the major players in a missing girl investigation. The main character, Detective Manon Bradshaw, is known around the station as a bit gritty, tense and hard-working, but she’s also quite vulnerable, lonely and soft-hearted — she just wants love! She craves a partner and child, which might not be the best headspace to be in when searching for a missing girl. Detective Manon makes a good fit for Rhye’s “Open,” which is sultry and sexy but also quite tender and hopeful.

Birdie + Buffy Sainte Marie’s “I’m Going Home”

In Birdie, Bernice Meetos, a Cree woman, sets on a quest from her home in Northern Alberta to understand messages that are coming from CBC’s The Frugal Gourmet in her dreams. As the novel is part road trip, part dream quest and part travelogue, a dreamy yet determined and searching song such as Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “I’m Going Home” is a sublime, atmospheric fit.

Your Song Changed My Life + The Byrds’ “Turn Turn Turn”

Bob Boilen is a hero in the music world. An NPR big-shot as the host of All Things Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts, he has made such an impact on indie music history. He just really gets it, so it’s kind of funny, because he wrote a whole book, Your Song Changed My Life, about the music that changed other peoples’ lives. Picking one song to pair with this seems pretty silly when it’s ALL ABOUT SONGS but for the sake of this challenge, you’ll have to hear me out. This book deserves its own soundtrack. So, Bob asked loads of musicians about the music that inspired their work. When he asked Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, he responded with discovering his sister’s 45 of The Byrd’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,” which, if you know Wilco and The Byrds, you’ll start nodding your head like ‘ah yes, that makes sense,’ but if you don’t, your head will still nod like ‘ah yes, this is good.’

Sing + Taylor Swift’s “Style”

It’s no secret that Vivi Greene’s Sing bares a remarkable resemblance to Taylor Swift and her life in the spotlight. In Sing, our popstar Lily Ross retreats to a cottage on the East Coast after a big public break up and she has to decide between keeping her love songs for her next album or writing new independent songs, all the while being a bit distracted by a cute townie. Taylor Swift’s 1989 was essentially a blockbuster post-breakup album, so really any song works, but let’s go with the upbeat “Style” because Lily is a shining star and we should dance around all the time.

Another Brooklyn + Jamilia Woods

Another Brooklyn, from the bestselling author of Brown Girl Dreaming, follows August and her memories of Brooklyn in the 1970s – the borough represented a bright future, but was also a dangerous place for women. It’s a powerful coming-of-age novel about race, friendship and family. Jamilia Woods’ “VRY BLK” is the perfect pair because it evokes the kind of pop a kid would be into, playing hopscotch on the street, but the lyrics are so much darker – Jamilia sings about police violence and schemes.

Girl in a Band + any Sonic Youth song

Kim Gordon’s popular memoir Girl in a Band opens a door to the musician’s life and what it was like growing up as the front-woman of an iconic band – Sonic Youth – in the ‘80s and ‘90s, as well as her marriage, motherhood and independence. While reading, you’ll surely want to be listening to Sonic Youth so that you can hear her voice through your eyes and your ears. Any song will do in this case, but let’s start with “Bull in the Heather,” which is a feminist anthem and feels like it could quietly start a revolution.

Frog Music + Beyonce’s “Daddy Lessons”

Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music is a fierce story about a woman who survived while her friend did not. She’s out for revenge – and this is the 1870s in the wild west – which means saloons, rags and riches, and guns pointed at men. These activities brought Beyonce’s country hit off Lemonade, “Daddy Lessons,” to mind. Both feature a bada$$ lady lookin’ for a fight and the song does a great job at grounding you in that epic time and place.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda + Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Run Away With Me”

You know already how much we love Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, right? The cute novel makes us feel so euphoric and vibrant and young and wanting to party with our friends. You know what’s a good song to play while doing that? Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Run Away With Me,” which starts off fun and romantic and then just gets FUNNER AND MORE LOVEY. Excuse me while I go start a dance party.

This Savage Song + Arcade Fire’s “No Cars Go”

Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song is like one long epic fight scene from a movie – you won’t want to put it down. It follows the kids of warring sides to a broken city: Kate, who wants to be a monster hunter, and August, who really does not want to be a monster. The two end up running for their lives, and because August’s monster quality is taking people’s souls by playing violin (how sad is that?), Arcade Fire’s “No Cars Go” is a perfect fit. Arcade Fire can capture a somber tone with their violins and also a powerful feeling of action. You can totally picture people on the run in a movie set to this song, so, producers of the future movie, if you’re reading this, take note!

The Illegal + Shad’s “Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)”

In Lawrence Hill’s award-winning The Illegal, Keita Ali is running to save his life. As a refugee in Freedom State, he must keep himself secret, but also keep running. Keita is hopeful despite the pain he must live with, trying to move towards a brighter future out of a dark past. Shad’s “Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)” seems like it could be a sunny representation of what Keita is striving for with life on the other side. Shad raps about where immigrants in Canada came from and how they’ve worked their way up. It’s lively but with a strong message, just like The Illegal.

So, tell me: What songs or artists would fit with your current reads, Savvy Readers? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @SavvyReader.


Follow me on Twitter @papertraildiary

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Canadian publishing professionals and bloggers. Looking for savvy readers to talk books with us!

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