The soundtrack to the words

Some books were just made to have their own soundtracks. Here are a few of my favorite books and playlists to set the mood. (Click the titles or the links inside the descriptions for the playlists.)

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald’s classic from the “roaring twenties” has captured readers for decades with its story of a hopeless romantic, addicted to the fast life, the lights and parties of the city, and addicted most of all to a girl who he spends his whole life chasing. Although THIS PLAYLIST is not all 20s music, the emotions in the songs mirror the wildness of the parties and Gatsby’s undying love, while still being modern enough to update this beautiful novel to today’s world.

2. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

“But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ”

Jack Kerouac wrote his whole semi-autobiographical account of his journeys back and forth across America on one roll of typewriter paper, all in one go, listening to jazz and getting high on benzedrine. This work is a classic of the beat generation, mentioning his friends Allen Ginsberg (the poet famous for “Howl”) and Neal Cassidy, both beat legends, immortalized in Kerouac’s beautiful, drug-inspired prose. And of course, what else could one listen to when reading Kerouac but jazz, the original great, American music.

3. Season of the Witch by David Talbot

This is the book I am currently reading, and I am in LOVE! I haven’t felt this way since reading Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. And that’s saying a lot. (That’s the book that inspired my beats obsession and is the reason I’m reading Season of the Witch to fuel my San Francisco obsession. Read Little Brother if you haven’t!) This book is all history, yet it reads like a novel, telling the story of San Francisco, briefly dwelling in the turn of the century and then the 40s and 50s before launching into the fascinating tale of the 60s and 70s, the Summer of Love, the drugs, the sex, the music, the bands. If you haven’t fallen in love with the city yet, you will. A wary love, though, too, as Talbot explores just as much of the darkness as he does the light. So naturally, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack of San Francisco’s 60s and 70s: The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother, Moby Grape, and many others.

4. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

For some reason, this book just stood out to me. Maybe it’s the hopelessness, maybe it’s the music, maybe it’s the terrible humor. Whatever it is, this novel has changed me, at least in one major way, by introducing me to Neutral Milk Hotel. And for that, it deserves a shout out and a soundtrack. or three.

5. My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

I swear, this is the only happy-go-lucky book ever written for teens. Following the diaries of three kids, it’s a bit difficult to explain in a short amount of words, but just know that it is the happiest book you will ever read. Not particularly difficult, I wouldn’t say Kluger’s writing is of particular literary merit but the smile it will put on your face makes it all worth it. It’s a perfect book to devour in your last few days of winter break. And of course, with a little boy obsessed with Mary Poppins and a gay teen obsessed with Liza Minelli, the soundtrack for this book is undeniably fabulous.

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