Does Music Bring a New Epic Value To Reading?

There are many heated debates within the reading community. How do your opinions on listening to music while reading match those of the Bookstr staff?

Art and Music Book Culture Bookish Trends Lifestyle Opinions
headphones and book stack on a blue background

At Bookstr, we know that reading is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in someone else’s life. Books give us relatable characters and great stories that make it easy for us to get lost somewhere else. However, the reading experience is going to differ for all book lovers. Is there a specific genre you gravitate to? Before reading, do you research what other people thought of the book? Yet maybe the most controversial of all: do you enjoy listening to music while reading? Here are some staff opinions.

Specific Music Based on the Book

Mostly, I love the absolutely soothing sound of silence when reading. Well, as silent as a house with four children can get. LOL! But that all depends on my mood and what type of books I’m reading. I LOVE when an author drops a song into their book; you can be assured I’m immediately going to pause reading to pull up YouTube or Spotify to play the tune through the rest of the chapter. I will never hear What a Man Gotta Do by The Jonas Brothers ever again without thinking of The Modern Gentleman by Meghan Quinn.

book cover of the modern gentleman by meghan quinn

At the same time, some genres of music need a bit of a mood enhancer to really set the scene. Horror, for example, is perfect for reading while keeping Spotify open. After all, I’m hallucinating in my head as I read the book like a movie, I might as well keep the theme alive and have some spooky thrilling melodies playing too.

  • Kristi Eskew, Editorial

When I do listen to music, I try to stream playlists that match the vibe of the story. By assigning a song or artist as the “theme” for a book I’m reading, I essentially Pavlov myself into thinking about the world of that story whenever the song is played. For example, Ludovico Einaudi is my go-to for Leigh Bardugo novels, whereas an emotional Sleeping At Last playlist accompanies Fredrik Backman’s writing. That way, it could be ten years after finishing a beloved book, but as soon as I hear that book’s theme song, I’m transported into a host of fond memories.

  • Cara Hadden, Editorial
shadow and bone book cover

My taste in music depends on the book I am reading. I usually put on themed playlists on Youtube. Like A Broken Ballerina’s Playlist for dark academic romance, sometimes I even listen to nu-metal while reading. I can’t stand it when it’s too quiet. I need noise.

  • London Wright, Editorial

For me, it often depends on the book that I’m reading or the setting that I’m reading it in. If I can keep my total focus on the book, then I can read it in complete silence. But if things are too distracting for me, then I usually find some type of music that will work well for the tone of the book I’m reading. I generally try to find songs that don’t have any lyrics and are rather long so they fit with the tone and setting of the book and make it almost feel like a movie in my head while I read. For instance, I am currently reading Dune by Frank Herbert, so I try to find scores from sci-fi movies like Interstellar or the actual movie of Dune to help fit in with the setting of the book.

  • John Greenwald, Graphics
Dune Book Cover by Frank Herbert

I Just Need Background Noise

I’m an immersive reader. Often I will listen to ambient music and sounds that match the overall tone and mood of the story I’m reading. If I’m reading horror, I’ll listen to something eerie and ominous. If I’m reading something more lighthearted, I’ll listen to music that’s more upbeat and fun. If I listen to audiobooks, I like sounds and background noises/music to accompany them. There’s something about ambient background music while reading that helps to immerse me in the story. It helps me focus on reading. I will say that I prefer not to listen to music with any lyrics; I find it a lot more fun to read with music playing in the background.

  • Madison Weir, Editorial

I usually listen to cafe music or sounds (specifically ASMR) when I generally read, but if it’s a book from a certain era or theme, I just look up any kind of themed playlist on Spotify. Something about Cafe ASMR just helps me focus on my reading.

  • Michelle Quinde, Social

No Music is the Way to Go

I normally read without any music. Sometimes, I have the radio on in the background. It’s usually on a country music station, but it used to be 98.1.

  • Christina Hardesty, Graphics

I prefer to read in silence because it can be hard to focus, but if I did, it would have to be with rain sounds in the background or classical or lo-fi… something without words, aka instrumentals, so I can focus on the words I’m reading.

  • Talya Golian, Graphics

Instrumental Music Only

If I’m not reading in complete silence, I turn to my Spotify playlist that I’ve titled “songs I’d listen to with the world’s greatest headphones,” and it has no specific genre. Whether it’s a beautiful soundtrack like Hans Zimmer’s The Cornfield Chase from Interstellar, or Gymnopédie No. 1, a piano composition from French pianist, Erik Satie, there’s usually a song thrown in that playlist that will match what I’m reading!

  • Melanie Cornejo, Social
Intersteller movie poster

If I listen to music while I read, it has to be purely instrumental. If I listen to music with words in it, chances are I will start singing and forget about reading. Oh, and it can’t be Disney music, instrumental or not, because I will turn it up and sing either way.

  • Sam Barnette, Editorial

I’ll Just Listen to This. Thanks!

Personally, I don’t like reading with music unless the volume is down really, really low. But because I am a writer who partakes in creative and editorial writing, I like listening to anything from The Neighbourhood. They are my favorite band. The genre is alternative/rock/electro-pop, depending on which album. I also created my own playlist of all my favorite tunes: mixes with Mac DeMarco, Pity Party Girls Club, Sir Chloe, and more. It’s on Apple Music, entitled If you feel like crying, I’ll let you.

  • Sierra Jackson, Editorial

I have one song that I’ve dedicated to reading from a video game I was attached to in high school — It’s Raining Somewhere Else from Undertale. I’m a consistently high-strung person, and this calm tune is one of the few things that get my brain out of work mode. I’m pretty sure I’ve conditioned myself to relax when I hear it. I turn it on, and my brain goes, “Oh, it’s chill time, sweet.” So yeah, I’m all for music with books… Until you add words. If you read books while listening to lyrics, you’ve passed the realm of human limitation and must be stopped.

  • Kaitlyn Gardineer, Editorial

For more of Bookstr’s Picks, click here.