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Music, Reading, and the Mind

Listening to music and reading a book are two distinctly different things, yet somehow people are able to combine the two activities into one. To most people, listening to music and reading simply does not work. This makes sense considering the depth both albums and books can provide the consumer.

However, not all music is the same. Compare the differences between ambient, electronic, post-rock music against the stylings of Beyoncé’s Lemonade. One demands attention and the other flows easily in the background.

Music without vocals, such as instrumentals, ambient tracks, and classical music, can dramatically enhance the reading experience. Part of the reason why this is true, for me at least, is that the music puts my mind in a groove. Have a consistent sound going on in the background helps the mind stay focused on whatever you happen to be doing, in this case, reading.

Some of the best bands for this type of thing are El Ten Eleven, Bonobo, and Tycho. If you listen to these bands carefully, you will find beautifully intricate melodies that flow with poetic ease. But, in the background they act as placeholders for our wild and unpredictable attention spans. The music adds a bit more stimulus to the act of reading, thus making the experience feel a bit fuller than simply looking at words on paper.

Try this technique especially if you are a commuting reader. There is nothing better than sitting on a train listening to flowing instrumental music while delving into whatever magical world of imagination you happen to have picked off your shelf that morning.

If you want to take this concept to the next level, you can even experiment with music and book pairings. Try playing something depressing while you read The Fault in our Stars something whimsical when you re-read Harry Potter. Not only is reading with music helpful for maintaining focus, it can also add a whole other element to the reading experience if the music fits well with the tone of the book itself. 

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