Literary playlists

Books and music always seem to go together—they’re sold in the same stores, have similar cult followings (and the traditionalists have similar aversions to new technologies), and require a certain amount of alone time to enjoy properly, while still benefiting greatly from being shared with others. Why, then, are they not more frequently paired up in the same entity?

The other day, I came across this post from Picador USA. Picador has made up Spotify playlists for some favorite books, putting together soundtracks that seem appropriate for each. This particular one is for Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, which I haven’t read, but desperately want to (Brenna, you did say you’d let me borrow yours…). I can’t confirm, then, if these are the perfect tunes for this book or not, but the idea is still one that I adore.

Immediately, I started thinking of all of the books I’ve read, which was a bit of a problem, because that’s a lot of thinking to do. Unable to pick the perfect book to come up with a soundtrack for, I considered the venture hopeless. I realized, though, that the book doesn’t have to be perfect, nor does it have to be venerable or complex. So, I settled on the first book I ever remember loving, which I’m told is the first book I read all on my own. I give you, Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree, by David Korr and published by Golden Books in 1977.

In case you are unfamiliar with the plot of this seminal work of literature, let me break it down for you. It’s about a very selfish, not very bright witch, who is also the proud owner of a cookie tree—yes, a tree that bears cookies. Of course, Cookie Monster himself is also pretty selfish—when it comes to cookies, that is. When the little witch sees him trundling down the path towards her, she knows that if she doesn’t do something fast, he’ll eat all of her precious cookies. So, she casts a spell on the tree so that it will refuse to give a cookie to anyone who will not share it with someone else. Cookie Monster pleads and pleads with all of his friends on Sesame Street, but no one believes that he would ever actually share a cookie. Back at the tree, the witch is having similar problems—it seems her spell has backfired and the tree won’t give her any cookies either! Disastrous! Cookie and Witch agree to share the cookies with each other, which is the sensible solution—though nothing can stop Cookie Monster’s voracious frenzy when it comes to cookie eating!

Looking back over the pages of these book, it wasn’t hard at all to come up with some choice songs to accompany (some are based solely on title, others are the sentiment of the song, but they are all songs that I love):

Another Sunny Day – Belle & Sebastian

I Put A Spell On You – Nina Simone

All the Wine – The National

Fist City – Loretta Lynn

Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac

Monster Ballads – Josh Ritter

Troubbble – Stephen Malkmus

No One Will Ever Love You – The Magnetic Fields

Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire

1, 2, 3, 4 – Feist

I’m Gonna Make It Better – She & Him

Tables & Chairs – Andrew Bird

Folding Chair – Regina Spektor

Still Rock & Roll to Me – Billy Joel

I promise, it works! What are some of your favorite or first books? Could you come up with a playlist or a band to do the soundtrack for any of them?

7 Responses to Literary playlists

  1. Joelle says:

    I have literal play lists for two of my books. My main character is a fiddler in Restoring Harmony and my husband (guitar/vocals) and a young teen fiddler recorded some of the songs & tunes from the book and they’re on my website. Also, the fiddler, Sarah Tradewell, wrote an original tune to go with the book, which is on there.

    For my third book, Tiny Tattoo, my main character is singer and her father is a singer/songwriter/rockstar. My husband is a singer/songwriter and he let me use some of his songs in my book (used the title of one of his songs for the book, too). Some of them are already recorded and when the book comes out, he will record others with a female singer we know and make those available on iTunes (can’t give those away since they’re his songs and he needs to be paid for his work, the ones in the first book were traditional public domain songs).

    I also made a list of other jazz songs to go with Tiny Tattoo to listen to before I started writing each morning.

    As for your actual question, the only time I ever really thought about making a list of songs is when reading the Besty Tacy books. They have so much music in them, it would be cool to have a playlist of all those old songs.

  2. I always have a play list for my books. And usually mention the songs in the novel itself.
    For my new novel, I’ve been using Tumblr as my “storyboard” and posting pictures and songs from the novel there. So much fun.
    Love this post.

  3. D.C. DaCosta says:

    Interesting thoughts.
    I had thought of music in connection with my first novel…but only because (if and) when it’s made into a motion picture, I’ll be able to dictate what is to be used as the soundtrack!

  4. Kerry Gans says:

    Just thought I would mention that Michael Nesmith, in his post-Monkees solo career, released THE PRISON in 1975 – and billed it as a book with a soundtrack. His idea was that your would read the book with the record playing to enhance the mood. He followed it up with a sequel, THE GARDEN, in 1994. So he was ahead of the times with his idea of a literary playlist!

  5. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    The only soundtrack I ever seriously assembled was for an Intermediate mockumentary I shopped around a while back about the original Prince Charming which featured his own 12th century memoir. The soundtrack was actually recorded in the middle ages through a highlt-secret alchemical process, and I won’t bore you with a playlist except to say it’s amazing how much some medieval minstrels sounded like Simon & Garfunkel and Led Zeppelin.. The project went south because dashing princes are an Endangered Species these days, and the agency that was looking it over couldn’t wrap their minds around the fact that the historical Sleeping Beauty had an unfortunate allergy to garlic and sunlight. I’ll send along a sample chapter to a historic YA thriller that has a lot more throw-weight soon, although there’s no soundtrack to this this one…

    • D.C. DaCosta says:

      With or without a playlist, Kevin, that sounds like a story I’d really like to read: original concept!

      • Kevin A. Lewis says:

        Sorry, D.C., Prince Rupert’s right where I left him at the end of Volume 1, sitting in a dark, creepy 12th Century monastery writing his story down by way of absolution for his many sins; editors and agents these days are concerned that if his story ever got out, it might cause mass panic in the Conventional Wisdom Department…Not to worry though, the serious historical YA thriller I’m throwing around now will break windows in downtown Tokyo-good luck on your latest……..

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