Our Reading Lives

Beats and Books: Why I Listen to Music While I Read

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Tiffany Hall

Staff Writer

Often to be found curled up on her couch in a blanket, regardless of the weather outside, Tiffany Hall is what you’d call an “indoor person.” An inquisitive student aspiring to obtain a degree in economics, Tiffany's main obsessions are reading, screaming at Sudoku puzzles, making sarcastic remarks, and writing short stories that she aspires to get published one day.

I remember the day vividly when I first realized that noises and words could work together in perfect harmony. It was sunny and slightly warm, a perfect Californian day. I was only about six or so, lying on the diving board in my grandmother’s backyard and flipping through the pages of my newest obsession: Ruby the Red Fairy by Daisy Meadows. The story was whimsical, following two girls as they search for fairies that have been sent away from Fairyland. As I read, my fascination with the idea of magic grew, and that’s when I heard a soft wind chime tinkling in the wind. It was music to my ears. I imagined it to be the voices of the fairies, lilting like tiny bells, and just like that, I was fully absorbed.

Since that day, I have sought to find noises and atmospheres that add to my reading experience. It is that enrapturing swell of melodies that sweeps me up within the novel that my greedy eyes are consuming. But, I play music for a few more reasons beyond that of my experience that day by the pool.


Setting Is Everything

Nothing is more jarring to me than to be reading a complex historical piece, set in a past that I’ve never known, and to hear a cell phone chime or a car honk. Music helps me drown out my current reality and helps guide the fiction I am reading. I’ve created different playlists to aid that endeavor, picking music appropriate for the setting of the piece. Classical for more atmospheric dramas, pop music for light YA contemporaries, and rock music for action-packed, thrill rides. For me, it is all about being able to picture myself in the world within the pages.


And… Action!

Once in a blue moon, but more and more often these days, one of the tales in my TBR pile becomes a movie. Directors, authors, and sometimes composers all meet together and create a multisensory experience that (hopefully) pays homage to the book in question. As they say, curiosity killed the cat, but I just can’t seem to help it. Whenever I notice that there is a soundtrack inspired by a piece I’m reading, I have to listen to it while I read said book. Sometimes it seems to enhance my experience of the story, like when I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and other times it doesn’t. But despite the success record of these albums, my interest in musical interpretation is too great to ignore them.


Silence is Deafening

Everyone has their quirks that make them unique, and mine is that I can’t stand silence. Something about it seems to stir discomfort within me and, believe it or not, actually distracts me from whatever task I’m completing. This inherent dislike of quiet is one of the main reasons why I choose to play music in the background. Not only does it make reading more enjoyable, but it also puts me in a more productive mood. When silence pervades my workspace or in this case, reading space, I feel more lethargic and unmotivated. Tunes playing, even if it is only barely audible, creates an environment more suited to my preference.


I know I’m not alone in my feelings about music and books, but I also recognize that quite a few of you may disagree. Sometimes concentration is a goal best attempted without auditory distractions. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still link your reading to the music you love! Check out 16 Book Recommendations Based On Your Favorite Music by Casey Stepaniuk to find some books that may be reminiscent of the tunes you shuffle on your device.