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Listening to Music While Reading Books

Katherine Marciniak

Staff Writer

Katherine is an over-caffeinated avid reader, writer and college student. She was featured in the anthology Once Upon an Apocalypse, and loves to beta read and edit when she has the opportunity. She’ll do more impressive things after she’s finished her tea…and this next chapter.

You finally have a moment to settle down to read a book. You have the house to yourself and it’s quiet. Too quiet.

It’s kind of like the book you have in your hands requires music of some sort.

When some writers pen their works, they listen to playlists or soundtracks (sometimes they share these playlists online!). Certain songs evoke the tone they’re looking for in a scene. This doesn’t mean that when you read the book you need to listen to music. That, of course, is merely a preference. But, it’s pretty sweet justification even so.

Here are some ideas of types of music to listen to while you read:

  • Classical music: Whether it’s Bach for Book Lovers or George Gershwin, it’s hard to go wrong with some soothing tunes while reading. It’s enough to evoke a tone but not enough to distract me from my reading.
  • Movie scores: Similar to Classical music, but typically cooler sounding. I can’t explain it. I especially like these when I’m writing, but they can be great if you’re reading something fast paced and thrilling. The music is designed to not take over (usually—it depends on what you’re listening to) and to enhance your story experience. You just have to make sure that you’re listening to the right scores, and that you don’t accidentally listen to something fast paced and scary and thrilling while you’re listening to a romance or something. Unless that’s how you roll, in which case, you do you.
  • Music with Lyrics: I try to stay away from these, because I get all the words jumbled up in my head as I read. My recommendation is to pick something that you know well. That way, you can tune it out just enough to make it merely pleasant background music.
  • Nothing at all: Usually, I don’t like to listen to music when I read. I prefer silence, for a couple of reasons. I like to be able to focus on the words, and because I like a lot of music, it’s sometimes hard to tune out the sound. If I’m doing work, though, I’ll listen to music to keep myself focused. I think if I’m creating words, I need something to keep me focused on the words, but if I’m reading words, I need to process them in a different way.

What are your thoughts on music while reading?