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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Trending: Literary Mixtapes

Readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of "whole collection" readers' advisory.  First defined by Neal Wyatt here in 2006, "It makes connections that extend beyond appeal-only considerations and includes the entire collection, not just fiction or books, when working with readers."


This means that when we are helping leisure, we need to do more than just give them readalike reading options.  We need to also consider "watchalikes" or "listenalikes" too.

Readers have no problem making the connections to books they like with movies or TV shows.  In fact, they have been doing this longer than we professionals have.  But with music, things are slightly trickier.  Both the patrons and librarians are not already making these bridges intuitively, but that does not mean there aren't people out there trying.

Of course if you take a book like Bel Canto by Ann Patchett which has an overt musical frame, it is easy to make these connections.  But in most cases, making the connection from a song to a book is not that easy.


However, over the course 2011 and now into 2012, there is a trend involving authors and book lovers alike; a trend I will generally refer to as "Literary Mixtapes." (name taken from Flavorwire, see below)


Last year, Jodi Picoult inserted herself into this discussion in her classically non-subtle style by writing the novel, Sing You Home, which features a music therapist.  Picoult wrote songs for you, the reader, to listen to during certain parts of the book.  Yes, the book comes with a CD.


However, a larger trend than individual songs meant to be listened to while reading certain chapters is the book soundtrack.  This would be most likened to a movie soundtrack.  I first encountered a discussion of this phenomenon in January Magazine, which links to this essay in The Atlantic:
There is a long-held belief about cinema: "There never was a silent film." From the early days, when moving images fascinated viewers in their mute spectacle, musical accompaniment drowned out the incessant whirring of the projector machine. Sound brought cinema's haunting figures into being, amplifying their moods and heightening the intensity of the action.
Reading, however, is silent by design. Unless readers add their own accompaniment. On any given public transit commute, one might find an audience of readers trying to do just that, headphones in, books open, providing soundtracks to literature. Mark Cameron noticed this on his daily ferry rides, and as he selected his own music-reading pairings, found himself choosing songs that emotionally corresponded to the words on the page. When he told his brother, the two started cooking up an idea for "a more cinematic-type experience" for reading, says Paul Cameron, who is now the CEO of the company they co-founded, Booktrack.
Over the course of about three years, the Cameron brothers set up a service to provide movie-like soundtracks for digital books, five of which are available now for download onto an iPhone or iPad. More titles will appear on Booktrack's virtual shelves in the coming weeks and months, and will eventually be accessible for Android, computers, and other e-reading devices. They'll be offering selected titles for free, but most will cost between $1 and $4.
Click here for the full essay.


One of the books that is discussed in The Atlantic essay is The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan.  You can go to the webpage which has a link to the soundtrack here.  When I read this novel, I noticed the blurb on the cover which told me about the soundtrack and where to go to listen to it.  This one one of the first book's I have seen that had a soundtrack created before the book came out and the publisher used it in promotional materials for the novel.


But it is not just author produced or sanctioned music that is being paired with a book.  Many book lovers are out there making lists or even "mixtapes" to be paired with their reading materials.


Back in September, Lit Lists ran this list of the Ten Best Songs Based on Books.  But my favorite is Flavorwire's running series of Literary Mixtapes which take a literary character and make them a mix tape of music, like you would for a new girlfriend or boyfriend.  Their newest one is a mix tape for Jo March.  Click here to see them all.

This pairing of books and music is really gathering steam.  Keep an eye out for more, and start thinking about how you can incorporate music into your patrons', or your own, reading.

You can also click here for the "Trending" archive.

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