Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Singing the Song of the Free Range Reader


I can't remember which of you loooovely bloggy peeps mentioned it, but someone referred to reading what you want, when you want without obligation as "free range" reading. I've been thinking about this particular term for a while now, and I've decided I love it. I thrive as a free range reader.

As I've been percolating on my reading, I've also begun to think a little about what draws me to different books. And I'm thinking very specifically. It sort of reminds me of my own proclivities in music. I'm a VERY eclectic listener. If you were to romp through my Spotify playlist you would see the following and MANY more: 30 Seconds to Mars, Bruce Springsteen, Marc Cohn, Eurythmics, Florence + the Machine, Jake Owen, Miranda Lambert, Aaron Copeland (classical), Samuel Barber (classical), Jay Z, John Legend, Lauryn Hill, Oasis, The Dixie Chicks.

I'm attracted to different types of musics for varied reasons, some of them being voice quality, instrumentation, lyrics, beat, a certain "mood" a song evokes. Likewise, I like books for a deluge of reasons that appeal directly to my mood. As I was looking at a list of books I've read over the last three years or so, I could make some direct comparisons in the qualities I like in music and the qualities that appeal to me in a gripping novel.


Miranda Lambert is one of the best lyricists in country music. Her music and lyrics are fresh and she has a decidedly quirky, lovely twang and vocal delivery. One of my favorite songs of hers is "The House That Built Me."
I thought if I could touch this place or feel itThis brokenness inside me might start healingOut here it's like I'm someone elseI thought that maybe I could find myselfIf I could just come in, I swear I'll leaveWon't take nothing but a memoryFrom the house that built me
In comparison to my reading, there's a wonderful connection with Alice Hoffman's book The Red Garden. There's the same sense of a warm, down home atmosphere and the creativity (in plot and analogy) that I adore in Hoffman's writing sync up nicely with what I admire in Miranda Lambert's lyrics.


There are other books that I get sucked into because they have a relentless pace to them. They're compelling from page one with a great story, good writing, and a level of interest that I may not at first be able to explain, but that becomes almost entrancing. A music/book pairing here would be Jay Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild" with Justin Cronin's The Passage. You may recognize this song from the new Great Gatsby trailer. Without a doubt, the most intense book I've read in the last few years is The Passage. It's a great book with a winning combination of good writing, a breakneck pace, and interesting characters. Likewise, I'm totally taken with "No Church in the Wild." It's a driving beat, I love Jay Z and Kanye's voices, and the lyrics are clever and edgy.

Drug dealer chic
I'm wondering if a thug's prayers reach
Is Pious pious cause God loves pious?
Socrates asked whose bias do yall seek
All for Plato, screech
I'm out here balling, I know yall hear my sneaks
Jesus was a carpenter, Yeezy laid beats
Hova flowed the Holy Ghost
Get the hell up out your seats
Preach

Last, but certainly not lease -- I fell in love with Florence + the Machine's "Breath of Life." This song is included on the Snow White and the Huntsman soundtrack, but I think it also fits one of my favorite books of the year: Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I love the song because it's atmospheric and almost "heavy" in the way it can wrap me up (especially if I'm listening with headphones). Likewise, I was completely taken with Wicked because it's far darker, more political, and more intense than I'd ever expected. Elphaba is a troubled character with a troubled past and she fights through a great deal of political intrigue and hardship. The intensity, the beauty of the lyrics, and the dark atmosphere seem a good fit for this song. 

To get a dream of life again
A little vision of the start at the end
But all the choirs in my head sang,
No oh oh
But I needed one more touch
Another taste of heavenly rush
And I believe, I believe it
So oh oh oh
Who's side am I on?
Who's side am I?
Who's side am I on?
Who's side am I?

I’ve written a lot here lately about judgement in reading. People judge others’ reading (and some people judge their own) choices based on genre, literary merit (or a perceived lack). I’ve never once felt any need to justify my eclectic musical choices, and I choose music based on a very basic need in the moment. Mood dictates all in my musical choices, and it's been great to let that same sort of basic need lead me in my reading. There's never been a time in my life that I agonized over the right music. Why agonize over book choices? Read what fits the need.

20 comments:

  1. Read what you want, I say. We have few enough opportunities to indulge our personal preferences, and books should be one of them!

    Glad you’re enjoying your free range reading. I like the way you’ve linked up books and music..cool idea :)

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    1. Amen, Becca! It hit me in the car one day. I'm in the car so much, it's my best thinking time. :D

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  2. I think free-range reading is so much better. I prefer it because I find that I read a lot more when I don't have to read a certain book at a certain time.

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    1. Becca, that's my take on it, too. I can't say I've been reading quickly lately because life has had a lot for me to do. BUT under normal circumstances I do read quicker, and I tend to avoid slumps better if I don't have a prescribed list of reading.

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  3. I love everything about this post so very much.

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    1. Well thank you, Brooke!!! I'm glad you liked. :D

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  4. I like the term Free Range Reader (that would be a good title for a blog: The Free Range Readers. The theme song could be "Don't Fence Me In"). I am also a very eclectic music lover, although I have to admit I am a bit of a music snob. But if the music turns out to be good, I will happily amend my assumptions (Justin Timberlake and Kelly Clarkson).

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    1. Tasha, it would be a good title for a blog. And don't think I haven't thought about it! LOL If I hadn't been using this blog title for so many years I'd change.

      That's good that you're a music snob (your words!) but open to new possibilities. :D

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  5. My music tastes are also quite eclectic, but I'd never thought to connect that with my tendency to be eclectic in my book tastes, too. But it makes sense.

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    1. Teresa, I figure since I'm a music tart, it only makes sense that I'm a book tart, too. Free range all the way!

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  6. I don't pay much attention to lyrics in music (unless I'm changing them). I'm more about the overall sound and mood.

    I must confess, though, I never have been able to get into country music.

    Heather seems to be able to pick musicians for me quite well. So far she's mentioned Adele and David Garrett in posts, and I've fallen in love with both of their music (how the heck are you supposed to say that, anyway?).

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    1. Jill, it just depends for me. A lot of songs I'll hate the lyrics (anything by NICKELBACK) but I enjoy the mood and beat.

      LOVE Adele. Don't think I've ever listened to David Garrett. I'll Spotify him today. :D

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  7. I love this idea of free-range reading. It's what I used to do before blogging. I really need to get back to it. I'm having a tough time picking up a book right now because the book I feel I need to read (self-imposed for a read-along) isn't the book I want to read.

    I have very eclectic music taste as well. I still listen to what I like, but I have been teased for certain music choices by music snobs. I listen to what speaks to me, and I don't like people peeking on my iPod because I don't want to hear critiques of my choices. :)

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    1. Thanks, Kristi! It's what I did before blogging, too, and I just missed it too much. It keeps me engaged and reading as opposed to massive slumps. I have to go with mood or I'm a useless reader. lol

      That's a bummer that you've had people critique and tease your music choices. I feel the same way about that as I do judgmental readers.

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  8. This post was just fun, fun, fun! While I have eclectic tastes in both music and books, I don't think I'm insightful enough to link them up the way you did.

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    1. Thanks, Debi! It took some serious thought. LOL I ate up most of my lunch hour writing this post. :D

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  9. I also listen to an eclectic mix of music, and if the mood strikes me, I will read all over the map. Most of the time, I am reading the book club books, or review copies, but when I get the itch to read something of my own choosing, it's like a breath of fresh air. This was an excellent post. I need to go back and listen to some of my favorite songs and see what book they would pair up with!

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  10. This is a fabulous post!! I'm the same as you that I need an eclectic mix in order to stay interested, but never equated my music with my books. I might need to start tracking that, I think it would be interesting to see the results and if a particular singer or song makes me think of a book or vice versa.

    Can you believe the sequel to The Passage is right.around.the.corner. !!!! December!!

    "Free range" reading. Ahhh. I love the feeling of reading whatever I want, whenever I want.

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  11. I loved this post for so many different reasons! I too love the idea of "free range" reading!!! Time to make the change and do the same thing myself :)

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  12. "Read What fits the Need"...AMEN! I love the connection you have made between your reading and music. I've never thought about this before but I should. My music tastes are very eclectic as well while I think my bookish tastes are less so. Hmmmm, I need to ponder that one.

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