Friends – I’ve discovered the secret to being able to play music while reading. I really thought I’d have to resign myself to only listening to instrumentals while reading (not that that’s a bad thing in the slightest) but I’m gonna share my lil secret. It’s not really a secret because it’s stupidly simple.
Put the music hella quiet.That’s it. Just…crank the volume down. You want to be able to hear it, but…just. If you can make out the words perfectly, too loud. You want the sound of the music but not the details of it. Because it’s really all about setting the vibe.
Speaking of the ‘vibe’, when I’m listening to music, I tend to find myself listening to my vibe or die playlist, which you can find below. None of the songs are super high energy, and they don’t really require you to sing along. I’ve found myself throwing this playlist on when I’m settling in for a solid couple hours of reading and so far, no issues!
For today’s post I hope you don’t mind me branching out a bit. BookTok and BookTube have really picked up speed this year and it’s been amazing to see so many people get back into reading. Last year I was able to meet my reading goal, and this year I’m a couple books off from hitting my goal of 50 books. All this time in lockdown has obviously allowed me to increase my reading goal each time I’ve met the previous one, but it’s also allowed me to read a whole range of books, re-read some favourites and get into some solid book tracking.
For tracking my reading I used to be a faithful GoodReads user. However I’ve made the switch to StoryGraph, a black, female owned book tracking platform that honestly, in my opinion, is ten times better. It gives you heaps of stats about your reading patterns and habits, plus it just eases my mind a bit that I’m not supporting another Bezos business, ya know?
For today’s post I wanted to share my vibe or die playlist that I’ve been listening to while reading, so I thought it would be only fair to share my Five Star books. I’m pretty sparing with my ratings so for these books to snag a 5 out of 5, it’s fair to say I loved them.
Some of these books I read at the start of this year, some are super recent finishes, some I’ve re-read as part of my reading goal and others are books I saw floating around social media and bought purely because of that.
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
I’m convinced that every young girl should try reading this book. I mean, anyone can read this because I’m sure it’s not just women who would enjoy it, but there’s something about the protagonist Esther, the way she speaks and describes her environment and emotions and how each time I read it, I understand more and more. I re-read this book in August and it hit me a lot harder than the last time I read it. It’s an American classic and without really spoiling anything, the ‘bell jar’ is a metaphor for Esther’s depression, her mental health and a bit of a spiral she finds herself in. I just love the way Sylvia Plath created Esther’s character, how some times you love her, sometimes you find her completely infuriating and other times you just don’t know how to feel. It’s a quick read, but it’s worth it.
After Dark – Haruki Murakami
This book. My goodness. The writing is sensational, very typical of Murakami’s style and the way he blends reality, dystopia and just complete make-believe into this one-night event of sorts just hit me when I read this the first time. I’m considering re-reading this one as well because again, it’s a quick read, but it’s a fulfilling one. Haruki Murakami is to date, one of the best writers I’ve read and the way he creates these worlds and describes sensations that are so hard to put into words just really captivates you entirely.
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
I would go as far as to say that this book is in my Top 3 books ever. My lord, the way this book sent me on a spin. I first read it back in 2016, I read it twice that year, and I only picked it up again to start a re-read this month. The writing, the characters, the way Donna Tartt dips into gothic literature and moulds it around the settings in this book just make you shiver. It’s an intense read, and it took 17-year old me two really slow reads back in 2016 to full grasp the story. It’s an intense depiction of morality, class, betrayal and evil and the pace forces you to really be ready for anything. I can’t really put this book into any more words than that. If you’ve read The Secret History then you might understand what I mean and if you haven’t, you can only really read the book to try and understand. This book has stayed with me for the last 5 years and I’m very happy I’ve started re-reading it.
On The Come Up – Angie Thomas
This book, written by the author of Concrete Roses and The Hate You Give, is undeniably underrated, especially when it stands next to titles as impactful and as popular as the two I just mentioned. It’s about a young girl named Bri who wants to make it as a successful rapper, following in the footsteps of her late father who was an underground rap legend. It covers how her dreams interweave with her reality, her mother losing her job and the lives of poor and working-class African American communities. It touches you in a way that Angie Thomas has mastered.
The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited The Soul of Black America – Marcus J. Moore
This is the first and only biography of Kendrick Lamar, one of my favourite rappers of all time and Marcus J. Moore nails it. It covers his timeline, growing up as a young child in Compton having to manoeuvre around a life filled with gang violence, poverty and racism, channeling that into his music and his craft and fighting his way to the top of the game. You really get a sense of how much Kendrick has truly impacted the musical scene. His assistance in the resurgence of bebop and jazz within hip-hop and rap, and how much of an impact he’s truly had.
Shoe Dog – Phil Knight
I wasn’t sure what I expected when I decided to read the memoir of Phil Knight, the creator of Nike. I had an interview with the company lined up earlier this year and I was intent on knowing everything and anything about the brand I already loved. Phil Knight, is one of the best story-tellers I’ve ever read. The way he was able to reflect, replay key moments and interactions and really take you on a deep dive through the history of his life, the ideas and events that lead to creating the iconic brand and all the people involved, kinda removed that ever-present feeling you sometimes get when reading memoirs and biographies. There’s this sense of humility and gratefulness when you read his memoir and at the same time you constantly have to remind yourself that this is the man who built an empire. The humble beginnings really give you a sense of just how huge the brand is and everything it encompasses, all wrapped up perfectly in a book written by an incredible storyteller.
Song Of Achilles – Madeline Miller
I picked up this book and it really cemented my love for Greek mythology, Greek gods and their worlds. I dipped my toe into the genre, more like threw my whole foot in, by reading Troy by Stephen Fry and fell in love with it. I also previously read another one of Miller’s books, Circe, and loved it, so when I saw BookTok going bonkers for Song Of Achilles, I bought it straight away. This book ruined me. It follows the Greek god Achilles, and Patroclus, a young prince who is exiled from his kingdom and how they’re brought together, purely by chance. The way these two characters develop and blossom throughout the book really pulls and tears at all of your emotions. Patroclus is a character who you can’t help but support and empathise with, despite his many faults. His wins become yours and you share in his failures. Achilles, in a way, becomes much more human and accessible and half the time I was reading this I forgot that this was Achilles, the Greek god Achilles. Madeline Miller manages to capture boyhood, love, honour and grief incredibly in this book.