The soundtrack to your favorite book: Pairing novels and music

Soundtrack to your farvorite book
The soundtrack to your favorite book
Graphic by William Lager | MPR News

Today, we're building soundtracks for our favorite books.

What songs perfectly capture your favorite stories?

"What songs do — and what great books do — is bring us to unbearable feelings," author Steve Almond said. "They access our emotional life in a way nothing else can."

Almond and Tom Moon, a music reviewer for NPR, joined MPR News' Kerri Miller to discuss their favorite books, their favorite songs — and how they all fit together.

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"Jane Eyre": The soundtrack

Kerri Miller picked three songs for her all-time favorite novel, Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre." The songs capture a haunting; a longing for home; and a sense of unbalance, just beneath the surface.

• "The Container" by Fiona Apple

• "Piece of My Heart" by Janis Joplin

• "Going Home" by Joanne Shaw Taylor

"The Great Gatsby" and jazz

The latest film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic poured on the glitz and glamor, but according to Almond, it missed the mark musically.

"Fitzgerald is one of the most beautiful describers of music itself in the English language," Almond said. And the music he describes, in the party scenes, is jazz. That's at odds with the Lana Del Rey song from the new soundtrack, which comes across as "clearly modern, almost industrial," said Almond.

You decide: Does it fit?

Dystopia and tunes

Dystopic novels are having their day in the sun. The recent trend of post-apocalyptic stories calls for songs to match.

Moon found himself reading Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" and Emily St. John Mandel's "Station Eleven" this summer — for him, they called to mind Leonard Cohen's "The Future" or Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings."

"This feeling of the earth scorched, everything we knew changed — the music fills in that moment," Moon said. "Leonard Cohen was very much talking about decay, decline, and the ways in which the souls' core is eroded."

When it comes to Cormac McCarthy, Almond said, Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil Blues" would work for the author's entire oeuvre. The song speaks to evil lurking at the edges, finding its way into everyday life.

More book and music pairings from callers and commenters

• "Chickenhawk" by Bob Mason
The memoir tells the story of Mason's time as a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War. A caller said he always pairs it with "Machine Gun," performed by Jimi Hendrix with Band of Gypsys.

• "Looking for Alaska" by John Green
Green's young adult novel is bittersweet, and a perfect complement for Passenger's "Let Her Go."

• "The Shining" by Stephen King
King's classic horror novel opens with the devil swooping down through the mountains. "Strings, Percussion and Celesta" scores the evil journey to eerie effect.

• "The Power of the Dog" by Don Winslow
Winslow's gritty novels dig into the danger of the Mexican drug wars. Music from Los Tigres Del Norte offers an authentic view of the settings and violence Winslow writes about.

Chime in. What songs would you pair with your favorite reads? Add to the list in the comments below or tell us on Twitter @thethreadmpr.