I think I've mentioned in here before how my other main interest, beyond music, is poetry. I really like visual art too, actually (I'm really upset about Rauschenberg dying) but poetry's the other thing I know a lot about and I spend most of my time either reading, writing or thinking about it.
Actually though, at the moment I'm reading a lot of fiction - the other day I discovered B.S. Johnson's amazing novel, Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry, and so now I'm suddenly reading as much modernist/post-modernist fiction as I can get hold of. I love the Suffolk Libraries' online catalogue and reservations, even if a lot of the books that I want have to be taken from the 'County Reserve'.
Anyway since this is being posted in my music blog and not my poetry blog (which is sort of abandoned since I never have enough to say about poetry to say in an intelligent enough way) I'm going to get to the point: what do you read to? My favourite band, Los Campesinos!, aren't much use here - I can't listen to something as catchy and pop and filled with vocals as that when I'm reading, it distracts me, especially when reading poetry or prose that's hard to follow. A lot of my other favourites are out, especially if I know them really well. Yesterday I read Brighton Rock to Slow Down Tallahassee, which was a bit odd really, since their delightful take on pop didn't really fit with all the damnation and razors and pale-faced girls and heaving bosoms in Greene's cold hard 1930s classic. Today I'm reading David Markson's novel, The Last Novel (I currently have a thing about reading a novel a day, not sure how long it'll last) and I've been alternating between High Places, who I seem to have discovered the beauty of much later than everyone else who reads Pitchfork every day (I'm not even ashamed, I hardly take their word as gospel) and A Sunny Day In Glasgow, whose 5:15 Train has been a favourite for ages but their album, not so much.
What do these have in common? Well, all three are bands that I already liked (with the exception of High Places, who I didn't remember from my attempt to listen to them a few months ago) but not bands that I had really fallen for, religiously. I knew none of the songs by heart, except 5:15 Train (which would be hard to sing along to) and so I wasn't tempted to sit there and listen to my very favourite bits as the albums played. But they're all very good, and apart from Tallahassee, quite layered with sounds, very textured. There were no lyrics jumping out at me noisily to distract me from reading.
I think this is generally the best approach. It can be fun to make themed playlists to read books to (I have a couple of Neil Gaiman playlists in iTunes) but ultimately there's little point; I want something that won't distract me; not something I can ignore, exactly, but something that won't impose if I don't want it to. Why listen to music at all? Oddly, I find without music (or the TV happily burbling away to itself) on then it can also be hard to read, I find myself being distracted by everyone else in my house talking or making noise or whatever. Music is a far more attractive option.
So, if anyone reads this: what about you? Do you have to have silence, or can you listen to anything while you read? Also, if you feel like recommending me a book, feel free to add that in too.