Record Store Day is nearly upon us, that magical third Saturday of April when hipsters and music lovers line up outside of their local record shop to support indies and get their hands on special releases produced for the occasion.
The truly serious will stake out shops in the early hours of the morning in hopes of obtaining albums with very limited pressings, but as not every store carries every release, there’s no guarantee. While waiting in line, I’ve overheard phone conversations between friends at different stores comparing hauls and strategizing their next moves. This can be serious stuff.
Personally, I’m hoping for some Dolly Parton or Kinks, but I’m not too picky and I certainly won’t be setting an alarm clock. It’s the spirit of the day that I enjoy the most. So, in honor of this vinyl-heavy celebration, I have put together a list of books where music and records play a significant role.
High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby
Obvious, I know, but you can’t talk about vinyl without Rob Fleming: the moody, 35-year-old record store owner, top-5 list maker, and romantic idiot. Pop music is essentially the novel’s setting, which is why the movie adaptation could so easily shift the story from London to Chicago. It also means this book has a readily available (and awesome) motion picture soundtrack. If you’re curious what the novel’s soundtrack would be, however, the blog A Patchwork Life has done the legwork and created a Spotify playlist.
Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon
Another record store owner! California’s Brokeland Records faces the greatest challenge an indie shop can come up against: a megastore slated to move into the neighborhood. Jazz and funk provide the backdrop to this soulful story, where the survival of personal relationships are as important as the business’ success. Slate compiled a track list for this one—126 songs with page number references!—along with a Spotify playlist.
How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran
A raunchy and hilarious account of a teenage girl’s journey to becoming a music critic and discovering who she is in the process. Where does she get her music education? The local record shop and the library. Heavy with 90s-era music, its pages practically sing. Happily, another blogger has created the “Dolly Wilde Experience” playlist on Spotify in honor of Moran’s novel.
Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America, by John Waters
Speaking of raunchy and hilarious, John Waters takes things up a few notches as he chronicles his cross-country adventure in three novella-like accounts of his hitchhiking experience: imagined best-case scenarios; imagined worst-case scenarios; and what actually happened (because, yes, he really hitchhiked from Baltimore to San Francisco). No road trip is complete without a mixtape, and he thoughtfully includes an eclectic track list at the book’s end, available here. Oh, and the Spotify version, of course.
King Dork, Approximately, by Frank Portman
Sequel to the cult classic King Dork, this YA novel takes obscure music references to a new level. Though the albums themselves might not be unfamiliar, the main character tends to talk about them by catalog number rather than title. Plenty of songs and records do get a mention, however, as the teenage misfit tries to get his band some exposure and survive high school. Turns out, he’s endearingly bad at both. Portman, himself in a band, appends a track list. Largehearted Boy sat down with Portman for their Book Notes feature, where authors create playlists for their books, which can be read here, and listened to here.
The Carnival at Bray, by Jessie Ann Foley
This 2015 Printz Honor book is steeped in 90s grunge. A recent transplant from Chicago to the Irish town of Bray, 16-year-old Maggie makes a pilgrimage to a Nirvana concert in Rome. Dig out your flannel, pop on your headphones, and take a listen.
Vinyl Junkies: Adventures in Record Collecting, by Brett Milano
Record fanatics at their most extreme. Milano interviews collectors, including Thurston Moore and R. Crumb, to try and pin down what exactly drives their vinyl addictions.
And last, but not least, anything by Haruki Murakami. Murakami is a serious record collector, and his novels invariably feature classical, jazz, and American pop references. The Week ran an article teasing out the songs in each novel and included a playlist, though a Spotify search will turn up other Murakami themed lists.
Happy reading! Happy Record Store Day!