The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge is back! I’m probably the only one who is excited by this, but oh well. I had a lot of fun with both coming up with prompts (all music-related!) and then fulfilling them throughout the year in 2021, so I decided to have another go at it. If you missed it, you can check out the birth of this reading challenge and how I did in my 2021 post! I had a couple of walks down memory lane while I put this post together, so I hope you’ll create your own ones by reading books and listening to great music this year!
As with last year, I tried to come up with prompts that would allow me to include a wide selection of books, leave plenty of space for different interpretations, and not feature two songs by the same artist/band. On the whole, I think I did pretty well and I can’t wait to start adding books!
My aim with this challenge is just purely to have fun. As I didn’t pressure myself last year to fill it, I won’t do that this year either. I’ll read what I’ll read, then I will try to wiggle them into the prompts. I will also attempt to review as many of the books as I can, but life can happen. I’ll keep an update thread running on Twitter again, but I’ll try to add updates here too. I will also attempt to put together a list of recommendations for anyone to use.
Once again, everyone is welcome to join me. Feel free to shoot me a message so I could send you the card below. Or the vertical version which many of you seem to like better.
All that being said, look at my glorious The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge card for 2022:
Let’s get a closer look at them, shall we?
NOTE: The interpretations for the prompts are my own. You are absolutely welcome to interpret the prompts however you wish! This should be fun and no one will come at you if you cheat a bit here and there 😉
This year I also have an ongoing series called Listen & Read where I talk about each prompt in debt including the album, the song, and a recommendation of 5 books for each. They go up in every two weeks on Friday. Those already posted will be linked below.
Update: Well, I totally failed at this as I gave up after a couple of posts… I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better in 2023.
Most of the prompts are song titles, so I made a Spotify playlist which I’ll link below for extra fun 🙂 Make sure to check them out as I have a few personal favorites among them!
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Background: Ever since I heard Go To War (I picked this song from the album to include in the Spotify playlist), then the whole album I’m madly in love with it. And it firmly put Nothing More on my favorite list. They also blew my mind when I saw them live. Holy. Shit. I planned to use this song (Go To War) last year, then I switched at the last minute. I planned to use it this year too, but…well…went for the album title instead *shrug*
What the prompt is about: I think this prompt can be about a lot of things – an anthology, a collection of some kind, a book that features storytelling or stories, a book with a character who tends to, well, to tell stories to themselves.
The book I picked: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainini. This book is all about stories and how they came to be. And also both protagonists insist that they are the opposite of what they really are.
How You Remind Me
Background: Look, I know it has become a trend to hate Nickelback, but I actually like their music. Sure, they have some cheesy songs, but they also have great ones. Also, have you ever heard the two songs Chad Kroeger did with Santana? Boy, they are great, and Chad has a great voice. I’ll die on this hill. How You Remind Me is one of the very first rock songs I fell in love with. I even tried to translate it as a teenager with not much luck, lol. They’ve put me on the rock and roll road and I’ll always be grateful for that.
What the prompt is about: For this prompt, I’ll use a book that has a character who reminds me of myself or someone else I know. Or if it brings up memories of any kind. It can also work for a book that has an adaptation.
Oops!… I Did It Again
Background: Although I was growing up around the time Britney Spears became a huge star, I never really was a fan of her. As this was the time of MTV and listening to the radio, of course, I could never escape her songs. And I admit, some of them bring back nostalgic memories. Oops!… I Did It Again is one of such songs.
What the prompt is about: I admit this is probably going to be one of the hardest prompts to fulfill as it doesn’t really leave much moving room for interpretation. I was thinking of a character who keeps making the same mistakes over and over or a character who relives a period of their lives for some reason. It’s a bit of a stretch, but it can also be used for a thriller/mystery book about a serial killer. Although, this song doesn’t really have murdering vibes. Unless you have the desire to kill whoever plays it in your vicinity… But it does work for a book you’re rereading.
The book I picked: Kept from Cages by Phil Williams. There is a series of mysterious massacre cases which are being investigated and which have a connection to a strange little girl.
Background: I just love Connection by OneRepublic. I can’t quite explain why but it just speaks to me. Even though I neglected discovering new music in 2021, I’m glad I did rediscover my love for OneRepublic. I actually made “connection” the word/theme of my year as I really need to work on my social skills. I never did this before, but hey, there is a first time for everything!
What the prompt is about: Such a simple word and it can mean so much! I think I’ll use this prompt for a book that features some kind of bond between people. It can be found family, love, friendship. Or a book I feel especially connected to on an emotional level. We’ll see what the year will bring.
The book I picked: The Hungry Dreaming by Craig Schaefer. There is a strong theme of found family, making connections through an investigation to people, to events in the past, etc.
Background: I had a huge Eminem phase before I found my calling in rock and roll. It was mostly the influence of a friend who was a big fan of him. This was around the time when The Eminem Show came out. I still love that album to this day. I even wrote my first novel (if we can call it that) inspired by Eminem and her daughter, Hailie… as well as The Princess Diaries series, so… I, of course also watched 8 Mile and read every article about the movie I could put my hands on. Em wrote Lose Yourself for the movie, then went and won an Oscar for it. The first rap song that ever won. How cool is that?
What the prompt is about: Some say to find your way, first, you have to get lost. And so for this prompt, I’ll use a book in which a character goes on a journey – be it a literal one or a personal one – at the end of which they learn who they are. But also, keeping the song itself in mind, it can be about a character who just loses themselves in the moment, experience joy, success, take their one shot and make the best of it.
The book I picked: The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah. Loulie goes on a journey and learns quite a lot about herself in the process. Also, there is a part where the characters literally get lost.
Anthem of the Angels
Background: You never really thought I would have this reading challenge without a Breaking Benjamin song, did you? As a matter of fact, I almost did *grimacing* I finally narrowed down my choices to 24 when I realized I didn’t have anything music-related. This also led me to the realization that I didn’t have any Breaking Benjamin song on my list *gasp* Thankfully I could fix my grave error and have both at once with Anthem of the Angels, hah! Dear Agony also happens to be my favorite Breaking Benjamin album. I sang praises about Ben Burnley and his band many times, so I’ll spare you. I’ll just say he is a goddamn fucking genius and my favorite singer ever.
What the prompt is about: Since this is my only kinda music-related prompt, I’ll use it for something music-related. Preferably something about a singer. I’m sure one of such books will come my way as I always have periods when I seek them out. But it can be also about a book that features angels in some way. Or a book where death has a prominent role or saying goodbye to something/someone that hurts as the song itself is a pretty dark one lyrically.
The book I picked: Small Miracles by Olivia Atwater. Even though this prompt was supposed to be for something music related, in the end, I picked a book with an angel as the MC. I’ve no regrets. Plus it’s our SPFBO 8 finalist!
I Need That Ooh
Background: I absolutely have no idea from where I know The Picturebooks, a German rock band. Probably Spotify threw them my way at one point. I mean, if you listen to I Need That Ooh, it’s pretty hard to miss when it comes up. Also, I just learned they collaborated with Lzzy Hale so that definitely puts them on the cool kids’ list.
What the prompt is about: Well, this is going to be a bit of a fun one. When I first decided to put it on the list, I wasn’t quite sure what I’ll use it for. But then I thought about all the times when I looked at a cool cover and went “Ooh, I need that one in my hands!” and so, I’m going to use it just for that. For a book with an absolutely eye-catching cover. If you want to go with something closer to the original meaning of the song, then probably you can pick up something with a spicy romance.
The book I picked: The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang. The Heart Principle is a steamy romance novel and thus it’s a perfect fit for this prompt.
Background: I haven’t been listening to the Black Stone Cherry much in recent years. I kinda lost touch with them, but I still love the album I fell in love with first: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Family Tree is a song from their last studio album with the same title.
What the prompt is about: Well, this one is pretty self-explanatory. I’m going to pick a book with family themes, be it found family or one where the characters are bound by their blood.
The book I picked: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. This book is all about family, especially siblings as it’s their story.
Blood in the Water
Background: I’ve been liking Shaman’s Harvest for a while, but they strengthen their position with their latest album, Red Hands Black Deeds. Blood in the Water, however, is from their previous album, which is also awesome. Naturally. I honestly can’t wait for their new album to drop this year. Anyway. Originally I wanted to go with a different water-related song, but eventually, I settled on this one.
What the prompt is about: Don’t ask me why, but I wanted to have one water-related prompt at least. Which is funny, because I’m not a big fan of nautical fantasy…so, to give myself room to navigate, I’m going to say any book will do where water is featured in a way. Well, water as in a river, an ocean, a sea, a lake, etc. You get the idea. I expect somewhere along the line blood will be involved too, so I’m sure that’ll be fine. I guess if you are into dystopian themes and say, the people in a book have to struggle to even get water, then you can go with that as well.
The book I picked: Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon. Well, there is literal blood in the water, and also attacking people who are considered weak. I mean, it’s about a murder investigation after all.
Break the Spell
Background: I don’t remember exactly when I heard one of Daughtry‘s songs, probably not long after their debut album. Ironically, the first time I heard Over You it was used in a Hungarian rap song. I was still into rap at the time. But I’ll never forget how Chris’ voice affected me. Like, wow. I still can hear some of the lines and it’s been more than 10 years ago. It’s catchy as hell. But, for this challenge, I picked up another song, Break the Spell, which is also the title of their album from 2011.
What the prompt is about: Well, this song is not exactly about magic spells, but for our purposes, we are going to pretend it is. So anything fits which has magic, any kind of spells, rituals, etc. If it’s about breaking a spell, well, all the better, but I’m not going to be too fussy.
The book I picked: The Umbral Storm by Alec Hutson. Well, this book is about learning magic, even if there isn’t any spell casting, but since I didn’t read many books that had, this has to do.
Have a Nice Day
Background: Bon Jovi. What can I say? I don’t think they need an introduction. I’m not a super big fan, but as for Britney, growing up it was pretty damn hard to avoid some of their songs. Is there anyone who doesn’t love It’s My Life? Like, really? Or Livin’ On a Prayer. Just to name a few. When I was in Vegas and visited Fremont Street, Livin’ On a Prayer and another Bon Jovi song came up through the loudspeakers. Man, I had such a great moment just dancing and singing along like a lunatic. It’s one of my most favorite memories from my stay in the US. This time around I picked Have a Nice Day, because, ugh, I don’t have many positive songs on this list *grimace*
What the prompt is about: We all deserve to have a nice day every once in a while. So, go and pick up a book that makes you feel good. Or makes you laugh. Anything goes as long as it’s not grim and dark.
The book I picked: Book Lovers by Emily Henry. This is a super fun romance book that made me laugh out loud. I definitely had a nice day or two while I devoured the audiobook.
Background: I think Eve to Adam is one of those bands I discovered in the late 2000s along with Goo Goo Dolls, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin, etc. They are a damn underrated band if you ask me. I haven’t listened to them for a while, but I can’t get the refrain of Immortal out of my head for nearly 10 years now. For now, I decided to go with Chasing Ghosts for the spooky season.
What the prompt is about: This prompt is also pretty clear – time to pick up a ghost story! I’m sure the spooky season will bring plenty of opportunities to read a book or two featuring creatures from the afterlife, or just a good haunting horror novel. Whichever you prefer.
The book I picked: The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas. I’m thinking a bit out of the box here. For one, it’s because this was my favorite childhood read, so it brings back those old fond memories. Also, we can call Milady a kind of ghost that haunts Athos.
Background: Although this is a joker prompt, I still decided to pick a song for it, because, well, it’s just impossible not to. Plus, there are many great songs around with this title! It would be such a waste. I picked Freedom by the Drum & Piano Project. It’s a duo of two Hungarian musicians – Balázs Havasi on piano and Endi (the drummer of a popular Hungarian rock band) on the drums. This song has been around for quite a few years now, and even though I’m not much into instrumental music, I just can’t have enough of this. Drums and piano go pretty well together. Who would have thought?
What the prompt is about: As I said, this is the joker card. This is where absolutely anything goes you can’t fit into any other prompts. If you want to go in hard mode, you can pick a book with a theme of freedom.
The book I picked: The Prince of Secrets by A.J. Lancaster. If memory serves me, there was a lot about freedom – be it freedom of choice, or literal rescuing. I loved this book and deserves a mention and a review which I’ll do next year.
Anywhere Else But Here
Background: Ah. Simple Plan. Here goes my youth again. Shut Up!, Welcome to My Life, Perfect and all the other songs I listened to back then. I really should pick them up again. Also, as I was working from my mp3 player I realise how much music from the 2000s I still listen to. Our prompt from them is Anywhere Else But Here from their album, Get Your Heart On!.
What the prompt is about: This prompt is all about escapism. A book set in another place rather than our world. A character leaving their home or escaping from somewhere.
The book I picked: The Killing Floor Blues by Craig Schaefer. Our Dan finds himself in a… hm, predicament and wishes to be anywhere else but there.
Background: Oh man, it’s been ages since I really listened to Jettblack. They are another pretty underrated band, although I’m not sure if they are still around. They’ve got some pretty decent songs like Raining Rock or Explode. And then there is also Sunshine, especially the acoustic version which just gives me goosebumps every time.
What the prompt is about: Another bit of positivity. For this, I’ll pick a book that’s set in the summer or has a yellow cover.
The book I picked: The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber. It’s a story playing out over the summer, so definitely lots of sunshine involved.
Partner in Crime
Background: The New Roses is a German band I got to know a couple of years ago. I also saw them as the warm-up band for Shinedown. I especially like their One More for the Road album, although I picked Partner in Crime from another one.
What the prompt is about: I dig this prompt, although I’m not sure yet how hard it’ll prove to be to fill. There are also some options here: a book about two or more characters banding together to commit some crime or another, or a pair of mischievous characters who like to play pranks on others (think of the Weasley twins, for instance). But we can take it as a simple partnership without the crime part.
The book I picked: Incy Wincy by RJ Dark. If you know Jack and Mal then you know why. They are the best.
Song of Women
Background: I almost didn’t have anything on the list involving Lzzy Hale, but thankfully she sneaked herself in the last minute. The HU is a Mongolian metal band, whom I fell in love with about 2 years ago. I absolutely do not understand what they are singing about, but there is something powerful about their performance. They did a couple of collabs with singers like Jacoby Shaddix from Papa Roach or Lzzy Hale from Halestorm which have some English lyrics to them. I picked the latter, Song of Women which is a pretty powerful song, especially sung by Lzzy (who is one of the handful of female singers I absolutely love. I also wouldn’t mind changing my sexual orientation for her, but alas, she is pretty much out of my league).
What the prompt is about: Since this is a song of women, it’s probably pretty obvious what this prompt will be about: kick-ass female MCs!
The book I picked: The Great Witch of Brittany by Louisa Morgan. It’s all about being a woman, and a witch at that in a world that’s not kind to either. Also because it has a strong female lead in Ursule as this book is about her life.
Background: And since I mentioned being underrated, Fivefold definitely fits this category. That they are not all over the US yet, is a crime. I’ve known them for over a decade now, I even got to skype with them and they are just all-around super nice guys. One of their songs was part of my inspiration for my tattoo, I have a line from the same song engraved in one of my belts. They stopped playing for a few years and it didn’t seem like they would ever get back together, but thankfully they did, and looks like there will be a new album this year! One of their newest songs is Dear Insecurity, which just…hits way too deep.
What the prompt is about: I think I’ll broaden the options here a bit and will include all kinds of mental health issues a character in a book might deal with. I’m way too familiar with insecurity and anxiety and as more and more books address issues like these, I’m bound to pick up one along the line.
The book I picked: A Gamble of Gods by Mitriel Faywood. Out of the 3 MCs, Selena has a lot of insecurities and anxieties so because of her, this prompt fits the book.
Keep the Car Running
Background: Goo Goo Dolls is one of those bands that I’ve been listening to for a very long time. Iris definitely was one of my first introductions to them and I love the hell out of that song ever since. If you are familiar with The Treasure Planet, John Rzeznik sang I’m Still Here (Jim’s Theme), which just proves what a great voice he has. I might be biased. They have just way too many songs, but this time I picked something newer, Keep the Car Running.
What the prompt is about: For this prompt, I was thinking about a car chase or a road trip, so definitely something UF/Contemporary. The song is about being tired of waiting around for something to happen, to moving forward, so a book in which a character is taking charge of their lives also could fit.
The book I picked: The Castle Doctrine by Craig Schaefer. Daniel is knocked down and he has to figure out how he could take back the charge over his life, and eventually Vegas as well.
Background: I’ve been wanting to include Black Honey since last year, I just needed time to figure out what I could use it for, apparently. A couple of years ago I heard this song somewhere. I have no idea how I stumbled upon it, probably it was YouTube pushing it before me, but I was instantly hooked. I’m just totally obsessed with this song by Thrice.
What the prompt is about: This year I wanted at least one prompt that was about picking a book based on the color of the cover. I think with black I really can’t go wrong. Although this song has a lot of potentials as it was written to be a political reflection through this metaphor of a man swatting at a beehive and not understanding why he is attacked in return. So I think it could work with a book that has a character (maybe a villain or political ruler) who keeps using the same tactic over and over again, hoping to have a different result each time but just making more of a mess of things.
The book I picked: The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan. Because of the cool black cover.
Background: Another band that couldn’t be missed from this list is Poets of the Fall. After Breaking Benjamin they are definitely one of my favorite bands. But as with BB, I talked about them more than I should on several occasions, so… let’s just move to False Kings, shall we?
What the prompt is about: This prompt calls for a book with a lot of political intricacies, optionally with people claiming the power to themselves. A character who is tired of all these facades and warring and seeks to end it. Or become the only ruler.
The book I picked: Priest of Crowns by Peter McLean. If you know, you know.
Background: After Adam Gontier left Three Days Grace – which was a sad, sad day – he formed Saint Asonia, which already has two albums out. Adam is probably my second favorite singer but he is definitely in the top 5. Last year I had a Three Days Grace song in here, now it’s time for his other band. Fairy Tale is not necessarily my favorite song from their debut album, but it fits perfectly for a reading challenge!
What the prompt is about: I think this is among my favorite prompts (shh, don’t tell the others!). It also speaks for itself very much. Books about fairies, fairy tale retellings, or original stories with fairy tale-like atmosphere can all fit in here.
The book I picked: The Lord of Stariel by A.J. Lancaster. It’s a book (and series) which gives fairies a prominent role and so it fits perfectly.
Nobody Praying for Me
Background: I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but Seether is another one of my top favorite bands. Their last (out of two, the first I missed because I was in the US… go figure) concert here in Budapest is among my favorite memories. I have a picture with them!! *ahem* Nobody Praying for Me was my third choice actually, but due to a last-minute lineup change, it emerged victoriously.
What the prompt is about: Mythology! ALL the mythology! I think this prompt will be perfect for any book that features gods, especially dying ones or those who are vengeful. Maybe a dormant one biding their time to come back and kick some ass? Some pretty good options here. It can also work for any book where some form of religion is prominent.
The book I picked: Until the Last by Mike Shackle. I’m only going to say one word: Raaku.
Background: I admit, Sacrifice wasn’t in the plans, but those damned last-minute changes… Anyway. Disturbed decided to represent itself on this list and who am I to say no? They’ve got a couple of songs I like, but on the whole, they are not among my favorite. David Draiman got a pretty damn powerful voice, though.
What the prompt is about: This is another self-explanatory prompt. Anything to do with a sacrifice – be it personal, ritual, big or small.
The book I picked: Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher. Sacrifice is an important element in the story at one point. But all of the characters make smaller or bigger sacrifices along the way.
Background: And last but not least, we close off with a Shinedown song, the band whose another song inspired the name of this reading challenge – and yes, before you ask, I’m a huge fan. Especially since I got to see them live back in 2018 and made an interview with their drummer, Barry Kerch, who is such a nice guy. And no, I’m not going to stop bragging about that experience anytime soon. Shinedown has a great selection of songs that would make great prompts, but I eventually settled on Creatures.
What the prompt is about: Seriously, we just can’t have a reading challenge without including creatures – supernatural or otherwise. For this prompt, any book with a mythological creature, an animal sidekick, and anything in-between is a go. Bring on the mermaids, dragons, fae, and whatever you wish!
The book I picked: The Crew by Sadir S. Samir. Sadir’s book is full of all kinds of creatures – demons, zombies, and giant toads, just to name a few. It definitely earned its place for this prompt.
And that concludes our list of prompts! Phew! This year proved to be tougher to come up with a final list. When I thought I had it nailed, something always came up – mostly the fact I kept adding two songs by the same band, and then tried to find another one with a similar theme, or picking a completely new one which made me reconsider some other prompts I already thought was set in stone. But, eventually, I nailed it down and I have to say, I’m pretty satisfied with the results. Let the Sound of Madness take us over!
I hope you’ll join me for a book and music-filled year and will have just as much fun as I had coming up with it all! Let me know, if you’d like to join and which of these prompts are your favorites!
Throughout the year I had a Twitter thread where I followed my own progress and everywhere included a short explanation why I picked the book I did. You can check it all out HERE.
THE STORIES WE TELL OURSELVES
HOW YOU REMIND ME
OOPS!...I DID IT AGAIN
ANTHEM OF THE ANGELS
I NEED THAT OOOH
BLOOD IN THE WATER
BREAK THE SPELL
HAVE A NICE DAY
ANYWHERE ELSE BUT HERE
PARTNER IN CRIME
SONG OF WOMEN
KEEP THE CAR RUNNING
NOBODY PRAYING FOR ME