The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge is back for the third year! For the oldtimers, welcome back! For the newcomers, I hope you’ll have a lot of fun this year trying to fill out these music-based reading prompts as I had a lot of fun coming up with them.
As with last year, I tried to pick songs 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’m super happy with this year’s results, and I can’t wait to share them with you all.
The rules are pretty simple: only books read in 2023 count, and you can join the challenge any time, so if you only discover it in August, that’s fine, you can still play! Ideally, you can only use 1 book/prompt, but if you are less of an avid reader, then you can use 1 book for 2 prompts.
My aim with this challenge is just purely to have fun. As I didn’t pressure myself previously 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, will update this post regularly, and I also hope to create a lively channel for The Sound of Madness 2023 on my Discord server. Social media being what it is these days, that’s the best way to keep in touch with me, so please consider jumping on board!
If you are on Storygraph, then there is The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge 2023 event for you to check your progress! JOIN HERE.
I’m also planning to post once a month a list of recommendations for 2 prompts – 5 books each. Hopefully, this will be easier to keep up and I won’t fail as spectacularly as I did last year.
Once again, everyone is welcome to join the fun. Feel free to shoot me a message so I can send you the card below. Or the vertical version if you prefer that. I would like to have a list of participants so we can keep each other updated, and I will offer a $15 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner who takes part and finishes the card!
All that being said, look at my glorious The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge card for 2023:
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 😉
All 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!
Are You Gonna Be My Girl
Background: Is there anyone who was a teen in the early 2000s who doesn’t know this huge hit from Jet? I think it was even used as a theme song for one of the big brand cars’ ad campaigns. I had a few years during university (in the 2010s) when I used to go out to concerts and stayed to party afterward when this song ALWAYS came up. I don’t think you can have a decent party without this song playing. Fight me on that.
What the prompt is about: I think this will be the “love” prompt. That is to say, anything goes that has a romance plot or subplot, or features a couple, or a hopeless love interest. LGBTQ people are absolutely included. Don’t let the title deceive you.
The book I picked: The Meet Cute Method by Portia MacIntosh
Prompt recs: Meet Me in Another Life by Catriona Silvey, Book Lovers by Emily Henry, Beneath Cruel Fathoms by Anela Deen, Small Miracles by Olivia Atwater, The Lord of Stariel by A.J. Lancaster. Full details in my Challenge Check-In January 2023 post.
Background: Justice by Rev Theory had been on my possible prompts list since the first year, but somehow it never made the cut. But its year finally had come! I don’t even have an idea since when I had Justice on my mp3 player, but it’s been a good few years for sure. I can’t say that Rev Theory is on my list of favorites in general, but this is a good song when I need my blood to be pumped up.
What the prompt is about: This one is pretty straightforward. Any book with a strong theme of justice – whether the MC seeks it, or it’s a book about a criminal investigation. It has some good possibilities.
The book I picked: Salt in the Wound by Benjamin Aeveryn
Prompt recs: Dissolution by C. J. Sansom, The Killing Floor Blues by Craig Schaefer, Priest of Bones by Peter McLean, The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan, The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes. Full details in my Challenge Check-In January 2023 post.
Background: Oh boy, Bulletproof Skin by Institute had been one of my favorite songs from the early 2000s, I think. It’s from the time when I started exploring the rock genre and fell in love with it.
What the prompt is about: A character with superpowers would fit this prompt – not necessarily being bulletproof, anything goes. Or a character who gets attacked and survives. I think a book about immortal characters would go as well.
The book I picked:
Prompt recs: To Dream and Die as a Taniwha Girl by Benedict Patrick, Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore, Chasing Graves by Ben Galley, Black Stone Heart by Michael R. Fletcher, Rise of Gods by Dyrk Ashton. Full details in my Challenge Check-In February 2023 post.
I’m Still Here
Background: Treasure Planet is the most underrated animation movie, and I’m going to die on that hill. And did you know that the amazing John Rzeznik, the frontman of Goo Goo Dolls sang two of its songs? Yep. I love that guy’s voice, and I’m Still Here always gives me goosebumps. It definitely deserves to get a spot finally.
What the prompt is about: I can imagine a book with a character with a defiant personality. Someone strong-headed, who says “you can throw whatever the fuck you want at me, but I’m still here and going to fuck you up”. Or something. But it can also be something more sentimental, as the song is about a son who wants to prove his worth to his father, waiting for his return, saying “I’m still here, waiting for you”, so a book with a theme along those lines would work as well. Maybe a character who waits for a loved one’s return, a theme of loss and grief. Definitely a lot of potential.
The book I picked: The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence
Prompt recs: We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson, We Are the Dead by Mike Shackle, The Arctic Curry Club by Dani Redd, The Hungry Dreaming by Craig Schaefer, The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez. Full details in my Challenge Check-In February 2023 post.
Mindenütt jó (Everywhere is Good)
Background: And the time has come when I was brave enough to put a Hungarian song on the list. We had a Hungarian artist before with an instrumental song, but this time I went further. Mindenütt jó (Everywhere is Good) is a reggae kind of song about home being the best place where you can be.
What the prompt is about: Home is the main theme of this song, so it should be a book either set in your hometown/country or a book that reminds you of home. Or a book in which home is a central theme in some way. I can see a cozy fantasy book going with this prompt too. One that’s set in the character’s hometown for instance. Or a book where a character finds their home eventually. A found family theme might also work, although there is a family prompt further down the line.
The book I picked: Four Seasons in Japan by Nick Bradley
Prompt recs: Budapest Noir by Vilmos Kondor, The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox by Claire Gadridge, Scales & Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis, Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovich, Falling Through Stars by Staci Olsen. Full details in my Challenge Check-In March 2023 post.
Background: Imagine Dragons is one of those bands I just can’t stand. And yet. They still have 3 songs that I listen to a lot – Radioactive (it’s a case of heard it so many fucking times, that I ended up liking it), Demons, and most recently Enemies, the theme song of Arcane. Man, they nailed that one.
What the prompt is about: This is this year’s “creature” prompt. Anything goes with monsters, fantasy creatures, and supernatural beings. They don’t necessarily have to be bad ones, though.
The book I picked:
Prompt recs: The Long Way Down by Craig Schaefer, Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson, The Second Bell by Gabriela Houston, Where Oblivion Lives by T. Frohock, A Master of Djinn by P. Djéli Clark. Full details in my Challenge Check-In March 2023 post.
Background: Those who never heard Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus please raise your hands so we can look at you judgingly. Another unmissable song from the early 2000s. Those were good times. Anyway. It sounded like a fun idea to include it on the list.
What the prompt is about: Another prompt that kinda speaks for itself. I think a YA novel or a book with a young character who is a total pain in the ass would be a great fit. I’m sure we all came across one of those types…
The book I picked:
Prompt recs: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, The Umbral Storm by Alec Hutson, Never Die by Rob J. Hayes, Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. Full details in my Challenge Check-In April 2023 post.
You Look Better When I’m Drunk
Background: I think The White Tie Affair is one of my “I have absolutely no idea how I came across them” bands from also the 2010s when I did a lot of searching for bands I didn’t know yet. I really should get back to that, I discovered some great stuff back then. While I like this song and was pretty pleased myself when I thought it would be a great prompt, I was also unsure how it would go down. But if I’m being honest, this is probably my favorite one this year, so it stayed.
What the prompt is about: For this prompt, I would go with a book that didn’t match its cover/blurb – be it in a negative or positive way. It happens that we expect something based on a cover/blurb and then we get something different. Looks can be deceiving, my friends. A book in which there is a drunken scene can also be a good choice. Especially if the MC does something stupid while drunk.
The book I picked:
Prompt recs: Windcatcher by A.J. Norfield, The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings, The Headlock of Destiny by Samuel Gately, Storytellers by Bjørn Larssen, The Lore of Prometheus by Graham Austin-King. Full details in my Challenge Check-In April 2023 post.
Shut Up and Dance
Background: I just love this song by Walk the Moon. I think I first heard it thanks to Michael Smith, the darts player. This is his walk-on song during events and man, it never fails to make me want to dance. Since then it’s been appearing on my Spotify playlists a lot too – what a surprise – and it probably was one of my most listened-to songs in 2022.
What the prompt is about: This being The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge, we can not have a prompt with something music related, now can we? Anything music related goes with this one, be it a character who plays an instrument, a ball scene, an impromptu dance scene, etc. A book with the word “dance” in the title would also be great.
The book I picked: Songbird by Karen Heenan
Prompt recs: Songbird by Karen Heenan, Kept from Cages by Phil Williams, Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie, Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkinks Reid, We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix. Full details in my Challenge Check-In May 2023 post.
Background: Keepsake is a song from The Gaslight Anthem, I admit I picked it based on its title as I’m not overly familiar with this one. Btw, did you know The Gaslight Anthem is back together after a hiatus? And they’ll have a new album in 2023! I’m so excited about that.
What the prompt is about: This would be a great prompt for a book where memories or an heirloom has a key role. Stories as a theme could work as well.
The book I picked:
Prompt recs: Daughters of the Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson, A Gamble of Gods by Mitriel Faywood, The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence, The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. Full details in my Challenge Check-In May 2023 post.
Have a Little Faith
Background: I don’t know what it is about Jamie N Commons‘ voice, but he hardly fails to give me goosebumps. Man, that guy is awesome. Even if not all of his music is to my tastes, but if you don’t know him, definitely check his stuff out!
What the prompt is about: This is the “religious/folklore” prompt of this year. Anything goes that includes faith, religion, folklore, belief (even self-belief!), gods, and everything in between.
The book I picked: A Rake of His Own by A.J. Lancaster
Prompt recs: A Rake of His Own by A. J. Lancaster, The Skin by J. E. Hannaford, Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords by Benedict Patrick, Lamb by Christopher Moore, Faithless by Graham Austin-King. Full details in my Challenge Check-In June 2023 post.
Background: As I got the name from a Shinedown song, they have a permanent place on the prompt list. Also, they are an amazing band. This time I picked Misfits because we need a prompt about a ragtag group, don’t we?
What the prompt is about: As I mentioned above, this prompt is about a ragtag group of people who has to work together. Or not. It can also be a group of seasoned friends who for some reason stand out of their environment. A group of rioters, people who stand up against the system, or a villainous collective. So many options.
The book I picked:
Prompt recs: Salt in the Wound by Benjamin Aeveryn, The Thirteenth Hour by Trudie Skies, The Crew by Sadir S. Samir, Wolf’s Head by Steven A. McKay, Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. Full details in my Challenge Check-In June 2023 post.
Background: Ah, another fun one, that requires a bit of out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to books, but oh well. So, Middle Fingers is a song that popped up on my Spotify playlists a couple of years ago, and I’m pretty fond of it.
What the prompt is about: I admit, this won’t be one of the easiest prompts, but where would be the fun, otherwise? This prompt could work for a book with a character that has a “fuck this shit” attitude. And sometimes there are points in a story where someone goes “fuck it, let’s do it” when they are just tired of overthinking things. It can also be for a book you pick up on a whim, other obligations be damned. We all deserve some undisturbed reading time with a great book. Or ignore our more pressing reads for a pleasure read…
The book I picked:
Prompt recs: The Wise Men of Gotham by Craig Schaefer, A Numbers Game by RJ Barker, A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington, Smoke and Stone by Michael R. Fletcher, Card Mage: Slumdog Deckbuilder by Benedict Patrick. Full details in my Challenge Check-In July 2023 post
Background: If you were a ’90s kid, you most definitely know this song by Eiffel 65. It’s just a classic and if you are not getting an earworm out of it, then I’m doing something wrong here. I can’t remember a school dance where this song didn’t come up, and some might hate it, but I have fond memories of it.
What the prompt is about: Well, this is not one of the more flexible prompts, so pick up a book with the blue color being prominent on the cover or the word “blue” in the title. A book mostly set on/in the water can also work.
The book I picked: The Thirteenth Hour by Trudie Skies
Prompt recs: Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore, Los Nefilim by T. Frohock, Four Seasons in Japan by Nick Bradley, Priest of Gallows by Peter McLean, A Fool’s Hope by Mike Shackle. Full details in my Challenge Check-In July 2023 post
Free Your Mind
Background: Another goodie from the ’90s, with an absolute earworm for a refrain. Although this is the “joker” card, I still like to pick up songs for it, just for the fun of it. This year it’s En Vogue‘s turn, so enjoy!
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. Free your mind, my friend.
The book I picked:
Background: Another year, another artist we can’t miss – P!nk. One of my favorite singers out there. This time I picked an older song from her, Family Portrait, which is definitely not a happy song, but that doesn’t have to stop us.
What the prompt is about: Anything family related can go here. Found family, strong family ties, unhappy family portrayal, you name it.
The book I picked: The Square of Sevens by Laura Shepherd-Robinson
Background: When I decided to pick a Hungarian song, I knew I couldn’t not pick one from my favorite Hungarian band, Fish! as well. What kind of fan I would be if I didn’t include them as well? Originally I wanted to choose Keep Your Secrets, which is one of their earliest songs, but it’s not on Spotify, and couldn’t include it on the playlist, so I had to change plans. Vészhelyzet (Emergency) is from their latest album they published in 2020 during the pandemic, and was titled Pozitív (Positive). They are a great band and I can’t wait for their new album this year!
What the prompt is about: A book featuring some kind of emergency – a looming attack, an upcoming war, etc. But I can also see myself picking up a cozy book or one of my comfort reads when in need of something familiar and well-known. You know, in those shitty days when you just want a big blanket and hide from the world. Those days definitely call for an emergency read.
The book I picked: Dawn Razed by Josh Erikson
The Diary of Jane
Background: You didn’t think there won’t be a Breaking Benjamin song this year, did you? Oh, ye of little faith. For the newbies: they are my absolute favorite band, and I’m totally partial to them, so be happy I restrain myself to only one song per artist/band. This time I went with The Diary of Jane which was probably one of the very first songs I’ve heard from them, but I honestly can’t remember… If you saw the dancing movie, Step Up, it might be familiar, though.
What the prompt is about: It’s another one of those pretty straightforward prompts. A book in which a diary or a journey is mentioned, the more prominent, the better! The book itself can be someone’s journal, fictional or otherwise. Or it can be a book about a character who has a diary. If you can find a book with an MC called Jane, all the better!
The book I picked: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
I’ll Be There
Background: I got to know Jess Glynne‘s song, I’ll Be There thanks to Spotify, and I can’t get it out of my head ever since. Fortunately for me, it works really well as a prompt, so I decided to include it. Although I probably should decide if I’m still here or if I’ll be there…
What the prompt is about: I think this is the “friendship” prompt. Pick up a book featuring friends, or people who become friends, people who are there for each other. A cozy/favorite book would also work here as well when you need that familiar hug of a great book.
The book I picked:
Daughters of Darkness
Background: Halestorm is back! Last year only Lzzy Hale sneaked her way on the card, but she kicked in the door this time. I picked one of their older songs, Daughters of Darkness because I needed a prompt just like this. It fits very nicely.
What the prompt is about: Bring on all the witches! This prompt should work well when you are looking your spooky season reads. The book can feature good or bad witches, or if you don’t want to read about witches, a group of female characters doing stuff. Hey, there might be a heist novel with an all-female cast! Or thieves. Or a female-led crime organization. Great options here.
The book I picked: The Very Secret Society of Witches by Sangu Mandanna
Heavy is the Crown
Background: Daughtry also seems to be a permanent fixture for my prompts, but I still love his voice, so… deal with it. Heavy is the Crown is from his latest album and one that always catches my ears when it pops up on Spotify. Great one.
What the prompt is about: This is Queen’s Book Asylum, we need to have a prompt in relation to royalty types. So, here we go. If you don’t want to go for royalties, a character who has any kind of leadership with heavy responsibilities and decisions to make also works.
The book I picked: The King Must Fall by Grimdark Magazine
Cotton Eye Joe
Background: I… uh… I feel like this needs an explanation. First, this song is permanently on my mp3 player, because I love it. I have a lot of fond memories of it from my childhood. I’m not even ashamed of it. I remember the exact moment I put this song on my possible prompts list, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I thought this was a great idea. I’m sure I had a thought process, though. But since I put it on the list, and I love it, and honestly we need at least one mind-fuckery prompt, I decided to keep it. It’ll be fun, I promise! Good luck getting read of the earworm, though.
What the prompt is about: Cotton Eye Joe is such a mysterious character, so this prompt could be for a mystery novel, or for a book with such a character. Or a character who destroys someone else’s happiness. Maybe because of the video, this song always gives me country-side vibes, so a book with a setting anywhere besides a city could be a good choice as well.
The book I picked:
Summer is a Curse
Background: The Faim is a fairly recent discovery of mine and I love their sound. Summer is a Curse was the first song I’ve heard from them, and I wanted to include it before but then some other summery song always got in the way. But it’s finally their time!
What the prompt is about: I like to add at least one seasonal prompt, and that’s usually summer for some reason. Well, have fun picking a summer-themed book! Or a book you’ve read over the summer. Or a book in which the climate is hot which makes life hard for people. I can see someone picking an apocalyptic book for this.
The book I picked:
Background: Fall Out Boy is a first-timer on the list, but some of their songs have been on my playlist for a long time. It was high time for them to make it.
What the prompt is about: I think there are some good possibilities here – for me centuries have a historical fiction vibe, but it can also be for something epic fantasy with a country of a history of centuries. A character who lived through those centuries, or something related to books and history and stories. Even legends. Maybe a retelling too?
The book I picked:
Drawn by the Sirens
Background: Shaman’s Harvest is one of those bands whose vibes I really like. They have a cool, heavy sound with a great voice in the lead. Drawn by the Sirens is not a song I know very well, but the title grabbed my imagination and it rounds up this list very nicely.
What the prompt is about: Adventure! Nautical fantasy! Well, okay, I’m out of ideas. It’s not one of the most flexible prompts, but it might bring something unexpected nonetheless.
The book I picked:
And that concludes our list of prompts! It ended up as nicely eclectic as my tastes are. I was also a lot more prepared this time around as I started making a list of possible prompts around late October, I think. Even if I had no idea how some of them made it when I actually sat down to finalize the list. I admit I’m super proud of how it turned out.
I hope you’ll join me for a book and music-filled year and will have just as much fun as I had while 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 follow my progress on Twitter with somewhat regular updates. You can check it all out HERE.
ARE YOU GONNA BE MY GIRL
I'M STILL HERE
MINDENÜTT JÓ (EVERYWHERE IS GOOD)
YOU LOOK BETTER WHEN I'M DRUNK
SHUT UP AND DANCE
HAVE A LITTLE FAITH
FREE YOUR MIND
THE DIARY OF JANE
I'LL BE THERE
DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS
HEAVY IS THE CROWN
COTTON EYE JOE
SUMMER IS A CURSE
DRAWN BY THE SIRENS