Four favourite books: Ilaria Mangiardi 

MassiveMusic's Head of Copy & PR on how music can make you dance also on the pages of a book

Ilaria Mangiardi

Music and writing have always been my safe havens and preferred modalities of emotional release.

When I listen to music, I pay attention to the lyrics, what the core message is and what the artist wants to convey. When I read a book, I find myself resonating with stories that have rhythm in writing and make me dance on the page.

So, as Head of Copy & PR at MassiveMusic, I decided to pick two writing books and two music books. Because, what’s better than the best of both worlds?

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg

As an ambassador of using writing as a tool for self-expression and self-regulation, I had to include this gem of a book in the list. Here, Natalie Goldberg reminds us that unedited freewriting, or the ‘writing practice’ as she calls it, is key to our self-awareness. ‘Don’t think too much. Just enter the heat of words and sounds and colored sensations and keep your pen moving across the page. If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you,‘ she says.

Written in 1984, it’s the thought-provoking read we need in the hyper-digitised world we live in. Stream-of-consciousness writing is not elitist nor judgmental. It’s accessible to anyone: all you need is pen and paper. You cannot not indulge in writing after reading this book. My advice? Read any chapter, let it sink in, set a 10-min timer and write longhand about what those words elicited in you, or anything that crosses your mind, really. No second thoughts, censorship or self-judgement. I promise you’ll feel lighter. 

How Music Works, by David Byrne 

With this half-bio/half-essay book, the co-founder of Talking Heads takes us on a musical journey that explores the patterns in how music is crafted and received. A classic that doesn’t get old if you want to appreciate the rational and societal aspects of music without diminishing its magic.

I recall buying it a few weeks before my job interview with MassiveMusic. On the day, as I entered the meeting room, I couldn’t help but notice their copy of the same book. It was the first one that caught my eye, and I remember seeing it as a meaningful coincidence. It has been my music bible ever since. While it doesn’t delve into intricate details and leaves you yearning for more, it remains a valuable addition to the library of every artist, musician or individual involved in the music industry. Brainy and visceral at the same time. 

The Comfort Book, by Matt Haig

Nothing is stronger than a small hope that doesn’t give up.’ See it as the book that deserves a place on your nightstand, among the tear-stained tissues and the nostalgic embrace of family pictures. An instant pick-me-up whether you’re feeling scattered, anxious or simply uninspired.

Filled with gratitude notes, lists and anecdotes, this little jewel not only serves as a source of encouragement but also implicitly inspires you to create your own personal version of a comfort book, contributing to your legacy while fostering self-love. What’s great about it is that you can open it to any page, using it as a journaling prompt or as inspiration for deep introspection and meaningful exchanges. A cuddle to the heart.

Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop, by Marc Myers 

Think biographies for songs. The homonymous Wall Street’s column by Marc Myers became so popular that it eventually got published as a book in 2016. A second version called Anatomy of 55 More Songs made its appearance in 2022, offering even more tantalising insights into the stories behind the songs that made history while defining generations. With a wide range of music genres and artists: from Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love to Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time, this book uncovers the hidden depths of that hit you’ve always danced or cried to: the intriguing backstory, the minute details and the best-kept secrets you never knew you craved.

To me, reading is to writing what foreplay is to intimacy. It sets the tone, inviting us in and fostering a sense of trust. On the other hand, there is writing the uncensored, raw, authentic expression of truth. It’s through reading the words of others that we discover our own voice. We learn, emulate and reiterate. That’s when we start becoming unique quilts woven from different patches. Whether they’re about writing, music or any preferred genre, books can’t help but shape us. In a world filled with my-way-or-the-highway opinionated individuals, books remind us of the power of shared knowledge and active listening.

Featured image: Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop, by Marc Myers

Ilaria Mangiardi, Head of Copy & PR, MassiveMusic

Ilaria is a creative spirit currently working as Head of Copy & PR at MassiveMusic. She also hosts free-writing workshops for groups, companies and universities.

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