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January 24, 2013

Book Notes - Sam Sheridan "The Disaster Diaries"

The Disaster Diaries

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Sam Sheridan's The Disaster Diaries: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse is the rare self-help book I devoured, a gripping guide to surviving disasters both natural and supernatural.

Grantland wrote of the book:

"Though it's a work of nonfiction, The Disaster Diaries explores every catastrophic disaster, from floods and earthquakes to sci-fi scenarios like zombie infections and escaping giant alien monsters, and asks experts around the world exactly what preparations are needed. Sheridan uncovers survival skills (first aid, hunting in the wilderness, firing a gun) as well as some craftier tricks (hot-wiring a car, constructing an igloo). But The Disaster Diaries isn't instructional. The apocalypse schemes serve as a lens that allows Sheridan to explore the limits of the human body and psyche and how physical and mental strength are inexplicably linked."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.

In his own words, here is Sam Sheridan's Book Notes music playlist for his memoir, The Disaster Diaries: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse:

I wrote The Disaster Diaries about learning to survive the end of the world. I had a child, and I realized I couldn't be fully responsible for surviving Armageddon without learning a lot of new skills; shooting guns, stunt driving, fire-building, trapping and more.

Music was a crucial part of the writing process, as tone was a big issue. Disaster and preparedness are somber, serious things, but I didn't want to write a book about how thick to make your fall-out shelter walls. It's deadly boring when it's too serious. So I added science-fiction apocalyptic scenarios, like zombies and aliens, but the skills and information are all real. I listened to an extensive playlist that I built over the two and a half years, as I needed to keep things buoyant, up-tempo, and fun. It's hard to write well about the emotional content of music, as the art forms are intrinsically different—so I won't do much.

"Save Me," Nicki Minaj

I love the vocals mixing in over drum ‘n bass, which is so rarely done well, and this is an absolutely soaring, heartfelt tune. Self-deprecating and pleading. I'll save you Nicki!

"Wide Eyes," Local Natives

This is a great, rambling tune, driving and groovy.

"Shell Games," Bright Eyes

This a tune that is about all of us coming together to carry the weight together, about rising up, with that heavy love. Survival is a group endeavor… Everyone, on the count of three!

"One Foot," Fun.

Another white-boy anthem, pulsing beat, and great survival message: put one foot in front of the other. The crucial aspect of survival is mental, is not giving up, is putting one foot in front of the goddamn other.

"Dominos," The Big Pink

This is my kind of groove, and I was listening to this when I started the book in Vancouver, and this was the one my 2-year-old son really dug.

"Closer to the Edge," 30 Seconds to Mars

Yes this is ridiculous pop and it's silly but it has that totemic anthemic quality that Corey Hart's "Never Surrender" in the 80's had. Driving by yourself, rock-out stuff, never to be admitted…

"Young Blood," The Naked and Famous

Just the kind of thing I like to listen to at 3:30 AM blasting on the headphones to get writing.

"Golden Years," The Russian Futurists

This song is my shit.

"Ritual Union, (Tensnake Remix)" Little Dragon

Sometimes the end of the world has a sexy little groove to it.

"Skeletons," Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Any rock tune that can somehow make a swirling noise like bagpipes work awesomely is my kind of thing.

"Afraid of Everyone," The National

One of my favorite bands, this song is doleful and hopeful at the same time, I'm not sure what it's about but I know it speaks to me. I really fight against fear in the book. You can't be afraid of everyone.

All Is Not Lost," OK Go

Speaks for itself. They may say "all is lost"—but all is not lost, friends….

"You Are a Tourist," Death Cab for Cutie

I love this song. I'll leave it to my son in my will. It holds a message from me to him: I know how you are feeling, and don't be alarmed. You're gonna want to get out and see the world so badly that it makes your teeth hurt. That's normal for us.

"Dig for Fire," Pixies

Sometimes you gotta dig.

"Lively Up Yourself," Bob Marley

It's meaningless lyrically, but powerful emotionally. Everyone knows what this song is about, even if you have no idea. It's a pure example, a perfect distillate of Marley, the man is his own institution, his own musical form. The bottom line: if the world is ending (which it is), and we're all gonna die (we will) then you better get your swerve on. Anyone can dance, and dance well, to this song.

Sam Sheridan and The Disaster Diaries: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse links:

Booklist review
Grantland review
Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly review

Field and Stream interview with the author
Wall Street Journal article by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

The list of online "best of 2012" book lists
The list of online "best of 2012" music lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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