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August 8, 2018

Laura van den Berg's Playlist for Her Novel "The Third Hotel"

The Third Hotel

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 Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Laura van den Berg's The Third Hotel is a haunting and innovative novel, easily one of my favorite books of the year.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Laced through with sharp insights―not just on marriage and grief, but also on the pull of travel and the dynamics of horror movies―the layers of [The Third Hotel] fit together so seamlessly they're almost Escher-esque. The line between the real and the imagined is forever blurry, and the result of all that ambiguity is both moving and unsettling. Gorgeously haunting and wholly original; a novel that rewards patience."


In her own words, here is Laura van den Berg's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Third Hotel:



For every book, there is always a moment—or, more accurately, moments—when I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and think, with what feels like certainty, I will never finish this project. Experience has taught me that this kind of flattening doubt is typically a prelude to the work undergoing a major and necessary transformation, that I am about to jump off a new cliff narratively speaking and I am preemptively terrified, but nevertheless those sleepless nights can be a difficult psychic space to move through.

I love music and yet my approach to listening to music when I write is pretty scattershot. Sometimes I don’t listen to any music at all. Sometimes playlists. Sometimes one song on a loop, for a kind of sensory hypnosis. I often can’t remember what exactly I listened to when I was working on a book, let alone the timeline, because when I am really highly focused I stop hearing any sound at all.

However! I do tend to remember, with a little more sharpness, the songs that pulled me through the I will never finish this project 2AM night sweats phase, six of which I’ve listed below. Why these six, you ask? In their very different ways, each of them left me feeling energized and clear-headed and motivated, nudged me a little farther down the path forward (also, I firmly believe that listening to David Bowie will help with most problems).

1. Heroes, David Bowie

2. Doves, Future Islands

3. Room on Fire, The Strokes

4. Rolled Together, The Antlers

5. Fleur de Lys, Phoenix

6. I’ll Still Destroy You, The National


Laura van den Berg and The Third Hotel links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Booklist review
Kirkus review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
Washington Post review

Harvard Magazine profile of the author
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Find Me
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Isle of Youth
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for What the World Will Look
Paris Review interview with the author
WBUR interview with the author
Weekend Edition interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists


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