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August 3, 2018

Miriam Parker's Playlist for Her Novel "The Shortest Way Home"

The Shortest Way Home

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.

Miriam Parker's novel The Shortest Way Home is a funny and charming debut.

Library Journal wrote of the book:

"This debut novel about a young woman following her heart and creating her happiness is engaging and fun. Parker takes her place next to similar writers such as Laura Dave and Jane Green."


In her own words, here is Miriam Parker's Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel The Shortest Way Home:



My debut novel The Shortest Way Home is about a woman who gives up a “perfect” life for the life she truly wants. She’s about to move to New York to work in finance, get engaged and live in a fancy TriBeCa apartment. But at the last minute, she quits it all—the job, the boyfriend, the signing bonus for the chance to work at a failing family winery in Sonoma. Publishing a novel has been a lifelong dream of mine, so this playlist is going to be a combination of music that inspired me when I was writing (or just to get down to work), as well as some songs that inspire my characters. Maybe because I’m such a devoted reader, I love songs that tell a story, so a lot of the songs on this playlist are more like narratives than like songs.

I’m Writing a Novel by Father John Misty
I’ve been writing novels for about ten years and this is my first one that will actually be published—there’s three really bad ones in the depths of my computer that hopefully nobody will ever lay eyes on. But this song always makes me laugh, especially the line “I’m writing a novel because it’s never been done before.” There’s something so self-conscious about being a writer, especially one that’s been struggling for so long to put a book together. You wonder why you’re doing such a hard thing when you could just be drinking wine or watching television (or both!). And yet, for some reason, you soldier on. Publishing a book is totally worth it, but for many years it didn’t seem likely at all. And this song really captures that.

Moog Island by Morcheeba
This is the first song I ever remember listening to while writing, it was in about 2003 and I was living in a dirty studio apartment in the East Village (it was dirty because I still didn’t really know how to clean my apartment). I remember a hot summer day, the lights off, sitting on a cool spot on the floor with an oversized laptop, working on a story. The song is moody and quiet, but builds to a crescendo. The only lyrics I can actually cite from the song are “I’m a trigger hippie.” Not sure what a trigger hippie is, but this song is one that whenever I hear it, it makes me want to write. And that’s a good thing.

The Greatest by Cat Power
Another song that makes me want to write. Something about Cat Power, the album that has “The Greatest” on it and also her album of covers Jukebox. They soothe my soul and get words flowing out of my fingers. It’s also a song about disappointment: “Once I wanted to be the greatest…And then came the rush of the flood.” And there’s something about writing a book that you have to both want to be “The Greatest,” but also know that every step of the way, you’re failing.

Miss Independent by Kelly Clarkson
One thing that I share with my main character Hannah is a “Lady Power Playlist” and one of the anchor songs of this is an old Kelly Clarkson song. It’s a song about a tough lady who falls in love. She has all her walls and defenses up and then love kind of sneaks up on her and changes her life.

Daddy Lessons by Beyonce
This is a song that my iPhone tells me I’ve listened to more in the last year than probably any other. It leads off my running mix and always gets me going. It’s a song about a father telling his daughter to be strong and to beware of guys like him. My main character Hannah is looking for a new family throughout the novel and this song feels relevant to her.

Iowa by Dar Williams
My main character Hannah is from Iowa. I’ve honestly never been there, but I have listened to this song as research. One thing that Hannah has to deal with in the book is realizing that her problems are no longer her parents’ fault. That she’s old enough for her problems to be her own fault. The song is a kind of mournful look at a homeland. And Hannah definitely feels mournful about her past. It’s also a song about love and pushing the limits. Which is really what my book is about.

California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas
My book is, at it’s core, a dream. It’s my little escape from my 9-5 New York life. Writing it, I got to spend a few moments in California every day. I loved the moments of escape that writing this book gave me (and I hope that the reader feels too!) This song kind of sums it all up “All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey…I’d be safe and warm if I was in LA.”

California by Joni Mitchell
One more shoutout to great songs about California. This is a song that haunts you, it’s constantly in your head. Talk about a song full of stories, this one has a story in each stanza—she’s all over the world, Paris, Greece, Spain. But in her heart, she wants to go home to California, the only place that accepts her as herself.

Sweet Pea by Amos Lee
I always say that this song is my theme song with my dog Leopold Bloom. For many years, my dog was the only reason that I kept on coming home. It’s a song about love and devotion and finding your home. A book theme, but also a theme in life. And that is the thing about a dog, you have to keep on coming home for them. And isn’t it worth every minute?

Jeru by Miles Davis
There’s a smooth roll to this song—the saxophones and the trumpets. It’s high energy, but it calms your brain at the same time. I often listen to jazz when I write, but I like it to be jazz that I know. Birth of the Cool was the first jazz album that I ever listened to, probably at age 18 and it’s one that I return to time and again. Sort of like a great bottle of wine or a really engaging book.


Miriam Parker and The Shortest Way Home links:

the author's website

BookPage review
Minneapolis Star Tribune review
Publishers Weekly review


also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
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my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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