Spotify Wrapped Reading List: The Frank Ocean Edition

Second in our ‘Spotify Wrapped Book Recommendation’ Edition, this week we are taking inspiration from the R&B sensation, Frank Ocean. With music that blends alternative R&B with smooth vocals and introspective lyrics, Ocean’s songs croon about love, sexuality, and societal issues, with a dulcet melancholic undertone. Atmospheric soundscapes layered with electronic flourishes, his discography creates a dream-like introspective vibe, with many fittingly finding their place in ‘My Life is a Movie’ playlists. Drawing from his personal book recommendations as well as a few of our own, this is a list for those who are undeniably drawn to Frank Ocean and his unique stylistic sensibilities.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Plot: A college student in 1960s Tokyo grapples with the suicide of his best friend, navigating complex emotions and relationships with two contrasting women.

Murakami’s particular strain of trippy, with its melancholia tinged psychedelics and almost mystical frequents into magical realism, oddly make him a great recommendation for Frank Ocean listeners. Both artists, in their unique way, capture a sense of youthful nostalgia, often swelling into surrealist scapes, and always returning to a tinge of loss. Murakami’s almost detached narration resembles Ocean’s own cool vocals, especially as his music often contrasts/contradicts the lyrics, offering an aesthetic sense of detachment that separates the words from the atmosphere, creating ample space for the surreal to seep in. Containing introspective characters, Murakami’s novel grapples with love and mortality in a cinematic way that resembles the dreamy soundscapes and emotional depth of Ocean’s music. Just as Frank’s songs can shift from tender to dark, Murakami balances wry humour with emotional weight to create a world that resonates with the complexities of young adulthood.

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Plot: An emotionally distant Algerian man’s act of passion leads to a senseless murder and a trial exposing the absurdity of societal judgement.

Camus’ The Stranger is a canonically praised confrontation of alienation and emotional detachment, possessing an indifferent beauty that oddly resembles or can supplement Ocean’s own. Camus’s detached first-person narration mirrors Ocean’s vocals, while the stark Algerian setting evokes the melancholic undertones in Ocean’s work. Both grapple with societal expectations and the search for meaning in a seemingly absurd world. Just as Ocean’s music can shift between sensuality and introspection, The Stranger explores themes of passion and indifference, leaving the reader, like the listener, questioning societal norms and the human condition.

The Prophet by Khalil Gibran

Plot: Prophet Almustafa, while departing his adopted city, offers poetic reflections on love, joy, sorrow, and life’s other fundamentals.

A collection of 26 prose-poetry fables written by the immortalised Lebanese-American poet, Khalil Gibran, The Prophet, one of the most sold books in literary history, offers wisened discourse on a range of subjects, from ‘passion’ and ‘pain’ to ‘crime’ and ‘punishment’ as well as ‘talking’ and ‘friendship’. One of Frank Ocean’s favourite books and perhaps unsurprising retrospectively, it is a timeless classic that delves into universal and fundamental themes of life and living. A truly lyrical exploration of life’s profound themes, Gibran’s poetic prose, like Ocean’s songwriting, delivers timeless wisdom on love, work, and sorrow. Both works weave a tapestry of emotions, using beautiful imagery to navigate complex topics. The Prophet’s universality, much like Ocean’s music, transcended language, with the music of both resonating with listeners from across backgrounds , united in a desire for solace.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hilton

Plot: Greaser Ponyboy Curtis navigates a world of gang violence in 1960s Tulsa, grappling with friendship, class differences,and the harsh realities of growing up.

Understandably recommended by Kurt Cobain and Frank Ocean, The Outsiders is a classic coming-of-age novel that explores characteristic themes of belonging and identity against a backdrop of youthful angst. Hilton’s raw, first-person narration from Ponyboy Curtis mirrors Ocean’s introspective lyrics. Both portray the harsh realities of social division, yet find beauty in loyalty and connection. While Ocean’s music uses smooth vocals and layered soundscapes, The Outsiders employs a gritty realism, reflecting the greasers’ rough world. Both works, however, resonate with a deep yearning for understanding and a sense of belonging, making them timeless anthems for young hearts.

Utopia by Thomas More

Plot: Critique of 16th-century Europe through a fictional island society focused on reason, equality, and shared property, contrasting sharply with the greed and social ills of the real world. Fun fact: In Utopia, you can’t marry without confirming sexual compatibility.

Another one of Frank Ocean’s book recommendations, this one truly establishes his reading as deeply philosophical, or, at the very least, prejudiced to the thought-provoking. Utopia presents a beautiful yet critical world. More’s fictional island is meticulously crafted, and employs a matter-of-fact reportage style to deliver a veiled and succinct socio-political critique. Challenging social issues through reason,it is different from Ocean’s emotional approach, and still contains the introspective nature of Ocean’s lyrics. Ultimately, both works create worlds that are aesthetically pleasing yet urge us to look deeper and question the status quo.

Time Is A Mother by Ocean Vuong

Plot: Vuong confronts the raw ache of grief after his mother’s death, weaving memory, myth,and tenderness to explore love, loss, and the enduring power of language. Poetry.

We stand by this recommendation, Frank Ocean or not. Ocean Vuong’s Time Is a Mother, like Frank Ocean’s music, blends beauty and pain. Vuong’s poems, like Ocean’s vocals, are raw and intimate, using vivid imagery to navigate grief and grapple with complex emotions. Both weave personal experience with social commentary, exploring themes of identity, loss, and finding solace in unexpected places. Just as Ocean’s music incorporates electronic flourishes, Vuong’s poems experiment with form, creating a fragmented yet cohesive exploration of memory and love. Ultimately, both offer a deeply personal and ultimately poetic journey that garners a profound and deeply emotional response.

Pick up any of these 6 Books from the Frank Ocean Reading List from any Kunzum store or WhatsApp +91.8800200280 to order. Buy the book(s) and the coffee’s on us.

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