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Writers on the Albums that Changed Their Lives with Tom Gatti, David Mitchell and Preti Taneja

Our favourite records don't just soundtrack our lives – they work their way deep inside us

Our favourite albums are our most faithful companions. We listen to them over and over, we know them far better than any novel or film. These records don’t just soundtrack our lives – they work their way deep inside us, shaping our outlook and identity, forging our friendships and charting our love affairs. They become part of our story.

In this special event for Intelligence Squared, journalist and music obsessive Tom Gatti – editor of Long Players, a new anthology of writing on albums – was in conversation with two of his contributors, acclaimed novelist David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet) and writer and activist Preti Taneja, author of the prize-winning novel We That Are Young. They discussed the power of certain records to act on us like Proustian madeleines, transporting us back to a particular time and place – Gatti, by his own admission, has listened to Radiohead’s The Bends more times than is strictly necessary; Mitchell’s great formative influence is Joni Mitchell’s Blue; Taneja grew up with Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest. And they explored how music influences their writing – directly in the case of Mitchell’s latest novel, Utopia Avenue, the epic tale of a psychedelic rock band’s rise to stardom in the late sixties.

A Spotify playlist of songs to accompany Tom’s book can be seen below:



David Mitchell

Award-winning and bestselling author

Award-winning and bestselling author of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Black Swan Green, Cloud Atlas, Number9Dream, Ghostwritten and The Bone Clocks. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Mitchell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2007. He wrote dialogue for Kate Bush’s 2014 live show, Before the Dawn, and, with KA Yoshida, co-translated from the Japanese the international bestselling memoir, The Reason I Jump. Mitchell's most recent novel, Utopia Avenue, about a rock band in the late 1960s, is out now in paperback.

Preti Taneja

Prize-winning writer and activist

Writer and activist. Her novel, We That Are Young, won the 2018 Desmond Elliott Prize for the UK's best debut of the year, and was listed for awards including the Folio Prize, the Republic of Consciousness Prize, the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize in India, and Europe’s premier award for a work of world literature, the Prix Jan Michalski. It has been translated into seven languages and is published in the United States by Knopf. Taneja is a Contributing Editor at The White Review, and at the independent press And Other Stories. Her new book, Aftermath, on the language of trauma, terror, prison and abolition will be published as part of the Undelivered Lecturers series from Transit Books.

Tom Gatti

Deputy editor of The New Statesman

Deputy editor of The New Statesman, where Long Players began life as a feature. He joined the magazine in 2013 as culture editor; before that, he was Saturday Review editor at The Times, where he also wrote book reviews, features and interviews.


Speakers subject to change.