Rachel Strolle, a white librarian with brown hair and bangs, looks directly at the camera

Librarian Rachel Strolle (Photo credit: Annika Strolle)

This article was published in Sanctuary Issue #85 | Winter 2020

There is no greater haven for both children and adults than a really engrossing book, or at least Illinois-based librarian Rachel Strolle would argue that there isn’t. Strolle, a former bookseller and an enthusiastic reader, is always recommending the best titles for teens at the library where she works and on Barnes and Noble’s blog. Who better to create a playlist about sanctuaries than someone who spends the majority of her days surrounded by books? This playlist encourages us to cultivate love, peace, and relaxation through music.

Aloe Blacc, “Wake Me Up (Acoustic)”

Sometimes I think about how I know more than I have ever known in my life, and yet I still feel like I know nothing. Listening to “Wake Me Up” reminds me that there’s always friction between living in the moment and living in the future, and we can all take comfort in having that shared experience.

Richard Fleeshman and Scott Alan, “The Distance You Have Come”

If “Wake Me Up” reconciles the present and the future, then “The Distance You Have Come” is about reconciling the present and the past. Sometimes you can take refuge in knowing that you went on a journey to become the person you are now.

Janelle Monáe, “Make Me Feel”

There’s a Brooklyn Nine-Nine quote that explains how I feel about “Make Me Feel”: After Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) comes out as bisexual, Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) tells her, “Every time someone steps up and says who they are, the world becomes a better, more interesting place.”

Shanice Williams, “Home”

It may seem like an obvious choice to put a song called “Home” on a playlist about sanctuaries. But Shanice Williams’s 2015 rendition is all about self-love, the love we receive from others, and the haven that love can provide.

Andrea Bocelli and Matteo Bocelli, “Fall on Me” 

Sometimes sanctuary isn’t a place; it’s a person.

Sara Bareilles, “Gravity”

And sometimes sanctuary comes after a separation.

Cynthia Erivo, “I’m Here”

Self-love is one of the toughest ideas to actually manifest, and I think we all struggle to do so in a world that tells us to love ourselves while listing all the reasons we shouldn’t. Celie finding love and self-acceptance at the end of The Color Purple? Only she could create that haven for herself, and the result is beautiful.

Nikki Blonsky and Zac Efron, “You Can’t Stop the Beat”

At the end of Hairspray, there’s a moment where Tracy (Nikki Blonsky) and Link (Zac Efron) are about to kiss. When I thought about what sanctuary means to me, that moment was the first thing that came to mind. Hairspray was the first movie where I saw the fat girl get the guy—and a magical, cinematic kiss.


Rachel Strolle, a white librarian with brown hair and bangs, looks directly at the camera
by Rachel Strolle
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Rachel Strolle is a librarian, former bookseller, and, above all things, a reader. It’s much easier for her to love a book than to hate it and she reads at a ridiculous speed. She likes puns and likes the reactions of other people to puns even more.