When I read genre fiction, I like to get immersed in the world of the story. I'll often play period music or a relevant soundtrack. For Hilary Mantel's literary Tudor drama Wolf Hall, I spent over an hour meticulously researching pre-Elizabethan folk and choral music. I've finally found a simpler, less distracting solution.
Photo by Cristina L.F.
Ambient Mixer hosts a breathtaking 57,000 ambient sound mixes, combining almost 10,000 looping samples. Many are based on specific fictional settings, like the Shire, Night Vale, a night shift on the Death Star, and the common rooms of all four Hogwarts houses: Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. (Ravenclaw has ethereal music; Hufflepuff has a purring cat.)
The site's organisation is confusing, and the massive collection includes a lot of duds. To find the right ambience, it's best to search a few terms, find some mixes that vaguely approximate what you want, and click the tags at the bottom.
A search for "Wolf Hall" gave me nothing relevant, so I searched "Tudor" for the Tudor Kitchen mix; "king" for The King's Chambers, Medieval Throne Room and Studying with Merlin; "Shakespeare" for Shakespeare's Writing Desk and Feast Scene; "royal" for The Court and The Royal Study (perfect for its hints of Sir Thomas Cromwell's children); and "Renaissance" for the Renaissance Castle and Renaissance Tavern. Clicking around tags also got me (spoiler!) some beheading ambience from The Gallows and Dramatic Medieval Execution.
That last mix was a bit too dramatic, but like every mix on the site, it was customisable. I just made the screams of agony less frequent, and I was set. If I'm not careful, I could spend more time customising my soundscape than I do listening to it. I still prefer that to settling for an unchangeable 10-hour mix on YouTube.
Ambient Mixer is also available on iOS (paid and free) and Android (paid and free), though these mobile versions haven't been updated since 2014. Still, they're useful for reading at the park or the library, or for bringing some specific ambience to your next round of even the most obscure tabletop RPG.