Taylor Swift songs as books
Are you a die-hard Swiftie and not sure what to read next? Caitlin Barr recommends books based on their similarities with Taylor Swift songs.
‘the lakes’ – William Wordsworth’s poetry
I’ll start off with a slightly obvious choice. Taylor Swift frequently references Wordsworth in ‘the lakes’ (‘Take me to the lakes where all the poets went to die’; ‘Tell me what are my words worth’), so it’s fairly likely that if you vibe with the idea of crying on a hilltop next to Lake Windermere, you’ll like his work. Wordsworth’s poetry was heavily influenced by the pastoral, as well as philosophy and the ideas of the self – you can transport yourself to the very peaks Swift references by picking up a collection of his best works.
‘illicit affairs’ – Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Filled with accounts of illicit affairs, clandestine meetings, and longing stares, this amazing piece of literary non-fiction fits the mood of the folklore song perfectly. Lisa Taddeo spent time getting to know three American women who shared details of their sexual and romantic lives. The result is a deeply intimate exploration of infidelity, desire, and shame, as well as the feeling of heartbreak, betrayal, and loneliness, which are all pertinent to the track.
‘invisible string’ – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Brontë fans may have picked up on the fact that the key motif in ‘invisible string’ directly alludes to a line in Jane Eyre: ‘I have a strange feeling with regard to you. As if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly knotted to a similar string in you.’ In fact, the novel fits the mood of folklore very well – it’s full of secrets and mad women and toxic men!
‘How You Get the Girl’ – The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary
If you’re after something as cute and fluffy as ‘How You Get the Girl’, The Flat Share fits the bill. Tiffy and Leon share a bed, but never cross paths due to their schedules. The book tracks their love story through post-it notes and many twists and turns. Definitely one for the rom-com lovers, with a healthy dose of weepy moments too.
‘New Romantics’ – Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth
If there’s one book that captures the turbulence of your twenties like ‘New Romantics’ does, it’s Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth. The book follows Laura and Tyler, best friends in Manchester, as they navigate sex, drugs, and poetry. Perhaps slightly more adult than Taylor’s hit targeted at teens, it is still a great read, exploring the themes of friendship, partying and free-spiritedness.
‘All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)’ – Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney’s lesser-known debut deals with a relationship between a university student and a man who is much older than her. It is very thematically similar to Taylor’s renowned weepy banger. The book contains a great deal of depth, just like the song, and grapples with the same feelings of inadequacy, immaturity, and insecurity.
‘no body no crime’ – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
No good book list is complete without Gone Girl in my eyes, but luckily it slots perfectly in thanks to ‘no body no crime’. Taylor’s song is a brilliantly vengeful account of… killing someone’s husband because he’s a cheat? If you haven’t read Gone Girl, I won’t spoil it for you, but the themes of crime, deceit, mind games and revenge certainly match.
‘Fifteen’ – Life of the Party by Olivia Gatwood
Olivia Gatwood’s sophomore poetry collection deals incredibly tenderly with the teenage years – she details her experiences of blossoming sexuality, heartbreak, and trying to find a place in a world not made for you. It also describes a life beyond teenage years, and both women converge on the same idea of time being a healer – Swift in the lyric ‘I’ve found time can heal most anything’ and Gatwood with the line ‘I have so much beautiful time’.
‘Welcome to New York’ – Heartburn by Nora Ephron
There are plenty of books set in New York that I considered pairing up with this song – The Bell Jar (too depressing), The Godfather (too violent) and Sex and the City (too obvious). By far the best one is Heartburn by Nora Ephron, who also wrote the best film ever made, When Harry Met Sally. It’s a hilarious, heart-wrenching, beautiful love letter to the city where Ephron lived for many years, and perfectly encapsulates all the promise New York holds, described so vividly in Swift’s lyrics.