Hello friends! As most of you will probably know by now, Taylor Swift has recently released a surprise album, folklore, also known as one of the most excellent, softest albums I’ve ever heard. 🥺 With the exception of the final two track, peace and hoax, I adore every single song on that album, and I wanted to feature them on here in some way, which is how the idea for this post was born.
Today, Sabrina – who loves the album, as well – and I will be recommending you one book per song. Those who have listened to the album will know that many of the songs tell rather specific stories, which has made our job difficult, to say the least. As such, we decided to grab a tiny part of the lyrics out of each song, and we are focusing on these snippets when selecting the books.
Furthermore, because the post would be unbelievably long if we both recommended a book for each song (32 books in one post, can you imagine!?) we have divided the 16 tracks between us, so you will find 8-8 recommendations by both Sabrina and me.
“I persist and resist the temptation to ask you
If one thing had been different
Would everything be different today?“
Vera: I can’t think of a more perfect recommendation for “the 1” than Mhaira McFarlane’s Don’t You Forget About Me. It follows Georgina who, being out of options, accepts the first job offered to her. What she doesn’t know is that her new boss is no other than her first love, Lucas, which understandably complicates her situation. Even though their relationship ended disastrously, Georgina has always wondered, what would it have been like had Lucas been the one for her? This seems like a cute romance / women’s fiction novel at first glance, and it certainly has cute parts, but be mindful that it contains explicit description of sexual assault!
“But I knew you’d linger like a tattoo kiss
I knew you’d haunt all of my what-ifs
The smell of smoke would hang around this long”
Sabrina: My pick for this song is If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio, one of my favourite books! Not only does this section of lyrics fit with the overall plot – the main character, Oliver, has been released from jail after 10 years but a retiring detective still suspects something doesn’t quite add up – but the rest of the song fits with the relationships between the central characters. They all become extremely tight-knit while studying Shakespeare when they’re young and in college. The lines “And when I felt like I was an old cardigan Under someone’s bed You put me on and said I was your favorite” particularly remind me how Oliver felt like an outcast at home, but his group made him feel valued. I could also elaborate on how the song reflects one particular relationship, but I don’t want to spoil anything!
the last great american dynasty
“Who knows, if she never showed up, what could’ve been
There goes the maddest woman this town has ever seen
She had a marvellous time ruining everything”
Sabrina: I’m definitely twisting some things here so that they work for me, but I couldn’t resist picking Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier for this song – the same name is in the lyrics after all! The book is about the otherwise unnamed Mrs. De Winter as she moves into her new husband’s country estate and has to deal with the memory of his last wife, Rebecca. Sadly Mr. De Winter is not American, but I am quite sure his staff saw his new wife from the same perspective explored in the song. Other lyrics, such as “They say she was seen on occasion, Pacing the rocks, staring out at the midnight sea” tie in with the story too.
exile ft. bon iver
“I think I’ve seen this film before
And I didn’t like the ending
You’re not my homeland anymore
So what am I defending now?”
Sabrina: While I have a great thriller to recommend for this song, it totally gives away the twist so we are going to go for Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. I admit that I didn’t love this graphic novel (I’m in the minority there though, so don’t panic if it’s on your TBR), but it does perfectly capture the essence of this song in my opinion. Freddy and Laura Dean keep going through the same problems in their toxic relationship and it’s costing Freddy her relationship with her friends.
my tears ricochet
“You had to kill me, but it killed you just the same
Cursing my name, wishing I stayed“
Vera: I knew I wanted to find a book that fits “my tears ricochet” even just a little bit, as it’s one of my favorites from the album. I was worried and thought I had my work cut out for me.. until I remembered The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Evelyn and the love of her life – whose name I don’t want to mention, in case you haven’t read the book – break up during the novel and it’s rough, for both of them. There’s a lot of pain and hurt, and Evelyn’s feelings following the break up could be represented by “my tears ricochet.”
“And I’m still a believer, but I don’t know why
I’ve never been a natural, all I do is try, try, try
I’m still on that trapeze
I’m still trying everything to keep you looking at me“
Vera: Even though “mirrorball” can be interpreted as shining bright for one particular person and changing yourself for this person, the lines quoted above instantly made me think of Evie from The Diviners. Up to a point, Evie is breaking the rules of her family and of society because she wants to be free, she wants to be herself, ferociously so. However, as she becomes a radio sensation, we see her try to act a certain way, be a certain way simply because she wants to stay in the limelight. The line “And when I break, it’s in a million pieces” also made me think of Evie, and of the pressure she was under to be who people wanted her to be. A fun fact is that in Miss Americana, Taylor talked about the pressure of changing her sound to stay relevant, which ties in with Evie’s story arc, doesn’t it?
“And just like a folk song
Our love will be passed on
Please picture me in the weeds
Before I learned civility”
Sabrina: I’ve picked another graphic novel for this song, and this time it’s Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matthew Wilson and Jared K. Fletcher. Though there are some specific lyrics in this song that reflect events in the series, I am once again avoiding spoilers so you will just have to take my word for it 😛 I will say that the heart of the song – a strong childhood friendship – is also the heart of the Paper Girls books which follow a group of young girls that deliver newspapers and the grand sci-fi adventures they end up having together.
“Your back beneath the sun
Wishin’ I could write my name on it
Will you call when you’re back at school?
I remember thinkin’ I had you”
Vera: “August” is one of my favorite tracks on folklore, so I knew I needed to find a novel that’s worthy of it. Good thing I read Only Mostly Devastated earlier this year, because it’s perfect for this song. It follows Ollie who has an affectionate, beautiful summer romance with Will; as such Ollie is surprised and heartbroken when Will disappears without a word. At the end of the summer, Ollie’s parents make the decision to move there permanently, and Ollie and Will end up at the same high school. The only problem? The latter’s refusal to acknowledge Ollie. Only Mostly Devastated has many a heartwarming scene hiding inside it, but be mindful that it also deals with cancer, homophobia and biphobia.
this is me trying
“And my words shoot to kill when I’m mad
I have a lot of regrets about that”
Vera: I’ll admit, Dumplin’ doesn’t seem like a good pick for “this is me trying” (aka another of my favorite songs), but hear me out! The novel follows Willowdean whose words do, indeed, shoot to kill when she is mad or feeling insecure. We see this as she judges others as well as when she argues with her best friend. But as she starts to love herself more boldly and stops caring about what others might think, she learns to be less judgmental and to be be kinder to others. The bonus is that, like the lyrics, Will pours out her heart to a stranger, (which counts, even if that stranger is someone her aunt knew well.)
“And you wanna scream
Don’t call me “kid,” don’t call me “baby””
Vera: Because neither Sabrina, nor I read books that contain cheating – or, at least neither of us could recall any we would recommend – I decided to concentrate on the lines above, as opposed to on the whole song. That kind of patronizing, unequal relationship reminds me of Angel’s Blood by Nalini Singh. Raphael is a hundreds of years old archangel, while Elena is a mortal, which doesn’t make for a naturally equal relationship. Obviously, Elena doesn’t take any shit from Raphael, so we see their relationship develop and become more healthy as the time goes on.
“And isn’t it just so pretty to think
All along there was some
Tying you to me?”
Vera: As soon as I realized that “invisible strings” mentions failed past relationships and a string that pulls you “out of all the wrong arms” I knew I wanted to pair it with The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. In the novel, Stella has tried and failed at relationships in the past, and she is convinced that she is to blame for not having found a boyfriend, yet. Of course she isn’t, which is something she learns throughout the book. The way Stella and Michael fit together and the fact that their past relationships did not work out reminded me of “invisible strings” and the utter conviction it contains that true love has been found.
“No one likes a mad woman
You made her like that
And you’ll poke that bear ’til her claws come out”
Vera: For “mad woman,” I thought I wanted a novel that focuses on an unlikable or slightly villainous female character.. until I remembered Sadie. Sadie follows two timelines; in the present, Sadie is missing and her disappearance is being investigated by a podcast host. In the past, we follow Sadie as she tries to track down her younger sister’s killer. Sadie’s quest for revenge is morally ambiguous at best, but nonetheless, it’s impossible not to fall in love with this character and root for her, especially as we learn more about her and her sister’s backstory. As the song suggests, you if you poke a bear her claws will come out.
“With you I serve, with you I fall down, down
Watch you breathe in, watch you breathing out, out”
Sabrina: This was a tricky one, but I have for this song I finally chose Jade City by Fonda Lee. The song is about war, both in a military sense and the ongoing medical battle with COVID-19. Jade City also features war in multiple senses: the physical battles between the No Peak and Mountain clans as well as the political. Additionally, whilst the precious jade stones featured in the book are powerful, they need to be utilised properly and by the right people, otherwise they have disastrous health consequences – yet another battle to be fought. The lyrics I’ve featured here also I think reflect the strong family ties and dedication to honour found in the No Peak clan.
“I’m only seventeen, I don’t know anything
But I know I miss you”
Sabrina: This was definitely the most difficult song for me to choose a book for, but I’ve done it. I’m going for All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, despite it being about time travel and at first glance having nothing to do with the lyrics. As Vera mentioned before, we don’t really read books with cheating and betty is all about that. All Our Yesterdays does have a love triangle though and feelings of betrayal, and I think the song reflects that – especially as it related to a couple of the characters in particular.
“The devil’s in the details but you got a friend in me,
Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?”
Sabrina: For this song I’ve decided to recommend This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I’m leaning heavily on the featured lyrics for this choice, because the two main characters send each other messages in the most intricate ways despite being on opposite sides of a war – so the devil really is in the details. And as I’ve already said they are at war, I think it’s pretty obvious why they can’t give each other peace, lol. Additionally, the two characters are, on the surface, opposites and refer to each other as “Red” and “Blue” and I think that parallels nicely with the lyrics in peace that talk about fire and water.
“My only one
My kingdom come undone
My broken drum
You have beaten my heart”
Sabrina: In my eyes, this song is about a very toxic relationship that has left someone really damaged. It also features some darker, haunting language and so my choice for this is Platform Seven by Louise Doughty. While it masquerades as a horror, this book is more of an intense look into the effects of an abusive relationship – particularly the emotional side of it. It’s very dark and often difficult to read which is exactly why I think it works for this song. Please be careful before picking this up because the topics covered in this book won’t be suitable for everyone, particularly because of the abusive relationship but there is also graphic depiction of suicide and other potentially distressing content.
What’s your favorite album of the year? Have you listened to folklore? What are your favorite songs from the album? Have you read any of these novels?