Book Recommendation

Book Recommendations Based on Taylor Swift’s Red

Book Recommendations Based on Taylor Swift's Red

Hi everyone! It’s that time again – Taylor Swift has dropped an album and we’re here to recommend you books for the songs! There’s 30 tracks on Red (Taylor’s Version) and we have recommendations for every one of them. We’ve both been listening to the album nonstop – as expected, it’s incredible in both sound and storytelling. Like always, we worked really hard on and had a lot of fun with this post so we hope you enjoy it!

Previous Instalments:
folklore
evermore
Fearless (Taylor’s Version)

State of Grace

“And I never (I never)
Saw you comin’
And I’ll never (I’ll never)
Be the same”

Sabrina: I could not resist picking Graceling by Kristin Cashore, an old favourite, for this song! I definitely need to give this YA fantasy a reread, but from what I remember of it, the romance fits this song perfectly – the last thing Katsa expects from life is a romance, never mind the fact that it changes her entire worldview and her expectations for her own life’s path. I really think that the lyrics “you come around and the armor falls” and “we learn to live with the pain, mosaic broken hearts, but this love is brave and wild” match so well with Katsa and Po’s relationship. They’re so precious πŸ₯Ί

Red

“Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead end street
Faster than the wind, passionate as sin, ending so suddenly”

Vera: ‘Red’ is a really good song, and it becomes an excellent one if you know the connection between it and ‘Daylight’ from Lover. As for my recommendation, I picked Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid for ‘Red.’ The novel follows the Riva siblings, the now adult children of a legendary singer, Mick Riva. Part of the novel takes place during the night of the eldest sibling’s, Nina’s, famous annual party, where we follow the siblings’ life. However, we are also treated to flashbacks to the siblings childhood and before that, to their parents’ relationship. It is this relationship that makes it such a good recommendation for ‘Red’ – it has many highs at first… and then just as many lows, as Mick is not exactly a loyal, loving person.

Treacherous

“And I just think you should, think you should know
That nothing safe is worth the drive
And I would follow you, follow you home”

Sabrina: This is for sure a very emotional album, but this song in particular always has me feeling in the extreme. I’ve also been thinking about The Mermaid The Witch And The Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall a lot lately, and I can’t help but connect these two things together. The book follows an orphan that through circumstance has become a secretly unwilling member of a vicious pirate crew as well as the daughter of some important political guy (sorry, I don’t remember the exact details, lol). Though the book is about a lot more than the romance between the two, that is the element that most reminds me of this song. It’s a treacherous life being a pirate, even more so when you are hiding your feelings for one of your captives.

I Knew You Were Trouble

“And now I see, now I see, now I see
He was long gone
When he met me
And I realize the joke is on me”

Vera: ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ is one of my all time favorite songs, not just by Taylor, but in general too, so it was important for me to find a book that feels “worthy” of it. Actually, this is the first Taylor Swift song that I remember being obsessed with – I only became a fan during the Red era, but even more than that during 1989 era. In Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust, the main character, Soraya, has a relationship with a character that made me think of this song, in particular of the lines I quoted above. At first, Soraya is a bit unsure what to make of this person but they* quickly win her over, just to leave her reeling when they betray her. After the betrayal, Soraya can see all the red flags and cracks she ignored, which make her feel foolish. For me, those four lines I quoted above are a perfect fit for this relationship.

*I’m using neutral pronouns because I don’t want to spoil who this character is.

All Too Well

“‘Cause there we are again in the middle of the night
We’re dancing ’round the kitchen in the refrigerator light”

Vera: When Sabrina and I first started talking about this post, I immediately knew I wanted to claim ‘All Too Well’ for myself. I discovered this song while watching the Reputation Stadium Tour – first, I fell in love with the bridge and soon after with the rest of the song. Long story short, ‘All Too Well’ has been one of all time favorite songs ever since then, and I think this is one of the most vivid examples of what a good story-teller Taylor is. While the song itself is a heart-wrenching breakup song, the lyrics I grabbed paint a romantic picture, which is how my choice fell on XOXO by Axie Oh. This YA novel follows Jenny, who leaves her comfort zone for one unforgettable night of adventure with a cute boy. However, he is gone as soon as he appeared, leaving Jenny reeling and unsure of how she feels. Three month later Jenny re-meets Jaewoo, only to realize that he is part of a popular k-pop group. Even though this is a cute YA novel, the romance definitely has its highs and lows.

22

“It feels like a perfect night
For breakfast at midnight
To fall in love with strangers

Ah-ah, ah-ah”

Vera: Initially, I really wanted to find a book for ’22’ that features a birthday party, and when I couldn’t think of any, I was hellbent on at least finding one that has a some kind of holiday or party in it. I was starting to feel hopeless when I remembered 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston. In the story, Sophie is looking forward to spending some alone time with her boyfriend while her parents are away… until he proposes the idea that they should take a break from their relationship. Seeing how devastated Sophie is, her grandmother decides to set her up with ten different guys during the holiday season. Even though some dates are more successful than others, as a whole, Sophie has a good time and that reminds me of the tone of ’22’.

I Almost Do

“I bet it never, ever occurred to you
That I can’t say hello to you and risk another goodbye”

Sabrina: The YA fantasy The Afterward by E.K. Johnston is my choice for this song because at the centre of it is a romantic relationship between Kalanthe and Olsa that has fallen apart due to their different circumstances in life after they’ve returned home from a fantastical quest. They both very much seem to still love each other, but Kalanthe is set on avoiding Olsa, because it’s simply too painful for her to see her. I really do think this song embodies their post-quest relationship – they are both always so close to going back to each other, it’s heart-wrenching.

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

“Then you come around again and say
“Baby, I miss you and I swear I’m gonna change, trust me”
Remember how that lasted for a day?
I say, “I hate you,” we break up, you call me, I love you”

Sabrina: This song is filled with drama and I can’t listen to the rerecorded version without laughing – one long, drawn out “we” sounds so funny to me. It brings me joy. The book I’ve decided to pair with the song is Slippery Creatures by K.J. Charles, an adult historical mystery that features a bit of an on-again, off-again romance where the characters don’t always know whether they can trust each other. They also have a mutual friend which I would relate to the lyrics “you go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me” – I’m sorry if that sounds like a reach, but it makes sense in my mind πŸ˜…

Stay Stay Stay

“You took the time to memorize me
My fears, my hopes and dreams
I just like hanging out with you
All the time”

Vera: Oh, this is one of my favorite pairings I did for this post! Well Matched follows April, a single mom who hasn’t been looking for love ever since her ex-husband broke her heart and left her alone with their daughter. Enter approachable, friendly Mitch, a guy who has been a part of April’s life for years because of their mutual friends. However, it isn’t until April needs help renovating her house (and Mitch needs a fake date for a family get-together) when these two get to know each other better. The whole song reminds me so much of Well Matched, and the dynamic between April and Mitch.

The Last Time feat. Gary Lightbody

“This is the last time I’m asking you this
Put my name at the top of your list
This is the last time I’m asking you why
You break my heart in the blink of an eye”

Vera: For ‘The Last Time’ I selected Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn, a novel that follows a romance which remains unrequited for years. Penelope, the heroine, has fallen in love with her best friend’s brother a long, long time ago, but she has given up on Collin ever noticing her as more than his sister’s friend. It isn’t until Collin comes back from his travels when these two start to get closer and get to know each other better than they did before. There are multiple issues with this series – seriously, each book has at least one thing in it that makes me angry – but it’s also very addictive and fun, so for that I’d recommend it.

Holy Ground

“And darling, it was good
Never looking down
And right there where we stood
Was holy ground”

Vera: I chose The Falling in Love Montage for two reasons for ‘Holy Ground,’ the first of which I can’t share because of spoilers. Sorry. The other reason is more important anyhow – I really believe in this pairing because of the lines I quoted above. The Falling in Love Montage follows Saoirse who is pretty skeptical when it comes to love. Even when she feels an unexpected connection to Ruby, a girl who’s only in town for the summer, Saoirse is still reluctant to agree to a relationship. Enter’s Ruby’s idea to just enjoy the time they have together by going on dates inspired by romcoms. The “never looking down” part of ‘Holy Ground’ reminds me of how Ruby and Saoirse decide to focus on the here and now, ignoring the future. Meanwhile the “And right there where we stood, Was holy ground” lines make me think of how, despite Saoirse being so skeptical, something wondrous came out of this relationship.

Sad Beautiful Tragic

“We had a beautiful magic love there
What a sad, beautiful, tragic love affair”

Sabrina: For this song, I’ve picked A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer – a YA Beauty and the Beast retelling that follows the original story fairly closely in a lot of ways – like when the main characters “both wake in lonely beds, different cities“. The book sees Harper stolen away from our world to the kingdom of Emberfall for one reason – breaking the curse by falling in love with the Prince. Of course, Harper has family and unresolved issues back at home so it seems that things are going to end tragically, one way or another. I haven’t finished the last book in the trilogy yet, so I can’t tell you for sure which way it goes!

The Lucky One

“And your secrets end up splashed on the news front page
And they tell you that you’re lucky, but you’re so confused”

Sabrina: You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria is my choice for this song! I read it early in 2021 and though I don’t remember all the plot details, I do remember all the feelings it gave me. The story follows a romance between two telenovela actors filming a new show that they hope will bring their careers to American audiences. Both leads have a negative relationship with the tabloids – Jasmine, because she just had a big breakup that became very public and Ashton because of the secrets he’s hiding and certain things from his past. “And the camera flashes make it look like a dream”, but there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than the public realise.

Everything Has Changed feat. Ed Sheeran

“Come back and tell me why
I’m feelin’ like I’ve missed you all this time
And meet me there tonight
And let me know that it’s not all in my mind”

Vera: Picking Strange the Dreamer for ‘Everything Has Changed’ was the easiest choice I made for this post. Actually, the thing that was difficult was narrowing down which lines I wanted to quote from the song, because so many of them were simply a perfect pick for this novel. Strange the Dreamer is lyrical, beautifully written YA Fantasy that follows two characters – Sarai and Lazlo – who meet in a dream for the first time. Their first meeting leaves them both reeling, unsure if their experience was real or not, which reminds me of the last line I highlighted above. They have a strong, immediate connection and they both feel very much at home with each other from an early point of their relationship, which is a key aspect of ‘Everything Has Changed.’

Starlight

“The whole place was dressed to the nines
And we were dancing, dancing
Like we’re made of starlight”

Sabrina: For this song I really wanted to pick a book that has a lot of fancy events, and A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole fits the bill! I remember a few significant events in the book where everyone has to get dressed up, including a royal wedding. Reading more into the lyrics, I think the main couple of the book, Nya and Johan, fit the song even more than I was expecting. Of course you won’t find them “pretending to be a duchess and a prince”, because they are already royalty, but Nya does spend a lot of time “worrying too much” and Johan helps her through that.

Begin Again

“I’ve been spending the last eight months
Thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end
But on a WΠ΅dnesday in a cafΓ©, I watched it begin again”

Sabrina: Damaged Goods by Talia Hibbert may be a novella in the middle of a romance series I haven’t read, but it’s still one of my absolute favourite things I’ve picked up this year and I think it’s perfect for this song! It follows two characters in a second chance romance. One of them, Laura, has returned to her hometown to escape her abusive marriage, and the other, Samir, actually runs his own cafe where the couple end up spending a lot time together – so you can see why I picked the lyrics featured above! Apart from that, there are a lot of other lyrics in the song that I would relate to Laura’s perspective of Samir, like “I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ’cause he never did” and “you pull my chair out and help me in, and you don’t know how nice that is, but I do“. I adored these two characters and I can’t wait to read this novella again someday.

The Moment I Knew

“And the hours pass by
Now I just wanna be alone
But your close friends always seem to know
When there’s something really wrong”

Vera: My favorite part of ‘The Moment I Knew’ is the fact that it highlights how important the support of a friend or friends is, so I wanted to choose a novel with great friendship. I ended up picking Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur, an f/f romance where both protagonists have wonderful friends. Darcy’s friend, Annie, is a particularly good pick for this song because she has been supporting Darcy through a bad breakup and its aftermath, and even when Darcy tries to act like everything is okay, Annie knows full well that Darcy is not yet back to her old self. I’m a big fan of this novel and I couldn’t recommend it enough to romance fans.

Come Back…Be Here

“This is when the feeling sinks in
I don’t wanna miss you like this
Come back, be here, come back, be here”

Sabrina: I relate Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall to this song for a couple of reasons. The first is especially in connection to the lyrics “I don’t wanna need you this way“, for when the main character’s mother, who she is very close to, goes out of town on a work trip. The main character, Norah, has agoraphobia along with OCD and anxiety so she relies a lot on her mum to help her with lots of aspects of her life, even if she doesn’t want to. The other, and main, reason I’ve matched these two is that Norah has a chance encounter with a new neighbour that turns into a romance – and though he’s only next door, that may as well be miles away from Norah because she can’t leave her house. I think a lot of the feelings in the song reflect things Norah feels over the course of the book.

Girl At Home

“So don’t look at me, you got a girl at home
And everybody knows that, everybody knows that”

Sabrina: This is not a very exact match, but I think it’s a close enough one nonetheless – His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie. The entire premise of the book is that Afi, the main character, is essentially married off to some guy to lure him away from the woman he loves because his family doesn’t approve of her – and everyone knew this except Afi. The relationship between Afi and this guy, Elikem, is much like a rollercoaster and features so much drama, especially when their families are involved. The reading experience includes a lot of frustration, so I think it fits this song in tone too.

State of Grace (Acoustic Version)

“So you were never a saint
And I’ve loved in shades of wrong
We learn to live with the pain
Mosaic broken hearts”

Vera: I wasn’t totally sure what to recommend for ‘State of Grace’ until I read the lyrics and saw the lines I highlighted above. While the song isn’t about a second chance romance, as far as I can tell, these lines immediately made me think of a relationship where both parties have made some mistakes but are ready to work on overcoming them… which is basically the plot of You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle. The story follows an engaged couple, Naomi and Nicholas, who have lost their love for each other somewhere along the way, and are now constantly getting on each other’s nerves. This being a rom-com, they end up realizing how right they are for each other during the story, which is fitting for ‘State of Grace’ me thinks.

Ronan

Vera & Sabrina: When it came to ‘Ronan,’ we weren’t sure if recommending a book for it was the right choice, so we are choosing to include the lyric video here instead. For those who don’t know, Ronan is a charity single Taylor wrote in 2012, inspired by Maya Thompson’s blog posts who lost her son to cancer a little before he could turn four. If you would like to read the full story behind this, you can read this article.

Better Man

“We might still be in love
If you were a better man
You would’ve been the one
If you were a better man”

Sabrina: I couldn’t help but choose It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover for this song. The book follows Lily as she discovers a new romance which quickly turns into an abusive relationship. One of the saddest parts of the book is the way Lily really felt love and pity for this guy, which relates to the lyrics I’ve featured above. The book has a relatively happy ending, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that she ends up getting out of that abusive relationship – and she definitely shares the sentiment of “I know the bravest thing I ever did was run”.

Nothing New feat. Phoebe Bridgers

“And my cheeks are growin’ tired
From turnin’ red and fakin’ smiles
Are we only bidin’ time
‘Til I lose your attention?”

Vera: This is one of my favorite songs from the album, so I needed to find the perfect novel for it, and I think I did? The Diviners by Libba Bray is a historical fantasy series that follows a group of young people with supernatural abilities. Evie, one of the protagonists, is someone that, even as a teen, is already experiencing the struggles the song describes. (Minor spoilers ahead!) Throughout the series, Evie becomes the ‘It’ girl of the radio, however, she soon has to realize that fame and people can be incredibly fickle and can easily get bored of you or can even hate on you for the very things they loved you for before.

Babe

“And it’s strange how your face doesn’t look so innocent
Your secret has its consequence and that’s on you, babe”

Sabrina: Drowned Country by Emily Tesh is certainly not the kind of book I would expect to see paired with this song, and yet it actually fits pretty well, if I do say so myself πŸ˜› It is both a novella and a sequel, so if you haven’t read it or its predecessor, Silver in the Wood, I would suggest you move on to the next recommendation because I might spoil your reading experience. Anyway, over the course of the story we discover that Henry and Tobias have been separated and that it is Henry’s fault – it’s a very similar situation to the one depicted in the lyrics I’ve featured above. And personally, I felt like saying “you really blew this, babe” to Henry myself when I found out what happened! As much as I adore him, he is always making choices without thinking them through properly.

Message in a Bottle

“‘Cause you could be the one that I love
I could be the one that you dream of
A message in a bottle is all I can do”

Vera: For ‘Message in a Bottle’ I really wanted to find a novel with a romance that’s relatively slow-burn and where the main characters are unsure of the other person’s feelings. The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood is an adult romance novel that features one of my favorite tropes, fake dating. It’s a good fit for this song, because due to having to pretend that they are a couple, the protagonists end up confused about how much of what they feel is real, and even more importantly, how much of the other person’s feelings are real. I think the way the relationship progresses is similar to the tentative romance we see in ‘Message in a Bottle.’ (The Love Hypothesis contains sexual assault, so be mindful of that going in and take care of yourself.)

I Bet You Think About Me feat. Chris Stapleton

“And the girl in your bed has a fine pedigree
And I’ll bet your friends tell you she’s better than me, huh”

Sabrina: Please don’t read the synopsis anywhere if you plan on reading this book, because I think it gives too much away, but The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey is my choice for this song! It follows Evelyn in the wake of her split with her husband… which occurred because he was cheating on her… with her clone. So yeah, I bet he thinks about Evelyn all the time. The way cloning works in this book is really interesting, so I won’t explain it too much, but the clone is essentially Evelyn, only sort of trained to take out the parts of her that were inconvenient to her husband – which connects to the lyrics I’ve highlighted above and “you realized I’m harder to forget than I was to leave”. I think the lyrics “I don’t have to be your shrink to know that you’ll never be happy” fit really well too, especially toward the end of the book.

Forever Winter

“All this time I didn’t know
You were breaking down
I’d fall to pieces on the floor
If you weren’t around”

Sabrina: I’ve decided to match this song with Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura, an at once heartwarming and heartbreaking novel that features the mental health of teenage school students at its forefront. The story primarily follows Kokoro, a girl who discovers a portal to a castle in her bedroom mirror. She meets several other kids her age there and they’re all set a challenge by the castle’s mysterious resident. They don’t realise it at first – which is how I would relate this book to the lyrics above – but they all have something in common: they’re struggling with their mental health, largely because of their school experience. It’s so lovely to see the way these characters develop and grow to care for each other and form a united front, both in the castle and their outside lives.

Run feat. Ed Sheeran

“There’s been this hole in my heart
This thing was a shot in the dark
Say you’ll never let ’em tear us apart”

Vera: I’m going to have to admit that this isn’t my strongest pairing in the post by any chance, but even though I love this song, it was a difficult one to pick a book for. In the end I’m going with It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey for a few reasons. Firstly, Piper, the heroine, has some crappy friends which reminds me of the lines: “And my so-called friends, they don’t know, I’d drive away before I let you go.” Secondly, while people generally love Piper, she sometimes feels unwelcome in Brendan’s small town and life, and there are a few scenes in the novel where people (purposefully or not) make her feel like she isn’t suited to living here or being with Brendan, which made me think of the lyrics I highlighted above.

The Very First Night

“I wish I could fly
I’d pick you up and we’d go back in time”

Sabrina: Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto is such a fun book which includes a second chance romance (though it is not romance-focused), so I think it fits this song both lyrically and in tone. Meddy, the main character, unexpectedly runs into her college ex – which is pretty awkward because she’s with her family and they don’t know about him (“no one knows how much I miss you”), plus she’s sort of in the process of committing a crime πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ Still, it’s made very clear that Meddy wishes they could have stayed together and that she could relive their romance.

All Too Well (10 Minute Version)

“The idea you had of me, who was she?
A never-needy, ever-lovely jewel whose shine reflects on you”

Vera: As someone that doesn’t read a lot of sad books – or any at all – it can be challenging to find fitting recommendations for breakup songs, but for the lines I quoted above, I honestly couldn’t have found a better book than A Dowry of Bloody by S.T. Gibson. This historical fantasy is a re-imagining of Dracula’s brides and due to how lyrically it is written, it’s the perfect choice for ‘All Too Well (10 Minute Version).’ The novel follows Constanta, a young woman who is turned into a vampire by Dracula. While her new husband’s world seems fascinating and glorious at first, Constanta slowly begins to see the cracks in their relationship. The novel is written from Constanta’s point of view who is looking back at their (long) life together, so just like the song and newly released music video, Constanta’s story is a bit like a mosaic, crafted from the most significant moments of their relationship.

Let’s chat!

What do you think of the rerecorded album? And what do you think of our recommendations? Have you listened to All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault) as many times as we have? Let us know!

10 thoughts on “Book Recommendations Based on Taylor Swift’s Red

  1. I have listened to some of Taylor swift’s Red and I did enjoy it!! The 10-minute version of all too well was gooood, I love the lyric “You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath” 😍😍 I also love the video for I Bet You Think About Me !!
    I soooo need to read Girl, Serpent, Thorn (I’m disappointed I haven’t) and the way you’ve described it here and linking it to I knew you were trouble has made me even more desperate !! I haven’t heard of Slippery Creatures before, but the book sounds really interesting especially that relationship dynamic. Consider me intrigued !! His Only Wife also sounds like a very interesting read !! I love hearing both your recommendations as always and loved you explaining how the songs match the book πŸ’•

    also– the Magnus Archives update: on episode 88. The hide and seek episode has to be one of my favouritessssss !! It was spooky, messy and great. Also, Martin is so soft and sweet. I also love Tim a lot– he hates everything and is so done πŸ˜‚. I am really liking Melanie too (poor Sasha). The whole workplace dynamics are actually really fun !!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed what you listened to from Red. πŸ˜€ I loooove the 10 minute version of All Too Well SO MUCH omg. I’ve listened to it so so so many times. 😍 And the I Bet You Think About Me video is super fun!
      I hope you’ll love Girl, Serpent, Thorn – it was definitely a really good read. Thank you so much, Sophie!!
      Ahh, so happy you’re still loving The Magnus Archives!! 😍 The Hide and Seek episode is GREAT. I love all the characters too, Martin is my favorite though, as you probably know by now, haha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 😍😍😍
        haha yes I remember he is your fave, I can see why. Although he is acting strange at the start of s4, I’m very curious πŸ‘€ but TIMMMM 😭😭😭

        Like

  2. This post is incredible! You did an amazing job, it must have been super hard finding a fit for this many songs.
    I’m even more intrigued now to read XOXO, as All Too Well’s has always been my favourite from this album, but now with the 10 minute version… it’s unstoppable. πŸ˜‚

    Liked by 1 person

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