Ever since Taylor Swift released Folklore back in July, I have been completely obsessed with this mystical and immersive album. It makes you feel like you’re wandering in the forest all by yourself, lost in your thoughts, and searching for something that’s so much bigger than yourself. If you enjoyed it as much as I did, then you’re probably wanting to relive some of the emotions you’ve had while listening to Folklore and what better way to do it than to read some books that are in the same vein! I’ve paired each song with a book or a series that I consider very similar in tone and themes, so hopefully you will find these books as magical as Folklore…
The 1 – On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
On Chesil Beach is the story of a young love that failed due to miscommunication. Florence and Edward’s wedding night is somewhat of a fiasco because they are both unexperienced and they both harbour a huge fear of letting the other down. Instead of talking openly about those worries and their desires, they keep trying and failing to interpret what the other wants. Shortly after their wedding night, they get a divorce which makes the rest of the book be full of ‘what-ifs’ that are reminiscent to Swift’s lyrics in The 1 (You know the greatest films of all time were never made/But we were something, don’t you think so?/Roaring twenties, tossing pennies in the pool/And if my wishes came true/It would’ve been you).
Cardigan – The Winner’s Curse Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski
These lyrics from Cardigan (Sensual politics/When you are young, they assume you know nothing/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/’Cause I knew everything when I was young) remind me so much of Kestrel, the protagonist of the series who is such a great strategist. Everybody keeps underestimating her all through the series because she’s young, but her intelligence and political skills always make her come on top. Her relationship with Arin also matches the lyrics very well as he’s the only one who really sees her for who she is, he appreciates her and makes her feel valued (And when I felt like I was an old cardigan/Under someone’s bed/You put me on and said I was your favorite).
The Last Great American Dynasty – What Would Boudicca Do? by Elizabeth Foley & Beth Coates
What Would Boudicca Do? is a spectacular non-fiction book that introduces you to so many wonderful women that changed the world for the better by not following the rules, by being bold and creative (There goes the maddest woman this town has ever seen/She had a marvelous time ruining everything/Flew in all her Bitch Pack friends from the city/Filled the pool with champagne and swam with the big names/And blew through the money on the boys and the ballet/And losing on card game bets with Dalí). The book also gives amazing advice to modern women on how to solve their problems from dealing with men that keep interrupting them in business meetings to dealing with the pressure social media puts on you to be perfect – all based on how women like Cleopatra, Coco Chanel, and Frida Kahlo acted in similar situations.
Exile – The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black
The Queen of Nothing is the final instalment in the The Folk of the Air trilogy and it explores the aftermath of Jude’s exile, which has been imposed by her fae lover. The two have a very tumultuous enemies-to-lovers relationship that includes constantly trying to best each other, misinterpreting the signals they receive and denying their feelings which reminds me very much of this song (We always walked a very thin line/You didn’t even hear me out/You never gave a warning sign/All this time/I never learned to read your mind/I couldn’t turn things around/’Cause you never gave a warning sign). I can definitely see it playing in the background while Jude is trying to pinpoint the exact moment that lead to her exile.
My Tears Ricochet – A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
I was struggling to find a book that deals with a betrayal that’s as brutal and heartbreaking as the one depicted In My Tears Ricochet, but then I thought of A Ladder to the Sky which is an incredible fit. Maurice has no remorse while he climbs up the ladder of success by stealing the stories of those who loved him. He plagiarises, he betrays, he destroys lives only to make sure that his name will be immortalised. If the book focuses on Maurice’s perspective and is the account of a ruthless opportunist, the song would present the victims’ perspective (You know I didn’t want to have to haunt you/But what a ghostly scene/You wear the same jewels that I gave you/As you bury me/And when you can’t sleep at night/You hear my stolen lullabies).
Mirrorball – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
One of the most glamorous songs off the album, mirrorball is very similar to Reid’s book in terms of atmosphere. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about a retired Hollywood movie star who’s ready to finally tell the truth about her scandalous and captivating life that included lots of parties, film premieres and fancy clothes (I’ll get you out on the floor/Shimmering beautiful/ You’ll find me on my tallest tiptoes/Spinning in my highest heels, love/Shining just for you). The protagonist relished being the centre of attention back in the day, had a love life that got everyone talking and her ambition and charm secured her movie icon status (I’m a mirrorball/I can change everything about me to fit in/I’m still trying everything/To keep you looking at me). The book is bigger than life and so is the song, this dramatic flair that they share will have you completely under their spell.
Seven – Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Bridge to Terabithia is about Jess Aarons whose biggest dream is to be the fastest runner in his grade and about Leslie Burke, the new girl that outruns him on the very first day of school. It’s about the power of imagination, pure friendships and how much easier things are when you are a child (Please picture me in the trees/I hit my peak at seven/Feet in the swing over the creek/I was too scared to jump in/But I, I was high in the sky/With Pennsylvania under me/Are there still beautiful things?). Just like Swift’s Seven, the book doesn’t shy away from the grittier subjects – it’s not all about getting lost in magical worlds, it’s also about loss, dealing with grief and bullying (And I think you should come live with me/And we can be pirates/Then you won’t have to cry/Or hide in the closet/And just like a folk song/Our love will be passed on).
August – They Say Sarah by Pauline Delabroy-Allard
They Say Sarah tells the story of a passionate and obsessive love affair between two women, a single mother who is trying to navigate the newly divorced life and a vivacious and talented violinist. The unnamed narrator has a gloomy perspective on life, every day seems to blur into the other, she doesn’t like her job as a teacher anymore and her love life is quite boring all until she meets Sarah. They have a very magnetic connection from the beginning, but there is also this sense of constant desperation at the prospect of their relationship ending (And I can see us twisted in bedsheets/August sipped away like a bottle of wine/’Cause you were never mine). Sarah is very spontaneous and volatile which means that their relationship is full of clandestine meetings, intense break-ups and even more intense reconciliations (To live for the hope of it all/Cancel plans just in case you’d call/And say, “Meet me behind the mall”/So much for summer love and saying “us”/’Cause you weren’t mine to lose/You weren’t mine to lose, no).
This Is Me Trying – Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
This Is Me Trying reminded me very much of Matson’s protagonist, Emily as the lyrics are filled with regret, self-doubt, uncertainty and longing for a time when everything was just fine. In the beginning of the book, we find Emily trying to adjust to an unexciting life without her best-friend, Sloane, the one who always brought her out of her shell and made sure they were always having a great time. The only thing Sloane leaves her is a list of crazy and way out of Emily’s comfort zone activities which she decides to complete hoping that they will bring her closer to Sloane and help her understand why she had left so suddenly (I’ve been having a hard time adjusting/I had the shiniest wheels, now they’re rusting/I didn’t know if you’d care if I came back/I have a lot of regrets about that/Could’ve followed my fears all the way down/And maybe I don’t quite know what to say/But I’m here in your doorway/I just wanted you to know/That this is me trying). Since You’ve Been Gone is a fun summer book about friendships and finding who you are even if it’s scary.
Illicit Affairs – Normal People by Sally Rooney
I believe Normal People could have worked for more than one song off this album, but Illicit Affairs fit it perfectly in particular. The book is about Marianne and Connell who start dating each other in secret at the beginning of their senior year of high-school, there are socio-economical differences, their respective reputations at their school and miscommunication that keeps them from admitting that they are together (Make sure nobody sees you leave/Hood over your head, keep your eyes down/Tell your friends you’re out for a run/You’ll be flushed when you return/And that’s the thing about illicit affairs/And clandestine meetings and longing stares/It’s born from just one single glance/But it dies and it dies and it dies/A million little times). Normal People explores the depth of their relationship as the years pass, it shows how strong human connections can be and how the love of someone else can change you for the better. It’s also very angsty at times because of how intense their on-and-off relationship is (Don’t call me kid/Don’t call me baby/Look at this idiotic fool that you made me/You taught me a secret language/I can’t speak with anyone else/And you know damn well/For you I would ruin myself/A million little times).
Invisible String – Lovely War by Julie Berry
Invisible String is all about fate and a meant-to-be love that could defy all, which made me think of Lovely War almost instantly. Lovely War is about two couples that fall in love during World War I and it’s definitely similar in themes with the song as Aphrodite intervenes on many occasions to make sure that their love will last and they have to overcome so many obstacles in order to stay together (Time, mystical time/Cutting me open, then healing me fine/Were there clues I didn’t see?/And isn’t it just so pretty to think/All along there was some/Invisible string/Tying you to me?). It’s a beautiful tale that similarly to Swift’s song will make you believe that love can conquer it all.
Mad Woman – Sin Eater by Megan Campisi
Sin Eater is the story of May who is punished to become a Sin Eater after stealing bread, her responsibilities include listening to the confessions of those who are about to die and then eating various foods that are associated with the confessed sins. This was an actual medieval spiritual practice that ensured people will be absolved of their sins and granted passage to heaven as the Sin Eater took all these sins on. Because of this, Sin Eaters are outcasts – no one is allowed to touch them, speak to them unless it’s during a confession which definitely made May feel angry and isolated (And there’s nothing like a mad woman/What a shame she went mad/No one likes a mad woman/You made her like that). There’s the feeling of being wronged, the topic of witches coming up and a whole mystery surrounding a court that is very similar to Elizabeth I’s that make this book so similar to the song (And women like hunting witches too/Doing your dirtiest work for you/It’s obvious that wanting me dead/Has really brought you two together/I’m taking my time, taking my time/’Cause you took everything from me).
Epiphany – The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
The Nickel Boys is an incredible and haunting book, it’s inspired by real life events which makes it even more heart-breaking. It tells the story of Elwood Curtis, a black boy who is unfairly sentenced to the Nickel Academy, a reformatory school. The Nickel Boys go through so much there, there’s racism, abuse in all of its forms, so much corruption and injustice, it broke my heart to read about it. The writing is so good that it makes you feel all that powerlessness and anger that the characters feel. The fact that we get to see some characters after they get out of the juvenile prison and they are still trying to make sense of what they’ve seen and what they’ve endured there so many years later reminded me a lot of Swift’s song (“Sir, I think he’s bleeding out”/And some things you just can’t speak about/Only twenty minutes to sleep/But you dream of some epiphany/Just one single glimpse of relief/To make some sense of what you’ve seen).
Betty – P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
I think Betty (I’m only seventeen, I don’t know anything/But I know I miss you) reminds me so much of what happens in the second book of the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy as it presents similar situations – people messing up because they are young and they don’t know any better. I think both try to send the message that you can love someone and still mess up pretty badly (You heard the rumors from Inez/You can’t believe a word she says/Most times, but this time it was true/The worst thing that I ever did/Was what I did to you). I can’t reveal much of the plot as it’s a sequel, but the whole trilogy is a very adorable coming of age journey – the characters make mistakes, they grow up, they are complex and you will root for them until the very end.
Peace – Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Serpent & Dove is the story of Lou, a witch who is in hiding after fleeing her coven and who ends up marrying Reid, a witch hunter. As you can imagine, the situation is kind of tricky as she ends up living in a place full of witch hunters and she has to hide her identity not only from her husband, but also from everyone else. The dynamics between Lou and Reid remind me especially of this song – Lou is very fiery and impulsive while Reid is the more level-headed one, Lou also makes fun of Reid so many times of his proper manners and how full of integrity he thinks he is in comparison with her and the witches (But I’m a fire and I’ll keep your brittle heart warm/If your cascade, ocean wave blues come/ Your integrity makes me seem small/You paint dreamscapes on the wall/I talk shit with my friends, it’s like I’m wasting your honor). Their initial fake marriage and then the way they develop real feelings for each other, devotion and how they’re capable of sacrificing everything for one another also reminds me of Swift’s lyrics (All these people think love’s for show/But I would die for you in secret/The devil’s in the details, but you got a friend in me/Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?/And you know that I’d swing with you for the fences/Sit with you in the trenches/Give you my wild, give you a child/Give you the silence that only comes when two people understand each other).
Hoax – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina is the story of a woman who has it all and chooses to give it all up for love. At the beginning everyone envies her for her money, her good marriage and her beauty. After she divorces her husband in order to be with her true love, Count Vronsky, she becomes somewhat of an outcast, her reputation is tainted, everyone gossips about her, her husband won’t let her see her son – the entire world turns on her and it makes her rethink all of her choices. Her love for Vronsky remains a constant even if it’s a faithless love (My only one/My smoking gun/My eclipsed sun/This has broken me down/My sleepless night/My winless fight/This has frozen my ground/ Stood on the cliffside screaming, “Give me a reason”/Your faithless love’s the only hoax I believe in/Don’t want no other shade of blue but you/No other sadness in the world would do).
What are your favourite songs off Folklore?
What books would you recommend based on this album?