After coming up with book recommendations inspired by Taylor Swift’s folklore in this post, I thought it would be fitting to give evermore a similar treatment since this album is just as imaginative and evocative. These two albums were incredibly poignant and the stories they told easily made me connect them with various books that had similar themes and evoked strong emotions in me just like Swift’s music. Down below are 17 books, one for each of the songs from the deluxe version of evermore, hopefully you will find some new favourites among them.
willow – Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
Willow is a song that reminds me a lot of Percy and Annabeth because it’s mainly about soulmates finding each other and trying to overcome difficulties in order to stay together. Something that I adore about their love story was their devotion to each other—no matter how many creatures they’ve had to face, how many difficult quests and trials, they still made it work (The more that you say, the less I know/Wherever you stray, I follow/I’m begging for you to take my hand/Wreck my plans, that’s my man/Wait for the signal, and I’ll meet you after dark/Show me the places where the others gave you scars).
The marine and mythical motifs also make me think of Percy and Annabeth’s heritages, both of them having godly parents and being warriors (I’m like the water when your ship rolled in that night/Rough on the surface, but you cut through like a knife/As if you were a mythical thing/Like you were a trophy or a champion ring/And there was one prize I’d cheat to win).
champagne problems – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Many people pointed out the similarities between Little Women and champagne problems, but I can’t attest to that because I haven’t read the second part of the book yet. But when I heard the line “This dorm was once a madhouse”/I made a joke, “Well, it’s made for me”, it instantly made me think of Esther refusing Buddy’s marriage proposal and him telling her she’s crazy for never wanting to marry.
The Bell Jar is a touching tale about mental health, the story focusing on Esther and her desire to write a novel, to be someone special, to achieve great things in life. But as she graduates and completes her internship, she doesn’t feel quite ready to face the real world. The societal pressures to get married, to have an amazing career, it all overwhelms her and her mental health worsens as a consequence (I never was ready so I watch you go/Sometimes you just don’t know the answer/’Til someone’s on their knees and asks you/”She would’ve made such a lovely bride/What a shame she’s fucked in the head,” they said/But you’ll find the real thing instead/She’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred).
gold rush – House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Wharton’s protagonist, Lily Bart, knows the hardships and the advantages of being extraordinarily beautiful. She gets plenty of opportunities to marry rich and escape poverty once and for all due to her looks and charm. But she’s also thrown into horrendous scandals because of the same qualities.
When I listen to gold rush, I imagine this might be how Lawrence Selden sees Lily Bart (Gleaming, twinkling/Eyes like sinking ships on waters/So inviting, I almost jump in/ I don’t like that anyone would die to feel your touch/Everybody wants you/Everybody wonders what it would be like to love you/What must it be like to grow up that beautiful?/With your hair falling into place like dominoes)—a great beauty that he can’t quite stay away from even though he understands that she’s not meant for him, that they wouldn’t fit well together because she has high aspirations of becoming rich and securing her place in the high society while he’s satisfied with a quiet, not-quite-as-shiny life. Their love story is essentially a will-they-won’t-they romance and it fits Swift’s song like a glove (At dinner parties I call you out on your contrarian shit/And the coastal town we wandered round had never seen a love as pure as it/And then it fades into the gray of my day-old tea/’Cause it could never be).
‘tis the damn season – Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell
Pumpkinheads is the story of Deja and Josiah who are seasonal best friends. They work together from the beginning of September until the end of October at the same pumpkin patch and they never really interact with each other after Halloween.The book starts with their last year together as they are both going away for college and deals with the nostalgic feelings they have about their friendship, their autumns spent at the patch and everything they did and didn’t. Deja is determined not to let the blues destroy their last night at the patch, so she tries to take Josiah to all the good rides, eat the most delicious sweets and help him talk to the girl he has a crush on.
Their adventure is exciting and will definitely give you happy feelings, you will also root for these two to explore the hidden feelings they harbour for each other (‘Tis the damn season, write this down/I’m stayin’ at my parents’ house/And the road not taken looks real good now/Time flies, messy as the mud on your truck tires/Now I’m missing your smile, hear me out/We could just ride around/And the road not taken looks real good now/And it always leads to you and my hometown). But even though it’s a light book, it’s also filled with wistfulness and homesickness just like Swift’s song (And wonder about the only soul/Who can tell which smiles I’m fakin’/And the heart I know I’m breakin’ is my own).
tolerate it – The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
This is my favourite song off the album, it tells the story of a strained marriage – the wife is very dedicated and loving while the husband just tolerates her. The Penelopiad is a retelling of The Odyssey from the perspective of Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus who waited for him to come back from Troy year after year without losing hope in him. Atwood challenges the mythical image of the loyal, patient, and uncomplaining wife and tries to dig deeper into her character showing some unseen sides of her—that she was perhaps bitter, jealous and angry with her husband for his infidelity (I greet you with a battle hero’s welcome/I take your indiscretions all in good fun/I sit and listеn, I polish plates until they gleam and glistеn/You’re so much older and wiser and I).
I also think the relationship between Penelope and Odysseus fits this song so well because they are both incredibly clever, but only Odysseus gets real recognition for his skills while Penelope ends up being known for her dedication rather than her shrewdness. She also has to trick the suitors years upon years, yet Odysseus gets the credit for dealing with them (While you were out building other worlds, where was I?/Where’s that man who’d throw blankets over my barbed wire?/I made you my temple, my mural, my sky/Now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life/Drawing hearts in the byline/Always taking up too much space or time/You assume I’m fine, but what would you do if I/Break free and leave us in ruins/Took this dagger in me and removed it/Gain the weight of you, then lose it/Believe me, I could do it). A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes has a very similar vibe and you should definitely check it out!
no body, no crime – The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
There’s a whole sub-genre dedicated to marriage thrillers and probably most of those books would match Swift’s haunting and very bold song perfectly (off the top of my head, Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train could fit the bill very well). But I believe The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey is the best match for this song. At its heart, this book has a deadly love triangle with a shocking spin to it.
Evelyn’s husband has been cheating on her with her genetically cloned replica (Her husband’s actin’ different, and it smells like infidelity/She says, “That ain’t my Merlot on his mouth/That ain’t my jewelry on our joint account”/ I think he did it, but I just can’t prove it) and now Evelyn doesn’t have to face only the consequences of the affair, but also the fact that her clone had murdered her husband and they now have to cover up the whole thing (Good thing my daddy made me get a boating license when I was fifteen/And I’ve cleaned enough houses to know how to cover up a scene/Good thing his mistress took out a big life insurance policy/They think she did it, but they just can’t prove it/No body, no crime). This is a very thrilling novel that will keep you on the edge until the very end.
happiness – My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
I’ve recently read Ferrante’s highly acclaimed tetralogy and I really adored how gritty the first book is. While it tackles very important themes like violence, poverty, sexism, abusive relationships, at its very core it is about the tumultuous, long-lasting friendship between Elena and Lila (Past the blood and bruise/Past the curses and cries/Beyond the terror in the nightfall/Haunted by the look in my eyes/That would’ve loved you for a lifetime/Leave it all behind/And there is happiness). It’s fascinating to watch these two girls grow up and see how their friendship also changes and matures in time. Their connection is very complex—while they are loyal to each other to a fault, there is also an insidious envy between these two. They are always competing with each other and because of this, end up hurting one another more than once (Tell me, when did your winning smile/Begin to look like a smirk?/When did all our lessons start to look like weapons/Pointed at my deepest hurt?/ I can’t make it go away by making you a villain/I guess it’s the price I paid for seven years in Heaven).
The lyrics in happiness remind me a lot of their struggle to get out of their brutal, very poor neighbourhood and how they find solace into each other even as Elena continues to learn and seemingly has a brilliant future ahead while Lila is forced by her parents to go to work instead and marry young (But now I’m right down in it, all the years I’ve given/Is just shit we’re dividin’ up/Showed you all of my hiding spots/I was dancing when the music stopped/And in the disbelief, I can’t face reinvention/I haven’t met the new me/ There’ll be happiness after you/But there was happiness because of you/Both of these things can be true/There is happiness).
dorothea – Beautiful World, Where Are You? by Sally Rooney
Alice and Eileen were once roommates in Dublin and best friends. Now Alice is a renowned author with numerous awards and accolades, and retreated in a more secluded part of Ireland to get away from fame while Eileen is stuck in her job as a literary assistant at a literary magazine that pays her close to nothing. Despite how different their lives are, they still communicate via long emails about politics, relationships, and the (awful) current state of the world (do you ever stop and think about me?/When we were younger down in the park/Honey, making a lark of the misery/A tiny screen’s the only place I see you now/And I got nothing but well wishes for ya).
Eileen would definitely love to have Alice back in Dublin, by her side (Ooh, this place is the same as it ever was/Ooh, but you won’t like it that way/It’s never too late to come back to my side/The stars in your eyes shined brighter in Tupelo), but she knows that what Alice needs is to be in a place where nobody knows her at least for a little while (Ooh, you’rе a queen sellin’ dreams/And if you’re ever tired of bеing known for who you know/You know that you’ll always know me, Dorothea). As it’s a Rooney book, this is full of uncertainty, miscommunication, feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and whether anything matters in the end (But are you still the same soul I met under the bleachers?/Ooh, I guess I’ll never know/Ooh, and you’ll go on with the show).
coney island – Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest book tells the story of the vibrant Riva clan – the marriage between June and Mick, the birth of their children, the many affairs, the separations and the reconciliations, and the tragedies that followed. Mick’s dream from the very start is to become a famous musician and give June the life she deserves with a beach house in Malibu and nothing to long for (And do you miss the rogue/Who coaxed you into paradise and left you there?), but as soon as those dreams come true, their relationship becomes to crumble in pieces.
Mick makes his fame and his career his centrefold, forgetting all about his family (And I’m sitting on a bench in Coney Island/Wondering where did my baby go?/The fast times, the bright lights, the merry go/Sorry for not making you my centerfold/The question pounds my head/What’s a lifetime of achievement/If I pushed you to the edge?/But you were too polite to leave me). Their relationship is full of love and they seem completely meant to be, but the mistakes he makes give their love story a bitterness that is oddly familiar to the one described in coney island.
ivy – The Absolutist by John Boyne
Forbidden love, jealousy and betrayal are important themes in this tragic and haunting tale about two soldiers who fall in love while serving the British army in the World War I (How’s one to know?/I’d meet you where the spirit meets the bones/In a faith-forgotten land/In from the snow/Your touch brought forth an incandescent glow/Tarnished but so grand). Tristan and Will have very different outlooks when it comes to war—Tristan is trying to be pragmatic about it and make peace with the fact that there’s not much to do beside fighting and hoping he’d make it out alive (I just sit here and wait/Grieving for the living) while Will is becoming more and more fascinated with pacifistic ideas to the point where he doesn’t want to fight anymore because he thinks the war is completely meaningless (I wish to know/The fatal flaw that makes you long to be/Magnificently cursed).
Besides this, the fact that Will struggles with accepting his sexuality and the constantly hiding gives their relationship this inaccessible and forbidden aura that Taylor Swift is singing about in ivy (What would he do if he found us out?/Crescent moon, coast is clear/Spring breaks loose, but so does fear/He’s gonna burn this house to the ground/How’s one to know?/I’d live and die for moments that we stole/On begged and borrowed time/So tell me to run/Or dare to sit and watch what we’ll become). Even though there’s a lot of anguish and cruel words spoken on both side, these two can’t really stay away from each other (Oh, I can’t/Stop you putting roots in my dreamland/My house of stone, your ivy grows/And now I’m covered in you).
cowboy like me – These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever
These Violent Delights is a thrilling dark academia book, it has it all—twisted love story, crime and plot-twists that you will never see coming. It tells the story of Paul and Julian, two highly intelligent, kind of pretentious and very dark university freshmen. They become friends after discovering they have very similar ideas on research ethics and afterwards, they keep borrowing books from each other and discussing philosophy, literature and more. Their intellectual friendship soon evolves into obsessive love and the drama gets more and more explosive after Julian’s very rich family comes into the picture as well (Oh, I thought/This is gonna be one of those things/Now I know/I’m never gonna love again/Perched in the dark/Telling all the rich folks anything they wanna hear/Like it could be love/I could be the way forward/Only if they pay for it/You’re a bandit like me/I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve/Takes one to know one/You’re a cowboy like me/Never wanted love/Just a fancy car).
Paul’s constant self-loathing and the way he worships Julian makes their relationship feel suffocating for both of them. So, they have to do something to keep things working between them, something that will unite them forever. What they are going to come up with will definitely shock you (Never thought I’d meet you here/It could be love/We could be the way forward/And I know I’ll pay for it/And the skeletons in both our closets/Plotted hard to fuck this up/And the old men that I’ve swindled/Really did believe I was the one/And the ladies lunching have their stories about/When you passed through town/But that was all before I locked it down).
long story short – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I had a hard time coming up with a book for long story short because it seemed to allude to finding the right one after being through absolute hell and I couldn’t settle on one book to illustrate that theme. After much reflecting, I realised it reminds me a lot of June and Nick from The Handmaid’s Tale. June or Offred is a Handmaid in Gilead, a dystopian society where fertility rates have been going down and the regime decided to eradicate women’s rights and separate them in categories (wives, daughters, aunts, handmaids, unwomen, Marthas) with distinct roles.
Handmaids are an asset to the government only while they are fertile as their sole purpose is to give birth. On her third assignment as a Handmaid, June meets Nick who works as a driver for the Commander she’s been assigned to and they find solace and mutual understanding in each other. They are both trying to make the most out of their situations, rebelling in their own ways against a dystopian world that is very hard to escape from (Fatefully/I tried to pick my battles ’til the battle picked me/Misery/Like the war of words I shouted in my sleep/And you passed right by/I was in the alley, surrounded on all sides/The knife cuts both ways/If the shoe fits, walk in it ’til your high heels break/Long story short, I survived). Their love story is all about finding comfort in a kindred soul who can make you forget, at least temporary, about the chaos in your world (And he’s passing by/Rare as the glimmer of a comet in the sky/And he feels like home).
marjorie – Jane: A Murder by Maggie Nelson
Nelson’s Jane is a real story told in verse about the murder of her aunt who was just a student at the University of Michigan when it all happened. The author is trying to navigate both her grief and her family’s despair through the years as the search for the murderer hit a wall again and again. What’s interesting is that Nelson’s been told all her life that she’s very similar to her aunt, and as she starts to dig through Jane’s poems, correspondence, she gets a strange feeling of recognition even though her aunt was murdered a year before her birth (What died didn’t stay dead/What died didn’t stay dead/You’re alive, you’re alive in my head/ All your closets of backlogged dreams/And how you left them all to me). This is a hard-hitting read, very emotional, and definitely captures the grief that is so present in marjorie, but also those tender feelings of total admiration and longing for a loved person who is gone.
closure – The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
This tragic story is closure on steroids, basically. As the title suggests, this book is about an affair that has come to an end which is very befitting of Swift’s song. Maurice thinks he has no tender feelings left for Sarah after they separated because of his jealousy and her refusal to divorce her husband. When Maurice meets Henry, Sarah’s husband, by chance and finds out that she might be seeing someone else, his jealousy is reignited and he soon discovers that the love or obsession he had for her might still be present. He attempts to find out whether Sarah still has feelings for him, but she maintains her position that they should stay apart despite the evident turmoil she’s going through (It’s been a long time/And seeing the shape of your name/Still spells out pain/It wasn’t right/The way it all went down/Looks like you know that now/ I know I’m just a wrinkle in your new life/Staying friends would iron it out so nice/Guilty, guilty, reaching out across the sea/That you put between you and me/But it’s fake and it’s oh so unnecessary).
There are so many twists and turns even though the story seems old as time on the first glance and Greene’s writing is incredibly powerful and beautiful (Don’t treat me like/Some situation that needs to be handled/I’m fine with my spite/And my tears, and my beers and my candles/I can feel you smoothing me over).
evermore – If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
This is the first Baldwin that I’ve read, but definitely not the last because he’s incredible and so masterful at writing poignant and emotional stories. If Beale Street Could Talk focuses on Tish and Fonny who are having a baby and want to get married when Fonny is falsely accused of rape and then imprisoned (Gray November/I’ve been down since July/Motion capture/Put me in a bad light/I replay my footsteps on each stepping stone/Trying to find the one where I went wrong/Writing letters). Tish and their families start to militate for his release, try to do anything possible to convince the jury that a racist policeman had set Fonny up for it and that the real culprit is free.
The similarities between book and song reside especially in how well they capture those opposite feelings of desperation and uselessness on one side (Hey December/Guess I’m feeling unmoored/Can’t remember/What I used to fight for/I rewind thе tape, but all it does is pause/On thе very moment all was lost/Sending signals) and then, hope and commitment on the other side that are very representative for the way Tish fights for Fonny, but also has moments when she feels like she can’t do it anymore—the pregnancy and this fight for justice, and she gets down and hopeless about the possibility of a future without Fonny in her life (Can’t not think of all the cost/And the things that will be lost/Oh, can we just get a pause?/To be certain, we’ll be tall again).
This is a hard-hitting story about love, devotion, and racism—it’s one of the most beautiful and saddest love stories I’ve ever read (And when I was shipwrecked/I thought of you/In the cracks of light/I dreamed of you/It was real enough/To get me through).
right where you left me – Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan
When Nolan’s unnamed narrator meets Ciaran at a gallery event, she instantly falls in love with him. She’s intrigued by his beauty and the way he carries himself with such ease, like he’s completely unaffected by his surroundings. She likes how cold he is and how much she has to work for his affection, his touch, everything. Their relationship is tumultuous and they break up, get back together, cheat on each other—it’s such a mess that the readers will invariably ask themselves how these two are still together. Even the narrator admits that their relationship is abusive, that if she had more self-esteem, she would give Ciaran up, but it takes very long for her to break it off once and for all and start her journey of healing and that’s mostly because of how directionless she feels after their break-ups (Help, I’m still at the restaurant/Still sitting in a corner I haunt/Cross-legged in the dim light/They say, “What a sad sight”/I, I swear you could hear a hair pin drop/Right when I felt the moment stop/Glass shattered on the white cloth/Everybody moved on, I, I stayed there/Dust collected on my pinned-up hair/They expected me to find somewhere/Some perspective, but I sat and stared/Right where you left me).
Ciaran is very handsome and all of her friends think so, way out of her league, and considering she has a dead-end job and nothing interesting going on for herself, Ciaran seems to be the only thing that matters in her life, that sets her apart (Did you ever hear about the girl who got frozen?/Time went on for everybody else, she won’t know it/She’s still twenty-three inside her fantasy/How it was supposed to be/Did you hear about the girl who lives in delusion?/Breakups happen every day, you don’t have to lose it). A hard-hitting story about abuse, toxic relationships – the monologues are so well written that you won’t be able to put this down.
it’s time to go – The Project by Courtney Summers
This haunting song reminded me a lot of Courtney Summers’ latest release that focuses on the way a cult destroys the relationship between sisters. After their parents die in a car accident, Bea is the one who’s supposed to pick up the broken pieces and look for her younger sister, Lo, who’s gravely injured in the hospital. The fear that Bea will lose her sister as well and the pressure to be a grown-up all the sudden must have been too much for her as we find out that she left Lo and joined a cult (When the words of a sister come back in whispers/That prove she was not in fact what she seemed/Not a twin from your dreams/ That old familiar body ache/The snaps from the same little breaks in your soul).
As the years pass, Lo tries to connect with her sister and convince her to come back home, but it’s to no prevail and that intrigues her in a way. It makes her wonder what is so special about Lev’s charm and beliefs that he has her sister wrapped around his little finger. This is a fascinating look into cults, what it takes to join a cult and even more, to leave one (Fifteen years, fifteen million tears/Begging ’til my knees bled/I gave it my all, he gave me nothing at all/Then wondered why I left/Now he sits on his throne in his palace of bones/Praying to his greed/He’s got my past frozen behind glass/But I’ve got me/Sometimes to run is the brave thing/Sometimes walking out is the one thing/That will find you the right thing).
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