Whenever I find myself feeling overwhelmed by everything I have lost because of this pandemic, I try to remind myself of everything that I have gained. And one of the best things that has happened in 2020 is obviously that Taylor Swift dropped her best album to date, folklore.
I mean, we all know the only thing we’ve been doing since folklore came out is listening to it on repeat. And this is some of Taylor’s best lyric writing, so I figured we might as well start reading some books that relate to it. Here are books that pair with Taylor Swift’s folklore.
Lydia Bird knows exactly what it feels like to have someone who would have been the one. Lydia has been with her fiancé, Freddie, since they were fourteen. When Freddie dies in a tragic accident on Lydia’s twenty-eighth birthday, she has no idea what her life looks like without him. But right when she tries to put herself out there with the help of her sister and Freddie’s best friend, Jonah, something happens that makes her think she might not have to move on at all. Every night when she falls asleep, she enters a world where Freddie is still alive. Lydia then has to choose between living in a fantasy world where Freddie is still her one and moving on with her real life.
To me, “cardigan” is about a special person in your life who always feels like they’re there even when they’re not. In The Light We Lost, Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on September 11, 2001. That night, they decide that they want their lives to mean something. And then they don’t see each other again until a year later.
It seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love.
Taylor’s “the last great american dynasty” is the story of Rebekah Harkness, a woman who inherited a Standard Oil fortune and Holiday House in Watch Hill, RI, after her second husband of just seven years died from a heart attack. Rebekah’s lifestyle and the way she was viewed by others reminds me so much of Evelyn Hugo.
In this novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid tells the story of aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn’s tale is one of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love.
“exile” is about feeling like you don’t belong in a place that was once your home. And that’s exactly what 99 Days is about, too. Will Molly Barlow make it through one long, hot summer—99 days—with the boy whose heart she broke and the boy she broke it for… his brother?
“my tears ricochet” is all about the push and pull of two people in a relationship, which is exactly the story of Connell and Marianne that Sally Rooney tells in Normal People. Connell seems to have it all, and Marianne doesn’t care to. Their roles reverse as they leave high school for college and continue to have an on-again, off-again relationship. Over the course of several years, we see the power that Marianne and Connell have to both hurt and help each other.
Note: If you’re not a big reader or want to experience this story in more ways than one, Hulu did an excellent job with the adaptation of this.
In “mirrorball,” Taylor Swift sings about being able to change everything about herself in order to fit in. And that’s exactly what Mclean in What Happened to Goodbye has spent the past few years of her life doing because her family has moved frequently. This time, Mclean is determined to be herself. But first she has to figure out who that is.
I get so many summer camp vibes from “seven,” and while Love and Other Words doesn’t take place at summer camp, it does tell the story of a young boy and girl who fall in love in a house in the woods.
Macy Sorensen has spent her adult life keeping her head down and her heart tucked away. But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world—growing from her gangly bookish friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother… only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.
Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends to much more—spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco devouring books, sharing favorite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Will Macy and Elliot be able to get back what they had as teenagers?
28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand is about a woman who has a one-week-per-year affair on the island of Nantucket every summer. Although Labor Day is in September, I always think of Mallory and Jake when I listen to “august.” Lines like “’cause you were never mine” and “canceled my plans just in case you’d call” remind me so much of Mallory and Jake’s situation. But believe me when I say that 28 Summers is about so much more than romance.
“this is me trying” is all about how hard it can be to be a person in the world, especially when you’re struggling with a mental illness. So if you can relate to this song, then I highly recommend reading Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. In my opinion, this is the best of John Green’s novels, and he does an amazing job of portraying Aza’s anxiety.
At any given moment in other people’s houses, you can find repressed hopes and dreams, moments of unexpected joy, and someone making love on the floor to a man who is most definitely not her husband.
In Other People’s Houses, Abbi Waxman tells the story of how one illicit affair affects four families in one neighborhood.
Camino and Yahaira are sisters, but they don’t learn of each other’s existence until their father passes when they’re in high school. Their father is definitely the invisible string that ties these two girls together. Clap When You Land is the story of how Camino and Yahaira deal with the tragedy of their father’s death and the discovery of each other.
I could have picked so many thrillers to pair with “mad woman,” but I think that the woman in The Escape Room is the maddest I have ever read. Told in two timelines, The Escape Room is the story of four colleagues who will do anything to get ahead and a fifth they already ruined.
This song makes me think of two such different things, so I had to pick two totally different books to pair with it.
Taylor has said that this song is about her grandfather’s time in the war, and the best book about war that I have ever read is The Things They Carried by Tom O’Brien. As the title says, this novel is all about the things that soldiers carry with them in war, both literally and figuratively. It’s also about the things they carry for each other. It’s been a long time since I read this book, but I can totally picture rereading it with ‘epiphany’ on repeat.
Every time I hear the second verse of this song, I think of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. Taylor sings about holding hands through plastic and the relationship between a mother and daughter. In Everything, Everything, Maddy has a physical condition that prevents her from ever leaving the house she lives in with her mother.
“betty” is the ultimate song about friendship and betrayal. So of course I picked the two best books I have ever read about friendship to pair with it.
Cleo and Layla have been best friends for years. Until they’re not. When Layla joined chorus, Cleo Layla has joined chorus, and Cleo now feels like Layla doesn’t have time for her.
Alternating between leading up to when Cleo and Layla’s friendship imploded and the aftermath, When You Were Everything is a heartbreaking novel about the beauty of self-forgiveness, the promise of new beginnings, and the courage it takes to remain open to love.
Big Friendship is the story of how Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman became friends and everything they had to do to stay friends. It’s about that pure sense of joy you feel when you first connect with someone. And how hard it is to feel that connection fading, especially when only one of you thinks there’s a problem. It’s about how no one would blame you for ending a friendship, but friendships are worth fighting for anyway.
This might seem like an odd pick for “peace,” but its theme of feeling like you aren’t good enough for someone and cannot give them peace reminds me so much of the relationships Laura Hankin depicts.
Happy & You Know It is the story of a struggling young musician who takes a job singing for a playgroup of overprivileged babies and their effortlessly cool moms, only to find herself pulled into their glamorous lives and dangerous secrets. There is perfect hostess Whitney who is on the brink of social-media stardom and just needs to find a way to keep her flawless life from falling apart. Caustically funny, recent stay-at-home mom Amara who is struggling to embrace her new identity. And old money, veteran mom Gwen who never misses an opportunity to dole out parenting advice.
In particular, I loved Amara and her husband. Their relationship perfectly embodies this song.
In my opinion, “hoax” is the most serious breakup song on Taylor Swift’s ‘folklore’. It’s about how hard it can be to pull yourself away from someone, even when you know they’re not good for you. And that’s exactly what Grace must do when she realizes the mistake she’s made in dating Gavin.
When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it’s too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she’s unable to escape.
A deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest portrayal of a destructive relationship, Bad Romance is a young adult novel about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again.
“the lakes” gives me all the writing by the water vibes, and Beach Read by Emily Henry is about exactly that.
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.
They’re polar opposites.
In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.
Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
What do you think of these books that pair with Taylor Swift’s folklore? And what books would you pair with it?
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