As I previously mentioned, I’ve basically been listening to Taylor Swift’s “folklore” and “evermore” on repeat all lockdown long. There’s something so special about these albums from its pretty melodies, lyrics that really tell a story, and the catchiness of literally every single song. And since each song tells such specific stories, I couldn’t help but think that many of the “folklore” songs remind me of some of my favorite books, just as “evermore” did. So, just like Mamma Mia, here we go again! Keep reading for all sorts of my personal book recommendations based on each track off of “folklore.”
Writer’s Note: In case you were wondering how on earth I put this, and its sister post together, I was meticulous in my choices. I listened to each track while simultaneously studying the lyrics. From there, I went to my digital and physical bookshelves, plus my Goodreads read list, and aimed to search for at least one book I’ve read that at least somewhat fits the song’s lyrics or stories. Now, not all are perfect matches, of course, since they are both original works. But, I tried to pull books with a similar plotline, character, love story. Something quite similar to one another. And that’s what we have here.
Try: The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor
If this song was set in high school, it would perfectly describe how I envisioned this YA read. Where, in the song, the main character is pining for their crush who doesn’t notice them, hell, that’s basically George about Emma. Then, Emma’s coding club project is a matchmaking app that goes awry because none of the couples last, which reminded me of the part of the song about wishing for love and their crush to fall for them despite the real couples not having a chance. Also, Emma just wants to do “cool shit” AKA make a rockstar app and find her niche in life and at school. The parallels just fit so well.
Try: Hot Mess by Emily Belden
Now, this one took a bit of imagination to put together. The song is all about looking back on an old, messy relationship. So, as I looked back at my bookshelf to find a comparative option, my eyes flitted over Emily Belden’s debut novel. I imagine this song would be representative of main character Allie some five-ten years in the future looking back at that messy AF relationship with reckless Benji and the hell she put herself through to open his restaurant she invested in, while he ran off in a drunken haze with another woman.
Try: Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma
OK, this was an easy one considering it’s all about an outrageous, fabulously wealthy family’s life and their crazy shit. I went with this first book in the “Daughters of the Dynasty” series, because, technically this family is something like that. Plus, the song starts with Rebecca arriving into town on the train and the book picks up with Gemma arriving in Beijing via plane to film a movie despite getting mistaken for massive influencer and her newly found cousin Alyssa. There are so many family secrets and drama, and it just fits this song so very well.
Try: Once And For All by Sarah Dessen
The whole “I think I’ve seen this film before and I didn’t like the ending” part was my main inspiration. With that line, I think of someone looking at someone and knowing what’s going to happen, understanding fully it won’t be good. That reminded me of Louna at her part-time job at her mom’s wedding planning business in the latest Sarah Dessen book. She’s so cynical about romance that it affects her perspective in front of clients after watching years of poorly behaved weddings. Then, the “I can see you starin’, honey” line reminds me of how new hire Ambrose would always show up at her side at each event, like he’s always there and around, and she “didn’t even see the signs.”
Try: The Night We Met by Zoë Folbigg
For one of the most emotional songs, I knew I needed one of the books that left me reeling. For a song that speaks about ashes, how the lover will love ’em till their dying day, and how the day they leave is the worst day of their life, yea that reminded me of this ARC I recently finished. Here, this vulnerable women’s fiction novel follows young mum Olivia on hospice, dying of cancer, as her husband (who’s been so scared to give up) writes the story of their romance to tell their young daughters. Even though it predictably ends tragically for her, the epilogue aims to put a meaningful, optimistic spin on this unexplainably sad moment and show how they’ll always love Olivia as they move forward because she accomplished so much she loved in her short life. And that reminds me of this song.
Try: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
The chorus of this song says “When no one is around, my dear, you’ll find me on my tallest tiptoes. Spinning in my highest heels, love, shining just for you.” And, I swear, if that doesn’t directly relate to HRH Prince Henry and Alex then I give up!! It tracks so well since most of their relationship is in secret and in private. But, also it fits since Henry really helps Alex learn who he is because they see each other like they are looking through a crystal ball.
Try: Eyes On Me by Rachel Harris
To me, this song focused on being scared to try something new, and that’s Lily Bailey to a tee. Here, valedictorian Lily gets so stressed out that her dad forces her to take salsa dance classes for fun. Of course, she needs a partner. So, enter popular jock Stone Torres who steps in to help at his mom’s dance studio. When her dad offers him extra cash to be Lily’s permanent dance partner, he can hardly refuse. They spend more and more time together and create a beautiful love story, err, dance together.
Try: Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe by Sarah Mlynowski
This song completes the teenage love triangle story off the album, with Sam becoming the “august” girl in her story, and it just fits so well. So, the “august” girl is the summer fling, who will be nothing more than a good time, hidden from anyone even when real feelings develop on her end. Here, in this book, Sam spends her summer (already perfect timing!) as a camp counselor missing her boyfriend. Meanwhile, Gavin is also missing his girlfriend for the summer. So, the strike up an inevitable friendship bond commiserating, however, that quickly turns into a bona fide summer fling “twisting up in bedsheets” through the duration of camp. Then, when their S.O.’s show up at the camp’s visiting day, she realizes her boyfriend isn’t her future and maybe Gavin is, however, he’s still stuck on his girlfriend because he was never Sam’s. Just like “august.”
Try: Pretending by Holly Bourne
This song definitely fits April very well. In the song, our narrator is tired of her current life and just trying to move forward, feeling regretful about her past and wasting her potential. This reminds me of April in this novel, as she was tired of heartbreak and ghosting, so she wanted to try something new and be someone that people and guys would like because obviously, her real potential isn’t doing her any favors. So, she’s just trying to see if this brings her vengeance or confidence. And the chorus where the narrator reveals her intentions rings familiar to the moment Joshua finds out the truth about “Gretal.”
Try: Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
It’s a song about a clandestine romance, so that reminded me of the newest Jasmine Guillory book. Here, lawyer Olivia strikes up a relationship with popular senator, and eligible bachelor, Max. But, since his career is in the public eye, they hide things. It’s quite similar to the song, except he uses a baseball cap and not a hoodie to shield his face! Their chance meeting soon sparks a whirlwind affair and relationship with plenty of heat, passion, and emotions. After concealing everything, like “they don’t even exist,” she realizes this hiding a part of her life isn’t what she wants.
Try: The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman
This beautiful track is all about the invisible little things that tie people together, much like these recipes that literally connect Sam’s family ties. Here, we follow Sam, a busy sous chef for a hot New York bakery, Her life isn’t going as she planned, so she returns home to her small Michigan town to take inventory of her family’s orchard and pie shop. There, she discovers secrets and memories of her family, one recipe at a time in the heirloom recipe box. Through this family heirloom, she realizes hidden truths about her family and feels so much closer to her mom, grandmother, and so on.
Try: The Boys’ Club by Erica Katz
This song is all about a woman’s twisted life, all about “striking to kill” and “getting more crazy when you call me crazy,” “mouthing f*ck you forever instead of smiling,” and how “no one likes a mad woman, you made her like that.” Much like that haunting tone, I thought of this upcoming, thrilling novel and main character Alex, a woman trying to rise through the male-dominated field of Mergers and Acquisitions and all the misogynistic crap she deals with on the daily, plus how that shapes her career and life. The book is less about romance or friendship but more about a woman’s drive to succeed on her own terms yet play by the “boys club” rules of the legal profession to get there. You aren’t rooting for Alex and a partner but rather her succeeding at shattering the glass ceiling for future female attorneys to come. It’s inspiring and empowering to see that as the primary theme of the story, and that reminds me of this track.
Try: Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer
This was a trickier prompt to fill, but instead, I focused on a certain stanza. The lyrics are: “But you dream of some epiphany. Just one single glimpse of relief to make some sense of what you’ve seen.” This seemed especially fitting considering Pru’s new superpower “she can’t speak about.” Don’t you think? Here, Quint and Prudence are biology lab partners sophomore year, and she’s been so annoyed with him over his lateness and unwillingness to contribute to their final project. Plus, after a nasty bump on her head at karaoke night, Prudence now has some magical, mystical power to enact karma on random people, both good and bad. She can magically give off “instant karma” when people do something as an immediate reaction, like if someone litters, talks rudely about her twin brother, or helps take care of wounded sea animals. All this karmic justice gives her such a power trip, juxtaposed with spending more time with Quint at the center to teach her about his world and other perspectives in this book.
Try: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
The third part of Swift’s “folklore” teen love triangle follows James’ perspective who tries to do everything to win Betty back after breaking her heart and his summer fling in “august.” This seriously reminded me of Samson Lima from Alisha Rai’s first “Modern Love” book, and especially how this book was all about Samson attempting to win back Rhi and give in to her feelings when he always wanted to know more about it because dude was falling deep. Here, we follow empowering and fierce Rhiannon Hunter. She owns and runs a successful Bumble-like dating app, and career is her main, and well only, priority. Occasionally, she engages in brief hookups, like when she matched with the one-photo-only Samson for a night of good fun on the beach. While their dalliance went well and she actually was willing to give him another chance, he ghosted her and she shut off any feelings. The book starts up, months later, when the cynical app founder heads to a tech conference and unexpectedly spots Samson there, on stage, discussing her competitor that he’s now an ambassador for. Turns out, Samson still has eyes for Rhi. A temporary work truce and friendship soon reveals an intimate bond that is too precious to miss. Like seriously, Samson = James and you cannot convince me of anything else.
Try: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
The following lyrics from this track reminded me so much of Lucy Gray Baird and Coriolanus Snow and their relationship: “Our coming-of-age has come and gone. Suddenly the summer, it’s clear I never had the courage of my convictions as long as danger is near. And it’s just around the corner, darling ’cause it lives in me. No, I could never give you peace.” This section, from Snow’s perspective much like the book, really resonated with me about these two Hunger Games characters and how he couldn’t give her the peace and freedom again once she was chosen as a tribute.
Try: A Spy in the Struggle by Aya de León
This one was one I really struggled to find a recommendation for, pun not intended. I finally went with the concept of a hoax, a mystery, and her leaving “a part of me back in New York” because, hey, that was Yolanda. Here, Yolanda Vance is a junior attorney in Manhattan for a big, fancy corporate law firm, which was under investigation for security fraud, according to the FBI. Instead of shredding papers as her boss asks, she keeps them and becomes a whistleblower for justice. She then joins the FBI as a backup plan because she needs a job after she’s blackballed from corporate law for not shredding the papers. The FBI sends her on an undercover mission with a black extremist activist group in California. As she spends more time with the organization and new friend and college professor Jimmy during the height of the BLM movement, she soon begins to question her values and career, her legality here and ethics, when she realizes she’s on the wrong side of what she wants to be. There’s a bunch of similar aspects to this song, not an exact match, but similar characters and big pictures.
Try: Beach Read by Emily Henry
This song is all about going to a lake, a romantic and poetic setting, for inspiration. And that’s exactly what lead Augustus and January to their neighboring beach houses. Here, she’s a romance writer who no longer believes in love and he’s an acclaimed novelist who’s stick in a rut. They agree in a summer-long challenge to write what the other does so well to help combat their writer’s block. She takes him on inspirational field trips worthy of a rom-com, and he takes her to investigate some backwoods death cult that’s eerily close to “the lakes where all the poets went to die,” just saying. While embarking on these field trips, sending inspirational ‘beat that writer’s block’ notes from their respective windows, it’s obvious that the only place they want to be is “right here” with one another.