My life revolves around books, football and music. I unapologetically give book and music recommendations to everyone around me.
Reading challenges are always interesting. The challenge can be based on the amount of time you read, a set theme or a reading list. There are a lot of fun ideas around. For example, you can read one book from every country or one book for each letter of the Alphabet or do the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge.
As I was looking for an interesting reading challenge, I found these “songs as books” threads on Twitter.
This inspired me to make a reading list of my own for my next reading challenge. You can do it too. Pick some of your favourite songs and do some simple internet searches for books with the same title or similar theme. There are no hard and fast rules to define the song-book connection. You can choose whatever your brain finds good.
Here is the reading list that I have made!
- the lakes, Taylor Swift - The Grasmere Journals, Dorothy Wordsworth
- 134340, BTS - How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, Mike Brown
- Orphans, Coldplay - The Last Girl, Nadia Murad
- Rasputin, Boney M. - Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs, Douglas Smith
- Seventeen, Troye Sivan - Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman
- Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson - Wall and Piece, Banksy
- Pompeii, Bastille - The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found, Mary Beard
The Lakes (Taylor Swift) - The Grasmere Journals (Dorothy Wordsworth)
The Lakes, Taylor Swift
The Lakes was the bonus track to Taylor Swift’s 2020 album folklore. It is one of her most poetic songs ever written.
“Take me to the Lakes where all the poets went to die
I don't belong and, my beloved, neither do you”
The chorus along with the title reminded me of the Lake District in England and the group of English poets, known as the Lake Poets, who lived there in the first half of the 19th century. These Lake Poets were part of the Romantic Movement and included names like William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey.
Coming back to the song, let us look at verse two:
“I've come too far to watch some name dropping sleaze
Tell me what are my words worth”
That is such a nice wordplay - “words worth” and “Wordsworth”. My first instinct was to pick up a William Wordsworth poem and this research helped me find out that he has a sister named Dorothy.
Dorothy Wordsworth was a poet and prose writer. She wrote a lot of travel accounts and journals, like Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland and The Grasmere Journal. It is said that William relied on Dorothy’s detailed accounts of nature scenes and borrowed freely from her journals.
“I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about & about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed & reeled & danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing...”
― Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere Journals
It is also said that Dorothy's own poems had been published in William's editions since 1815 but they were never credited to Dorothy Wordsworth. The duo lived together even into their adulthood and maintained a very beautiful relationship.
134340 (BTS) - How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming (Mike Brown)
134340 is a song by the Korean group BTS from their album Love Yourself: Tear. If you are wondering what the numbers stand for - 134340 is the minor planet designation given to Pluto after it was kicked out of the solar system. The song starts off by asking,
“If only I could, I wanted to ask you
Why did you do that back then? Why did you kick me out?
Without a name to myself, I still revolve around you”
The song is written from the perspective of Pluto, where it laments to us about its expulsion from the solar system, in the manner of a lover talking to their partner about a sad break-up.
Some more lyrics from the song:
“Could it be really that you’ve found Eris
Tell me, how am I not as good as that moon”
“My cold heart is 248 degrees below zero
It stopped the day you erased me”
What other book to choose here other than a book that explains Pluto’s demotion to a dwarf planet!
How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, Mike Brown
The author Michael E. Brown is an American astronomer, who was part of the team which discovered the dwarf planet Eris which eventually led to the re-definition of "planet" and the expulsion of Pluto in 2006. It is said that after this incident, Brown started receiving hate mail even from school children. The book explains all scientific discussions surrounding Pluto and his own personal journey towards this significant discovery in a humorous way.
Orphans (Coldplay) - The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State (Nadia Murad)
Orphans is a song by the British band Coldplay from their 2019 album Everyday Life. The song is centered around the theme of war and refugee crisis.
“Rosaleem of the Damascene
Yes, she had eyes like the moon
Would have been on the silver screen
But for the missile monsoon”
Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay, told BBC Radio 1, “It seems to me that one of the things that might help people have a better time is to put themselves in other people’s shoes, whether that’s these kids who have to leave Syria, or who grew up in Baltimore, or whatever it might be. Rather than judging from afar, maybe to think ‘I wonder what it’s like to be there.”
The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State, Nadia Murad
Nadia Murad is an Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist and a co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace prize. Her village was captured by the Islamic State in 2014 and she along with many women were taken as sex slaves by them. She managed to escape ISIS by the end of the year and went on to give testimony to newspapers. She presently works to help the victims of abuse and human trafficking. The Last Girl is a heart-wrenching memoir of her captivity under the Islamic State.
Rasputin (Boney M.) - Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs (Douglas Smith)
Rasputin was released in 1978 by the Euro-Caribbean group Boney M. It is a song about Grigori Rasputin, the monk-cum-advisor of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Rasputin was known for his magical healing powers and hold of power with the king. Even after 40 years of its release, the song still remains a hit. It even appeared on Spotify's "Viral Hits" playlist early this year, thanks to TikTok!
Read Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs, by historian Douglas Smith, published in 2016, the centenary year of Rasputin’s death.
Seventeen (Troye Sivan) - Call Me By Your Name (André Aciman)
Seventeen, Troye Sivan
"I went out looking for love when I was seventeen
Maybe a little too young, but it was real to me"
Seventeen is a song about Troye Sivan’s personal experience of going out with a fake ID to meet older men at the age of seventeen. “And I was like ‘uh, that sounds a bit predatory’, and maybe it was a little bit," says Troye. But, he adds, "That’s what I mean, it’s like, I’m not looking back at those experiences in a negative or a positive light.”
Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman
This coming-of-age novel, set in Italy, tells us the love story of Elio Perlman, the 17 year old American-Italian Jewish boy, and Oliver, a visiting 24 year old American Jewish scholar. The book was further popularised by the 2017 film adaptation of the same name starring Timothée Chalamet.
Man in the Mirror (Michael Jackson) - Wall and Piece (Banksy)
Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson makes a powerful social message through the song.
"I see the kids in the street, with not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind, pretending not to see their needs"
He reinforces the idea of “be the change you want to see in the world” through the chorus:
"I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change."
Wall and Piece, Banksy
Banksy is a world famous street artist and political activist whose real name and persona is a mystery. He puts up his satirical graffities, often campaigns against war, brutalities and human struggles, in public places at night and disappears through the dark. This book is a documentation of some of his works.
“A lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to.”
― Banksy, Wall and Piece
Pompeii (Bastille) - The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found (Mary Beard)
Pompeii is a single from the debut album of the English band Bastille. The song Pompeii is indeed a song about Pompeii, the ancient Roman city which remained buried under the ash for centuries after the deadly eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. According to the lead singer Dan, the song is “sort of imagining a conversation between two of those people” in the city as the smokes were coming down.
"And the walls kept tumbling down in the city that we love
Grey clouds roll over the hills, bringing darkness from above"
The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found, Mary Beard
Mary Beard is an English scholar of Ancient Roman civilization. In this book, The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found, she explores how life must have been in the city before its destruction. An interesting book for a History buff.
This was a sample reading list made with some of my favourite songs. Please do comment your favourite songs down below, I will try to find a book that fits the song. Happy reading!