A tablet featuring the book "Milk and Honey" with a phone playing Taylor Swift's new album with the headline: The Tortured Poets Department Book and Song Pairings


In my reading era: Book & song pairings from The Tortured Poets Department


Apr 24, 2024

I waited with bated breath (and ears) for April 19 and the drop of Taylor Swift’s The Tortured Poets Department (though not enough to stay awake until midnight, let alone 2AM, when the actual album was released). Imagine my shock when my husband told me upon waking that we had TWICE the songs, the feelings, the emotions! And I had the joy of telling my kiddo that we had twice the Taylor, and her response of, “Can we listen to ‘Paper Rings’ on the way to Pre-K?”, which honestly tracks; that song is fire.

This album doesn’t have many upbeat, fun dance songs like some of her others. It’s sad and introspective and sometimes bleak. But what it lacks in pop beats it makes up for in pure, unedited feelings, which many of us look for when we’re trying to choose our next book. These titles below have been selected to give you the same feels that you’d have when listening to the track. There are lots of great reads for all of the moods this album is giving, but here are a few to get you started.

Borrow these books on the Libby app, cozy up, light that candle, and enter your reading era.

Free LoveTrack 1: “Fortnight”
Book: Free Love by Tessa Hadley

A woman gets a bit too close to her neighbor as she tries to discover herself without ruining her life. This book has all of the moods from this forbidden-love song.

Uncommon TypeTrack 2: “The Tortured Poets Department”
Book: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

So. Many. Typewriters. Honorable mentions are any books by Patti Smith.

It Ends with UsTrack 3: “My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys”
Book: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

CoHo is the queen of popular books that hit you in the feels, in the same way that Taylor is with music. You want a book about heartbreak? She’s your go-to.

GhostsTrack 4: “Down Bad”
Book: Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

That feeling when the perfect person tells you you’re perfect then they disappear, and you spiral and the only person who can answer your questions is you.

Instructions for Traveling WestTrack 5: “So Long, London”
Book: Instructions for Traveling West by Joy Sullivan

Sometimes, you must pack up and leave, even if things look perfect to everyone on the outside. This collection of poetry will really speak to anyone who loves Swift’s songs.

Kiss the GirlTrack 6: “But Daddy I Love Him”
Book: Kiss the Girl by Zoraida Córdova

The title of this song is all The Little Mermaid, so I have to go with a book that is also giving that story. Popular singer who just wants to find her own way in the world? Yes, please.

The PiscesTrack 7: “Fresh Out the Slammer”
Book: The Pisces by Melissa Broder

Obsessive love can take all forms, even that of a merman, in this story of one woman’s most unusual rebound. Perfect for those needing an escape from a relationship.

FloridaTrack 8: “Florida!!!”
Book: Florida by Lauren Groff

While not a timeshare down in Destin, this book of short stories highlights Florida in all of its crazy, escapist glory.

AttachmentsTrack 9: “Guilty As Sin?”
Book: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

This book is 100% more hopeful than the song, but I like the parallels of watching and being watched and the one-sidedness of some of our interactions.

Pretty GirlsTrack 10: “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me”
Book: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

This book is not for the faint of heart, but neither is Swift, when push comes to shove. This book proves that some women should be feared.

Long ShotTrack 11: “I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)”
Book: Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan

Anyone who dismisses this as “just a basketball romance” is like someone who dismisses Taylor as “just a pop star.” This book really proves that sometimes bad boys just stay bad.

Happily Never AfterTrack 12: “loml”
Book: Happily Never After by Lynn Painter

Sometimes, they just aren’t the one. Even if you make it to the church, you don’t have to make it down the aisle.

Today Will Be DifferentTrack 13: “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart”
Book: Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

If this isn’t my new theme song (and that of so many others out there, too!)...

Some days, you need to just celebrate the little wins.

HeartburnTrack 14: “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived”
Book: Heartburn by Nora Ephron

That perfect guy can be less than perfect, and your perfect life can be over at any moment. Nora Ephron knows romantic comedies the way Taylor knows feelings, so you’ll laugh and cry at this breakup tale.

BlitzedTrack 15: “The Alchemy”
Book: Blitzed by Alexa Martin

She’s always tried to stay out of the limelight, but perhaps a personality-heavy NFL player can help her step out from behind the curtain. Sound familiar at all?

Scandals of Classic HollywoodTrack 16: “Clara Bow”
Book: Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen

This one is a bit on-the-nose, but Clara Bow was an original Hollywood It-girl, so you can learn a bit about her and how her treatment by the press foreshadowed what Taylor and others would experience.

Maybe You Should Talk to SomeoneTrack 17: “The Black Dog”
Book: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

We all need to ask for help sometimes, even after we fail to do so, time and again. Here’s a book about a therapist who needs her own therapist and how we can all be kinder to ourselves and those around us.

Your House Will PayTrack 18: “imgonnagetyouback”
Book: Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

While this book deals with much, much more serious issues than getting back at your ex and winning the breakup, both deal in that dish that is best served cold: revenge.

Well, This is ExhaustingTrack 19: “The Albatross”
Book: Well, This is Exhausting by Sophia Benoit

Sometimes life and your choices weigh heavily on you, but what can happen when you just “give up” and do what you want to do with your life? Being perfect can crush us all, so sometimes we should just stop trying.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoTrack 20: “Chloe or Sam or Sophia or Marcus”
Book: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Most of us will have many relationships in our lives, some will last and some will end and one will be the most important. This book about an aging Hollywood star who finally tells her story through those relationships fits this to a T(aylor).

A Little LifeTrack 21: “How Did It End?”
Book: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

This song is a post mortem on a relationship that focuses not on the breakup, but how everyone around her handled it. This book is about four friends who grow up and deal with their own trauma while the readers are the outsiders, looking in.

The Next Best FlingTrack 22: “So High School”
Book: The Next Best Fling by Gabriella Gamez

It’s giving ex-NFL player/best friend’s brother/fake dating vibes and more. It’s your book of the summer, if you want a sweet football player to fall in love with.

Really Good, ActuallyTrack 23: “I Hate It Here”
Book: Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey

Sometimes, you have to just fake it until it gets better. In this book, we’re following a newly divorced women who’s trying to do just that, with decidedly mixed results.

She Started ItTrack 24: “thanK you aIMee”
Book: She Started It by Sian Gilbert

So, we all know who this song is about, right? Anyway, if you’re getting some Mean Girls vibes, but want to up the tension to 11, this story of now-estranged childhood best friends who travel to a private island in the Bahamas for a bachelorette party that will go wrong is for you.

When No One is WatchingTrack 25: “I Look in People’s Windows”
Book: When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Keeping the thriller themes going, here’s another pick that’s a bit more related to the title of the song than the meaning. I can’t turn down the opportunity to talk about this story of what happens when you spend a bit too much time minding the neighbors’ business.

Milk and HoneyTrack 26: “The Prophecy”
Book: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Swift’s works are often compared to poetry, so putting in some poetry just fits. This collection is all about dealing with the complex emotions of human existence, and the themes line up so well with this song about how hard it is to exist as Taylor Swift in this world.

ClytemnestraTrack 27: “Cassandra”
Book: Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati

This song ties together Greek mythology and women who are constantly being asked to be small. Well, history wasn’t kind of Clytemnestra either, but perhaps a reframing is exactly what her story needs.

Darling GirlTrack 28: “Peter”
Book: Darling Girl by Liz Michalski

Sometimes being a Peter Pan isn’t a compliment, staying stuck as a child forever, never growing up, always being a Lost Boy. In this story, our Peter Pan isn’t just a man who refuses to become responsible, rather he is an actual villain, intent on terrorizing the Darlings.

Just for the SummerTrack 29: “The Bolter”
Book: Just for the Summer by Abby Jimenez

Many of us were surprised that the “bolter” in this song was Swift herself, but women can leave relationships just as well as men can! This book stars a travel nurse who’s always trying to outrun love and relationships until she maybe finds one worth sticking around for.

Never Let Me GoTrack 30: “Robin”
Book: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Childhood can be a special time, and yet it's so fleeting, as is the innocence of youth. This song looks back on those times when we were without a care, and this book has three friends who met at school many years ago looking back at their young lives in order to move forward.

Romancing Mr. BridgertonTrack 31: “The Manuscript”
Book: Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Okay, not only are we excited for Season 3 of this Netflix gem, this book, where our dear readers clamor for what’s being written pairs perfectly with a song about waiting and listening for everything Swift will tell us.

*Title availability may vary by library & region.

Happy listening and reading, Swifties!

RELATED READ: The best book & song pairings from Taylor Swift’s Midnights album


About the Author

Meghan Volchko is a writer for Libby Life and a collection development librarian. Her English degree set her up perfectly for grad school, where she received her MLIS and has been immersed in the world of books ever since. You can find her reading with her cat, traveling with her friends and family, or chasing after her toddler. HEAs are life.


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