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Track by Track: 8 Dreamy Books Paired with Taylor Swift’s Folklore Album

by  | August 19
Forest in Black and White

I’ve long been a fan of Taylor Swift. I can still remember the first time I heard her music. I was in my dorm room back in college and my roommate was playing one of her songs while we were getting ready that morning. Before I knew it, I was listening to every one of Taylor’s songs and looking up when she would be next heading on tour.

Thankfully, my best friend and concert buddy, Archana, was also a big fan! I’ve now seen Taylor in concert on each of her tours—from Fearless back in 2009 to Reputation in 2018. Hopefully, I’ll get to see her when she heads out on tour again (once things are back to normal).

Of course, being a bookworm, the more I listened to folklore, the more I recognized similarities between Taylor’s songs and some characters and themes in books I’ve read. The next time you queue up the album for a listen, settle in with one of these eight novels.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Track 3: “the last great american dynasty”

I’ve listened to this album more than a few times now, but the first time I heard this song, my mind immediately drifted to the lavish parties that Jay Gatsby hosted at his Long Island home in The Great Gatsby, especially with the line: "Their parties were tasteful, if a little loud." Like Rebekah, the protagonist of the song, Jay Gatsby was an outsider. The Buchanans were drawn to the exuberance and opulence of Gatsby, but no matter how hard he tried to fit in with their old-money crowd, the Buchanans still looked down on him. Jay Gatsby rekindles the flame of his youth, Daisy, and, as the song goes: “Who knows, if she never showed up, what could’ve been.” What would have happened to Daisy Buchanan if she never ran into Jay again?

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In Five Years

In Five Years

by Rebecca Serle

Track 4: “exile”

This song has some lyrics that perfectly sum up the book In Five Years by Rebecca Serle. Taylor’s “I think I've seen this film before, and I didn't like the ending” hints at the major question of In Five Years: Where do you see yourself in five years? It’s a question that is often asked during job interviews, and Dannie Kohan always knew her answer. She had a vision of not just where she wanted to be in her career but also in her personal life. But on the day of her job interview for her dream position at a prestigious law firm in the city, followed by a celebratory evening with her fiancé, she suddenly has a vision in her dream. She sees herself five years in the future, living in a new apartment, with a different engagement ring on her finger and a guy who is definitely not her current fiancé. When she wakes, she is back in the present with her life as it was when she first fell asleep. She shakes it off, thinking it was all just a dream.

Flash-forward four and a half years—Dannie is still engaged to her fiancé and working at the law firm. But when Dannie is out with her best friend, Bella, she suddenly runs into the mystery man from her dream years ago. Dannie had seen this vision before…but she never thought she would meet the man from her dream, especially not her best friend’s boyfriend. I could not believe the twist that Rebecca Serle introduced next—and this book had me rapidly flipping the pages to find out just how this story would end.

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Me Before You (Movie Tie-In)

Me Before You (Movie Tie-In)

by Jojo Moyes

Track 5: “my tears ricochet”

One of the things I realized while listening to this album was that I should have had a box of tissues handy. I had similar feelings when I read Me Before You. There are five stages of grief, and Taylor was clearly in the anger stage while writing this song. With these lyrics I was repeatedly reminded of the feelings that Jojo Moyes’s book evoked.

For anybody who hasn’t read Me Before You, I need to warn you to be prepared to cry. Will Traynor was at the top of the world, until he had an accident that paralyzed him. Before his injury, he was a fan of extreme sports and traveling the world. But as a quadriplegic, the life he now lives feels unbearable to him. When Louisa becomes Will’s caregiver, she tries everything she can to help lift his spirits. At first, he is moody and bitter, but eventually she’s able to get him to open up. As Taylor sings, I couldn’t help but think that Will would say those same words to Louisa. SPOILERS AHEAD… Louisa finds out that Will is planning to end his suffering through physician-assisted suicide. She desperately tries to find ways to make his final days the best they can be and to convince him to keep holding on. But she’s also incredibly upset at him when she can’t convince him to stay alive for her—as she has fallen head over heels for him.

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Thoughtless

Thoughtless

by S.C. Stephens

Track 10: “illicit affairs”

If you read Thoughtless by S. C. Stephens, you’ll find that the lyrics of Taylor’s song have some similarities to this story, especially “What started in beautiful rooms ends with meetings in parking lots.” Kiera and her boyfriend, Denny, move in with his old best friend from high school as they are getting settled in Seattle after moving from Ohio for Denny’s new job. But as Denny spends longer days at the office, Kiera starts hanging out with her new roommate, musician Kellan. As Kiera and Kellan spend more time together, their friendship becomes flirtatious. When Denny leaves for a work trip, he makes a decision without consulting Kiera, leading to a big argument. Kellan and Kiera end up crossing a romantic line that they can’t come back from...and so begins their illicit affair. They try to go back to being just friends, but they never really were just friends and the spark between them burns brighter than ever. Will their spark burn Denny or will they be able to resist the pull they feel toward each other going forward?

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Dear Emmie Blue

Dear Emmie Blue

by Lia Louis

Track 11: “invisible string”

When Emmie was a teenager, she released a balloon 🎈with her email address and a big secret into the sky in Kent, England. She never really expected a response. But a few weeks later, Lucas Moreau, a boy living in France, replied. Over the years they send each other many messages and become great friends. Years later, Emmie begins to realize her feelings have evolved into something more. But she’s unsure of how it will affect their relationship if Lucas doesn’t feel the same. He has dated other girls, but she can’t help but feel that her balloon found its way to him by fate. And, as Taylor’s lyrics similarly observe, this invisible string tying them together keeps bringing them back to each other. Will Emmie finally find the courage to admit her feelings to him, and will Lucas feel the same about her? Or will she be left with a broken heart and lose her best friend? 💔

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The To All the Boys I've Loved Before Paperback Collection

The To All the Boys I've Loved Before Paperback Collection

by Jenny Han

Track 2: “cardigan”

Track 8: “august”

Track 14: “betty”

Taylor has hidden a love story within the tracks of three songs on this album: “cardigan,” “august,” and “betty.” On their own, each song is hauntingly beautiful, but put together they tell the tale of falling in love, betrayal and heartbreak, and asking for forgiveness. Talk about teenage angst! Which is why the combination of these three songs also reminds me of a beautiful YA series by Jenny Han. You know, the one that people haven’t been able to stop raving about and streaming on Netflix for the past year—To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

 Throughout these songs, we find out about a love triangle. In the first book, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lara Jean (a.k.a. LJ) and Peter strike up a fake relationship to make Peter’s ex, Gen, jealous and to help LJ out of a bind. Love triangle #1. As they spend more time together, their feelings start to feel more real, but Peter betrays LJ by spending time with Gen, who starts rumors that hurt LJ. In the second book of the series, P.S. I Still Love You, we are introduced to John Ambrose McClaren, bringing on love triangle #2. Peter and LJ have turned their fake relationship into a real one by the end of the first book. But when John Ambrose reappears in LJ’s life, she can’t help but feel drawn to him. She begins to remember how much they had in common before John Ambrose moved away. Now that she is spending more time with John, which she isn’t up-front about with Peter...it causes some tension. Will LJ’s heart be able to lead her to the one she is meant to be with—Peter or John? Finally, in the third book, Always and Forever, Lara Jean, LJ is happy in her relationship (won’t spoil it for you here), but now a new threat is looming...college. How will she and her boyfriend be able to keep their relationship thriving when they are miles apart? August is drifting away in the blink of an eye, but LJ wants to hold on to her love and not let him slip away.

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Saimah works on the Corporate Digital Marketing team at Simon & Schuster. She is a fan of dystopian fiction, celeb memoirs, contemporary rom-coms and murder mysteries. When she's not reading, she is binge-watching her favorite shows, exploring the best rooftop bars in the city and watching sports. Follow her on Instagram at @fire.escape.reads!