Back in 2020, Taylor Swift blew our minds with her two experimental albums, folklore and evermore which sounded like nothing her fans had ever heard from her before.
It’s no secret Taylor’s storytelling always takes the world by storm, but all of her albums up until these two had been autobiographical, describing experiences she’d lived through. The relatability of Swift’s music is what made her dominate our teenage years, as we grew up and matured with her.
But folklore and evermore are pure fiction — and that’s why they’re so good. Written in what Taylor expertly named her quill style (she writes songs in three distinct styles: glitter gel pen, fountain pen and quill), the albums are pure poetry, with fairy tale elements and intense autumnal feels.
folklore and evermore turned me into a dedicated fan of hers. The lyrics, imagery and sound of both albums made them become my autumn and winter soundtrack the minute I heard them.
And seeing as evermore, my favourite Taylor Swift album of all times, just turned two, I couldn’t resist compiling a list of book recommendations that deliver the unique and misty evermore feels. These are five books inspired by the album, each reminding me of several songs from evermore.
1. ‘Small Pleasures’ by Clare Chambers
will remind you of: evermore, coney island
And I was catching my breath
Staring out an open window
Catching my death
And I couldn’t be sure
I had a feeling so peculiar
That this pain would be for
Evermore — Taylor Swift, evermore
This acclaimed story of hopelessness and new beginnings sounds a lot like the feeling of continuous pain and resignation in evermore — the song which closes the album.
Small Pleasures follows Jean, a London journalist “trapped in a life of duty and disappointment from which there is no likelihood of escape”, as she sets out on uncovering an unbelievable story, and with it, finds love she never imagined she’d feel again. Similarly, evermore starts with despair and ends with hope — I had a feeling so peculiar/this pain wouldn’t be for/evermore.
The story is set in 1950s London, which also gives a strong sense of place, which can become a character in itself. This reminded me of coney island — another song of sadness and perpetual waiting, where the setting is the overarching key to deciphering the character’s emotions.
And I’m sitting on a bench in Coney Island wondering where did my baby go?
The fast times, the bright lights, the merry go
Sorry for not making you my centerfold
Over and over
Lost again with no surprises
Disappointments, close your eyes
And it gets colder and colder — Taylor Swift, coney island
2. ‘Open Water’ by Caleb Azumah Nelson
will remind you of: ivy, willow
My pain fits in the palm of your freezing hand
Taking mine, but it’s been promised to another
Oh, I can’t
Stop you putting roots in my dreamland
My house of stone, your ivy grows
And now I’m covered in you — Taylor Swift, ivy
I couldn’t help but include this beautiful, raw, intense love story which strongly reminds me of the all-consuming emotions described in ivy and willow.
Open Water follows two young Black British artists who start kindling a strong but gradual love for each other as they try to stay afloat in a world that both supports and tries to bring them down. The poetic writing style and fierce exploration of race, art, masculinity, and the concept of soulmates, fits perfectly with the love stories described in the two songs.
While ivy explores an extra-marital love that the character can’t escape, a similar motif is tackled in Open Water: she starts as his friend’s girlfriend, so there’s that element of falling in love while you’re with someone else, and having no choice but to accept it. Willow describes that feeling of giving yourself up to the one you love — life was a willow and it bent right to your wind — which Caleb Azumah Nelson’s astonishing debut captures perfectly.
3. ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ by Emily M. Danforth
will remind you of: cowboy like me, dorothea, it’s time to go
You’re a bandit like me
Eyes full of stars
Hustling for the good life
Never thought I’d meet you here
It could be love
We could be the way forward
And I know I’ll pay for it — Taylor Swift, cowboy like me
Emily M. Danforth is a master at capturing sapphic love stories in hostile times. The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows lesbian Cameron who lives in Montana with her conservative aunt while she tries to explore her sexuality and make sense of her new, powerful friendship with beautiful Coley.
But when Cameron’s aunt decides she needs to be ‘reeducated’ due to her sexuality, the protagonist begins a resilient and challenging quest to find love and acceptance, while she tries to discover herself.
This book perfectly captures three evermore stories: cowboy like me, for its metaphors of cowboys and the Wild West hiding an intense and surreal love story the characters want to but can’t fight; dorothea, for the female friendship turned love — hey, Dorothea, do you ever stop and think about me?; and it’s time to go for the self-awareness that, even though it hurts, when someone won’t accept you, it’s best to distance yourself and leave that person behind.
That old familiar body ache
The snaps from the same little breaks in your soul
You know when it’s time to go — Taylor Swift, it’s time to go
4. ‘Hester’ by Laurie Lico Albanese
will remind you of: champagne problems, tolerate it, ivy
“She would’ve made such a lovely bride
What a shame she’s fucked in the head,” they said
But you’ll find the real thing instead
She’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred — Taylor Swift, champagne problems
Hester, by Laurie Lico Albanese, imagines who could have been Nathaniel Hawthorne’s original Hester, telling the story of Isobel Gamble, the fictional lover of Nathaniel Hawthorne, who may have inspired Hester Prynne and who deserves a voice.
I reviewed Hester more extensively below:
This book perfectly encapsulates the story of champagne problems — a woman who doesn’t want to be a bride is deemed unworthy of love, and even labelled insane. In Hester, Isobel deals with synesthesia, an ability to see words in colour, depending on who speaks them and whether they’re lying or being honest. And since the story takes place in 19th century Salem, of course anything of the sort would be seen as a mental disorder.
Tolerate it also fits with Isobel’s story — she falls in love with Nat but as soon as she becomes pregnant with his child, he leaves her behind. Being with Isobel is clearly fuelled by a bigger purpose for Nat — he doesn’t love her quite as much as she thinks, he just finds her interesting and wants to know more to inspire his writing. Tolerate it explores a relationship where the love on one side is not strong enough — I know my love should be celebrated, but you tolerate it.
And of course, since Isobel is actually married to another man when she has her affair with Nat, ivy, which also talks about an extra-marital affair, captures similar emotions.
I’d live and die for moments that we stole
On begged and borrowed time
So tell me to run
Or dare to sit and watch what we’ll become
And drink my husband’s wine — Taylor Swift, ivy
5. ‘Complicit’ by Nicci French
will remind you of: no body, no crime
They think she did it but they just can’t prove it
She thinks I did it but she just can’t prove it
No, no body, no crime
I wasn’t letting up until the day he died — Taylor Swift, no body, no crime
A passion thriller had to be included to reflect the incredibly cinematic no body, no crime, which stands out from all the other evermore tracks through its dark and chilling story of murder, passion and friendship.
Complicit, by Nicci French, had to be the pick for this one. The book follows Bonnie, who finds herself in her friend’s flat with a dead body and not knowing how she was involved in the killing.
What was meant to be a summer of happiness, music and love turns deadly as lovers betray, passions turn homicidal and friendship itself becomes a crime. — the publisher
The book covers themes of love, friendship, and betrayal, exploring how these strong human connections can unravel in dangerous and uncontrollable ways, exactly the type of tension and mystery so perfectly described in no body, no crime.
These are my top choices for books that give me major evermore vibes. Because I can only listen to my favourite album so many times before I crave more, a TBR inspired by its genius storytelling should satisfy that particular desire. What books inspired by famous songs would you recommend?