Better On Paper: Top 10 Songs About Books, Authors, & Literary Characters

When the Kindle came out, many of us bookworms were proclaiming “Long live the brick-and-mortar bookstore.” We never thought bookstores would go the same way as record stores, but alas, it seems they are well on their way in the same direction.

Yesterday is was announced that all Borders bookstores, the second-largest book chain in America, would be shut down.

In honor of our bookworm-ish ways and our (still) disbelief that bookstores won’t flourish in this modern world, we’ve made a list of our Top 10 Songs About Books, Authors, and Literary Characters.

10. “Book And A Cover”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Suzanne Vega[/lastfm]

suzanne vega carlos alvarez getty images Better On Paper: Top 10 Songs About Books, Authors, & Literary Characters

Photo by Carlos Alvarez//Getty Images

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but the way the world is going, there won’t be any covers to actually judge anymore and that phrase will become obsolete. Tragic.

9. “Rhiannon”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Fleetwood Mac[/lastfm]

10 sn rick diamond getty images Better On Paper: Top 10 Songs About Books, Authors, & Literary Characters

 Photo by Rick Diamond//Getty Images

While everyone always assumes that Stevie Nicks wrote this song about the Welsh goddess, Nicks actually composed her hit “Rhiannon”  after reading a book called Triad by Mary Leader–which is essentially about a woman who thinks she is being possessed by the spirit of a woman named Rhiannon.

8. “Sylvia Plath”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Ryan Adams[/lastfm]

ryan adams rob loud getty images Better On Paper: Top 10 Songs About Books, Authors, & Literary Characters

Photo by Rob Loud//Getty Images

Author Sylvia Plath was indeed tortured but it was through the medium of writing and her book The Bell Jar that she was able to help a whole generation of disenfranchised women understand the root cause of their problems.

7. “Dust Bowl Dance”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Mumford & Sons[/lastfm]

marcus mumford michael heiman getty images Better On Paper: Top 10 Songs About Books, Authors, & Literary Characters

Photo by Michael Heiman//Getty Images

While Marcus Mumford draws much of his inspiration from literature, especially Shakespeare, his beautiful song “Dust Bowl Dance” is about the John Steinbeck novel Grapes of Wrath.

Mumford told American Songwriter:

“One conversation that I remember is when Ben (Lovett keyboards) and I were sitting with a piano and guitar and we were working at the skeletal verse and chorus for ‘Dust Bowl Dance.’ We were sitting and I remember he came with these chords and I said ‘Alright, let’s try to write something around that. Those are great chords.’ And I’d just finished Grapes of Wrath and was feeling pretty ‘wrathful’ (laughs). And I remember we talked about what the chorus should be about.”

[Source: SongFacts]

6. “Everything’s Illuminated”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Nerina Pallot[/lastfm]

nerina pallot ian gavan getty images Better On Paper: Top 10 Songs About Books, Authors, & Literary Characters

Photo by Ian Gavan//Getty Images

Just like one would expect from the song title, Nerina Pallot’s song “Everything’s Illuminated” is based on the  Dave Eggers book of the same name.

Pallot told The Independent:

“I’m lazy, so if I’m stuck for a title, I’ll nick it from a book…I was thinking about the opening section of the book, where rabbis are arguing about where we find the God in ourselves. I was brought up a Catholic, being told I was s–t and must repent. How can anyone find any joy in themselves then?”

[Source: SongFacts]

5. “Jacob Marley’s Chain”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Aimee Mann[/lastfm]

aimee mann jason kempin getty images Better On Paper: Top 10 Songs About Books, Authors, & Literary Characters

Photo by Jason Kempin//Getty Images

Hyper-literate singer-songwriter Aimee Mann says at the beginning of her song that “Jacob Marley’s Chain” is based on Jacob Marley from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

4. “Howl”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Florence & The Machine[/lastfm]

florence welch neilson barnard getty images Better On Paper: Top 10 Songs About Books, Authors, & Literary Characters

Photo by Neilson Barnard//Getty Images

While not specifically inspired by any book or character, Florence Welch’s song “Howl” is said to be her lyrical manifestation of her emotional connection to the sordid tales of the characters in the Gothic Horror genre.

3. “Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Jack Johnson[/lastfm]

jack johnson mark metcalfe getty images Better On Paper: Top 10 Songs About Books, Authors, & Literary Characters

Photo by Mark Metcalfe//Getty Images

Johnson told Billboard Magazine that “Red Wine, Mistakes, And Mythology”  is based on Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World:

“There’s a line in the book where [Huxley] says how much better things are and how much happier they are because of the soma – there’s no need for headaches or mythology.”

[Source: SongFacts]

2. “Leaving Las Vegas” -[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Sheryl Crow[/lastfm]

sheryl crow valerie macon getty images Better On Paper: Top 10 Songs About Books, Authors, & Literary Characters

Photo by Valerie Macon//Getty Images

The story behind the title of Sheryl Crow’s song “Leaving Las Vegas” is sad, but poignant. Crow’s friend David Baerwald helped her write the song allegedly nicked the title came from the book written by his friend John O’Brien of the same name.

While Crow didn’t know this at first, the popularity of her song was allegedly the main reason that O’Brien gave for his suicide.

[Source: Songfacts]

1. “Firework”-[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Katy Perry[/lastfm]

katy perry jason merritt getty iamges Better On Paper: Top 10 Songs About Books, Authors, & Literary Characters

Photo by Jason Merritt//Getty Images

And the shocker of all shockers: Katy Perry’s smash-hit song is actually based on a passage from Jack Kerouac’s novel On The Road according to a quote from Billboard:

“Basically I have this very morbid idea… when I pass, I want to be put into a firework and shot across the sky over the Santa Barbara Ocean as my last hurrah,” she said. “I want to be a firework, both living and dead.” 

“My boyfriend [Russel Brand] showed me a paragraph out of Jack Kerouac’s book ‘On The Road’, about people that are buzzing and fizzing and full of life and never say a commonplace thing. They shoot across the sky like a firework and make people go, ‘Ahhh.’ I guess that making people go ‘ahhh’ is kind of like my motto.”

Here’s the quote we think she means from Kerouac:

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

[Source: SongFacts]

  • We know we missed some of your favorite songs about books, authors, or literary characters. What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!
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