There are few things I love more than curling up with a good book at the end of a long day. I'm one of those, "Won't give into the Kindle" people (aka: doesn't want to spend the money on it) and I love taking time to just sit and read. The only thing I find as relaxing as reading is chilling out with some good music. Thankfully, there are plenty of artists and songs out there that combine two of my great loves: classic literature and (mostly) somber music about really deep stuff. What can I say? I was an emo kid in high school and it still lives in a deep dark pocket of my poetic heart, so songs for book nerds like the ones below really hit home.
It's also no surprise that there's a lot of music out there that's inspired by the written word. Some of the world's best musicians are very well-read people. Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine has a BA in Political Science from Harvard University and Rachael Yamagata studied Theatre at Vassar and Northwestern, for example. So, here are some of the best songs about books, authors, poets, and playwrights. Some of the artists might surprise you, while others are totally up book lovers' alley. Read on, nerds.
David Bowie, "1984"
Bowie pulled direct inspiration from George Orwell's famous novel about a dystopian future in which the government rules everything and no one is allowed to have independent thought for this song.
Ryan Adams, "Sylvia Plath"
In case you were wondering why that guy in your American Lit 101 class was really into Ryan Adams, this might explain it. This ode to the author and feminist beacon will give you all the feels.
The Beatles, "Paperback Writer"
All aspiring writers should make this song their anthem.
Dashboard Confessional, "Ender Will Save Us All"
Any sci-fi fan will recognize the hero of this song. Ender Wiggin, the main character of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is a young man faced with the massive task of saving our planet from alien invasion.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Yertle The Turtle"
I am not the least bit surprised that Anthony Kiedis was inspired by Dr. Seuss.
Led Zeppelin, "Ramble On"
This song must be one of Stephen Colbert's favorites because it references Tolkien's Lord of The Rings trilogy, "Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor/I met a girl so fair/But Gollum, and the evil one crept up/And slipped away with her.”
Of course these Brit indie rockers would make a song about Where The Wild Things Are. Of course. The band asks, "Do you know where the wild things go? They go along to take your honey."
Elton John, "Rocket Man"
Ray Bradbury wrote a short story about a man who leaves his family behind to undertake a journey into space... which is exactly what inspired Elton John's song.
Feist, "Brandy Alexander"
Even though Brandy Alexander is a cocktail, I reckon Feist intended this to be a double literary meaning and is also referring to the lead character from Chuck Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters.
Nirvana, "Scentless Apprentice"
Kurt Cobain was fascinated by Patrick Suskind’s Perfume — a novel about a serial killer who kills women and tries to bottle up their scent. Thus, this song was born.
Metallica, "For Whom The Bell Tolls"
Who knew James Hetfield was such a Hemingway fan? Actually come to think of it, that makes perfect sense.
Sufjan Stevens, "Come On! Feel The Illinoise"
There's a very sweet tribute to Carl Sandburg and the power of his prose in this song: "I cried myself to sleep last night, and the ghost of Carl, he approached my window/I was hypnotized/I was asked to improvise on the attitude/the regret/of a thousand centuries of death.”
Kate Bush, "Wuthering Heights"
Kate Bush meets Emily Brontë. It's your moody teenage self's dream.
Lana Del Rey,"Body Electric"
Lana was inspired by the Walt Whitman poem “I Sing the Body Electric" for this sultry number.
Bruce Springsteen, "The Ghost Of Tom Joad"
Tom Joad is the main character of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Of course the most American songwriter of all time, whose verses are dedicated to the working class, would write a song about a hero of the Great Depression.
The Strokes, "Soma"
Soma is the name of the drug given to citizens in Alduous Huxley's Brave New World and encourages a no-holds barred kind of future for mankind.
Patti Smith, "My Blakean Year"
This song is an ode to the great poet of the Romantic era, William Blake. He may not have been recognized in his own time for his genius, but a nod from Patti Smith is no small tribute.
And, as a bonus: If you're feeling especially bookish the next time you want to listen to some tunes, I highly recommend checking out Coheed and Cambria's albums. Each new release is a part of a story called The Armory Wars which lead singer Claudio Sanchez wrote and has since been turned into a comic book. It takes place across 78 planets known as Heaven's Fence and the heroes are Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon. Go ahead, geek out.