book recommendations based on red (taylor's version)

28 Nov 2021

It's been a HOT MINUTE since I last did a bookish post, mainly because I've not really been reading that many books. I'm sort of only averaging one or two a month at the minute so I don't feel like it's worth updating. You can see all that on Goodreads if you follow me there! I actually think my last one was book recommendations based on the Eurovision top five so maybe I'm carving myself a niche here.

Something I have been doing a lot of recently is listening to a LOT of Taylor Swift! You Belong With Me was one of the very first songs I ever bought on iTunes so I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan for as long as I’ve been a music fan. I even have my original copy of Red on CD still to this day so Red (Taylor’s Version) was something that I personally was very excited for.

I’ve tried to include a wide variety of genres and vibes here – this was a MAMMOTH task okay, she released thirty songs – that’s almost as many books as I’ve read this year alone. I ended up just opting for all the songs on the original release of the album rather than the vault songs because truly nobody has time to read that, but in case you were wondering, my favourite vault songs are Better Man, Nothing New and obviously the ten minute All Too Well!

For this post I’ve got the song, a line of the song I think is particularly poignant and connects to the book, a summary of the book and a brief thought from me on why I picked it. There’s a lot going on so I guess we’ll just jump right in.

State of Grace

The Road Trip – Beth O’Leary

“We fall in love 'til it hurts or bleeds, or fades in time”

Addie and Dylan met while on a holiday in France and entered a relationship, cut to three years later and they've broken up but somehow now find themselves sharing a car on their way to a friend's wedding along with Addie's sister Deb, Dylan's best friend Marcus, and the elusive Rodney who nobody really knows. This book follows the eventful car journey shared by these five passengers as well as flashback scenes detailing Addie and Dylan's relationship from how it began to how it ended.

The Road Trip is all about the foundation of a relationship and how it fell apart which I think is very reminiscent of the same feeling that State of Grace evokes. There’s a lot of blaming back and forth and I think the fact that the characters are around the same age as Taylor when she wrote this adds to the Red feel of it all, it’s a little heavier than previous Beth O’Leary books so it’s not necessarily feel good but it’s definitely a good read.


You and Me on Vacation – Emily Henry

“Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met but loving him was red”

Poppy and Alex were best friends, after meeting at college they did everything together, including travel the world but when something went wrong on one of their holidays two years ago they stopped being friends - but now as she's working for a high-end travel magazine Poppy is fresh out of inspiration and knows just the thing to get her excited about travelling again. One last trip with Alex. Told in a last five years esque manner we get to experience each of Poppy and Alex's summer trips while simultaneously following them on their latest.

Once again, a holiday themed book with flashback and present scenes. I didn’t do this on purpose I promise! I love You and Me on Vacation so much – It’s one of my absolute favourite reads of the year so I felt it was fitting for the title track. Red focuses on remembering the good times of a relationship and how vivid they all still are and that’s definitely also something You and Me on Vacation confronts to as Poppy and Alex reminisce on their previous trips and what went wrong along the way while also maybe still harbouring feelings.


The Invisible Life of Addie Larue – VE Schwab

“Out of focus, eye to eye til the gravity's too much”

In a small village in France in 1714 Addie Larue flees her imminent wedding and ends up making a deal with an evil spirit for freedom, except this freedom comes at a cost, she can live forever but nobody will ever remember her. They can meet her but once they leave the room or close their eyes for too long any memory of her will be gone. She lives for 300 years like this but one day in 2014 in a bookshop in Brooklyn she finally meets someone who remembers her.

I really couldn’t not include The Invisible Life of Addie Larue here! So much of this song screams Addie Larue from the line I picked here to the main take home – “this love is treacherous, this daydream is dangerous”. When Addie finds a way to live rather than just survive, she takes it, no matter how dangerous it could be. She and Henry definitely live out this narrative.

I Knew You Were Trouble

Red White and Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

“I knew you were trouble when you walked in. So shame on me now”

Alex Clairmont-Diaz is the first Son on the United States, Prince Henry is the son of the Prince of Wales. They don’t get on. When photos of a confrontation between the two leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations. The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. But maybe the fake friendship could become a real friendship or maybe more than a friendship.

This doesn’t link super well but it’s the first book that popped into my head when I thought of this song. Alex and Henry are both trouble for each other and if their relationship was made public it could mean trouble for others close to them. They have a much happier time of it than the ending of this song but I think the vibe remains similar enough to justify this pick.

All Too Well

The Diviners – Libba Bray

“Maybe we got lost in translation maybe I asked for too much but maybe this thing was a masterpiece ‘til you tore it all up”

When Evie O’Neill is thrown out of her family home in Zenith, Ohio and sent to live with her weird Uncle Will in New York she’s exposed to not only the whole world of flappers, speakeasies, and tin pan alley but also to the occult as her uncle, an expert in the area is called to help the police solve a series of creepy occult linked murders in the city. But Evie has a secret of her own and harbours a power that maybe her Uncle Will could help her with and maybe there are other people like her out there somewhere too.

Hear me out, I know this probably isn’t what you were expecting, or maybe even wanting to see here. And no, this whole post is not just yet another excuse for me to recommend The Diviners, but when I think of Evie and Sam (one of the couples in The Diviners) my mind immediately goes to All Too Well. I literally have a document on my laptop that is just lines from All Too Well and how they relate to very specific Sam Evie moments. The relationship works both ways, I see both of them in both sides – it just hits home for me. This is maybe specifically more the second and third book in the series rather than the first one but there are definitely glimpses early on.


Today, Tonight, Tomorrow – Rachel Lynn Solomon

“It seems like one of those nights. We ditch the whole scene and end up dreaming instead of sleeping”

Rowan and Neil have a rivalry, a deep-seated rivalry that started in a ninth-grade writing competition. Now, Neil has just been announced as valedictorian and it's time for the traditional final day of school competition which is a scavenger hunt meets assassins all around Seattle and Rowan is determined to beat Neil one more time. However, as a plot to take them both down emerges, they end up teaming up and discover that maybe they don't hate each other as much as they thought.

Okay so technically they’re eighteen, not twenty-two but I think it definitely fits. This whole book takes place over the course of 24 hours with most of the action taking place at night so it really does feel like the perfect night to do a lot of things. It’s full of nostalgia and that youthful feeling without feeling like a book specifically for teenagers. 22 is one of the rare joyous songs on Red and this book is very joyous, I literally melted with joy on many occasions while reading it. My friend recently read this on my recommendation and also loved it so there’s a double endorsement for you!

I Almost Do

You Say It First – Katie Cotugno

“And I just wanna tell you it takes everything in me not to call you”

When Meg phones Colby as part of a voting registration and accidentally upsets him she’s determined to make it up to him and they end up developing a relationship across state lines through phone lines. They start talking every night and telling each other things that they’d never tell even their closest friends but coming from such different worlds Meg and Colby might just be too different, but they also might work.

I mean, ‘It takes everything in me not to call you’ – it might be because I’ve just read this book recently but this one JUMPED out at me immediately when I was pairing up these songs. Phone calls are such a centric part to this story and also to this song so it just seemed like a natural pairing! Even when Meg and Colby are fighting, they still want to call each other and if that isn’t the sentiment of this song I don’t know what is.

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Daisy Jones and The Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid

“You would hide away and find your peace of mind with some indie record that's much cooler than mine”

Daisy Jones and The Six were the most famous rock band in the world in the 70s but one fateful night in Chicago in 1979 everything suddenly ends and nobody ever knew why. This book follows their rise to fame, the highs and lows associated with it and just what happened that caused the split all told in an interview format.

I was sitting on this one for ages trying to think of any books I’d read where the relationships reminded me of this song and I couldn’t think of any but then it hit me – A BAND NEVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER! And Daisy Jones and The Six are definitely never ever getting back together.

Stay Stay Stay

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

“It's been occurring to me; I'd like to hang out with you for my whole life”

The Night Circus is a mysterious and magical circus that suddenly appears without warning and only opens at night. It is also the backdrop for a battle between two sorcerers. This book is about the circus and its patrons and its performers, but this is not an ordinary circus, and this is not an ordinary story because when there's magic involved, disguised as an illusion, how can it be?

Okay hear me out on this one – I was struggling to find something that I felt fit the sentiment of this song and I was toying with a few ideas and while The Night Circus is technically the opposite of Stay and it leaves without warning I think all the patrons would be begging for it to stay and the circus itself begs for people to stay.

The Last Time

Only Mostly Devastated – Sophie Gonzales

“Find myself at your door, just like all those times before. I'm not sure how I got there”

Ollie and Will had a bit of a summer fling and suddenly end up being classmates except there's a catch, the boy that Ollie knew from summer is a far cry from the Will he now goes to school with. Oh, and Will isn't out! This is essentially a modern-day Grease retelling only it's got more gay and less misogyny.

While Will might not be out, throughout the whole book it’s very obvious that he still has feelings for Ollie and I think the fact that this book is a duet with both sides feeling something similar but knowing how to act on it is very fitting for this one. They also do randomly turn up at each other’s doors so that line works in a literal sense as well!

Holy Ground

Opposite of Always – Justin A Reynolds

“I left a note on the door with a joke we'd made and that was the first day”

Jack meets Kate at a party and is immediately smitten. They fall in love and start up a relationship but when Kate dies, Jack finds himself in a time loop always finding himself back at the same party where he met Kate the first time round. Jack starts to think that maybe he’s been sent back in time to save her. So that’s what he tries to do, over and over again.

This song is about remembering the first night you met someone and as this book is very focused on the first night that Jack and Kate meet I thought it would be the perfect choice for this one. While this book is about death it’s actually a very happy book and it makes me very happy so I think that element also ties in very nicely with Holy Ground. Also the fact that he always time travels back to the same place... it must be Holy Ground!

Sad Beautiful Tragic

History is All You Left Me – Adam Silvera

“We had a beautiful magic love there. What a sad beautiful tragic love affair”

Griffin's first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident and even though they’re not together anymore Griffin always thought he’d come back to him and now that plan has been permanently derailed. The only person who truly understands his heartache is Theo’s new boyfriend Jackson. If Griffin wants to create a better future for himself he needs to face his history.

Adam Silvera and death often go hand in hand and when one of the prominent words in this song is Tragic, I felt like it fitted. The love affairs (yes plural) portrayed in this book are all definitely sad beautiful and tragic so it felt like a natural link to me. You could also pop They Both Die At The End also by Adam Silvera in here for obvious reasons.

The Lucky One

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

“New to town with a made-up name in the angel's city, chasing fortune and fame. And the camera flashes make it look like a dream.”

Evelyn Hugo was the most beautiful woman in all of Hollywood and now the ageing and reclusive star is finally ready to come clean and explain her life story to a struggling writer. Her seven husbands mark different chapters in her life as she grows from a Hollywood newcomer to multi award winning starlet.

What part of this song doesn’t scream Evelyn Hugo! It’s an early glimpse into Taylor’s storytelling ability and it very easily could have been written about this book other than the fact that it came out five years earlier! Evelyn Hugo and her Hollywood life just jump off the page here (or out of the speakers if we’re being specific).

Everything Has Changed

Tweet Cute – Emma Lord

“All I know since yesterday is everything has changed”

Pepper is an over-achiever, top of every class and captain of the swim team and her parents just so happen to own Big League Burger, one of the biggest fast-food joints in the country! Jack is the class clown and is constantly living in the shadow of his perfect twin brother and their parents own a small family-run deli. When it appears that Big League Burger have stolen a recipe from the deli Pepper and Jack end up in a viral Twitter war but as the war on Twitter is raging, Jack and Pepper are growing closer together in real life too.

Emma Lord is known as a massive Taylor Swift fan, she includes references in all her books so I couldn’t not include one here. Pepper and Jack start off the book as rivals and end it as, well not rivals. So you could say – Everything has changed! Again as this is a duet and this is a duel perspective narrative it just fits so so well. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was actually slight inspiration for the book.


Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid

“The whole place was dressed to the nines and we were dancing, like we’re made of starlight”

The four Riva children throw a big party every year at the end of summer and this year’s is set to be the biggest ever but Nina could think of many places rather be than hosting the party of the decade. By the time Midnight comes – the party becomes out of control and Nina Riva’s mansion will have gone up in flames but not before secrets are shared, feelings are confronted and their elusive father Mick Riva returns.

A book all about a party, and a BIG party seems like the perfect pick for this song. The third installment of Taylor Jenkin’s Reid’s fictionalised Hollywood novels (and possibly my favourite). There’s a lot happening in this book but the party is definitely at the heart and also at the heart of Starlight. Starlight is definitely a more wholesome party than the Riva party though because that on is dramatic!

Begin Again

The Flat Share – Beth O’Leary

“I've been spending the last eight months, thinking all love ever does is break and burn, and end. But on a Wednesday in a cafĂ©, I watched it begin again”

After her breakup Tiffy moves into a flat share with Leon they don’t only share a flat but because Tiffy works during the day and Leon works nights, they also share a bed! Also, Tiffy and Leon have never met. They live their own coexisting lives neither really aware of the other but when they finally end up meeting accidentally things change.

Begin Again is about moving on from a relationship that wasn’t right and moving on with someone new who actually appreciates you which is definitely also the narrative that Tiffy goes on in this book as she comes to terms with her abusive ex-boyfriend and her growing feelings for Leon.

The Moment I Knew

Where The Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

“And what do you do when the one who means the most to you is the one who didn't show?”

Kya, the marsh girl, has lived in the marshlands of North Carolina for her entire life, most of it alone. It's half a coming of age story as we follow Kya on her journey through childhood, adolescence and adulthood in the marsh and half murder mystery as she ends up being accused of the murder of local heartthrob Chase Andrews.

I struggled for a long time to find something to fit for this one but I actually think this one is perfect. Kya’s life is defined by all the people she loves leaving and never coming back and always wishing that they would which is definitely the vibe that this song has. While it’s mainly platonic for Kya the message still remains the same I think.

Come Back… Be Here

Lovely War – Julie Berry

“This is falling in love in the cruellest way. This is falling for you and you are worlds away”

It's 1917 and Hazel, a young pianist meets James at a dance a few days before he's about to be deployed and it’s love at first sight. Meanwhile, Harlem ragtime genius Aubrey, a member of the first black regiment of the US army, is excited to be finally getting to fight in the war but when he meets Belgian orphan Collette while stationed in France a new love story starts to blossom. Both of these relationships are doomed to fail but with the watchful eye of Aphrodite and her acquaintances, who knows what will happen! The greek gods are facing some challenges of their own and use these stories of Hazel and James and Collette and Aubrey to show just how love can burn brightest in a time of war and how in the end, love will always win.

Is this a stretch? Hazel and James meet just before he’s about to be sent off to war and before he can kiss her for the first time, he’s deployed. After Aubrey is deployed as well – Collette definitely also has the same feelings. Even Aphrodite and Hephaestus also go through the same cycle of Come Back… Be Here while knowing that at that moment they are all exactly where they should be.

Girl At Home

Not Like In The Movies – Holly Bourne

“And it would be a fine proposition if I was a stupid girl but honey, I am no-one's exception. This I have previously learned”

Audrey doesn't believe in love anymore, not after what happened with her ex-boyfriend and to top it all off, she's got family troubles, she's dropped out of drama which has thrown her plans for the future up in the air, and she's started a new job alongside the resident bad boy. Audrey knows that he is every movie cliche rolled into one but boys like this only change in the movies don't they, and her life certainly isn't a movie!

I’m not totally sold on this one but I guess Audrey is so against dating Harry and one of those reasons is because she thinks he already has a girlfriend but even if he hasn’t he has definitely dated around an is definitely insecure about that. She knows that dating Harry is bad news and tries her best to stick to her ideals and not fall for him.
I hope you liked this post, they’re always a little random and chaotic but hey, that’s how my brain works. Maybe this even worked the other way for you and if you liked these books you may also like these songs! If you’ve gotten any other ideas for songs linking to books ideas that you think would be fun, let me know! Or if you have read any books that you think also give off Red (Taylor’s Version) vibes let me know too!

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