Playlist: You’re My Favorite Book

A few months ago, my lovely little brother sent me a copy of Bloc Party’s not-even-close-to-new-but-new-to-me album Intimacy. And so last week while I was listening to it, I kind of freaked out when I realized that the words to “Ion Square” were from an e.e. cummings poem. I love it when literary references show up in songs I love. It’s that extra bit of, “Hey, not only do I write killer music and spot-on lyrics, I’m also smart enough to casually allude to my favorite authors” that really gets me. And I started thinking: there are probably a lot of great songs that make allusions to books and poems and authors that I’ve never noticed before. After a little research and a lot of listening, I came up with 15 of my favorites.

I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing, Each to Each [on 8tracks]

Ion Square – Bloc Party
“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart”
+e.e. cummings

To The Lighthouse – Patrick Wolf
“Build your castle stop collecting stones
and the river bed shall not be your home”
+Wolf on Woolf

Amie – Damien Rice
“I’m yours. I’ll be whatever you want me to be”
+O: The Story of O

Strange & Beautiful (I’ll Put A Spell On You) – Aqualung
“Fetch me that flower; the herb I shew’d thee once:
The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.”
+Oberon: A Midsumer Night’s Dream

You Got Me – The Roots feat. Erykah Badu
“But I can trust you. I know it as I look at you.”
+Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart

Golden Slumbers – The Beatles
“Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles awake you when you rise ;
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby”
+Thomas Dekker

La Tortura – Shakira
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”
+Matthew 7:6

It’s Time To Dance – Panic! At The Disco
“Give me lust, baby.
Give me malice.
Give me detached existentialist ennui.
Give me rampant intellectualism as a coping mechanism.”
+Chuck Palahniuk: Invisible Monsters

Morning After Dark – Timbaland feat. Nelly Furtado and SoShy
+If you think I’m going to find an excerpt from Twilight you are dead wrong.

Hey Juliet – LMNT
“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright”
+Romeo: Romeo and Juliet

This Charming Man – The Smiths
“A jumped-up pantry boy who never knew his place”
+Henry Green: Loving

Baobabs – Regina Spektor
“One runs the risk of crying a bit if one allows oneself to be tamed.”
+The Little Prince

Peng! 33 – Iron and Wine
“Curiosity far greater than the fear. It felt so simple, so prodigious, at the same time. Incredible things are happening in the world. Across the river there are all kinds of magical instruments, while we keep on living like monkeys.”
+Gabriel Garcia Marquez: One Hundred Years Of Solitude

Shores of California – The Dresden Dolls
“Calonice, it’s more than I can bear, I am hot all over with blushes for our sex.”

Tristan – Patrick Wolf
“Apart the lovers could neither live nor die, for it was life and death together; and Tristan fled his sorrow through the seas and islands and many lands”
+The Romance of Tristan and Iseult


Feature image via Underground New York Pubic Library

Want to suggest a playlist theme? Hit Crystal up on Formspring and someone on the team will make it for you.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

Laura has written 308 articles for us.


  1. Wuthering Heights.

    Obvious, but amazing.

    Also highly effective when caterwauled at a hundred decibels.

    • Fuck yeah. Kate Bush is one of those amazing creatures whom you hear when you’re young and are amused and riveted by. You get a bit older and, still riveted, you marvel at how talented and intelligent she is. She has some wonderful stuff.

  2. I LOVE THIS! Bloc Party are great. Their ‘Songs for Clay’ is full of references to and lines from Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis too, which is a lot less discreet than Ion Square, but still :)
    And omg when I first listened to the band Bellx1 and the song ‘Beautiful Madness’ had everyone’s favorite Kerouac ‘On The Road’ lines in it, my heart screamed and then noted that they would be a band close to my heart forevs. Then one day I emailed them and they let me be an extra in one of their music videos. Win.

  3. Phoebe Kreutz has some fantastic literary songs. I especially like “What the F. Scott Fitzgerald” and “A Bad Feeling About Anna Karenina.”

  4. I love this. To add to the list:

    What A Woman Must Do – Ursula Rucker
    “Ain’t I A Woman?”
    + Sojourner Truth

    Daphne – Lia Ices f. Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver)
    + Story of Apollo & Daphne

    Act III, Scene 2 (Shakespeare) – Saul Williams f. Zack de la Rocha (Rage Against The Machine)
    + William Shakespeare – Julius Caesar

    Judas Kiss (Brutus Diss) – Lamya
    + (Julius Caesar & Brutus) & (Jesus & Judas) – Both of which, Brutus and Judas betrayed Caesar and Jesus, respectively.

    Of course, there is more out there, but that’s what immediately comes to mind from some of my favorite artists.

  5. Oh, I love this “genre” too! Especially if I get it without anyone telling me, I feel like I have a special understanding with the artist. I read Sarah by JT LeRoy after learning that Garbage’s song Cherry Lips is about that book.

    Also, this is the first time I’ve seen Isolde spelt Iseult, so weird! But now I know how you’d pronounce it in English, too.

    • “Also, this is the first time I’ve seen Isolde spelt Iseult, so weird! But now I know how you’d pronounce it in English, too.”

      Same here, then I thought, “Ooooohh that’s unique and different, me likey.”

  6. Your “craftiness” made me like you. When you rescued my luggage from LAX I grew to love you. But recognizing ee cummings in Ion Square has me worshiping you from afar! Both because of Bloc Party and cummings!

  7. Owen does this really beautifully, too.

    “The Sad Waltzes of Pietro Crespi” references One Hundred Years of Solitude
    “Playing Possum for a Peek” has a pretty subtle reference to The Unbearable Lightness of Being

  8. Thanks for this :-)

    When I moved into my third and last flat in Montréal, i found “i carry your heart i carry it in my heart” painted on the wall.

  9. One of my favorites is Phil Ochs’ “Highwayman.” It’s a musical setting of the Alfred Noyes poem.

  10. This is great! I just got super excited and starting making my own. Reading textbooks can wait. Songs about books are desperately important

  11. The Decemberists’ “Calamity Song” is about the game Eschaton from Infinite Jest and has references to the book. The music video is pretty inaccurate if you care about those things but it’s fun.

    • I love the Decemberists! They have sort of made a career out of highly literate song craft.

  12. I had no idea the pastry boy line was a reference! I do love that line, mostly cause it reminds me of Harry Potter

  13. Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford and Sons

    “Stars, hide your fires. These here are my desires.”

    Macbeth Act 1 Scene 4:

    “Stars, hide your fires. Let not light see my black and deep desires”

  14. “Opheliac” – Emilie Autumn

    Doubt thou the stars are fire
    Doubt thou the sun doth move
    Doubt truth to be a liar
    But never doubt I love

    +Hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2

Comments are closed.