Songs With Literary References, the WBC Team Select Some Favourites

Songs With Literary References, the WBC Team Select Some Favourites - The Willoughby Book Club

If there is anything we love as much as reading in the Willoughby office, it’s listening to music. We’re always compiling playlists of our favourite songs and our individual tastes diverge as widely as our literary ones!

It’s always a great day though when we discover a song with a literary reference, whether it be fleeting and obscure, or more obvious in its themes. A lot of bands and artists take inspiration from the books and poetry they consume, be it a classical reference, a nod to Gatsby, or even a Shakespeare play. Song lyrics can be very underrated as a creative form. Like a book, a song that resonates will stick with you for a very long time.

Sometimes the songs themselves direct us on a journey of discovering our favourite books. This was certainly the case with Willoughby director, Marianne, whose early obsession with The Cure led her to read all of Albert Camus’ work, having listened to ‘Killing an Arab’ for the first time and loving it, as well as the fantasy classic Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, which was inspirating for the band writing ‘The Drowning Man’.

Thinking more recently, Hozier’s latest album Unreal Earth, is supposedly inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, part of his epic three-part poem The Divine Comedy (a band name with a literary reference, too!). Taylor Swift’s fans excitedly dissect her lyrics for the literary references she is known to dot throughout her songs. Her Reputation album is partly inspired by the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald, particularly The Great Gatsby.

It’s always interesting when something in pop culture references something more obscure, too. Harry Style’s Watermelon Sugar takes its name from the beat writer Richard Brautigan’s countercultural classic, ‘In Watermelon Sugar’, which, for a time, led a hoard of young fans to the bookshops in search of his original inspiration.

It’s an exciting time as both avid readers and music lovers to see more and more songs more overtly pay homage to their favourite books. We’ve been discussing our personal favourite literary-inspired songs and decided to make a mini playlist for you all to listen to and enjoy.


Here’s some of our favourite bookish songs:


Francesca- Hozier (Dante’s Inferno)
White Rabbit- Jefferson Airplane (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)
Tolerate It- Taylor Swift (Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier)
Misty Mountain Top by Led Zeppelin (The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)
Ophelia by The Lumineers (Hamlet by William Shakespeare)
Lost Boy by Ruth B (Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie)
King Kunta- Kendrick Lamar (Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe)
Wuthering Heights- Kate Bush (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)
The Fault in our Stars by Troye Sivan (The Fault in our Stars by John Green)
Killing an Arab- The Cure (The Stranger by Albert Camus)
Hope is a Dangerous Thing- Lana Del Rey (Sylvia Plath)
Gravity’s Rainbow- Klaxons (Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon)
The End of the Affair- Laura Marling (The End of the Affair by Graham Greene)



Let us know which songs you would add to the Willoughby playlist!

If you would like to take a listen - here is the Spotify playlist

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