By now, you are most likely aware that her highness, Taylor Alison Swift, has bestowed a new album upon the people of Earth. Midnights is her tenth full-length album since the self-titled Taylor Swift was released in 2006, and while I’ve enjoyed her work since she shifted over from the country scene, I wasn’t really a fan until 2017’s Reputation. Since then, she’s sampled liberally from many different genres, culminating in Midnights, a concept album inspired by “13 sleepless nights” in Swift’s life.
Like all art with staying power, Midnights incorporates ideas all of us experience at one time or another. Digging deeper into the theme of sleepless nights, Swift says that five things in particular inspired these songs: self-loathing, fantasizing about revenge, wondering what might have been, falling in love, and falling apart. Whomst among us hasn’t spent a significant amount of time in one of those five headspaces, if not all of them, and sometimes all at the same time?
I’ve picked my top eight songs from the album and paired them with a book that — for one reason or another —”goes.” Some of the pairings were evoked by a single lyric, some by the vibe of the song, and some simply by the title.
Mastermind – #13
Hench: A Novel by Natalie Zina Walschots
Even criminals need office help, and as a temp, Anna is a cog in the villain machine because working for the superheroes is even worse. When she gets laid off after an encounter with a “hero” that leaves her injured, she starts looking at the data behind hero encounters, and she just may end up saving the world.
Anti-Hero – #3
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD
Swift has been fairly open about her eating disorder, which is one of the things I deeply respect about her. In the video for Anti-Hero, there is a moment where she steps on a scale and it simply reads “FAT.” Swift has understandably gotten some heat for the fatphobia inherent in that moment. It opens up a conversation about fatphobia, anorexia, and perceptions about bodies that should be examined, and where better to start than with Van Der Kolk’s seminal work.
Labyrinth – #10
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
Star-crossed love set against the background of Shanghai in the 1920s and a terrifying magical plague sweeping the city. This is a gorgeous, twisting tale that will move directly into your brain and refuse to leave.
“Labyrinth” is a song about navigating the twists and turns of recovering from a broken heart, and when I think of broken hearts, R+J are my forever pair.
Karma – #8
My Sister, the Serial Killer: A Novel by Oyinkan Braithwaite
When your sister keeps killing her boyfriends, what do you do? Help her bury the bodies. It’s what sisters do.
But what about when your sister takes aim at the man you’re not willing to bury?
Vigilante Shit – #11
Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn
Four women, all elite killers, whose retirement gift is a cruise in the Caribbean. But things begin to go badly when the cruise ship is destroyed, and the foursome realize they’ve been targeted by their own organization.
But The Board didn’t factor in what it is to be a woman of a certain age.
Maroon – #2
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Evelyn Hugo has finally decided to tell her story after decades of silence, and she’s chosen Monique Grant to take the story down. As her life unspools, the two develop a connection, but the real intersection between them has yet to be revealed.
Snow on the Beach – #4
Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor
This was the first thing I thought of when I heard the lyric “it’s weird but fuckin’ beautiful,” so here we are. Binti follows the titular character as the first of her people to be accepted at Oomza University, the best school in the galaxy. To put it lightly, shenanigans ensue, and Binti’s unique perspective may just avert galactic war.
You’re On Your Own, Kid – #5
Call Down the Hawk (The Dreamer Trilogy, Book 1) by Maggie Stiefvater
Ronan Lynch is on his own while also surrounded by friends and family. Being a Dreamer is like that.
If you’ve read Steifvater’s Raven Cycle series but haven’t yet picked up The Dreamer Trilogy, you have a treat in store. And if you haven’t read the Raven Cycle, starting with The Raven Boys, there’s a whole feast ahead.
I’ve listened to Midnights approx a zillion times writing this list, and it hasn’t yet gotten old. As TSwift steps into her mid-thirties (omg what have I done with my life), I’m looking forward to seeing where she goes.