Read a Book Today: ‘Love Story’ with books

An illustration by Daily Trojan artist Megan Dang depicting a folklore-era Taylor Swift reading a book.
(Megan Dang | Daily Trojan)

Here’s my problem: As we get closer to the end of the semester, I am reminded of all of the things I want to write about. I want to write about language and the way that some books can be so lyrical. I want to write about how criminally underrated five television shows are. I want to yell about why you should not feel ashamed to DNF a book. To be honest with you, I can’t write all that in this column. Do you know what that means? I need to turn to a recent Daily Trojan newsroom conversation that I had.

You shouldn’t be surprised that it’s about Taylor Swift. I’m not a Swiftie, but by complete accident, I pretty much only hang out with them. Swift isn’t really in the news lately, but because she clearly has so much love for the Class of 2022 (She’ll soon have an honorary degree from NYU) and because the newsroom has so many Swifties, we were talking about which USC schools match her albums: Is Dornsife “folklore,” “Fearless” or “Red?” My mind immediately asked, “How can I make this about books?”

It’s actually easy. I don’t know if you’re as knee-deep in literary news as I am, but Swift has recently made headlines in the book community. You see, every book club’s favorite novel, “Where the Crawdads Sing,’’ is being adapted to film by fellow book nerd Reese Witherspoon. To add more book connections, “Normal People’s” Daisy Edgar Jones will play the lead character, Kya. 

Like any good filmmaker would, the team chose Taylor Swift to create a feature song, “Carolina,” for the film. 

Even beyond that, it’s easy to make connections between Taylor Swift and books beyond the fact that “Romeo and Juliet” is mentioned in everyone’s favorite “Love Story.” She writes songs as if she leads a second life as a poet and novelist — and I can totally see her in an all-black outfit with a beret doing slam poetry in some Manhattan hole-in-the-wall.  

As I was telling my fellow DT writers, “folklore” screams July 2020. I remember listening to it for the first time and texting my group chat with friends all my thoughts, frequently in all-caps. My two favorite songs are “the last great american dynasty” (because history) and “august” (tragic love story) because you can basically hear the story unfold, and it’s like getting lost in the best of books.

Speaking of a tragic love story, I think I need to turn to the first installment in “The Raven Cycle” series, “The Raven Boys” by Maggie Steifvater. This was also The Moment. “The Raven Boys” takes place in the fictional town of Henrietta, Va., where the sun is hot and the local all-boys private school is just as stifling. Our main character, Blue Sargent, has been told that if she kisses her true love, he will die. So, she mostly just keeps to herself in her home full of clairvoyants where her mom also works as a psychic. When she sees a spirit on St. Mark’s eve, she is told that “There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s eve… Either you’re his true love… or you killed him.” 

One can imagine where the story goes from there, as the reader tries to figure out if it is a tragedy or a love story. I adore “The Raven Boys” because the characters are three-dimensional and you can see how Steifvater inputted her own interests in the story. It’s full of old cars, Welsh mythology and the Appalachian landscape. All-in-all, it’s very Swift. 

Let’s talk “Speak Now.” Have you heard that Taylor Swift was “wonderstruck, blushing all the way home?” As I was writing this column, I texted a friend about a book that reminds her of Taylor Swift, and she told me that “Enchanted” reminds her of “The Selection” series by Kiera Cass. As you might imagine, it was astonishing to realize that I have not yet written about this series. Basically, it is “The Bachelor” meets a pastel dystopia. If you haven’t heard of it, please don’t be embarrassed — it came out at the height of “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” craze.

In the first book, 35 girls compete for the chance to be “Selected” to win the heart of Prince Maxon. However, our heroine does not want to be princess; Instead, she wants to live out her days with the secret love of her life from a caste below her (As with most dystopias, the caste really matters). But when she is Selected, what happens? This book deserved more love back in the day and if you love “Speak Now,” you will love this book. Between the big curls, purple dress and the fairy tale analogies and references? It’s all perfect.

Of course, I can’t sign off on this column without talking about “Fearless,” which deserves a romance book of its own — nothing less than “I Believe in A Thing Called Love” by Maurene Goo.

I love this book for a number of reasons. It is so very SoCal and has the most clever chapter titles. Our heroine, Desi, has a bad track record with love and decides to craft a foolproof plan based on her favorite Korean dramas. Of course, this leads to aforementioned creative titles, such as “Life Threatening Event Makes Him/ You Realize How Real Your Love Is.” This book is like “Forever & Always,” “Hey Stephen” and “Fearless” (my personal favorites) all wrapped into one. I would recommend them any day. 

So, perhaps I am a bit of a Swiftie by osmosis, but I think that Taylor Swift is an all-season singer and a novelist that just has yet to write the story into a paperback. Someone just needs to write a fiction story based on “All Too Well,” and I’m sure that one day, I’ll be emotionally ready to read it. You know, as she says: “I’m in my feelings more than Drake, so yeah.”

Rachel Bernstein is a senior writing about books and arts and entertainment news. Her column “Read a Book Today” runs every other Friday.