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The Tortured Poets Department Reading List

This post is by our besties at the BN Blog; click here to read more articles by Isabelle McConville!

Dear reader, when the chairman of The Tortured Poets Department speaks, we listen. If you’re like us, you’ve been hitting rewind on Taylor Swift’s 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, since midnight. Showcasing some of Taylor’s most exemplary storytelling, world-building and songwriting, #TTPD has ushered us into a brand-new era, and we couldn’t help but wonder — what books would our chairman recommend reading while listening? While we scour the lyrics of our new favorite songs for Easter eggs and gather our favorite Swiftie theories, we’ve rounded up some books we’re sure will last you through the next fortnight and beyond. Through novels, collections and essays, we’re exploring the five stages of heartbreak and having a romp of a time doing it. Study up and prepare for entrance exams into The Tortured Poets Department with these reads and remember, in the words of our chairman, “all’s fair in love and poetry.”

I Love You, It’s Ruining My Life

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
By Sylvia Plath
Editor Karen V. Kukil

Written in the last few years of her life, Sylvia Plath writes of heartache, depression and musings on her day-to-day life in this intimate portrayal of an iconic writer. Throughout her discography, Taylor Swift has explored the conjunction between madness and femininity, making Plath’s journals the perfect entrance into #TTPD reading.

Time is a Mother
By Ocean Vuong

In this deeply personal collection, Ocean Vuong (On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous) reflects on life and love, grief and time, in lyrical writing keeps us reaching for his work over and over again.

Bright Objects
By Ruby Todd

We’ve noticed Taylor looks to the stars in her music (did anyone else catch that lyric reveal on the day of the eclipse?) and Ruby Todd’s novel, Bright Objects, explores mysticism and cynicism, love and heartbreak, alongside one woman awaiting a comet and grappling with her grief.

You Don’t Get to Tell Me About Sad

Pretty Boys Are Poisonous
By Megan Fox

The world knows Megan Fox’s name, and now we all get to read her poetry. Much like Taylor, Megan explores anger in her heartbreak, and writes, “I hope that my words can inspire others to take back their happiness and their identity by using their voice to illuminate what’s been buried, but not forgotten, in the darkness.”

The Rachel Incident
By Caroline O’Donoghue

Caroline O’Donoghue introduces us to Rachel, a twenty-something student in Ireland grappling with complicated friendships and relationships, all while being horridly underpaid and constantly overlooked. It’s safe to say Rachel would’ve had TTPD on repeat.

God I Feel Modern Tonight: Poems from a Gal About Town
By Catherine Cohen

Imagine if your best friend wrote a poetry collection of all their greatest late nights, dates and existential crises. Like reading the funniest and most relatable texts from the person who understands you most, Catherine Cohen’s poetry — much like Taylor’s songs — reminds us all that sometimes in order to get past painful absurdities, all we can do is step back and laugh.

Am I Allowed to Cry?

By Lottie Hazel

In her Am I Allowed to Cry bargaining playlist, Taylor explains, “you’re trying to make deals with yourself or someone that you care about… you’re trying to make things better, you’re often times feeling really desperate because … we have a sort of gut intuition that tells us things are not going to go the way we hope.” In Piglet, one woman bargains with herself and time in this juicy, taut and propulsive story of a relationship going off the rails and a woman seeking to find fulfillment at any cost.

Transcendent Kingdom: A Novel

By Yaa Gyasi

In the bargaining stage of grief and heartbreak, we might find ourselves saying (and doing) things we’d never imagine we would before. Transcendent Kingdom‘s Gifty is a brilliant scientist grappling with unthinkable tragedies, and she’ll do anything — even studying it in a lab — to find out why people suffer so much, so often.


By Kaveh Akbar

On his episode of Poured Over, Kaveh Akbar explains, “I hope that when there is laughter, it’s laughter made wise by having known real grief — and when there is grief, it is made wise by having known real joy.” Swifties will love to explore this incredible coming-of-age with Am I Allowed to Cry? playing in the background.

Old Habits Die Screaming

Lo Fi: A Novel

By Liz Riggs

Low spirits — and liquid ones — tend to accompany the depression stage of a breakup. Enter Daisy, a bouncer for one of the hottest up-and-coming music bars in Nashville, and fresh off a relentless situationship. With a swirl of men, booze and music, this book feels like a hug from your most unhinged friend.

If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English: A Novel

By Noor Naga

A novel of a love story gone awry, and two people who find themselves in a relationship they can’t recognize anymore. Swifties will love Noor Naga’s indelible prose and unique perspective on home, love and tragedy.

The Secret History

By Donna Tartt

Sometimes, old habits really do die screaming, and this classic dark academia novel of secrets and lies, love and betrayal, is required reading of every Swiftie in their TTPD era.

I Can Do It With A Broken Heart

The Way Forward

By yung pueblo

With the end of a breakup, comes the period of acceptance, whether reluctant or welcoming. yung pueblo gives readers a collection of poetry filled with musings on empowerment, inspiration and guidance, encouraging every reader to find themselves on the other side of grief.

The Marriage Plot: A Novel

By Jeffrey Eugenides

The author of The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex gives us a novel about unconventional love and the lengths we go to keep it. With one couple stumbling their way through modern love, Eugenides reminds us that love can be found anywhere, even in the worst of times.

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

By Mary Oliver

Required reading for anyone looking to join The Tortured Poets Department, from one of our most renowned and beloved poets. In her essential collection, Mary Oliver’s poems span her incredible career and encourage us to embrace the unknown and find beauty in the world around us.