Sad girl summer is in full swing. I’m here to romanticize it to the fullest by binge-listening to Lana Del Rey, who gets me through this season (and every season).
After much thought and deliberation, here are 7 great reads to add to your TBR that pair up nicely with a selection of epic Lana tracks. Who said summer can’t be beautifully melancholic?
Starting off strong, we have “Brooklyn Baby,” a legendary hit from Lana’s 2014 album, Ultraviolence. Channeling the song’s dreamy, New York-centered premise, Rules of Civility opens with a chance encounter in a jazz bar on New Year’s Eve. The protagonist, Katey Kontent, then falls into a coming-of-age journey spanning the length of 1938, navigating society and romance in the big city.
Like “Brooklyn Baby,” this book is fun yet full of longing. Plus, like all good historical fiction pieces, Amor Towles’s novel carries a certain wistful nostalgia that captures readers’ hearts and imaginations.
Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – but I Have It
This lengthily-titled piece is an emotional exposition for the ages. It conveniently pairs off with a literary work, given that it has lucid ties to Sylvia Plath. Not only is the writer’s name mentioned in the chorus, but the track was originally supposed to be titled “Sylvia Plath.” Accompanied only by a piano, Lana’s voice is especially impactful as she delivers an array of raw, mournful lyrics.
Unsurprisingly, I chose to pair this song with The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath to continue to instill the connection between this musical masterpiece and the famous poet. Much like the intimate lyrics of the five-and-a-half-minute track, this read is the ultimate insight into the life and mind of a woman whose writing has moved so many.
“The Greatest” has a bit of an apocalyptic vibe to it. Though it was released pre-pandemic, there is something eerie about its lyrics, which dreamily divulge to listeners this feeling that it’s the beginning of the end. For reference, the line: “The culture is lit, and I had a ball. I guess I’m signing off after all.”
Befitting this song’s playfulness with morbidity and social commentary, I selected Severance by Ling Ma. It is a satirical piece chronicling a lone millennial woman’s journey through a deadly pandemic called Shen Fever, which turns NYC into a ghost town. Both funny and frightening, this novel is not so much a zombie horror story but a unique and engaging meditation on modern society.
From Lana’s 2017 album Lust For Life, “13 Beaches” is an immersive track with profound lyrics about love and escape. The spoken intro, sampled from the 1962 horror film Carnival of Souls, sets the tone: “I don’t belong in the world; that’s what it is.”
The song pairs quite well with Murakami’s 1999 release, Sputnik Sweetheart. Principally, both works are heavily imbued with a theme of longing and memory. As Lana’s chorus resounds, “It hurts to love you, but I still love you. It’s just the way I feel.” Besides a string of longing tying Murakami’s main characters together, the emphasis on the beach setting is of vital importance in the novel as well. Notably, the plot leads readers to a highly isolated Greek island, whose shore is detailed in beautiful prose.
The Other Woman
“The Other Woman” is a cover of Nina Simone’s 1959 release, which tells a somber story of a three-sided relationship. Similarly exploring themes of infidelity, apathy, and personal distress is Simone de Beauvoir’s The Woman Destroyed, published in 1967.
Made up of three novellas, Simone de Beauvoir provides a triad of visceral glimpses into female characters’ grief surrounding unfaithful spouses, estranged children, and life itself. Decisively, both works are presented without much of a silver lining. They both tell stories about heartbreak and the dark side of relationships in a striking way.
The final track on Lust for Life, “Get Free,” condenses a poignant story into verse. In short, its lyrical message concerns shedding the constraints of one’s past to move more freely into the future. It encourages looking within oneself to find answers instead of grasping for them among others.
Embodying this same message in a meditative, nuanced way is Jung Yun’s 2021 release, O Beautiful. Expressly, it is a story following a protagonist (Elinor), whose past and present have become painfully intertwined. Following her journey back to her home state, the novel beautifully tackles that internal warring and reconciles a path forward.
How To Disappear
Rounding out the list is Lana’s 2019 track, “How to disappear.” This catchy but somber song pairs well with the odd and dreary novel, Eileen.
Ottessa Moshfegh’s award-winning book is told by an unstable narrator (the title’s namesake), reflecting on her youth. Specifically, Eileen chronicles the events leading up to her purposeful disappearance from her New England hometown. If you want an eccentrically dark read, this is perfect for you!
Evidently, despite the prevailing sad girl connotation, Lana Del Rey’s music is versatile when it comes to inducing book recommendations. I hope you enjoyed this list!
Finally, if you’re looking for more niche book discovery lists to bulk up or diversify your TBR, click here.