Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Did you know that The Doors got their name from The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley? Did you know that Led Zeppelin injected J.R.R. Tolkien images into several songs? Or that The Red Hot Chili Peppers wrote a song called Yertle the Turtle? Music and literature have had a symbiotic relationship ever since the ancient bards. So it follows, naturally, that scores of songs in nearly every genre have been written about… writing, about books, about famous literary characters.

We at the Why Not 100 felt it was time to produce a definitive list—or at least as close as possible to one. So here follows a list of 95 pen-to-paper tunes. And it doesn’t even include songs by a death metal band from the Seattle area known as Bloodhag, a band that wrote almost exclusively about writers—from Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury to Mary Shelley and Jules Verne. Yes, a death metal band. Which just goes to show you: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

1. Paperback Writer (The Beatles)
2. Everyday I Write the Book (Elvis Costello)
3. Unwritten (Natasha Bedingfield)
4. I Write the Songs (Barry Manilow)
5. Write Your Own Songs (Willie Nelson)
6. Rewrite (Paul Simon)

I’m workin’ on my rewrite, that’s right
Gonna change the ending
Throw away the title
Toss it in the trash
Every minute after midnight
All the time I’m spending
Is just workin’ on my rewrite
Gonna turn it into cash

7. Return to Sender (Elvis Presley)
8. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)
9. Who Wrote Holden Caulfield? (Green Day)
10. The Book of Love (The Monotones)
11. Tales of Brave Ulysses (Cream)
12. Tom Sawyer (Rush)
13. 1984 (David Bowie)

They’ll split your pretty cranium, and fill it full of air
And tell that you’re eighty, but brother, you won’t care
You’ll be shooting up on anything, tomorrow’s never there
Beware the savage jaw
of 1984

14. Brave New World (Iron Maiden)
15. Wuthering Heights (Kate Bush)
16. Feed my Frankenstein (Alice Cooper)

Well, I ain’t evil, I’m just good lookin’
Start a little fire, and baby start cookin’

17. White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane)
18. Ender Will Save Us All (Dashboard Confessional)
19. Narnia (Steve Hackett)
20. Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin)
21. House at Pooh Corner (Kenny Loggins)
22. Yertle the Tertle (The Red Hot Chili Peppers)
23. Green Eggs and Ham (Moxy Fruvous)
24. The Book I’m Not Reading (Patty Larkin)

The book I’m not reading is riveting
The book I’m not reading keeps me up at night
The book I’m not reading is better than TV
Giving me insight
The book I’m not reading is history
The book I’m not reading is by some paperback writer
The book I’m not reading is mystery
Whodunnit don’t matter

25. The Letter (The Box Tops)
26. One of These Days (Neil Young)
27. Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen)
28. Hey Jack Kerouac (10,000 Maniacs)

Hey Jack Kerouac
I think of your mother
And the tears she cried
They would cry for none other
Than her little boy lost in a little world that hated
And that dared to drag him down
Her little boy courageous

29. The House That Jack Kerouac Built (The Go-Betweens)
30. Neal Cassady (Washington Squares)
31. Virginia Woolf (Indigo Girls)
32. Sylvia Plath (Ryan Adams)
33. Hemingway’s Whiskey (Kenny Chesney/Guy Clark)

Hemingway’s whiskey, warm and smooth and mean
Even when it burns, it’ll always finish clean
He didn’t like it watered down, he took it straight up and neat
If it was bad enough for him, you know it’s bad enough for me

34. Songs for Myla Goldberg (The Decemberists)
35. Bukowski (Modest Mouse)
36. Walt Whitman’s Niece (Wilco)
37. Graham Greene (John Cale)
38. ee cummings (Timesbold)
39. Ghost of Tom Joad (Bruce Springsteen)
40. Love in the Library (Jimmy Buffett)

Love in the library, quiet and cool
Love in the library, there are no rules
Surrounded by stories surreal and sublime
I fell love in the library once upon a time.

41. The Book of My Life (Sting)
42. Books About UFOs (Husker Du)
43. We Call Upon the Author (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds)
44. Stranger Than Fiction (Bad Religion)
45. Mr. Writer (Stereophonics)
46. Lady Writer (Dire Straits)
47. My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors (Moxy Fruvous)

Well you should see my story—reading baby,
you should hear things that she says.
She says, “Hon, drop dead, I’d rather go to bed
with Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

48. These Words (Natasha Bedingfield)
49. Keep the Customer Satisfied (Simon & Garfunkel)
50. I Write the Book (Patty Griffin)
51. Losing It (Rush)
52. Our Love (Rhett Miller)
53. The Empty Page (Sonic Youth)
54. Writer’s Block (Just Jack)
55. Writer’s Minor Holiday (Calexico)
56. Screenwriter’s Blues (Soul Coughing)
57. I Typed For Miles (Jets to Brazil)
58. Autobiography (Sloan)
59. Open Book (Cake)
60. Cemetery Gates (The Smiths)

A dreaded sunny day
So I meet you at the cemetery gates
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mine

61. Love (Mos Def)
62. I’ll Be a Writer (Soltero)
63. There She Goes, My Beautiful World (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds)
64. When I Write the Book (Rockpile)
65. Romeo and Juliet (Dire Straits)
66. Poison Pen (Hoodoo Gurus)
67. I Be Bound to Write to You (Muddy Waters)
68. Writers Retreat (Lloyd Cole)
69. The Words That I Manifest (Gang Starr)
70. My Pen and Pad (Blackalicious)
71. Party for the Fight to Write (Atmosphere)
72. Poetic Justice (Kendrick Lamar)
73. The Book I Read (Talking Heads)
74. Engine Driver (The Decemberists)
75. I’m Reading a Book (Julian Smith)

At home, sittin’ in my favorite nook
My girl’s trying to get me eat some dinner she cooked
I’m readin’ a book, girl, I’m reading a book
Don’t you ever interrupt me while I’m readin’ a book!

76. Read a Book (D’Mite)
77. Read a Book (Pylon)
78. Read the Book That Wrote Itself (The Liars)
79. Read it in Books (Echo and the Bunnymen)
80. I’d Write a Letter (Al Green)
81. Love Letter (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds)
82. Last Love Letter (Alison Krauss)
83. Letter to the President (Tupac Shakur)
84. Tear Stained Letter (Johnny Cash)
85. Letter Never Sent (REM)
86. A Perfect Sonnet (Bright Eyes)

Lately I’ve been wishing I had one desire
Something that would make me never want another
Something that would make it so that nothing mattered
All would be clear then
But I guess I’ll have to settle for a few brief moments
And watch it all dissolve into a single second
And try to write it down into a perfect sonnet
Or one foolish line

87. Wrapped Up in Books (Belle and Sebastian)
88. Which Has Not Been Written (Fastback)
89. Song For Whoever (The Beautiful South)
90. Paragraph President (Blackalicious)
91. The Book of Right-on (Joanna Newsom)
92. Breathe (Anna Nalick)
93. Quill (Richard Sanderson)
94. Oxford Comma (Vampire Weekend)
95. I Love You Period (Dan Baird)

I love you period
Do you love me question mark
Please, please exclamation point
I want to hold you in parentheses


  1. "Inflammatory Writ" by Joanna Newsom would be a better choice than The Book of Right-On. Inflammatory Writ is actually about writing/writer's block...

  2. This is AWESOME. Don't know if you considered songs from Broadway musicals, but "City of Angels" had two: "It Needs Work" and "You're Nothing Without Me," in which the writer and his most famous character each claim prominence. Thanks for this list, though! It's just what I was looking for!

    1. Thanks, Ann (or whoever is representing the reps at the lit agency). Author Brad Herzog here ( Perhaps our paths will cross professionally...