A music-inspired reading challenge
21 book prompts from The Good Witch & plenty of recommendations to fill them.
I was browsing StoryGraph’s reading challenges a while ago and noticed so many inspired by Taylor Swift’s eras. It reminded me of adding a ‘sounds like’ song pairing to match a book’s vibe when I was writing my review blog.
So of course, I then spent an hour going down the rabbit hole of Maisie Peters lyrics to create my own reading challenge inspired by her sophomore album, The Good Witch. Peters is a lyrical genius and often includes literary references, so pairing books with her brilliant album feels pretty fitting.
StoryGraph users can join the virtual challenge here. You can start the challenge whenever you like and take as long as needed. I just thought it would be a fun way to expand my reading a little and celebrate one of my favourite musicians/discoveries of 2023. For extra context, you can listen to each of the songs below.
Keep scrolling for the full list of prompts and some recommendations…
1. The Good Witch
Read a book featuring a witch
Lyric inspiration: “still a good witch with her tea”
If you’re a sci-fi reader, you’ll probably quickly fill this prompt. If, like me, you’re more of a contemporary fan then it’s time to get creative. There’s contemporary rom-com The Ex-Hex by Erin Sterling, YA novel The Burning by Laura Bates or contemporary/historical hybrid Weyward by Emilia Hart (my personal pick for this prompt).
You can go down the historical route with The Last Witch of Scotland by Philip Paris or delve into non-fiction with something like Witchcraft: A History in Thirteen Trials by Dr Marion Gibson.
Oh, and there’s always Harry Potter.
2. Coming of Age
Read a book that subverts a trope or cliché.
Lyric inspiration: “I wasn’t your cliché”
Okay, I’ll admit this was one of the prompts I set without any idea what I’d read to fill it. After a bit of research and a lot of thinking, here are some suggestions:
Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson (turns the cosy crime novel rules upside down, perfect for fans of Knives Out)
Bound to Happen by Jonathan Shannon (what happens if boy doesn’t meet girl in this rom-com written by a straight man)
The No-Show by Beth O’Leary (more than your average rom-com)
Read a book published or set in the 90s or early 2000s
Lyric inspiration: “Millennium baby, but you are pretentious, and you have a camcorder out of the 90s”
I’ve kept this intentionally vague, partly to make it easier for my own reading choices! You could go for something set firmly in the 1990s, Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen (a hidden gem and one of my 2023 favourites, kinda like a serious cousin of Derry Girls).
I’m considering finally reading Small Island by Andrea Levy (published in 2004, so I think it can scrape in) or Atonement by Ian McEwan (2001).
4. Body Better
Read a book about or featuring an affair.
Lyric inspiration: “Has she got a body better than mine?”
You can be as strict or loose about this as you like: the affair can be a side plot or a crucial element of the story. Here’s a list from The Guardian to get you started.
Personally, I’ll probably read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones or Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. Already read those? You could try one of my top 2023 reads, The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donohue.
5. Want You Back
A book set in summer or spring.
Lyric inspiration: “She’ll have you every summer, when I only had you half of the spring”
Again this is a fairly loose prompt, so you should be able to find something on your existing TBR that fits the bill. But if you do want something specific…
One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle
Spring: A Novel by Ali Smith
Happy Place by Emily Henry
Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum
The Spring Girls by Anna Todd
6. The Band and I
A book about or featuring a band.
Lyric inspiration: “It was the band and I on a 12-bed bus”
Read the biography or memoir of someone in your favourite band. Fancy something fictional? There’s Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins-Reid, of course, but if you’ve already read that, then pick up The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton instead.
There’s also If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich and I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman for YA fans.
7. You’re Just a Boy (and I’m Kind of the Man)
A book about a woman who decides to do her own thing without waiting for a man.
Lyric inspiration: “You could have come babe, I held out my hand”
This is another prompt that’s pretty open to interpretation. There’s new fiction like Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, or The Rose Code by Kate Quinn.
I’m curious to try To The North by Elizabeth Bowen, a 1930s novel about “surplus women” in the inter-war years.
8. Lost the Breakup
A book about a person recovering and thriving after a break-up.
Lyric inspiration: “I’m the greatest love that you wasted”
I love Mhairi McFarlane for this prompt and recommend Who’s That Girl? or Mad About You. Or you could try some non-fiction with Why Did You Stay? by Rebecca Humphries.
A book with a man-child main character/Peter Pan or a retelling/A book with a character named Wendy or Peter
Lyric inspiration: “Behind every lost boy, there’s always a Wendy”
There are quite a few Peter Pan retellings to choose from if you want to go down that route, such as Wendy, Darling by AC Wise or Stars by Colleen Oaks.
A book featuring a dangerous man
Lyric inspiration: “As fast as you can, take a quick sharp turn at the sight of a man”
No recommendations as such for this one as there’s a plethora of thrillers and non-fiction to choose from. Plus plenty of fiction featuring whatever your interpretation of ‘dangerous’ is.
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11. Two Weeks Ago
A book with a coastal/beach setting
Lyric inspiration: “I wish when we went to the beach that day, we'd taken more pictures, I'd been more brave”
If you want to opt for something more than a beach rom-com, try The Island Home by, a beautiful contemporary novel of motherhood and family. While The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex is a dark and somewhat unsettling fictional interpretation of the unsolved disappearance of several lighthouse keepers.
I’m planning to fill this prompt with The Island Swimmer by Lorraine Kelly, which hits shelves in February.
A book by Stephen King/A book by Graham Norton/A book with an unstable main character
Lyric inspiration: “I am both Kathy Bates and Stephen King”/“So pour the gin and call Graham Norton”/“You made me Little Miss Unstable”
Basically, I couldn’t make my mind up on what lyric to focus on so you’ve got dozens of options to choose from! And I’ve no idea what I’ll choose yet…
A book featuring a therapist or therapy
Lyric inspiration: “Oh lord, I’m going back to therapy”
I highly recommend the brilliant Tell Me Everything by Laura Kay, with a therapist main character whose own relationships are kinda falling apart.
Or try non-fiction like Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb or I Want to Die But I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Sehee.
14. There It Goes
A book set in London
Lyric inspiration: “I’m back in London, I’m running down Columbia Road”
Clearly I wanted to make this challenge as easy as possible, because this is another prompt that can fit so many books! Hopefully you’ll Find something to fit the bill among your TBR.
15. History of Man
A book featuring, related to or about Greek mythology.
Lyric inspiration: “The men start wars yet Troy hates Helen”
This song is lyrical genius! And will hopefully push me out of my reading comfort zone a little. There’s Circe or Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, Divine Might by Natalie Haynes, or Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.
16. Holy Revival
A book set around Christmas or New Years.
Lyric inspiration: “I guess I'm disappointed that you didn't Merry Christmas your way back into my life”
Oh so many options for you! I filled this prompt with the beautiful Gifts by Laura Barnett – a series of interconnected stories of people finding gifts for loved ones.
This prompt could also easily be filled by a Christmas novella, for an easy reading challenge win.
A book about or relating to The Beatles/A book with a Beatles song lyric as the title
Lyric inspiration: “But, man, you know, Yoko never broke up that band, you misunderstood The Beatles”
This song speaks to my teenage obsession with The Beatles, so I had to give two options here. If you fancy reading a non-fiction Beatles book, I recommend John by Cynthia Lennon.
For something a little different, try graphic novels The Beatles Graphic by Herve Bourhis or Baby’s in Black by Arne Bellstorf.
If you don’t care for music biographies, there are plenty of lyric-inspired novels to read. Here are a few for inspiration:
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Love Me Do by Lindsey Kelk
Lucy in the Sky by Paige Toon
PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
18. The Song
A book about falling out of love with someone or a breakup.
Lyric inspiration: “So I'm gonna fall out of love by the end of the song”
Between Us by Mhairi McFarlane fits this prompt nicely, or you could opt for something less uplifting in Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates.
19. Guy on a Horse
A book set around the time of Joan of Arc (1430s) or about Joan of Arc.
Lyric inspiration: “Got this far but I'm Joan of Arc and you're just a guy on a horse”
Another prompt to get us out of our comfort zone! Joan by Katherine J. Chen sounds brilliant, described by Waterstones as a “stunning and ambitious feminist reimagining of the life of Joan of Arc … with thrilling pace and rich characterisation.”
You could also try Joan of Arc by Helen Castor – a highly recommended history. Or, for something less intimidating, try children’s novel Sparrow by Michael Morpurgo.
20. Truth Is
A book about abuse of trust
Lyric inspiration: “Who took all of my trust then abused it?”
Personally, I want to use this prompt to finally read Betrayal: Crisis in the Catholic Church by the Spotlight reporting team, which has been sitting on my shelf for far too long.
This prompt could apply to fiction or a range of non-fiction, from crime to business and politics. Take your pick!
21. The Last One
A book about friendship.
Lyric inspiration: “But I'll believe in you, still your number one fan”
Friendaholic by Elizabeth Day is an interesting non-fiction pick for this prompt. While The Lido by Libby Page or Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein are brilliant fiction options.
I’d love to hear if you’re going to give this a go and what books you’ll pick!