Seven Rockin’ Bookish Songs for Karaoke

Posted by Blair Thornburgh

Image via flickr

Just because bookworms prefer to spend most of their time alone, with books, in adequately-lit spaces doesn't mean that we don't occasionally go out (or get dragged out) for some old-fashioned good-times havin'. And nothing is more old-fashioned or good-timesy than the Japanese art of karaoke.

But don't let the tiny rooms, hard-to-read lyrics, and potential for public humiliation hold you back, fellow readers! Here are seven songs about our favorite pasttime guaranteed to bring down the house…so you can sneak back to your reading nook.

“Paperback Writer” by the Beatles: The Fab Four’s paean to penny dreadfuls is basically The Worst Query Letter Ever—The Musical!

Really excellent and cathartic for belting out, particularly for the artistically frustrated, plus a truly excellent opportunity for some air guitar (put your drink down first).

“The Book of Love” by the Magnetic Fields: Don’t get all sassy about this book being a metaphorical one.

The Magnetic Fields’ slow-and-sweet ditty has an easy melody, simple lyrics, and just enough irony to keep it from curdling into love-song ickiness.

“When I Write the Book” by Nick Lowe:  With lyrics like “And when I write the book about my love / It'll be a heartbreaking story of bad luck in love / When I get down on the pages all I felt / It will make the hardest-hearted of critics' heart melt,” this isn’t exactly a feel-good toe-tapper (and, ahem, you can’t rhyme love with love, y’all. We’ve been over this!).

But just try to keep the chorus out of your head once you’ve heard it (“when I wriiiiite the boooook”).

“Everyday I Write the Book” by Elvis Costello:  Literary metaphors abound. Flattery may get you nowhere, but a line like “your compliments and your cutting remarks are captured here in my quotation marks” will get you at least a polite ovation from your co-karaokers.

“Wrapped Up in Books” by Belle and Sebastian: It’s a indie/literary cred twofer! You will be the hippest of the hip! Mumble your way through this low-fi tale of bookish love and ignore all those posers who try to wrest the mic away for something garishly upbeat. Philistines!

“Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?” by Green Day:  Holy disaffected youth, Batman! Despite name-checking America’s Oldest Teen (Dick Clark notwithstanding), this song is approximately 0% actual literary content.

Still, it introduces definite shared Themes of adolescent angst, and poses a probing (though easily Googleable) question. (And, FWIW, Billy Joe, the work in question [viz. The Catcher in the Rye] isn’t eponymous. Nice try, though!)

“Open Book” and “Shadow Stabbing” by Cake: Amp up your audience with the hypnotic “she’s writing / she’s writing / she’s writing a novel” and then bust out the unexpected b-side encore with “adjectives on a typewriter / he moves her words like a prizefighter.” John McCrea’s bait-and-switch brand of quicksilver wordplay can be tongue-twisting, but hey, that’s why they put the lyrics onscreen.

Blair Thornburgh

Blair Thornburgh

BLAIR THORNBURGH is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where she earned a B.A. in medieval studies and delivered a pretty good commencement speech. She lives in Philadelphia.