Since its May release, Harry’s House has been a staple spin in our living room. The record cover leans in a wooden “Now Playing” display, and I keep glancing at Harry Styles in an upside-down room, deep in thought. The sparsely decorated space draws attention to what’s there: the tulip bouquet, yellow lamp, plated egg. A bibliophile through and through, I can’t help but wonder, Need some books to curl up with on that cozy loveseat?
For an exclusive profile of Styles via Better Homes & Gardens in anticipation of the superstar’s latest album, Lou Stoppard so aptly gushes, “Styles is teddy bears on your teenage bed, perfect handwriting on thank you cards, picked flowers on Sunday morning, puppies running on fresh-cut grass, Grandma’s favorite homemade cake.”
Oh, how I’ve been craving comfort reads and listens lately. Too much time has passed since I sat with song lyrics and studied an album from beginning to end. (If you have moments to spare, absolutely unspool hours like this.) Filled with the urge to fuse everything with literature, I’ve compiled a list of song-and-book pairings inspired by Harry’s House. Please read and sing and shimmy along to the tracks and books moving me.
Books to Pair with Harry’s House
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay & “Music For a Sushi Restaurant”
The big trumpet in the opening song brings to mind joy and breathlessness. With Styles’s album dedication — “For all my friends. Thank you, I love you.” — in mind, I revisited Gay’s third collection. In the titular and penultimate poem, which spans 12 pages, the poet writes, “and thank you for what inside my friends’ / love bursts like a throng of roadside goldenrod / gleaming into the world…” Across long pieces, music appears from brass to Nina Simone to Destiny’s Child. Above Styles’s celebration of friendship, I found the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote from Nature, which also held my hand to Gay’s beautiful book teeming with gardens.
Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi & “Late Night Talking”
This jubilant song focuses on a sweetness of love, the distance-closing sharing of the big and seemingly minuscule parts of the day with another. This commitment to conversation filled my head with the romance-pink cover of Choi’s tender novel. It features 18-year-old Penny, an aspiring writer, and 21-year-old Sam, an aspiring filmmaker, who meet at an Austin coffee shop. You know how sometimes lovers dress alike? These faithful donners of Chucks dress alike — in black garb and high-tops — at first sight. Soon, the two find themselves in a clandestine relationship that happens (mostly) over the phone, texting into the night.
The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson & “As It Was”
Gravity, hands, and worlds in the first single from Harry’s House catapulted my brainwaves to Johnson’s captivating debut novel. Originally from Ashtown, Cara becomes a “traverser” and travels the multiverse. In the 373 worlds where her doppelgängers have died, Cara gathers data for the Eldridge Institute of extremely moneyed Wiley City to evaluate. Dell, Cara’s “handler,” assists with her journeys from Earth Zero, and let me drop a telling sentence about their chemistry: “We are planets in orbit, pulling at each other as surely as gravity.”
The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar & “Daylight”
The looping image of a bird, blue, flying to someone in this whimsical ballad spreads a smile across my face. In Joukhadar’s powerful sophomore novel, birds play a prominent role, too, from common birds to unidentified ones. Aquatints of birds, ornithologists, and sugary endearments like “little wing” pepper this story exploring community, discovery, and longing. An excerpt that begs readers to birdwatch: “Tonight you came to me as a bird, and I could not tell the difference between you and the holiest of lost things.”
The Boy with a Bird in His Chest by Emme Lund & “Little Freak”
This pensive song plucks a wild solo on my heartstrings. Every time the chorus reaches my ears, my chest does things. Meditating on crushes, curiosity, and loneliness, Lund’s reflective debut novel has a similar effect. My mind circles words and why they can hurt. Because of the finch named Gail in Owen’s chest, the “Army of Acronyms” dubs him a “Terror,” and Owen spends much of his young life hiding. Since finishing the last page, I’ve constantly wondered how dear Owen is, and I know I will return to this gorgeous portrait, love it as fiercely and frequently as the formative stories of my youth.
Space Struck by Paige Lewis & “Daydreaming”
The love song–filled album ushered me to this extraordinary love poem–filled debut collection. Both seem smitten, and both seek nature, play, and wonder. Just look at these heartbeat-skipping lines from “Pavlov Was the Son of a Priest”: “I want to find / you a peach so ripe that even your breath / would bruise it.” With an unebbing thing for titles, Lewis’s wow me. They send me spinning in awe and guide me into — like Styles’s dreamy number — Daydreams. A couple examples: “Last Night I Dreamed I Made Myself” and “My Dear Wolfish Dreamboat, Stand Still.”
Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang & “Keep Driving”
It started with cars. This mobile song led me to brainstorm books including road trips. But the repetition of a question, echoed in Styles’s title, and lyrical lists reminded me of the episodic nature of this introspective novel. Reflecting on change, intimacy, and uncertainty, it follows a 20-something writer, who ponders, for her longtime love, a life beyond their little yellow home in San Francisco. Like “Keep Driving,” Chang’s prose stunningly accelerates: “In bed, we talk of the future. Maybe we’ll get to stay. Maybe we’ll go to New York City. And then . . . But what if . . . How about . . . We excite and exhaust ourselves with hypotheticals.”
I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston & “Satellite”
This compelling novel unfolds in False Beach, Alabama, and my days revolved around McQuiston’s young adult debut until I finished it. In a school elevator, Shara Wheeler kisses Chloe, her rival for valedictorian. At prom, Shara disappears before receiving her crown but not before planting a trail of clues on pink stationery. Chloe and other smoochees Rory, Shara’s neighbor, and Smith, Shara’s boyfriend, set out to find her. The lonesome waiting, pulling, and circular movement of this catchy, dance-inducing tune encouraged this linkage, and Chloe, who relocated from Los Angeles to the South with her mothers, has major city vibes, too.
Because I wouldn’t skip a song on the Harry’s House album, I can’t skip one here. Every track has lodged in my head or escaped my lips in hums, and that calls for more matchmaking. On Side A, the flowers, companionship, and bright day-ness of “Grapejuice” makes me reach for Ada Limón’s The Hurting Kind. If “Matilda” cracks you open, consider picking up Mia McKenzie’s Skye Falling, which examines painful pasts, found families, and happiness.
And flipping to Side B, the desire, inquiry, and vulnerability of “Cinema” summons Olga and Matteo’s new and sparking connection in Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez. “Boyfriends” conjures the support and honesty of true-blue friendships, like those in Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades. Love the album’s closing song, “Love Of My Life”? Maybe slide Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, translated by Edith Grossman, into your tote bag.
Of course, these matches represent my reading preferences, my brain’s unique associations, and my current mood. Endless possibilities exist. Music and book enthusiasts, what titles would you pair?