22 Literary Tattoos That Book Lovers Will Appreciate

 

When books touch our hearts, they stay with us forever. The joys of reading were perfectly captured by George R.R. Martin when he famously said: "I have lived a thousand lives and I've loved a thousand loves. I've walked on distant worlds and seen the end of time. Because I read." The following tatted-up bibliophiles were so moved by certain literary works that they decided to have them occupy a special place on their bodies, choosing to have phrases, symbols, scenes, and book jacket artwork inked into their skin.

Referencing classic novels such as The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice, modern masterpieces such as Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and timeless children's books, these tattoos will remind you of how magical reading can be.

 

Image via _l_l_n/Instagram

  • 'The Great Gatsby'

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    A photo posted by Maggie (@terribleperil) on

    The cover art of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby has been redesigned over 15 times, but the image that appeared in the original 1925 edition remains the most iconic. This tattoo nods to Francis Cugat's recognizable design of a woman's features discernible in the night sky, hovering over a skyline with bursts of energy and light. The watercolor quality of this tat, however, gives it a softer, more feminine feel. 

  • 'Survivor'

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    A photo posted by Katie (@fukking_katie) on

    The satirical novel Survivor, from Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk, takes place aboard an airplane, as the narrator dictates his life story to the black box, or flight recorder, moments before the plane is poised to crash. This tattoo is based on the original book cover, an outline of a plane mashed up with an image of the cross. 

  • 'Fahrenheit 451'

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    The "firemen" in Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 weren't climbing up ladders to extinguish blazes. Just the opposite! They were torching books, all of which had been outlawed in a not-too-distant future. This tattoo shows one of these book-burning soldiers watching a growing inferno through his helmet. 

  • 'The Raven'

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    A photo posted by Brandi Brown (@brandi18c1) on

    Once upon a midnight dreary, the narrator in Edgar Allan Poe's narrative poem "The Raven" encountered the ominous black bird in the piece's title, a taunting creature who only uttered the words "Nevermore." This tattoo pays homage to the gothic poem, adding some geometric elements such as the feathers that turn into three-dimensional pyramid shapes, and a watercolor-inspired backdrop.

    More from CafeMom: 20 Tattoos That Perfectly Capture Our Love for Mythical Creatures

  • 'Wonder'

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    R.J. Palacio's young adult novel Wonder is a tale about the need for acceptance, kindness, and empathy. The title character Auggie was born with a facial deformity, and as he leaves behind the insular existence of homeschooling and enters the fifth grade at a nearby school, he strives to show his oft-cruel classmates that he's just like them on the inside. The book has even inspired a #ChooseKind movement on social media. This Palacios fan clearly pledged to #choosekind with this tattoo of the book's cover image.

  • 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'

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    A photo posted by cherrybones23 (@cherrybones23) on

    A caterpillar can build up quite an appetite on the journey to becoming a butterfly! The adorable crawler in Eric Carle's classic children's book The Very Hungry Caterpillar ate through a chocolate cake, an ice cream cone, a pickle, a slice of Swiss cheese, and more — on a single Saturday! This tattoo celebrates the critter with the ravenous appetite so many of us discovered as kids. 

  • 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle'

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    This Haruki Murakami fan flaunts her love of the Japanese author's surreal masterpiece The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by showing off a tattoo of the winged creature pictured on the book's cover — down to its dark blue feathers and yellow belly. The key in the bird's back, meanwhile, references a wind-up mechanism, making it clear that this is no ordinary avian tattoo.

  • 'Pride and Prejudice'

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    A photo posted by Ellen Ra (@_l_l_n) on

    In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy had to overcome his pride while Elizabeth Bennett had to chip away at her own prejudicial notions of Darcy's character in order for the two to find love. This tattoo, which features Darcy on the back of one leg and Elizabeth on the other, captures the pivotal scene in which the former confesses his love. The words he utters are inked in calligraphy around the lovers: "In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."

    More from CafeMom: 25 AH-Mazing 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Tattoos for The Truly Obsessed

  • 'Cat's Cradle'

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    A photo posted by Luke (@thunderswan_tattoo) on

    A master of irony and black humor, Kurt Vonnegut explored issues pertaining to religion, science, free will, and nuclear warfare in his 1963 novel, Cat's Cradle. The book's title referenced the popular kids' string game, which was also illustrated on its first edition cover. This black-and-gray tat, which spans across both forearms, subtly nods to Vonnegut's satirical work.

  • 'The Hobbit'

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    A photo posted by LT (@literarytattoos617) on

    In The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien described the home (or "hobbit-hole") of the title character, Bilbo Baggins, as having a "perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle." This vivid tattoo perfectly fits Tolkien's description of Baggin's home, Bag End, where he meets Gandalf and the 13 dwarves that accompany him on his epic quest.

  • 'The Fox'

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    D.H. Lawrence's novella The Fox explores the relationship between two female farmers, a lodger by the name of Henry, and a fox that has been killing the women's hens. Initially, the fox is a nuisance, but over time, it enthralls one of the women. As the story unfolds, the women's friendship is tested, as are their views on female independence and their resolve to eradicate the masculine from their world. This tattoo, showing a fox propped atop a woman's head, its tail constituting her mane, winks to Lawrence's tale.

  • 'Where the Wild Things Are'

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    "Let the wild rumpus begin!" Maurice Sendak's illustrated children's book Where the Wild Things Are has captivated children and adults alike since 1963, making readers laugh and cry as the title character Max eventually discovers that, even with all of its flaws, there really is no place like home.  

    More from CafeMom: 17 Eye-Catching Wrist Tattoos You'll Adore

  • 'On the Road'

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    A photo posted by Leoni Horton (@leonihorton) on

    Jack Kerouac's On the Road, one of the definitive texts of the 1950s Beat generation authors, had a stream-of-consciousness writing style that conveyed a sense of urgency. To master this "kickwriting" style, Kerouac taped together 12-foot-long pieces of drawing paper, creating a continuous roll for his typewriter. This tat, then, pays homage to both Kerouac's writing style and to one of the best lines in the book: "I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted."

  • "The Dole of the King's Daughter"

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    This tattoo captures the dark and gloomy tone of Oscar Wilde's poem "The Dole of the King's Daughter," a cautionary tale about the fatal nature of love. The tat captures the title character's "red-gold hair" and incorporates many of the poem's dominant symbols: the seven stars, indicative of her seven sins, adorn her cheek here, while a rose, which alludes to her sexuality, is placed on her cheek. The rope around her neck references the suicide of one of her suitors, while the tree branches in her hair is likely an allusion to the yew that became her final suitor's grave.

  • 'The Catcher in the Rye'

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    A photo posted by Kat Fedora (@katfedora) on

    Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of J.D. Salinger's controversial coming-of-age novel The Catcher in the Rye, is immortalized in this back tattoo. The design, based on an illustration by M.S. Corley, features Holden in his signature red hunting hat — often cited as a symbol of the teen boy's feelings of alienation — smoking a cigarette, the puffs of smoke morphing into black birds.

  • 'The Little Prince'

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    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince is no ordinary children's book. Sure, there's a crash-landing in the Sahara desert, multiple conversations with a fox, and a much-missed rose left behind in another planet, but, fairy-tale elements aside, the philosophical musings in the novella, first published in 1943, speak to readers of all ages. Case in point: when the fox says, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

    More from CafeMom: 17 Incredible Watercolor Tattoos That Are Truly Works of Art

  • 'Lady Lazarus'

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    Written by Sylvia Plath shortly before her death in 1962, "Lady Lazarus" is commonly thought of as a poem about suicide, though others interpret it as a feminist work addressing the constraints society places on female creativity. Within the latter context, Plath suggests she will persevere — even if the patriarchy tries to snuff out her words, hence the line, "Out of the ash I rise with my red hair and eat men like air." This tattoo immortalizes Plath's line, adding another reference to Plath's The Bell Jar in the form of a fig.

  • 'The Garden of Proserpine'

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    A photo posted by Jacq (@safetosea) on

    An homage to Algernon Charles Swinburne's poem "The Garden of Proserpine," which explores the inextricable relationship between life and death, this tattoo features an imposing schooner, the words "Safe to Sea" hovering above and below it. The three words are a reference to the lines, "We thank with brief thanksgiving/Whatever gods may be/ That no life lives for ever/That dead men rise up never/That even the weariest river/Winds somewhere safe to sea."

  • 'The Lorax'

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    The perfect tattoo for both Dr. Seuss fans and environmental activists, this piece shows the Lorax — who famously "speaks for the trees that have no tongues" — standing protectively in front of a Truffula tree. The vibrant colors, meanwhile, capture the dynamic energy and captivating whimsy of Seuss's book.

  • 'The Metamorphosis'

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    What if you woke up one day and found that you'd somehow been transformed into a cockroach? What if your family members didn't notice your changed form — or worse, were resentful of the burdens the transformation placed on them? Those are some of the themes explored in Franz Kafka's seminal existentialist novella, The Metamorphosis. This tattoo perfectly mirrors the cover art of Kafka's original 1915 German book, Die Verwandlung 

    More from CafeMom: 15 Behind-the-Ear Tattoos That Are Easy to Adore

  • 'The Giving Tree'

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    A photo posted by Ole Nicles (@ogre_999) on

    Want to teach kids that sharing is caring, that small acts of kindness are the key to feeling fulfilled? That's the message in Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, a picture book about the relationship between an apple tree and a young boy. As the years pass, the tree gives each piece of itself to the boy; each time, the encounter ends with the phrase, "the tree was happy." This charming tat replicates the book's cover illustration and taps into our feelings of nostalgia. 

     

  • 'Scheherazade'

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    The title of Richard Silken's poem "Scheherazade" alludes to the woman whose nightly storytelling ritual saved her life in One Thousand and One Nights. In the poem, Silken marries words that connote tenderness with terms that are intrinsically violent, creating a push-and-pull between hope and dread, triumph and tragedy, making the reader wonder whether Scheherazade will be executed or whether she'll be spared. Silken's line about "bodies possessed by light" inspired this tattoo.

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