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Taylor Swift for Adults (Hardback)

Taking Swift Seriously

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Music P&S History > By Century > 21st Century P&S History > Social History

By Kev Nickells
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 16 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399052757
Published: 13th June 2024


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Taylor Swift for Adults is a tantalising opening salvo in Swiftology - the study of the work of Taylor Swift. While Swift's private life has been covered to death, her talent as a lyricist has rarely been analysed. Until now. Swifties are well aware that she's a lyricist par excellence but this book makes that case to the unbelievers. Swift's gift as a songwriter is not merely sentimentality and circumstance - and this book takes a deep look at her 10 albums to isolate what makes her a beloved lyricist for millions.

Any serious study of a lyricist or poet needs to establish what are the tropes, the patterns, and the style of that artist, and this book does precisely that. With careful attention to poetic detail, the scansion, flow, and form of her writing, this brings out those details that pass by in a flash on the radio, bringing them fully into focus. Many have made the argument that Swift is a gifted lyricist - in online forums and YouTube comments - but this is the first time in writing those arguments have been given shape and serious attention.

It's a book aimed at adults but not po-faced bores - taking a subject seriously can also mean laughing at swearwords and sex metaphors. Rather than po-faced and straitened, this is a lightly witty book expressing, at its core, a deep affection for this generation's favourite songwriter.

What an incredible dive into the life and world of Taylor Swift. I have never been a huge fan, but this makes me love her just so much more. I am a Google fanatic constantly looking up facts and questions that randomly come to mind, so being able to learn about this artist was so fun!

Diving into her music analysis was also extremely interesting and entertaining.

NetGalley, Leyla Gulsen

Love this book! What a great overview of Taylor Swift's triumphant career. Recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about her!

NetGalley, Natalie Clark

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is highly quotable and inherently poetic, with sentences that dazzle and commentary that does justice to the storyteller behind the superstar.

[I’ll preface this review by saying that I am absolutely the target audience for a book like this: an academic Swiftie with a music background.]

Taylor Swift for Adults reads like something you might find in a literary journal - though the tone is more punchy and less formal (and I think more accessible/enjoyable because of that).

Beautifully written.

Sharply argued.

It’s bold to, as the subtitle suggests, “take Swift [this] seriously.” What Nickells attempts is a tall order for Swift’s contemporaries (especially during the Eras Tour "era"): to study Swift out of context. To refuse to let media and fans create a version of Swift or influence how we read her. Instead, Nickells wants to quiet the noise around Swift’s personal life and professional presence and study the lyrics Roland Barthes style.

I think a book like this—a field of academic discourse like what Nickells terms “Swiftology” — was inevitable.

Someone had to say it. To try it.

And I really enjoyed reading it. (Also, I’d attend this conference panel.)

In what its author terms an “academic first draft,” Taylor Swift for Adults tackles many, many topics/songs/themes - and it does so very quickly, which may be problematic for some. But, ultimately, it starts a conversation we’re invited to continue.

Taylor Swift for Adults casts a wide net, to be sure. But in so doing, it creates space for continued discourse in nearly every direction.

Did I agree with every reading of Swift’s lyrics here? No. But I found myself wanting to sit down and write after reading this, and for the first time since joining NetGalley, had more to say than word count allowed on some platforms. And that is the five-star energy.

NetGalley, K. Megan Fodness

Lots of information in this book! I enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Taylor Swift.

NetGalley, Valerie Lefor

A deep dive into Taylor's songs & lyrics - a great book for the hardcore swifties! An impressive analysis of Swift's discography and songs - well done.

NetGalley, Kailey Costa

If you are a Swiftie or at least admire Taylor Swift’s musical genius, then you will enjoy this book. It delves into a thorough discussion of her music, breaking down her lyrics over the years in a comprehensive study. The author is very thorough. If you’re wanting more on Taylor’s personal life, then that is not what this book is for. Perfect for any Swift fan!

NetGalley, Jennifer Linn

This book is perfect for Swifties like me! Even if you're not a swiftie, this is a great look into the songwriting and art which Taylor puts out - explaining the meaning behind lyrics and how songs are developed. I also like that it isn't focused on 'who' the song may be about, this is focused on the actual writing and the meaning behind the lyrics.

NetGalley, Toni Wade

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is such a fun book for the casual Taylor Swift fan. It removes the artist's personal life from the music and examines the lyrics from a technical standpoint. There's no lore to know beforehand, it's just a casual fan's guide to the songs. I love it.

NetGalley, Arden le Fey

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I loved this so much! This was a deep dive into Taylor’s albums, song by song, interpreting them. I loved reading about my favorite songs. It was so refreshing to read a book about Taylor’s music, rather than just her personal life.

NetGalley, Danniele Whitman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow there was so much to this book. As an OG Swiftie of 17 years, the depth of information on the lyrics and songwriting was amazing. Finally someone that's not focused on her personal life and wants to showcase what an amazing poet and businesswoman she is. I'm totally here for this book! Hope others enjoy it as much as I did.

NetGalley, LeAnn Millward

“You’re not meant to break your listener’s hearts on the regular- but this is Taylor’s country music, and she does.”

I really enjoyed that this book focused on her actual musical and lyrical talent rather than her love life.

It was really interesting to see how the author tried to view her songs in an objective manner. It also made me think about some lyrics in a different way.

NetGalley, Natalie Brabenetz

This book is an excellent book for Swiftie fans out there. It is loaded with so much about Taylor and a great insight especially if you want to know more about her life, her music, etc and it takes you into a deeper look at her 10+ albums to isolate what makes her a beloved lyricist for millions of her fans and new ones.

It was an interesting read and a great book for a Swiftie fan.

NetGalley, Nessa Thompson

There are tons of books and documentaries out there about our beloved Taylor Alison Swift but this is such a unique take, focusing solely on her music.

This is a deep dive into the lyrics, patterns and poetry that is some of the biggest hits in music history.

NetGalley, Courtney Sharpe

As a huge Taylor Swift fan, this book was fantastic and I loved it. Very interesting and nicely written. Recommend to any Taylor Swift fan.

NetGalley, Emma Thomas

If you're looking for an in-depth song-by-song look at all of Taylor Swift's music (through Midnights with no vault tracks), this book is for you. Really interesting to read through.

NetGalley, Kelly Carter

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Taylor Swift for Adults was not what I was expecting – in the best way. This book is made for someone truly curious about her skill of songwriting and prowess within the music industry, and not her fan-centric personal life. I appreciate that more than most, I suspect, because I only recently became a fan after listening to her Midnights album. I had so much to learn!

I heard about the Spotify squabble in passing but I can see now how important that was, not just for Taylor Swift but for every artist. I had also never seen an artist re-record albums like this before, and to take back what is hers with such force. This book also goes into a near-academic review of all of this, on top of her discography, song by song, album by album. From her cultural impact (the Eras Tour is literally a historical event at this point) to her musical and lyrical transition between albums, I feel like I should be granted a PhD in Swiftology – can I take this class again?

I am very interested in seeing where Kev Nickells goes next, and I plan to be there!

NetGalley, Rachael Winterling

If you are a Swiftie, this book is for you! Nickells provides a comprehensive study of Swift's career, music, and business acumen. A large portion of this book is dedicated to analyzing song lyrics, her style of writing, metaphors, and details found within her songs. And the author points out the growth of the music and lyrics as Swift has grown in her confidence as a musician and songwriter. Album covers and their connection to the songs are also explored. This would be a fun book to read and dissect with fellow fans, as there are numerous opportunities for discussion.

NetGalley, Leslie McKee

This was interesting it was cool to see how all of her songs have double meanings and the amount of symbolism in the lyrics. That was my favourite part of the book learning the symbolism.

NetGalley, Liv Zdravev

I felt that it was a lovely deep dive into Taylor Swift's career and more specifically, her songwriting as the book takes you through her works, literally song by song. As a seasoned Swiftie it was captivating to take the in depth look at the inner workings of inspiration behind the lyrics of my favourite TS songs (all of them). I can only hope that future works from Kev Nickells on the subject will take a look at her re recordings and her newest album.

The way Nickells writes on the subject matter is enticing and easy to follow, even if you are newly into the Swiftie fandom and curious to learn more. I love that this doesn't take the easy gossipy approach some biographers take when it comes to Taylor content.

Keeping this review spoiler free, I always thought I was unique to compare points in Taylor's career to that of Prince. I am delighted to know I am not the only one. This book is one I would definitely recommend to Swifties of all ages.

NetGalley, Lynnae Schow

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love Taylor swift and I loved the in-depth research this book has, it has a full album breakdowns (which I loved!
With songs!) I read this in one sitting it I love hearing others people take on music. If you love Taylor swift you NEED this book ASAP. I can't wait to have a physical copy of it!

NetGalley, Brianna Howard

Very informative book on the career of Taylor Swift. This was a nice overview on the vast career of pop superstar Taylor Swift.

NetGalley, Tanner Olson

If you are a serious follower of Swift’s music, songwriting, and lyrics, then you would find this comprehensive study of the works of Taylor Swift over her career to date a very interesting read.

NetGalley, Cheryl Schubert

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love Taylor Swift and I love reading more about her and other opinions / ideas of her so I was really excited to read this. I loved seeing the different songs dissected and got so many new insights into her music from reading this, so many I had not previously thought of.

NetGalley, A D

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An in depth look at the life of our Mother, Taylor Swift. Go behind the scenes to see how she became who she is and how she dominates the entertainment world!

NetGalley, Michelle Fenton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


I am a new Taylor fan and absolutely loved this and everything that went with it. Great POV and cover.

NetGalley, Rachel Phillips

“Taylor Swift for Adults” by Kev Nickells offers a fresh and insightful analysis of Taylor Swift's lyrical genius. Nickells expertly breaks down the tropes, patterns, and styles that define Swift's songwriting, revealing a depth that casual listeners might miss. The book's detailed focus on metrics, flow, and form showcases Swift's poetic talents, making a compelling case for her skill as a lyricist.

Overall, “Taylor Swift for Adults” is a must-read for fans and skeptics alike, offering a deeper understanding of why Swift is one of this generation's most beloved songwriters.

NetGalley, Arianna Antonio

Taylor Swift for Adults strips away the tabloids and the gossip and examines the craft and lyricism behind arguably one of the most prolific pop artists of our time.

The first section of the book is highly academic, and the author clearly has a deep understanding of both Swift's extensive body of work, and also the music industry, as we explore what makes Swift stand out in a sea of pop artists, her transition from Country to Pop, and the way she pivots and reinvents herself.

The second part of the book is an album-by-album, song-by song analysis into the lyrics and meanings behind the songs *without going into gossip and speculation*. Rather than looking at the protagonist of each song as Swift herself the author looks at the "I" of the songs as an anonymous third party, and explores the meanings and intentions of the songs from an impartial distance, as well as analysing the lyrical phrasing and rhythms Swift uses so well.

This was an interesting read. I didn't necessarily agree with the author on all points of their interpretations of lyrics, but they certainly know their stuff, and this book was thoroughly well-researched. A good coffee table for older Swifties.

NetGalley, Jen Shaw

An erudite info-rich look at Taylor Swift. Well-researched and written, this title by author Kev Nickells also reflects in-depth knowledge of the music industry and Taylor's storied place in it. Recommended for Swifties who want an intelligent analysis, not a rah rah fan book.

NetGalley, Literary Redhead

This book has quite a lot of information! I like that it approached Taylor Swift's career from the viewpoint of accomplishments and craft vs gossip and possible meanings behind the songs. You don't find that as often, it was refreshing.

NetGalley, Nichol Taylor

As a Swiftie, I was overjoyed by the opportunity to read this book, focusing on my favourite singer and her music!

Rather than centering around gossip, which magazines and news articles cover, this book is all about Taylor’s music and songwriting, with references to her personal life where relevant. The tone is fairly formal and academic, and it is not a quick read.

There are many points and interpretations suggested by the author which leave room for thought and the possibility for discussion. I would recommend this book to be buddy read in sections with other Swifties, as the content will certainly bring up opinions and would be ideal for a Swiftie bookclub! The majority of the book focuses on songs and albums, delving into lyrics, meanings, and other references. It would be the perfect way to listen back through all of Taylor’s albums, reading relevant sections as you go.

NetGalley, Paige Roxby

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Perfect gift for the older Swifties with a great guide to understanding what makes fans of Taylor’s. Showcasing her songwriting and an in-depth dive into her career this is a great guide for someone who likes to deep dive a bit more into her lyricism ect.

NetGalley, Jill Speedman

I have loved Taylor's music since I was a kid so I really wanted to know more about her and this was a great insight into her and her life! I think this would be perfect for new Swifties or anyone like me who is a long time listener and wants to know more about the artist behind the music. I had read one book about her and this is a more in depth look at her which I liked.
I especially loved 1. That you can tell how much the author loves Taylor and 2. The breakdown of each album!

NetGalley, Melanie Allman

As a Swiftie I was so excited for the opportunity to read and review this book! This was by far the most in depth book I’ve read about Taylor’s musical journey.

It went through every single Album song by song, analyzing it all. It gave lots of insight into the lyrics and musical reasoning of every single song, which was just so cool! Especially to see what was written about my favorite albums (Lover and Folklore) and *some* of my favorite songs (Cornelia Street and the 1). Some times the descriptions did seem a bit wordy and long winded to get through, but I truly just loved the attention to detail. The author left no stone unturned when diving through the journey of Taylor’s albums!

A must read for any Swifties out there, and a delightful edition to your bookshelf. I also enjoyed the pictures at the end of the book. And I can’t wait to see if in the future the book will be rereleased to include the TTPD album!

NetGalley, Nicole Haviland

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Taylor Swift for Adults Taking Swift Seriously by new to me author Kev Nickells, published by Pen & Sword White Owl, is a fantastic read. Thoroughly researched, with explicit knowledge of the music industry and TS' history, with exquisite writing it was a pleasure being enlightened by KN.

NetGalley, KD RBCK

About Kev Nickells

Kev Nickells is a writer/musician (for love) and programmer (for money) based in Brighton, UK. The weather is often nice here. Thanks to ADHD he has an untidy collection of fascinations - typography, Biblical hermeneutics, crip theory, non-English-language pop music, functional programming, queer activism etc. He is learning Polish slowly and rueing its case system. He lives in a lovely flat with a lovely partner and three cats who are usually lovely, except when it's morning and they're hungry.

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