Lorde was just 16 when she introduced herself to the world with her debut single, ‘Royals’. The song took her from suburban New Zealand life into global superstardom. It’s fair to say her teenage years were different from the rest of us, but when she wasn’t globetrotting across arenas, chances are you could have found her buried in a book.
Ella Yelich-O’Connor grew up in an artistic family with her mum, studied literature, and started publishing her poetry in the 2000s. She’s celebrated in New Zealand and even won the Jessie Mackay Award for ‘Best First Book of Poetry’ at the New Zealand Book Awards in 2005.
From an early age, her mother has been the driving force behind Lorde falling in love with literature, leading to her writing lyrics in her bedroom on a daily basis. She grew up on a literary brilliance from across multiple genres, with the likes of Raymond Carver, Eileen Miles, and Tobias Wolff among the names that she has cited as an inspiration.
Speaking about her formative years, Lorde once commented: “I come from a short fiction background, and my mom is a poet, so I’ve always read poetry; I’ve always had a lot of different influences both linguistically and musically.”
Her intelligence was so high that Lorde took a test that determined she was a gifted child at the age of six. Following that assessment, the budding singer studied at a gifted education school. However, her family pulled the singer out after a year due to worries that it would negatively impact her developing social skills.
Yellich-O’Connor referred to herself as a “library girl” to Rolling Stone in 2017, and she’s unashamed about this side of her personality. After all, it helped mould her into the lyricist she is today, and Sylvia Plath is one person she holds in the highest of esteem. “T.S. Eliot and Walt Whitman taught me the importance of using beautiful words occasionally, and Sylvia Plath taught me not to shy away from discomfort,” she said in 2014.
“Never for a second would I put myself beside a genius like Sylvia Plath,” Lorde continued. “I may have specific tastes but I’m not trying to be avant-garde with my approach or my music. I like indie [rock], pop and literature. I like to play with them but that doesn’t make me a genius.”
Thankfully, the good folk over at Radical Reads have collated the pieces of literature that Lorde has namechecked throughout interviews. It provides a glimpse into the influences that the Kiwi has fused to shape her creative identity.
Lorde’s favourite books
- A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes
- Self-Help by Lorrie Moore
- Her Body And Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
- How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
- Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
- Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud
- Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut
- Feed by M.T. Anderson
- The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord
- Ariel by Sylvia Plath
- Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower
- Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
- The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot
- Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose
- I Love Dick by Chris Kraus
- Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
- I’m Very into You: Correspondence 1995-1996 by Kathy Acker
- The Night in Question by Tobias Wolff
- Not Me by Eileen Myles
- Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins