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The five books that inspire the most tattoos

January 24, 2012

I read this Publishers Weekly story with growing fascination and horror. 

We spent an untold number of hours combing the Internet’s two most extensive literary tattoo sites: Contrariwise: Literary Tattoos and The Word Made Flesh, then cross-checking the most frequently occurring tattoos with Google searches and Google image searches, all to get to the bottom of what books inspire the most tattoos and why. And though this isn’t a scientific ranking, it’s the closest anyone’s come to tabulating which books inspire the most tattoos, given the Internet’s evidence. What you’ll find below shows a fascinating effect: as you look past the superficial design, you’ll find a wholly specific reason, wholly specific to the individual. It’s why one person can have an “I am nobody” tattoo from Sylvia Plath and someone else can have an “I am I am I am” tattoo from Sylvia Plath–it shows how we all treat stories and writing differently.

You can read the story for images of the tattoos and more details, but the PW study shows these are the top five tattoo inspirations:

5. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
4. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
3. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
1. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2012 1:19 pm

    What? Not the Bible? When my Southern Baptist preacher father in law warns my children against getting tattoos, my son threatens (as a joke) to get Leviticus 19:28 as a tattoo.

  2. January 24, 2012 1:35 pm

    Interesting list. It got me thinking that although I have several tattoos and read quite a lot, I have no literary tattoos. Maybe it’s time to get one… 🙂

  3. January 24, 2012 4:02 pm

    Kurk, I was also surprised not to see the Bible mentioned. I was also surprised by how high Slaughterhouse Five ranked in the list — with “so it goes,” “everything was beautiful and nothing hurt,” “to die would be an awfully big adventure,” and “I carry your heart.” I knew “so it goes” was associated with Slaughterhouse Five, but the others I did not think were popular phrases.

    It was also interesting to me how nihilistic so many of the phrases were (Sylvia Plath on a tattoo?)

    Kris, it does seem that having a literary tattoo might be safer choice (in terms of not regretting it in the future) than some of the other tattoos that people get.

    Particularly regrettable are tattoos with spelling errors in foreign languages, such as can be found here:

    (See also this New York Times article.)


  1. The Wild Rumpus: Colbert interviews Sendak (and translation notes) « BLT
  2. Maurice Sendak and Melville « BLT

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