1. Girlfriend In A Coma by Douglas Coupland
Canadian writer Douglas Coupland gave the world Generation X, and he’s close to the perfect age to have been smitten in real time by The Smiths—and particularly Smiths singer/lyricist Morrissey, since both have made careers of words. Coupland titled his 1998 book Girlfriend In A Coma, after the Smiths song of the same name, and his story is indeed about a girlfriend in a coma. The book is also littered with other Smiths references, in case the title wasn’t obvious enough. A TV series based on the book has been in the works for a while; Christina Ricci was originally attached but has apparently moved on.
2. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now by Andrew Collins
3. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now by Andre Jordan
TV writer, music journalist, and BBC Radio personality Andrew Collins has written several books about his own life, and for one of them he swiped Morrissey’s most direct song title, “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.” (Morrissey himself swiped it from Sandie Shaw’s “Heaven Knows I’m Missing Him Now.”) Subtitled My Difficult 80s, it covers Collins’ late-teen years in London. Writer/doodler Andre Jordan borrowed the same title a few years later for his wry study of depression via cartoons; the themes in his Heaven Knows should appeal to Smiths fans—it’s all about depression and loneliness, but delivered with a sense of humor.
4-5. Let The Right One In and Let The Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Swedish horror writer John Ajvide Lindqvist went a little subtler with his Morrissey homage titles, choosing lyrics from a relatively obscure B-side (“Let The Right One Slip In”) to name his breakthrough novel and a recent short-story collection. (The first two lines of the song match the two book titles exactly.) The first book, a gorgeously strange vampire tale, was adapted for film both in Sweden and America, though the latter found its title changed to the more manageable (and more generic) Let Me In.
6. How Soon Is Never by Marc Spitz
The Smiths didn’t just provide the inspiration for the title of Marc Spitz’s 2003 novel—it’s a play on “How Soon Is Now?”—but the band is also central to the book’s plot. The main character bonds with a love interest over mutual Smiths fandom, and it becomes their mission to reunite the un-reunitable band. Spitz, a successful playwright, also named one of his plays Shyness Is Nice, which is the first line in another Smiths song, “Ask.”
7. Meat Is Murder by Joe Pernice
Joe Pernice—a famed singer-songwriter in his own right—stepped outside the usual milieu of the 33 1/3 book series with Meat Is Murder: Most of the tiny books take critical looks at individual albums, providing history and context. Pernice instead turned in a novella about a high-school kid—presumably based on Pernice’s own experiences—who happened to be obsessed with the second Smiths album. “I saw written in red felt ink on masking tape stuck to a smoky-clear cassette: ‘Smiths: Meat.’”
8. The More You Ignore Me by Jo Brand
British comedian Jo Brand has actually written several books with titles inspired by pop songs, including It’s Different For Girls (after Joe Jackson’s tune) and Can’t Stand Up For Sitting Down (a play on the Sam & Dave song made popular by Elvis Costello). For 2010’s The More You Ignore Me, she looked to Morrissey’s solo hit “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get.” It’s another book that actually weaves The Smiths into its plot as well: The lead character is obsessed with Morrissey, and uses his songs to help process the pain in her life—particularly her relationship with her schizophrenic mother.
9. This Charming Man by Marian Keyes
Marian Keyes is an Irish writer whose audience is mainly female—her books are frequently tarred with the “chick-lit” brush. Her 2008 novel, This Charming Man, is about domestic violence, but it doesn’t take any plot inspiration directly from the Smiths song of the same. Still, Keyes asked Morrissey’s permission to use the title: “I wondered if he'd mind me stealing his song title,” she told The Guardian. “Like all gods, he's unpredictable: he’s mercurial, he’s clever, he’s easy to offend. He’s also very principled. But he has allowed me to use it, and I feel honoured.” The book even led to a dancey cover of the song by VV Brown, who released her version as a single and donated some of the proceeds to Women’s Aid.
10. Heavy Words Lightly Thrown by Chris Roberts
Subtitled The Reason Behind The Rhyme, Chris Roberts’ Heavy Words Lightly Thrown might seem at first glance to be a deep exegesis of the meaning of Morrissey’s lyrics—and in particular The Smiths’ song “What Difference Does It Make?”, which bears the line “Heavy words are so lightly thrown.” Instead, Roberts is only skimming the surface of the lyric; in the book, classic nursery rhymes are dissected and probed for their morbid, lurid, sickly humorous subtexts. Granted, Morrissey’s body of work has plenty of those qualities itself, so maybe the shout-out isn’t so random after all.
11. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side by Pete Wentz
Fall Out Boy bassist-lyricist Pete Wentz unleashed his debut novel Grayon the world in 2013—but years earlier he made his authorial debut with The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. Named for one of The Smiths’ greatest paeans to loneliness, isolation, and misanthropy (only much funnier and breezier than that sounds), Boy is a children’s book about, predictably, a boy full of angst. Or, as Wentz puts it, “He is the kind of kid who you forget about as soon as you meet him. He is the B-side to your hit single. He is the crust on the bread, the ash on the cigarette.” In other words, it’s far closer to a Fall Out Boy song than a Morrissey song.
12. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side: A Memoir by Keith Fleming
Far more substantial and mature than Pete Wentz’s book of the same name, Keith Fleming’s The Boy With The Thorn In His Side is a Girl, Interrupted-style memoir that delves into Fleming’s tumultuous teenage years. Mental illness, family trauma, and gay culture in the ’70s form the backdrop of the story, but it’s Fleming’s citation of one of Morrissey’s most poignant, multidimensional songs that sets the tone for the entire book—before the cover is even cracked.
13. Unite And Take Over: Stories Inspired By The Songs Of The Smiths
Prose authors aren’t the only ones who’ve been influenced by The Smiths. In the two volumes of the comic-book anthology Unite And Take Over, various cartoonists tackle the Morrissey songbook—not by illustrating his lyrics literally, but by using them as the spark for a graphic narrative all its own. In any case, it’s a more creative—if less buzz-worthy—way to integrate comics and The Smiths than, say, the recent Morrissey-Peanuts mash-up, This Charming Charlie. (Although that’s pretty great, too, as Morrissey himself will agree.)