Calling all bibliophiles, bookworms, nerds, and introverts! We all have at least one favorite book that we rave about and recommend to countless friends and family. You know, the one book that meant so much to you and you know would mean so much to others. The book that changed your worldview, inspired you and made you think deeply. That book is ripe with inspiration for your next tattoo! Many people decide to get literary tattoos to show their love for reading and, hopefully, spread it by showcasing it as a tattoo. These tattoos range from funny to serious and many match the tone of the book they come from. Characters, quotes, and pivotal objects from these stories can be reimagined as fantastic tattoos. We decided to take a look at some lovely literary tattoos to encourage you to make your next tatt thought-provoking. Here are 36 literary tattoos that will make your local librarian proud.
36. For Billy
Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five, published in 1969, is full of anti-war sentiment and themes that resonate to this day. This handsome black and grey tattoo pays homage to the classic novel in a very meaningful way.
35. A Series of Fortunate Mycelium
Wow! This tattoo is a stunner! A Series of Unfortunate Events is a beloved graphic novel series that follow the Baudelaire children on many adventures. One of these adventures sees Sunny infected by the Medusoid Mycelium, a poisonous mushroom. This amazing tattoo captures the scene perfectly. The only thing missing is the wasabi.
34. To Be or Not To Be
For your next tattoo, look to Shakespeare for inspiration. While not the most cheery choice for a tattoo, this blade from Hamlet certainly looks cool. We love the dark and dramatic design.
33. Remember R. L. Stine?
If you were a burgeoning horror in your youth, you couldn’t miss R. L. Stine’s books. He did several series like Goosebumps and Fear Street. The stylized covers of these books were creepy, yet still had the right level of camp to appeal to many young readers. This amazing and big tattoo perfectly captures the spirit of the series.
32. Poe Though
The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe scarred a whole generation of young people who were made to read it in class. The classic spooky poem features “nevermore” repeatedly to build dread and suspense. This tattoo design incredibly combines the actual word, a raven’s claw, and a heart in its grip. We love the smokey purple background that makes the entire design pop.
31. My Heart Burns There, Too
Stephen King’s It has terrified generations of readers. Chances are if you read this tome, you were too young for it. After the recent movie adaptations, the book and its central villain, Pennywise the Clown, have had a cultural resurgence. This sweet tattoo pays tribute to the novel and manages to convey its horror with the inclusion of a single, red balloon.
30. When a Rabbit Speaks, You Listen
Watership Down is an English novel that was published in the 1970s. It was controversial at the time of publishing because it featured talking rabbits with their own culture that faced the same issues and struggles as humans do. This tattoo is part of a quote from Black Rabbit who’s also been incorporated into the design.
29. Down the Rabbit Hole
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a wacky classic that’s a favorite of both adults and children. Readers have been entertained by this tale for over 150 years. These cute tattoos pay homage to the classic scene where the protagonist, Alice eats cake to make her grow and drinks a potion to make her shrink. These cute tattoos are very inviting.
Our friend Luna Lovegood sure looked dashing in her special glasses called “spectrespecs.” This black and grey interpretation of the specs looks fantastic. In the words of Luna, “Don’t worry, you’re just as sane as I am.”
27. Le Petit Prince
Of all the incredible literature coming from France, none has captured the world’s imagination like The Little Prince. Like, Alice in Wonderland, it is enjoyed by both adults and children. This stunning tattoo is framed by a diamond and pictures the Little Prince and the fox. This simple and sweet design is perfect.
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26. A Poetic Tribute
Ocean Vuong is an incredible emerging literary voice. His collection of poetry Night Sky with Exit Wounds will change you. Further, his recently released novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, is equally impressive. This traditional style tattoo is more than just a quote, it tells you so much about the person’s connection to these powerful works.
25. Feeling Lucky
This amazing Harry Potter-inspired tattoo of the Liquid Luck potion has a lot going for it. Take a closer look at the shape in the background. It consists of so many colorful dots! This cute tattoo will make any “Potterhead” jealous.
24. A Stack of Books
This person got a stack of books tattooed on them. Okay! Some of the most popular and beloved writers are featured down the spine of each. We don’t how we know this, but we know this tattoo belongs to a librarian.
23. Double Trouble
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde asks readers to consider the duality inside themselves. Perhaps that’s why the gothic novel resonates so well and has had a lasting impact around the world. For instance, the comic character, The Hulk is based in part on this premise. This very creepy tattoo perfectly captures the novel and anyone who looks at it knows in an instant what it’s referencing.
22. For Max
In 1963, Maurice Sendak released his masterpiece, the children’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are. The crown that’s been incorporated into this tattoo design is a reference to the protagonist, Max, who wears a bear costume and crown as he adventures with the Wild Things.
21. Lady Lazarus
Sylvia Plath is one of the most beloved American writers and her influence is undeniable. This woman got Sylvia Plath’s autograph tattooed on her wrist. This simple tattoo is an incredible nod to a pioneering poet.
20. A Mashup
This incredibly fun watercolor tattoo features two childhood favorites, Winnie-the-Pooh and the Velveteen Rabbit sailing off into the sunset. This inspired design has vivid colors that really put it above the rest.
19. Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane
Beloved British nanny, Mary Poppins, became a popular children’s book character in 1934. The beloved series sees Mary Poppins performing all sorts of magic after she’s blown in by the “east wind.” This wonderful design shows the nanny’s magical, bottomless bag. This very crisp and clean tattoo looks as classy as Mary herself.
18. Curl Up
There’s nothing better than curling up with a hot cup of tea and cracking open a book. This black and grey tattoo manages to convey the calming act of reading in a single design.
17. It Will Make You Cry Every Single Time
Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree is a beloved children’s picture book that’s turning 55 years old this year. The heartbreaking story of a tree that gives, and gives, and gives still resonates today. This tattoo captures some of the original illustration’s charm while putting a creative spin on it.
16. And It Does
One simple phrase, “So it goes,” written by Kurt Vonnegut and used again and again in Slaughterhouse-Five, is emblematic of the writer and his ethos. This amazing tattoo captures so much of Vonnegut, not merely because there’s a caricature, but also the quote, and the signature asterisk. It’s one of the best designs on this list.
15. A Gorey Scene
Edward Gorey illustrated a number of books and many consider his ink drawings serious works of art. One of the most creepy and hilarious is The Gashlycrumb Tinies: A Very Good Alphabet Book. This tattoo looks like it’s ripped from one of the pages.
14. Mist & Fury
Fantasy writer Sarah J. Maas has a devoted following. This geometric water tattoo references imagery found in The Court of Mist and Fury. We love the cool color scheme that escapes the circular frame and does, indeed, look like mist.
13. Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter fans cannot stay out of a tattoo parlor! This tattoo incorporates a quote from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and a line drawing of Hogwarts. The watercolor heart is a bit, much but it is a touching scene between Harry and someone special to him (no spoilers, okay!).
12. You Thought Your Mornings Were Tough
Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis tells the story of a salesman who wakes up to find himself transformed into a giant insect. We’ve all been there. This amazing tattoo shows the insect with the shadow of his former self.
11. A Genius Tattoo
This hilarious and 100% honest tattoo is any book lover’s dream. So often books are adapted into movies and when they are they lose many of the things that make the stories special. It’s almost become a cliche to say it, but where’s the lie?
10. All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter
People really have a lasting fascination and love with J.R.R. Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings series. This quote has been pulled from a poem the author included in the series. The tattoo artist has done an incredible job recreating a type-print style lettering for this tattoo.
9. The White Album
Joan Didion is one of America’s all-time best cultural critics and essayists. This quote carries such power because it contains so much truth about storytelling and why we do it. This tattoo of the quote is expertly done and we bet it looks even sharper after it heals.
Roald Dahl’s Matilda recently turned thirty and it’s hard to believe that the timeless children’s novel hasn’t been with us longer. This gorgeous tattoo of Matilda sitting on a stack of books is both charming and beautiful.
7. A Lover Not a Fighter
The Story of Ferdinand is an illustrated children’s book that tells the story of a bull who prefers to smell flowers than fight. It was first published in 1936 and still very resonant today. This tattoo captures the final scene of the book and looks very close to the original illustration.
6. The Unicorn
The fantasy novel The Last Unicorn is an incredibly important work of fiction that many readers took to heart. We’ve all felt a sense of wanting to find our place in the world which makes the theme of the book universal.
5. Jane Austen Would Approve
This Jane Austen inspired sleeve is everything! Inspired by Pride and Prejudice, there’s so much artistry and care that went into this tattoo’s design. We love the hand holding the book and you can imagine it belongs to Elizabeth Bennet. This is how it’s done.
4. More than a Stuffed Toy
Calvin and Hobbes was a daily comic strip and a series of books. The characters have been used in textbooks and as teaching materials for children. We love these guys and this tattoo is a wonderful tribute to them.
3. A Fig
This tattoo of a fig is a reference to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Plath wrote: “I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.”
We love the design of this tattoo with its geometric center and bright, blue-green leaves it tells a story of its own.
2. More Figs
Here’s another Sylvia Plath inspired tattoo that incorporates figs. This time, they’re collected inside the bell jar. This is a truly beautiful tattoo that showcases the underlying themes of The Bell Jar in its design.
1. The Handmaid
Margaret Atwood has been an inspiration to so many over the years. Alias Grace, The Handmaid’s Tale, and her newest, The Testaments, are already classics. This tattoo of a Handmaid is stunning. The vibrant red color invokes the horror of the original novel, while the circular lines around her head give us hope about what’s underneath the austere costume.
Book-inspired tattoos are a way to show your love for your favorite writers, characters, and literary themes. Reading is such a personal experience which can make it difficult to express how deeply a book has affected us. Tattoos are the perfect way to use art and design to craft a message that’s easily understood. We love these literary tattoos and would love to see even more.
Chicago based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet. Cheese and crackers are a mood.