"The Book of Love" as written by and George Malone Warren Davis....
The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It's full of charts and facts and figures
And instructions for dancing

But I, I love it when you read to me
And you, you can read me anything

The book of love has music in it
In fact that's where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb

But I, I love it when you sing to me
And you, you can sing me anything

The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago
It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we're all too young to know

But I, I love it when you give me things
And you, you ought to give me wedding rings
I, I love it when you give me things
And you, you ought to give me wedding rings


Lyrics submitted by Anne Arbour, edited by Sophovot

"The Book of Love" as written by Stephin Merritt

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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The Book of Love song meanings
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23 Comments

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  • +6
    General CommentOne of the simplest, yet most beautiful and touching songs about love ever written. Stephen Merritt is an absolute genius and the fact that he wrote 68 other songs about love in a single release without wasting a word or a note is testament to his brilliance. This is definitely the signature song on that masterpiece as it kind of sums up the entire theme. Although the song (and the 69 songs album) is ostensibly supposed to be a commentary about the expression of love through music rather than love itself, the singer/narrator does laps into the feeling of love itself in the second verse. This is what makes the song both ironic and incredibly touching. The cynical, cerebral narrator himself cannot elude love's irrational grip.

    The song is a natural for being covered and it really doesn't bother when other artists attempt their own version of it. However, I think most attempts are doomed to fail because they can't approach the stark simplicity and authenticity of the original without just copying it completely which would be pointless. Peter Gabriel's version is remarkably uninspired because his style (lush compositions) doesn't suit the irony implicit in the songs lyrics, and his musical vision is so different than Stephen Merritt's.

    I would have loved to have heard Jeff Buckley cover this song (sadly that can't happen) or someone with an equally supple and expressive sound. Somebody upthread mention Leonard Cohen and and there really is a similar style and approach. (I wonder if and how much SM was influenced by Cohen).
    Irishmonkon January 09, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General Commentsadly?? SADLY?? are you for real? I think its sad that Gabriel COVERED it. THAT is sad. He could never write a song this clever and beautiful, thats why he covered it.
    NO ONE should touch this song but the MF's. ...... get outta here and go listen to "Your Eyes" pfff!!! >:\
    spokexxon February 08, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General Commenti think both versions are lovely, though i prefer TMF's, particularly because peter gabriel's altered melody on the verses is a bit boring, and the magnetic fields' original is even more moving and beautiful in its simple unadorned spareness (just ukulele and slide guitar--no need for the swell of strings when you've got lyrics as heartbreaking as this!) but if peter gabriel covering this song brings more people to the magnetic fields, that's a great thing. i imagine he must be a magnetic fields fan himself. and hey, "in your eyes" is a classic worthy of its longevity. respect to both PG and TMF.
    ramonathepeston February 09, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General CommentComplaining about the Peter Gabriel cover is a waste of breath and lot of negativity. I don't love all his work, but he's an artist I respect; the fact that he knows and enjoys the original enough to sing it himself is a great compliment to the Magnetic Fields. If you don't like his version, that's fine, but it's not worth getting upset about.

    Iron and Wine covering the Postal Service
    Nirvana covering Bowie
    TV On The Radio covering the Pixies
    Sun Kil Moon covering Modest Mouse
    Gnarls Barkley covering Radiohead

    All homages to the original, and interesting to learn who the artists themselves are listening to and admiring. It's not like this is "Smelly Cat" rewritten to be used in a cat food commercial, you know?
    akayon May 07, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentOn the second floor of the Florida Holocaust Museum a special gallery exists that presents personal testimonies of holocaust survivors along with the chorus of this song. The experience of reading these testimonies as juxtaposed against this song is incredibly overwhelming.

    Some survivors describe unimaginable acts of love, courage, valor, and dedication while others describe the daily struggle to procure enough food to survive. Some survivors describe sublime acts of personal dedication whereas others describe banal experiences and daily travails.

    The book of love is relivent to all as it is a catalog of personal attachment. In fact, the book of love is a complete an integrated account of attachment. It includes often described "fairy-tale like moments" as well as the moments of boredom that exist between emotional high peaks. Moreover, the book of love is a personal history. When moments are recapitulated, commiserated, or ego-syntonic, they are most palpable. Hence, the text becomes all the more sublime when read by a lover, as the process of reading itself can substantiate the text.

    The book of love really is a metaphor to describe the various behaviors we assume (or more accurately: have assumed) to express our affection to others. Love often is described as an altruistic commitment to another. However, in reality, we generally love those who "love" us back for our "loving" actions. Thus, being read to from the book of love is analogous to being loved as the mere act of "reading" is analogous to "loving."

    sulkowskion December 29, 2009   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI personally think this song is about a person who's madly in love with someone and tells his thoughts on The Book Of Love, which in my opinion, visualizes the love itself, the love society showcases in Hollywood movies.

    "No one can lift the damn thing" I would say with this line, he's indicating that no one can live up to the expectations of the "perfect love" because what we've been taught about love in the movies, isn't reality.

    However when his loved one does the things he doesnt think much of such as reading TBOL to him, he loves and enjoys it although it still doesnt make sense to him but because he loves that person so much. Only my interpretation :)
    chaneIcokeon October 19, 2012   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningWhen you think about love, it's really pointless and stupid, but when you feel it, you don't care.
    qwerty2134on December 21, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIm yet to find a MF song that doesnt appeal to me.
    shockdelicaon January 02, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAnyone complaining about Peter Gabriel's cover should be ashamed. If Merritt's music wasn't written to be covered by other artists, then how do you explain The 6ths? Also, keep in mind, Gabriel's version is a tribute from a legend to an indie band. I'm sure Merritt was flattered like any artist would be. It's not to say that Stephin isn't a legend in his own right, but Peter Gabriel has made some of the most beautiful unconventional music in the past 30 years. Washing of the Water being my favorite. Both versions are beautiful. The bareness of the MF's version is amazing, while the production and voice on Gabriel's is incredible. It's a sad trend to see obsessive fanboys and girls bash something as beautiful as a thoughtful tribute.
    Brodie Bankson June 04, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwhat can i say? i wish i had written this song.

    clever. both the music and the lyrics are incredibly simple--and complimentary, neither outdoing the other. the melody is beautiful, the singer inspired. the lyrics--this is a lyric-based site...

    Well, what I think is incredibly cool is how the song describes a cynic who surrenders to his heart. I mean, it's funny! A love song that says "boring" in the opening line--ha! Then the singer waves his big white flag, allowing the "you" to read--anything--to him.
    Check out his voice in the second verse. "Some of it is just 'transcendental'. Some of it is just really dumb." That's thought-provoking, funny, sweet, and TRUE all in one. I bet he was proud of that line.
    If you haven't heard this song, ot the album for that matter, definately make it a point to do so. Excellent pop songwriting.
    tra_mendouson September 25, 2002   Link

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