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12 Tattoos Inspired by Famous Books

We’ve seen librarian tattoos, geeky tattoos, sci-fi and video game tattoos, but now it’s a chance for the more educated tattooees to show off their ink with these fantastic literary tattoos.

Special thanks to Contrariwise, a site specializing in literary-inspired tattoos. While not every tattoo here was pulled from that site, a good number were.

1. Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut

There are a lot of “So It Goes” tattoos out there, but Lacy’s is particularly nice in that she didn’t limit it to just text, but also incorporated the dandelion, that seems to flow so well with the themes of Slaughterhouse 5. In Lacy’s own words, “We are all free, it is just a matter of figuring out if we want to stick to a path (like the blowflower seeds when they are anchored) or go where the wind takes us.”

2. Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut may have inspired more literary tattoos than any other author out there. In fact, it would be very easy to write an entire article on tattoos inspired by his novels, but since this post is about all types of literary tattoos, here is another popular Vonnegut tattoo, the “Goodbye Blue Monday” bomb. While there are many, the coloring and chubby line work on Liam’s makes his design particularly attractive. Liam notes that, “while breakfast of champions is not my favorite Vonnegut book, it is the first book that made me love reading. I was 15 and after every page I kept thinking, ‘I never knew books could be like this.’ I read every single Vonnegut book after that.”

3. Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll


There are also plenty of Alice In Wonderland tattoos, but many of them are based on the Disney movie version and not the book. Eva’s Alice tattoo is delightful in that it is based on the original book illustrations by Sir John Tenniel.

4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

Similarly, there are ample Hitchhiker’s Guide tattoos—particularly those featuring the number 42, the words “Don’t Panic” or the book’s green mascot—but perhaps the least used (but most fun) idea is the falling whale and pot of petunias, a very memorable scene from the book. Emily Holodnick got the idea for her tattoo while attending Hitchcon ’09, which should tell you she’s certainly a big fan of the series. The work was done by Steve at Old School Tattoo in Bellingham, WA.

5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling

The Harry Potter series has also inspired its fair share of tattoos, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one as cool as Chloe’s version of the Marauder’s Map. It looks like a blank scroll until you hold it under a black light, at which point the words “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good” appear. Unfortunately, you can’t read the message that well the in photo, but that’s understandable when you consider the difficulty of capturing something only visible under a black light.

6. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

While Good Omens might not be as famous as many of the other books listed here, it was written by two authors who are fairly big names in the geek stratosphere—Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. The particular passage Jodi chose to get tattooed describes the demon Crowley in a manner that gives you a quick glimpse of the style and humor of the entire novel – and the image seems more than fitting for the quote.

7. Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown

While the satellite might not be part of the original Goodnight Moon artwork, there’s no denying that this image was certainly inspired by the classic children’s book. As for why Jennifer chose the design, she explains, “I am in the Navy, just like many of the men who visited the moon. My husband and son are space fanatics, the Goodnight Moon window is for my daughter. She loves the book.”

8. Watership Down, Richard Adams

Livejournal user smallpio1990 might just have the most stunning Watership Down tattoo ever inked. The colors are gorgeous and the bunny is adorable. The quote is the last line in the book. Fittingly, the work was done by Rabbit Abby from Des Moines, Iowa

9. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Anyone familiar with The Great Gatsby will undoubtedly recognize the art deco artwork featured on the cover of many of the printings, as well as the famous quote, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Craig R. found the quote to be particularly memorable and when his English teacher passed away unexpectedly, he found the quote truly reflected how we, as humans, live. As he explains, “We really are just boats against the current always going back to the past.”

10. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

At one point or another, just about everyone has been able to relate with Hester Prynne. Brent felt that way for so much of his life that he really identified with the character—enough to permanently brand himself with his own mark of shame. Let’s hope he isn’t quite as miserable as poor Hester.

11. The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

The more time progresses and our natural resources dwindle, the more people can identify with The Lorax. Flickr user jaundicedferret is one of these people, which is why she got this great tattoo from the most famous scene of the story, where The Lorax exclaims, “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better, it’s not.”

12. Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Louis Sachar

As a kid, Sideways Stories was my favorite book series, even above Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which is why I’m head over heels in love with Alex’s potato tattoo. What does a potato have to do with a kids’ book you might ask? Well, it all relates to Calvin’s tale in the book, as Alex explains, “His dad decides to let him get a tattoo and everyone in class gives him all these suggestions. He considers getting a leopard fighting a snake, but in the end he gets a potato just above his left ankle. Everyone thinks it’s stupid, but he knows he made the right choice, or at least he’s pretty sure.” Alex, I think you made the right choice too.

I know you Flossers are big readers, so do any of you have book-related ink? If so, share your photos or tattoo descriptions/stories in the comments. Also, I know a lot of these are missing the tattoo artist’s name, so if you know who did the artwork, please let me know so I can add that into the article.

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December 14th, 2012

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Stranger to the World

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