50 Surprising Facts About Bubble Wrap

iStock.com/kutaytanir
iStock.com/kutaytanir

Outside of cats making their home in empty shipping boxes, no packaging tool has brought more joy to consumers than Bubble Wrap, which has been protecting fragile goods—and relieving stress—with its air-filled chambers since 1960. Here are 50 things you might not know about this shipping institution.

1. It was originally supposed to be wallpaper.

Bubble Wrap on a ceiling with blue lighting.
Mr. Michael Phams, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Wallpaper may have lost some of cachet (though it's making a comeback), but in the 1950s, gluing patterned rolls to your living room was a decorating win. In 1957, an engineer named Al Fielding and a Swiss inventor named Marc Chavannes wanted to bring a wallpaper to market with a raised texture. As an experiment, they glued two shower curtains together, sealing them so tightly that air bubbles were created. But few consumers wanted to cocoon themselves in a padded room, and the wrap-as-wallpaper idea never took off.

2. It was used as greenhouse insulation.

Boxes of plants near a wall of Bubble Wrap.
iStock

With their wallpaper dreams dashed, Fielding and Chavannes decided to take their glued-curtain idea and transfer it to greenhouses, where the material could be used to insulate buildings and retain heat. This worked, but it was still hard to convince buyers to enclose their environment in plastic. For a time, it seemed like Bubble Wrap would remain a good idea without much of a purpose.

3. IBM changed everything.

Vintage IBM 1401 computers from the Computer History Museum.
Sandy Kemsley, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By 1959, Fielding and Chavannes had incorporated Sealed Air, a business umbrella for marketing their Bubble Wrap product. Their marketing expert, Frederick W. Bowers, learned that IBM was preparing to ship their 1401 decimal computer to buyers. Realizing the item was both expensive and fragile, Bowers pitched the company on the idea of shipping them wrapped in Sealed Air’s trademark product. (Previously, shippers used newspaper, sawdust, or horse hair to protect delicate items.) Impressed, IBM soon began using Bubble Wrap to protect delicate electronics from damage during transit. By the mid-1960s, Bubble Wrap had become a shipping institution.

4. "Bubble wrap" is trademarked.

Close-up of Bubble Wrap
iStock

Like Xerox, Kleenex, Coke, and other brand names that became so ubiquitous that they began to slip into day-to-day vocabularies, Bubble Wrap is actually a trademarked product of Sealed Air. No competing air-cushioning company can use the term.

5. Bubble Wrap comes in handy on film sets.

Three women wearing backpacks.
iStock

The next time you watch a movie or television show set in a high school, it's possible you’re looking at a bunch of extras toting Bubble Wrap around campus. Actors sometimes carry backpacks stuffed with the product so they're not forced to lug around heavy books during a long shooting day.

6. Bubble Wrap could (maybe) save your life.

Feet on the edge of a building.
iStock

Could Bubble Wrap cushion a fall? While we would never recommend you put it to the test, one theory says maybe. In 2011, WIRED contributor Rhett Allain crunched the numbers and estimated that one might need 39 layers of Bubble Wrap in order to survive a fall out of a sixth-story window.

7. An air force base once mistook its pops for gunshots.

Bubble wrap with a blue tint.
iStock

In December 2015, security officials were called to the Kirtland Air Force base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after reports of gunshots were heard. High-powered weapons and Humvees were assembled before officials determined that the “threat” had been someone on base popping Bubble Wrap.

8. The boy scouts set a popping world record.

Close-up of a Boy Scout uniform.
iStock

In 2015, Boy Scouts in Elbert, Colorado succeeded in setting a Guinness World Record for the most number of people popping Bubble Wrap simultaneously: 2681 Scouts participated.

9. An artist uses bubble wrap to create "pop art."

Artist Bradley Hart attends the opening reception for The Masters Interpreted at Cavalier Gallery on May 7, 2014 in New York City.
Andrew Toth, Getty Images

Artist Bradley Hart has a unique approach to modern art. Using a syringe, he injects paint into individual air cylinders of Bubble Wrap, creating pixelated-looking landscapes and portraits. Hart also displays the reverse side of these works, which feature running paint from the injections and serve as a counterpoint to the more disciplined image on the front.

10. Some bubble wrap doesn't pop.

Rolls of bubble wrap and shipping boxes.
iStock

Sacrificing fun for practicality, in 2015 Sealed Air began offering iBubble Wrap, a product that ships flat and uninflated so it takes up less space in warehouses. (Customers can inflate it when it’s ready to be used.) It's as effective as regular Bubble Wrap, with one caveat: once filled, it doesn't make any satisfying noise when popped.

11. Bubble Wrap once kept a giant pumpkin from disaster.

Close-up of a giant pumpkin.
iStock

What happens when you drop an 815-pound pumpkin from a 35-foot crane? Normally, a crime scene. But in October 2000, a pumpkin-dropping contest in Iowa decided to see if a Bubble Wrap landing pad could protect "Gourdzilla" from harm [PDF]. Landing on the product, the mammoth squash was completely intact.

12. Popping Bubble Wrap may have health benefits.

Woman popping Bubble Wrap on a table with coffee nearby.
iStock

Popping Bubble Wrap ranks among life’s greatest small pleasures. Some have theorized it may have to do with our ancestral habit of crushing ticks or other insects that plagued us—although the truth may be a little less morbid. In 1992, psychology professor Kathleen Dillon conducted a study in which she found that subjects were more relaxed and less tired after a popping session. One possible reason: Humans are soothed by tactile sensations of touch, which is why some cultures favor smooth stones or "worry beads" to manipulate for comfort. That might explain why virtual popping on cell phones or screens doesn't have quite the same effect.

13. Bubble Wrap was a Toy Hall of Fame finalist in 2016.

Child popping Bubble Wrap.
iStock

Popping Bubble Wrap has become such a beloved pastime that the National Toy Hall of Fame once considered it for inclusion. In 2016, the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York nominated Bubble Wrap along with Care Bears, Dungeons & Dragons, and other playthings for induction. Bubble Wrap didn't make the cut, but for a "toy" that is essentially nothing but air, it must have been an honor just to be considered.

14. You can opt for fancy versions of Bubble Wrap.

Bubble Wrap with heart shapes.
Aimee Ray, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bored with conventional Bubble Wrap? Sealed Air also manufactures sheets with air cushions shaped like letters that spell out "happy holidays" and chambers shaped like hearts or smiley faces.

15. Sealed air once made golden wrap.

Gold Bubble Wrap.
Delyth Angharad, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Bubble Wrap's debut as a shipping staple, Sealed Air released a special commemorative golden Bubble Wrap in 2010.

16. One bride wore a bubble wrap wedding dress.

Woman laying down, wearing bubble wrap.
Felipe Neves, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

With an eye on a sustainable gown for her wedding, England native Rachael Robinson decided to opt for a Bubble Wrap-crafted dress in May 2010. The dress was made at the school Robinson taught at for a fashion show of recyclable materials. It featured a three-foot Bubble Wrap train. (She wore a more conventional dress at a second ceremony.)

17. Norway uses Bubble Wrap to prevent hypothermia.

Emergency responders carrying a stretcher in the snow.
iStock

When transporting critically ill patients, Norwegian emergency medicine technicians sometimes use Bubble Wrap to prevent hypothermia in the frigid climate. In 2009, a study was conducted to determine Bubble Wrap's efficacy in heat retention in mannequins. It was found to be only 69 percent as effective as blankets, or about the equivalent of a sleeping bag.

18. Bubble Wrap made the cover of Playboy in 1997.

Portrait of Farrah Fawcett.
Frank Micelotta, Getty Images

Proving that Bubble Wrap has unlimited uses, actress Farrah Fawcett posed wearing only a run of the see-through material for a 1997 Playboy cover and interior photo spread. Because the Wrap left nothing to the imagination, Fawcett's cover was shipped only to subscribers.

19. The Bubble Wrap factory is like an oven.

Sheet of Bubble Wrap
iStock

To churn out the miles of Bubble Wrap produced yearly, Sealed Air’s factory in Elmwood Park, New Jersey can be a bit stifling. The machines use resin to create the sheets at temperatures of 560 degrees, making the air around it "sweat-inducing."

20. Bubble Wrap is in the Museum Of Modern Art.

Close-up of Bubble Wrap.
iStock

In 2004, the Museum of Modern Art accepted a donation from Sealed Air of a nearly 12-inch by 12-inch square of Bubble Wrap into their Architecture and Design collection. It went on display as part of their Humble Masterpieces collection, which also featured chopsticks and the Band-Aid.

21. Amazon may ship your bubble wrap in protective packaging.

Curl of brown paper over Bubble Wrap.
iStock

A bizarre photo of a Bubble Wrap order covered in shipping paper made the viral rounds in 2015, with people puzzled why Amazon would need to protect protective packaging material. One possible answer: because the roll didn't take up the entire box, shippers reinforced the empty space with additional packing material so the cardboard wouldn't collapse and send stacked boxes above it tumbling.

22. Bubble Wrap has inspired young inventors.

Young girl with a
iStock

Back in 2007, Sealed Air sponsored a Bubble Wrap Competition for Young Inventors, encouraging grade school students to find alternative uses for their celebrated product. Among the ideas: using a layer of Wrap as a building material to absorb shock on floors; as a rest pad for carpal tunnel sufferers; and as a wallpaper designed to stimulate children with autism. The annual contest ran through 2010.

23. Bubble Wrap inspired a book.

Published in the 1998, The Bubble Wrap Book took a novel look at alternative uses for Bubble Wrap. Some were clearly intended for satirical purposes—like stuffing your wallet with the stuff to impress dates—while others may find some practical use. Making a mat out of Bubble Wrap could, in theory, alert you to a burglar.

24. You can buy a Bubble Wrap calendar.

Bored with marking off days with a big red X? Sealed Air licenses day calendars that allow consumers to punctuate dates by popping a giant bubble instead.

25. You can still use Bubble Wrap as insulation.

Globe wrapped in Bubble Wrap.
iStock

Sealed Air doesn't officially endorse its use as insulation, but Bubble Wrap can indeed do what its inventors aspired toward back in the 1950s. Using the packaging material around windows can help retain heat indoors and help keep homes cool during summer, with the trapped air in the bubbles having a thermal retention effect. This assumes you can keep from popping them.

26. Bubble Wrap appreciation day comes every january.

A man and a woman jump on a pile of Bubble Wrap in their living room
Paul Bradbury iStock via Getty Images

Mark it on your Bubble Wrap calendar. The “holiday” was invented by an Indiana radio station that inadvertently broadcast ASMR-like sounds when they opened a shipment of new microphones wrapped in the stuff.

27. Bubble Wrap had a noisy cameo in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective ...

28. ... a Touching cameo in WALL·E ...

29. ... and a hilarious cameo in Naked Gun 33 1/3.

30. Bubble Wrap goes great with chocolate.

Bars of chocolate piled on a gray table.
serezniy iStock via Getty Images

Spreading melted chocolate on a piece of Bubble Wrap and letting it harden creates a honeycomb-like pattern when the wrap is peeled off. Chocolatiers and bakers use this technique to create luxurious and impressive-looking treats and garnishes with very little time and effort.

31. Not all Bubble Wrap is created equally.

A swirl of colored light behind Bubble Wrap.
Helen Davies iStock via Getty Images

It comes in bubble sizes that range from 1/8” to 3/16”. When it comes to shipping, smaller bubbles keep items protected from scratches and scrapes, while larger bubbles are more effective for preventing damage from impact.

32. Bubble Wrap is made in 52 countries, and there's a lot of it.

Rolls of Bubble Wrap stacked
Valerii Maksimov iStock via Getty Images

Bubble Wrap is made in 52 countries. Every year, enough of the poppable stuff is made that it could wrap around the equator 10 times, or make it to the moon and back.

33. Bubble Wrap is hardly the only product that Sealed Air makes.

Bubble Wrap sheet in front of a black background
Kichigin iStock via Getty Images

Still, today, Bubble Wrap makes up just 2 percent of the Sealed Air’s sales. They’ve diversified their portfolio to include products like medical packaging solutions and a diverse array of food packaging products.

34. Bubble Wrap is Cryovac's cousin.

Yellow containers in front of an industrial machine for sealing things in plastic
sergeyryzhov iStock via Getty Images

Among other things, the Sealed Air company also owns Cryovac, a thin plastic that is shrink-wrapped around food and other items. They claim to be the company that invented vacuum sealing.

35. Bubble Wrap might be as good as a massage.

A woman with her eyes closed getting a neck massage.
Prostock-Studio iStock via Getty Images

You’re not imagining the psychological, stress-relieving benefits that come with popping Bubble Wrap. In 2012, the Bubble Wrap® Brand “Pop” Poll surveyed respondents and found that one minute of bubble-popping provides the stress relief equivalent to a 33-minute massage.

36. There are Bubble Wrap apps.

A man touches his finger to his smart phone screen.
Chainarong Prasertthai iStock via Getty Images

Both iPhone and Android offer Bubble Wrap apps. (No, they’re not as good as the real thing.)

37. The inventor's son was the first non-adult to pop it.

A teen girl in a yellow shirt pops Bubble Wrap
Maria Casinos iStock via Getty Images

The first person to pop bubble wrap: Howard Fielding, the inventor’s son. OK, maybe not, but he was close. “I remember looking at the stuff and my instinct was to squeeze it,” Fielding told Smithsonian Magazine. “I say I’m the first person to pop Bubble Wrap, but I’m sure it’s not true. The adults at my father’s firm likely did so for quality assurance. But I was probably the first kid. The bubbles were a lot bigger then, so they made a loud noise.”

38. Bubble Wrap popped big in the 1970s.

A pink piggy bank wrapped in Bubble Wrap
sqback iStock via Getty Images

Until 1971, Sealed Air was a relatively modest company, turning a profit of just $5 million. That’s when T.J. Dermot Dunphy was named CEO, and under his direction, the firm grew to $3 billion in sales by the time he left in 2000.

39. Bubble Wrap's inventors are in the New Jersey inventors Hall of Fame.

A man in suspenders and a hat writing the solution to a complex math problem on a large chalkboard.
francescoch iStock via Getty Images

In 1993, inventors Marc Chavannes and Alfred Fielding received a coveted spot in the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame for their Bubble Wrap contributions. Other honorees include Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.

40. Sealed Air employees know the value of Bubble Wrap's stress relief.

A man holds a sheet of Bubble Wrap tightly.
dekru iStock via Getty Images

According to The New York Times, at one point, employees at Sealed Air each received a small box of individual squares of Bubble Wrap to keep at their desks for emergency stress relief. (No word on whether this is still standard practice.)

41. Higher learning institutions recognize Bubble Wrap's mental health benefits, too.

Hands pop Bubble Wrap at a table with coffee.
alexeys iStock via Getty Images

The Bubble Wrap manufacturer isn’t the only organization to see the value in stress-popping. In 2019, The University of Bristol in England provided students with squares of Bubble Wrap to help relieve anxiety. In response to concerns about sustainability, the university issued a statement saying that the stunt was a clever way to reuse packing material that university furniture had come in.

42. Bubble Wrap has a massive online following.

A woman pops Bubble Wrap in front of her laptop computer.
IPGGutenbergUKLtd iStock via Getty Images

The “Popping Bubble Wrap” Facebook group has 460,000 members.

43. There's (fictional) lethal bubble wrap.

'Kerblam!' episode of 'Doctor Who'
BBC America

Kerblam!,” an episode of Doctor Who that aired in November 2018, introduced viewers to lethal Bubble Wrap.

44. Bubble Wrap has been used as a murder weapon.

The end of a sheet of Bubble Wrap
Paket iStock via Getty Images

But seriously, it really can kill. In 2017, a South Carolina man used Bubble Wrap as a murder weapon. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

45. You can buy a Bubble Wrap suit

A mother putting a helmet on a young son who is wrapped in Bubble Wrap.
D. Anschutz iStock via Getty Images

You can purchase a “bubble wrap suit.” After Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott donned bubble wrap suits in the cult movie Dude, Where’s My Car?, demand for bubble wrap suits skyrocketed. (Or at least, demand for bubble wrap suits suddenly existed.) If you can’t live without one, you can purchase the poppable attire for the surprisingly affordable price of $24.99.

46. You can make JELL-O shots with it.

If you’re very patient. Morena DIY uses a syringe to inject liquid Jell-O into a piece of Bubble Wrap with a large bubble size. After the dessert has set, she pops each one out of the makeshift mold to create dozens of dome-shaped shots.

47. Some people use Bubble Wrap to play Twister

Hands on a Twister game mat.
LIgorko iStock via Getty Images

Place some Bubble Wrap under your Twister mat for an added dimension to the party game

48. You can use Bubble Wrap to keep your pet warm.

Do not wrap your dog or cat in Bubble Wrap! But you can install it into an outdoor pet home to keep out the cold. You'll just want to keep it behind the paneling so your pooch doesn't pop it all.

49. Elon Musk thinks non-poppable Bubble Wrap is a sign of the end times.

Elon Musk called non-poppable Bubble Wrap “Clearly a sign of the apocalypse!” In 2019, four years after Sealed Air announced their non-poppable packing product iBubble, the news cycle once again picked up the story. Upon seeing the news of non-poppable Bubble Wrap on Twitter, Elon Musk professed his horror by announcing that it must be a bad omen. Fortunately for Musk and other stress poppers out there, Sealed Air continues to make traditional Bubble Wrap in addition to iBubble.

50. Bubble Wrap can help your freezer work better.

Bubble Wrap can be used to improve freezer efficiency. By filling any unused freezer space with wads of Bubble Wrap, you’ll prevent warm air from circulating, which makes your freezer work harder.

10 of the Most Popular Portable Bluetooth Speakers on Amazon

Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon
Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon

As convenient as smartphones and tablets are, they don’t necessarily offer the best sound quality. But a well-built portable speaker can fill that need. And whether you’re looking for a speaker to use in the shower or a device to take on a long camping trip, these bestselling models from Amazon have you covered.

1. OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Portable Speaker; $26-$30 (4.4 stars)

Oontz portable bluetooth speaker
Cambridge Soundworks/Amazon

Of the 57,000-plus reviews that users have left for this speaker on Amazon, 72 percent of them are five stars. So it should come as no surprise that this is currently the best-selling portable Bluetooth speaker on the site. It comes in eight different colors and can play for up to 14 hours straight after a full charge. Plus, it’s splash proof, making it a perfect speaker for the shower, beach, or pool.

Buy it: Amazon

2. JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $110 (4.6 stars)

JBL portable bluetooth speaker
JBL/Amazon

This nifty speaker can connect with up to three devices at one time, so you and your friends can take turns sharing your favorite music. Its built-in battery can play music for up to 20 hours, and it can even charge smartphones and tablets via USB.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker; $25-$28 (4.6 stars)

Anker portable bluetooth speaker
Anker/Amazon

This speaker boasts 24-hour battery life and a strong Bluetooth connection within a 66-foot radius. It also comes with a built-in microphone so you can easily take calls over speakerphone.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker; $129 (4.4 stars)

Bose portable bluetooth speaker
Bose/Amazon

Bose is well-known for building user-friendly products that offer excellent sound quality. This portable speaker lets you connect to the Bose app, which makes it easier to switch between devices and personalize your settings. It’s also water-resistant, making it durable enough to handle a day at the pool or beach.

Buy it: Amazon

5. DOSS Soundbox Touch Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $28-$33 (4.4 stars)

DOSS portable bluetooth speaker
DOSS/Amazon

This portable speaker features an elegant system of touch controls that lets you easily switch between three methods of playing audio—Bluetooth, Micro SD, or auxiliary input. It can play for up to 20 hours after a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Altec Lansing Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $15-$20 (4.3 stars)

Altec Lansing portable bluetooth speaker
Altec Lansing/Amazon

This lightweight speaker is built for the outdoors. With its certified IP67 rating—meaning that it’s fully waterproof, shockproof, and dust proof—it’s durable enough to withstand harsh environments. Plus, it comes with a carabiner that can attach to a backpack or belt loop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker; $33-$38 (4.6 stars)

Tribit portable bluetooth speaker
Tribit/Amazon

Tribit’s portable Bluetooth speaker weighs less than a pound and is fully waterproof and resistant to scratches and drops. It also comes with a tear-resistant strap for easy transportation, and the rechargeable battery can handle up to 24 hours of continuous use after a full charge. In 2020, it was Wirecutter's pick as the best budget portable Bluetooth speaker on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

8. VicTsing SoundHot C6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $18 (4.3 stars)

VicTsing portable bluetooth speaker
VicTsing/Amazon

The SoundHot portable Bluetooth speaker is designed for convenience wherever you go. It comes with a detachable suction cup and a carabiner so you can keep it secure while you’re showering, kayaking, or hiking, to name just a few.

Buy it: Amazon

9. AOMAIS Sport II Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $30 (4.4 stars)

AOMAIS portable bluetooth speaker
AOMAIS/Amazon

This portable speaker is certified to handle deep waters and harsh weather, making it perfect for your next big adventure. It can play for up to 15 hours on a full charge and offers a stable Bluetooth connection within a 100-foot radius.

Buy it: Amazon

10. XLEADER SoundAngel Touch Bluetooth Speaker; $19-$23 (4.4 stars)

XLeader portable bluetooth speaker
XLEADER/Amazon

This stylish device is available in black, silver, gold, and rose gold. Plus, it’s equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, a more powerful technology that can pair with devices up to 800 feet away. The SoundAngel speaker itself isn’t water-resistant, but it comes with a waterproof case for protection in less-than-ideal conditions.

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

11 Songs Inspired by Literature

Jonathan Dore, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Jonathan Dore, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Devo and Thomas Pynchon. Mick Jagger and Charles Baudelaire. Though they seem like rather unlikely pairings, many great rock songs have been the result of a lyricist finding inspiration in the pages of a book. These are just the tip of the iceberg.

1. “Pigs (Three Different Ones)" // Pink Floyd

The Novel: Animal Farm // George Orwell

Pink Floyd felt so strongly about Orwell’s barnyard take on revolution that they made a mascot from the book’s dictator pigs. The first incarnation of the famous Pink Floyd pigs popped up in 1976 for the photo shoot for 1977’s Animals album, which is based loosely around Animal Farm themes. "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" is about people in society with wealth and power.

2. “My Ántonia” // Emmylou Harris

The Novel: My Ántonia // Willa Cather

It's somehow not surprising that Emmylou Harris is a fan of Willa Cather. Written from the perspective of Jim, the man who loved Cather’s title character in My Ántonia, the song was actually composed several years prior to its release on the 2000 album Red Dirt Girl. Harris hung on to it for a while, not sure what she wanted to do with it since she had written it from a man’s perspective.

“One day I got the idea to make it a conversation and the song just seemed to write itself. Well, then I had to pick a 'leading man,'" Harris said when the album was released. "I had just done a show with Dave Matthews and I loved the way we sounded together. And he did a simply beautiful job.”

3. “Whip It” // Devo

The Novel: Gravity’s Rainbow // Thomas Pynchon

Devo's singer/bassist Jerry Casale told the website Songfacts that his band's monster hit was based on Pynchon's postmodern novel:

"'Whip It,' like many Devo songs, had a long gestation, a long process. The lyrics were written by me as an imitation of Thomas Pynchon's parodies in his book Gravity's Rainbow. He had parodied limericks and poems of kind of all-American, obsessive, cult of personality ideas like Horatio Alger and 'You're #1, there's nobody else like you' kind of poems that were very funny and very clever. I thought, 'I'd like to do one like Thomas Pynchon,' so I wrote down 'Whip It' one night."

4. “Wuthering Heights” // Kate Bush

The Novel: Wuthering Heights // Emily Brontë

An 18-year-old Kate Bush wrote her breakout song after seeing just 10 minutes of Wuthering Heights on TV in 1977. In 1980, she told an interviewer on the Canadian show Profiles in Rock that she was inspired by the novel's heroine:

“I am sure one of the reasons it stuck so heavily in my mind was because of the spirit of Cathy, and as a child I was called Cathy. It later changed to Kate. It was just a matter of exaggerating all my bad areas, because she's a really vile person, she's just so headstrong and passionate and ... crazy, you know?”

5. “The Ghost of Tom Joad” // Bruce Springsteen

The Novel: The Grapes of Wrath // John Steinbeck

Springsteen was inspired by John Ford’s big-screen adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Great Depression saga. “The Ghost of Tom Joad” is a 1990s version of The Grapes of Wrath, meant to serve as a reminder that modern times are just as difficult for some. Rage Against the Machine covered the song in 1997.

6. “Sympathy for the Devil” // The Rolling Stones

The Novel: The Master and Margarita // Mikhail Bulgakov

In 1968, Mick Jagger’s then-girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull, passed along a little book she thought he might enjoy. Jagger ended up writing “Sympathy for the Devil” after reading the novel, which starts when Satan, disguised as a professor, walks up and introduces himself to a pair of men discussing Jesus.

Jagger later suggested that some of the lyrics may have been inspired by the works of Charles Baudelaire as well, which makes “Sympathy” the product of a pretty well-read rock star.

7. “Holden Caulfield” // Guns N' Roses

The Novel: The Catcher in the Rye // J.D. Salinger

Guns n' Roses' much-awaited 2008 album Chinese Democracy contained a song called “The Catcher in the Rye” after the J.D. Salinger classic. Some surmised that the song is really about another culture-changing event that Holden Caulfield was involved in: the assassination of John Lennon in 1980. Lennon’s murderer was carrying a copy of the book when he pulled the trigger.

8. “Tales of Brave Ulysses” // Cream

The Poem: The Odyssey // Homer

Even Eric Clapton couldn’t resist the Sirens from The Odyssey; this classic Cream song references the mythological enticing beauties (Clapton sure knew his share of those). Though it’s Clapton singing, the lyrics were written by Martin Sharp, who had just returned from vacation in Ibiza and was inspired by the exotic scenery—beaches and women alike, presumably.

9. “Breathe” // U2

The Novel: Ulysses // James Joyce

Speaking of The Odyssey, it’s no surprise that The Edge and Bono would want to pay homage to their fellow Irishman James Joyce by setting “Breathe” on June 16. That’s the day Leopold Bloom embarks throughout the pages of Joyce’s Ulysses, and it’s also the day that Joyce fans everywhere honor his work by celebrating Bloomsday.

10. “Ramble On” // Led Zeppelin

The Novel: The Lord of the Rings // J.R.R. Tolkien

If you’ve ever listened to the lyrics of “Ramble On,” this is not going to come as a surprise to you. For example:

“'Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor
I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up
And slipped away with her.”

11. “Scentless Apprentice” // Nirvana

The Novel: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer // Patrick Süskind

This horror book was a modest hit thanks in part to Kurt Cobain, who frequently mentioned that it was one of his favorite reads. He liked it so much, in fact, he wrote a song about it and put it on his band's 1993 album In Utero. The book is about a man who kills young women and captures their scents in order to make the perfect perfume. I won’t spoil the ending for you—and neither does “Scentless Apprentice.”