The Word Made Flesh: The Most Badass Picture Book

By Melanie Yarbrough

It’s a new kind of anthology, except instead of big-name editors giving you the nod or the finger, the choosing power is given to everyday readers. Like you and me and these folks.

Creators and compilers, Eva Talmadge and HTMLGiant contributor Justin Taylor, caught onto the trend taking the tattoo world by storm: The Lit Tat. Over a year ago they made their first call for submissions on HTMLGiant. Flash forward to today, with their book trailer (above), ongoing  collection of photos and literary quote inspirations over at, and the official release of The Word Made Flesh last week, Eva and Justin have come quite a long way from noticing that both of their roommates came home with literary tattoos.


The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide is a guide to the emerging subculture of literary tattoos — a collection of 100 full-color photographs of human skin indelibly adorned with quotations and images from Pynchon to Dickinson to Shakespeare to Plath. Packed with beloved lines of verse, literary portraits, and illustrations — and statements from the bearers on their tattoos’ history and the personal significance of the chosen literary work — The Word Made Flesh is part photo collection, part literary anthology written on skin.

The Boston Phoenix did a cover story on the book last week: “Lit snobs, hot librarians, and the rise of the literary tattoo.” The article brings up an interesting (and exciting, for me) detail: Many of the participants in the lit tat movement are book professionals, from publishers to writers to librarians. So, you mean I can get that stack of books tattoo’d on my arm and still aspire to be a respected member of the publishing world? The Phoenix has high hopes for the book’s future implications: “With any luck, the book will be used as a primary source by anthropologists of the future who have set out to understand what happened to bibliophiles when physical books began to disappear. At the very least, they’ll learn that literary passions ran broadly, and deep, and weren’t readily digitized.”

Hopefully there will be more than just this book to do that, though. Whether you’re just a meaningful tat fan or a literary snob, The Word Made Flesh promises to hit the spot. Check out their on-going online version of the book at or follow them on Twitter.

Have a copy? Send us your thoughts on the book! Have your own literary tattoo? Send us a picture and we’ll send you our very own The Things They Read stickers! (If you tattoo our logo on yourself, we’ll give you 1,000 stickers!*)

*Not really; those things aren’t cheap! But you’re still welcome to spread the word via your flesh.

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