Grab a good book and cozy on back into your favorite reading nook. For bookworms and teachers alike, these ink styles tell quite an intriguing story.
As the great Earnest Hemingway once said, “There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
Of course, the same can be said about tattoos when you consider they are permanently a part of you.
While reading for some men may seem like a bore or even a chore, the truth is, every page unlocks a new chapter in our lives filled with inspiration and ideas to think about.
Just consider giving one of these top 150 best books for men a read. I’m sure you’ll wonder how the past two hours have mysteriously vanished once you get past the cover. Needless to say, their easy to get lost in.
With that said, I’d like to show you a collection of the top 75 best book tattoos for men below. From traditional designs to modern watercolor ink styles, each holds an interesting meaning and story.
1. Open Book Tattoos
An open book is always a gateway. Whether you decide to fill the pages or leave them blank, an open book tattoo is a classic design for the love of language. Use color to make the piece pop like the blue smoke coming out of old yellowed pages. Or stick with the color of the printed word and stick with blank ink. The greyscale sleeve of roses and open books fades especially well into the unblemished skin of the shoulder.
The inside of a book also doesn’t have to be linguistic, as with the piece depicting the Pyramids of Giza. The bold use of warm colors with neo-traditional styling especially makes the piece stand out. Open book tattoos can also convey a sense of foreboding, as with the first and sixth piece.
The escaping spirits in the sixth example have a transient feel from the pastel ink and unblemished skin between. Put a comedic spin on a hauntingly empty book with a spooky sad ghost. Or fill the pages instead, leaning an open journal against a stack of books in an amalgamation of the love of language.
2. Stack of Books Tattoos
One of the best things about a stack of books tattoo is the space on their spines. Immortalize your favorite titles have a list of recommendations always on hand or arm. Or leave them blank so as to not make other books jealous. A great option if you have too many favorites to choose from or if you want to represent the variety of potential that is language and reading. Stack the books parallel to one another like the second piece on the bicep, or spread them like the third piece on the shoulder blade.
There’s a great deal of experimentation possible when it comes to placement, design, and color choice. The piece in the fifth image especially uses a striking combination of color, linework, fading, and dotwork. Or if you prefer something subdued and smaller, the first piece is great inspiration for a minimalist design.
3. Closed Book Tattoos
A closed book represents untapped potential, mystery, and fantasy. With the image of a closed book tattoo you have free reign over the cover design, something most writers would only dare to dream of when publishing a novel or story. Play with a colorful design or stick with black ink depending on your preferences.
A closed book is a good choice if you prefer a small book tattoo, since it’s a self-contained design. I love the addition of the dagger in the last piece. With book tattoos the possibility for symbolic play is endless whether you’re taking a page out of a particular book or not. And just because it’s closed doesn’t mean there isn’t something trying to come out. Throw a hand in there with the potential to throw things wide open.
4. Owl with Book Tattoos
Around the world and throughout history, the owl has long been associated with knowledge, going back at least to Athena the Greek goddess of wisdom. Whether through Aesop’s Fables or Winnie-the-Pooh, owls have many connotations to literature as well.
Pop a graduation cap on your owl and perch him studiously on a book. Or embrace his wild side and catch him in the midst of a text like in the last piece. It uses shading and shadow in such a captivating way, especially with the white outline around the bird. The second piece with the black ink owl holding the spiraling clock has an equally mythical feel, utilizing the negative space in the roses to add dimension. Color also makes a fantastic addition to the design. The blue feathering of the of the first piece makes the owl as magical as the text upon which it’s perched.
5. Traditional Book Tattoos
Whether you prefer the old-school American traditional or the bolder and more modern neo-traditional, both styles provide creative interpretations on book tattoos. With just a few embellishments the imagination can run wild. The single eye on the book cover in the fourth image reminds me of a whale and I can’t help but think of the book at Moby Dick.
You can discuss with your artist to come up with an ideal rendering, taking inspiration from the shading and bright colors of traditional styles. Whether you’re using a variety of color or sticking to black and a primary, traditional style book tattoos offer a wide variety of options for you to convey your love of literature. With the strong colors of the style, roses made for an especially beautiful addition to a traditional style book tattoo.
6. Skull and Book Tattoos
Something about a skull on a book just seems right, doesn’t it? Whether on a stack, an ominous open page, or both, a skull is the ultimate accessory to a book tattoo. There’s a variety of skulls to choose from.
I’m a fan of the ape skull with the deep, darkened colors of the books. Using white ink on the skull and teeth rather than negative space gives the entire piece distinction against the unblemished flesh. Center the skull in an elaborate chest piece and balance the symmetry of the piece with the body. Or choose a more traditional or neo-traditional style. Echoing the owl, fashion the skull with a graduation cap like the third piece. Or go with a more realistic feel, reminiscent of an oil painting in gray scale, like in the fourth piece shown. The use of negative space to indicate candle light is breathtaking, and combined with its placement on the top of the skull adds a very spooky feel.
7. Flaming Book Tattoos
While you’d never burn a real book, adding flames to your book tattoo gives it that intensity that reading deserves. Keep it simple with a few flickers on like in the second image. Turn up the heat with a fantastical sleeve. The angel wings on the flaming books evokes heaven and hell in the plurality of language and the simple line work denoting lines of text can emphasize the abstract symbolism.
I particularly like the abstract feel of the piece in the fourth image, with its gray scale movements aflame but contained. The fourth piece also has a particularly fanciful feel, with the book in flames watching you watch it burn. Flaming book tattoos especially call to mind Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury if you want to pay homage to the great American writer.
8. Reader and Book Tattoos
Reading is all about context so give your book tattoo a partner in crime by adding a reader. If you’re an avid reader a reader and book tattoo is a great option for a sleeve, letting the imagination of the book fade into the body. The disintegration of the text in the first piece balances beautifully with the shadowed walkway behind the reader. Represent the potential of reading, evoking the Dr. Seuss quote “Reading can take you places you have never before been.” The third piece is wonderful inspiration for such a piece, with the young child bolstering his own imaginative investigations through books. The style is reminiscent of watercolor while maintaining a concrete composition. The blue of the water is particularly striking.
Blast off into the abstract and the unknown with a more modernist and science-fiction design, depicting the truly mind-blowing nature of reading. Some even say that a story doesn’t exist until it’s read, so give your book tattoo a reader and bring the story to life.
9. Fantastical Book Tattoos
Few things are more fantastic than literature but these fantastical book tattoos add another layer to the fantasy. A lone eye always looks a little sinister, especially if you give it an inhuman aesthetic. The unfurling tongue in the third piece seems especially hungry, when usually its readers devouring the book.
Strike fear with a metallic bookbinding surrounding an ominous red pupil like the second piece. The effects of the swirling steam and the blades between the pages make for a menacing composition.
Or inspire the slightest mystery like the first piece. Something is escaping from the text; I’m thinking it’s either tentacles, magical smoke, or a dragon’s tail. But the beauty of fantastical book tattoos is that you can let the image and imagination run wild.
The last piece is my favorite, combing the supernatural with the literary and the aviary. The fixture of the eyes is riveting, with your own unsure of which to focus on. Using slight hints of color is a great way to make a piece stand out, as with the tongue and talons.
Book Tattoo FAQ’s
What do book tattoos symbolize?
An age-old depiction of language, book tattoos connote the love of reading or writing. Due to their versatility, book tattoos are a favorite among readers and writers. The potential for book tattoos are almost as great as the possibilities of a book.
Enjoy tattoos of tomes, bookings and bound words? Click on the galleries below for other examples taking a literary approach to ink: