November 4, 2015
A reading list for Rory Gilmore
by Zeljka Marosevic
The rumours had been raging all summer but it was only a couple of weeks ago that Netflix confirmed it would be reuniting the cast of Gilmore Girls for four new 90 minute episodes. Fifteen years after the drama first aired, and eight years since it ended, Gilmore Girls is still fiercely loved by its fans. And if those fans can be characterised in one word, that word is bookish.
Not many hit dramas are about characters who are big readers, and Gilmore Girls filled this void. As a teenager Rory Gilmore always carried a bag large enough to fit in a book, and during her time at Yale she preferred staying in and studying to throwing parties. She began her high school valedictorian speech with the words: “I live in two worlds, one is a world of books.” That world extended to the fast-paced conversations with her mother Lorelai, which were stuffed with literary references, and many of the episodes have titles that are puns on the names of books or authors.
Even outside of the show, Rory has become a kind of inspiration for readers. The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge lists the 339 books that Rory was seen reading or at one point referenced during the show, and challenges viewers to complete them all, too.
But it’s been eight years since the show finished and a lot has happened since in the world of books and literary culture. In order to re-join the literary conversation in 2016, Lorelai and Rory have quite a bit of catching up to do. So to help them out, here’s a list of must-reads, and some predictions of what the ever-opinionated Gilmore girls will think of them:
The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante—I think we all know who is Lena and who is Lila.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt—Rory prefers The Secret History.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James—both mother and daughter will be appalled by this glitch in the culture but Lorelai won’t be able to resist some grossly inappropriate jokes.
My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard—Of course Rory will be diligently reading through the novels. Because love is blind, Lorelai will decide Luke bears a striking resemblance to Karl Ove. Luke won’t know who she is talking about.
The late novels of Jonathan Franzen—The Gilmore girls have of course missed the rise and rise of Jonathan Franzen. There will be jokes aplenty about adopting Iraqi war orphans. Rory will prefer Nell Zink.
Blue Nights by Joan Didion—Although the show previously referenced Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, they’ll need to catch up on Blue Nights, which appeared after the show finished. The book will have some resonance with mother and daughter but they’ll be more interested in Didion’s emergence as a style icon, who Lorelai will compare to Emily.
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace—Rory will have read this numerous times ‘for fun’, and her references will be riffs on aspects of the footnotes, which she will defend to the death.
The prose fiction of Ben Lerner—Jess will be reading 10:04 when Rory is reunited with him. His now burgeoning independent publisher will have published a collection of Lerner’s poems.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates—After following Obama on his campaign trail, Rory will be disappointed by the current state of racial politics in America. She’ll be reading Coates and making notes.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg—Rory and Lorelai will use any opportunity to ridicule Lean In thinking, preferring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists and Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain things to Me.
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham—Before there was Girls, there was Gilmore Girls. Some kind of self-referential moment is called for.
Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.