There are lots of reasons why Jess Mariano will always be our favorite of Rory Gilmore’s boyfriends — sorry Dean — and they’re reasons well beyond his bad boy ‘tude, his inexhaustible knowledge of all things punk rock, and all that intentionally-disheveled hair (although the hair really doesn’t hurt at all.) But what we love about Jess Mariano the most is that he was never without a book by his side. And it was usually (see: always) a really good book — especially if it was one of the books that Jess and Rory read together.
As any book lover will tell you, there is nothing that will win our hearts over quicker than a killer reading recommendation. Like Jess, if you’re a fellow reader who can introduce us not only to books we’ve never even heard of before, but books that we’ll totally dig, we’re yours forever. (Which is one reason we’re all on #TeamJess come the Gilmore Girls Revival season this November.) From literary legends like Ernest Hemingway and Allen Ginsberg, to music journalist/punk rock icon Legs McNeil, the Jess and Rory reading list is filled with cannot-miss writers — and we wouldn’t expect anything less from two of the most literary teens to ever grace our television screens.
Because our book-loving hearts are still crushed over the fact that Jess Mariano will always be the one who got away, here are 9 books that Rory and Jess read together.
1. Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
Ah, Jess Mariano — you book thieving-and-annotating bad boy. Howl , Allen Ginsberg’s iconic book of poetry that effectively defined the post-World War II Beat generation, is the first book Rory and Jess share on the show; and it’s also the book that let all us viewers know there was definitely more to Jess than met the eye. When Jess swipes Howl from Rory’s room during that ill-fated dinner hosted by Lorelai, and then returns it filled with margin notes, Rory was definitely impressed. (And so were we.)
2. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Although Rory and Jess never actually read Charles Dickens Oliver Twist together, we know they both read it because the novel serves as a true test of Jess’s literary prowess. After Jess steals Rory’s copy of Howl (see above) she jokingly calls him “Dodger” — aka: pickpocket and child crime boss, Jack Dawkins, also known as the Artful Dodger, a character in Oliver Twist. And Jess totally gets the reference (although for one of Dickens’s most well-known characters, Jess had to think about this one a tad too long, IMO.)
3. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Stars Hollow definitely played host to a number of noteworthy town shindigs over the years, but perhaps one of the most memorable was the basket bidding picnic, when Jess out-bid Dean for Rory’s ill-prepared lunch. And what did this literary duo discuss over the leftovers of the Gilmore girls’ fridge? Ayn Rand, of course. We all know Jess well enough by now to expect that the Objectivist author was definitely not high on his list of literary faves, but Rory urges him to give The Fountainhead — a novel about the battle between individuality and conformity — another try.
4. Ulysses by James Joyce
Technically Rory and Jess were reading James Joyce's Ulysses by Stuart Gilbert — a scholarly analysis of the original novel, written under the supervision of James Joyce himself — and technically Jess was the one reading it while Rory sort of glanced between him and the book over the counter at Luke’s Diner, but let’s not quibble over the tiny details here. We all remember this moment not because we love that Jess cares enough about Joyce to read a guide to his work (and we do), but because it’s the first moment that Dean can no longer avoid acknowledging the romance blossoming right under his nose. (Again, sorry Dean.)
5. Othello by William Shakespeare
In case you forgot, it was William Shakespeare’s play about the romance, disillusionment, and ultimate destruction of a marriage, Othello , that Rory was reading aloud to Jess when the two took an extra-long “study break” and Jess crashed Rory’s car, fracturing her wrist and earning the eternal wrath of Lorelai. It’s hard to decide which is more dramatic — Shakespeare’s play, or Jess and Rory’s own romance.
6. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil, Gillian McCain
When Luke enlists Rory to help Jess study, it’s a little hard to believe this well-meaning uncle really thought that plan would work (see above). While Rory pages though one of Jess’s textbooks, Jess refuses to talk about anything but Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s Please Kill Me — an oral history of the punk movement that features artists like Joey Ramone, Patti Smith, Lou Reid, The Doors, and The Velvet Underground — which he offers to loan Rory. She took him up on the offer.
7. The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton
My personal favorite of the Rory-and-Jess Reading List, Lawrence Lipton’s The Holy Barbarians is defined by Rory as a book “by a Venice Beach Beatnik, about Venice Beach Beatniks” and in part makes the case that the Beat movement was as much about politics as it was about art and literature. Given Jess’s eagerness to borrow this book from Rory, it’s a little surprising he responds so poorly to his own experience with Venice Beach Beatnicks when he follows his biological father to California, later in the series.
8. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
While we didn’t actually see Rory and Jess reading Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity together, we can assume they did based on the reference Jess makes to the novel about music aficionado and failing English record store owner Rob Fleming, when Rory comes to visit him in New York City, after he’s been banished from Stars Hollow following their car accident. In the city, Jess offers to take Rory to a record store that presumably resembles Hornby’s fictional Championship Vinyl, as Jess says it’s “right out of High Fidelity.” We know these two bookworms weren’t talking about the movie.
9. The Subsect by Jess Mariano
And finally, the Rory-and-Jess book that puts all the other Rory-and-Jess books to shame: The Subsect, by none other than Jess Mariano himself. We knew Jess had it in him all along too. We're just sad this book doesn't exist outside of Gilmore land.
Images: Warner Bros.; Giphy