Kimmy Schmidt, the unbreakable heroine of Netflix’s eponymous recent smash hit series, has just emerged from an underground bunker where she has resided with several other imprisoned members of a doomsday cult for 15 years. Kimmy has a lot of catching up to do as she finds her feet in New York City and wins the hearts of viewers in the process, but she has several things going for her to help make the transition to life in the modern world. One of course, is her unbreakable spirit. The other is her love of books.
Among Kimmy’s precious few material possessions is her well-worn copy of The Baby-sitter’s Club Mystery #12: Dawn and The Surfer Ghost, a book that not only offered reading sustenance while down in the bunker, but aided Kimmy in decoding the bizarre behavior of her reluctant teenaged charge, Xanthippe (!) Voorhees.
But it’s time for Kimmy to move on from The Baby-sitter’s Club , so this list features all the must-reads of the past decade and a half, each one chosen to help her find her footing in the 21st century and ensure that her indomitable optimism doesn’t succumb to culture shock. So Kimmy, ask directions to the nearest public library and load up. Pro tip: the card catalogue is now on the computer.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
I know. Tina Fey created Kimmy Schmidt, and recommending Fey’s book to Kimmy launches this whole thing into an existential spinout of Kafka-esque proportions, but humor me. Fey is a pop culture/feminist touchstone for any modern woman, and Kimmy needs her to be step one, desperately.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Kimmy Schmidt may be unbreakable, but eventually she’ll have to acknowledge and mourn for her lost years. There is no better grief doula than Joan Didion, whose grace, elegance and honesty will help Kimmy get through the tough moments, and also maybe teach her not be quite so much of a spazz.
No Logo by Naomi Klein
Kimmy, welcome to capitalism. People are treated as brands, corporations are treated as people, and 99 percent of us have no money, yet we sure do like to spend it on crap. No Logo won’t necessarily teach you about the intricacies of the current world’s economy, but it might help you remain resolute in your personal consumer choices, light-up shoes and all.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Reading Harry Potter will contextualize a great deal of 21st century pop culture for Kimmy, and I think it will give her something to bond with Buckley Voorhees over. Kimmy is practically a wizard herself, and I can see her now, muttering "Muggles!" under her breath when confronted with unimaginative humans. Also, let’s not forget that Harry slept in a cupboard for 11 years.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell has written several popular social commentaries, but this is a good place for Kimmy to start. She should get or be able to infer most of the references, and Outliers has the best anecdotes with which to impress acquaintances at dinner parties — especially since Kimmy is an outlier of sorts, herself.
God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
Kimmy does live in NYC, so sooner or later, Hitchens is sure to come up in conversation. This is a good place to be introduced to his wit and wisdom, and though Kimmy may be the ultimate optimist, I have a feeling she would likely agree with Hitchens’s assessment of religious zealots given her experience with Richard Wayne Gary Wayne. (P.S. That's the best name for a religious zealot, ever.)
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen
Because we need to get to her before the paleo crowd does. I don’t know what kind of food Kimmy had to endure for the past 15 years, and I certainly don’t want to make her feel bad about eating a variety of yummy things, but she’s out of the bunker now, and the state of our industrialized food complex is something she should know about. Kimmy, repeat after me: eat food; not too much; mostly plants.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
But girl, get that food from great restaurants. You’re in New York City for goodness sake, and Anthony Bourdain is the man responsible for our modern obsession with/disdain for fetishizing celebrity chefs and the food they prepare. Read the book that launched Bourdain’s career as host of a thousand Food Network shows.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
It’s certainly no The Baby-Sitter’s Club Mystery #12: Dawn and the Surfer Ghost — what is?! — but Kimmy should definitely check out the book that has heralded in a new age of thrillers, not in the least because of the complex female characters who get to enact revenge, both physical and intellectual, on domineering, messed-up men.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
We can mock it all we want, but if Kimmy had been above-ground for the remainder of her YA years, she would have read the Twilight series. She deserves a bit of salaciousness, and in terms of current popular culture context, it’s important for everybody to remember that Fifty Shades began as a story from the Bella/Edward spank bank.
Image: Eric Liebowitz courtesy of Netflix