One of Rory Gilmore’s most alluring qualities on Gilmore Girls was just how big of a bookworm she was. On one hand, get your head out of those pages and go experience some life, girl! On the other, I can’t really fault her for it, though — I was very much the same way growing up, always walking around with a book under my arm. Rory’s unfailing academic prowess was another character on the show, and we as viewers always knew that whether she was with Dean, Jess, or Logan, Rory would be A-OK because she had a strong sense of herself. And, part of that sense of self was that she loved to read. In fact, according to Australian writer Patrick Lenton, in just seven seasons, Rory Gilmore read a whopping 338 books during Gilmore Girls .
That’s a lot of paper, and making your way through all of those books would be a huge undertaking for any Gilmore Girls fan. If you were able to read two of these books a month (depending on the speed of your reading style and the amount of leisure time you had, of course), it would take you about 15 months to finish. In the interest of time, TiVo, and social lives, I’ve cut down that giant list into 12 books that you should focus on. Break out those Kindles, iPads, and library cards, folks, because here are Rory Gilmore’s best book picks.
1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Do you want to cry until your eyes fall out? Then pick up this book! An account of the year following the death of Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, The Year of Magical Thinking is a total weepfest, but it’s so beautifully written and affecting that you won’t care.
2. Ulysses by James Joyce
I’m very convinced that Rory never finished what I think is Joyce’s masterpiece (unlike Finnegan’s Wake, which is written in Klingon), mostly because there are some academics that barely understand it. But anyway, read what you can — you’ll find something different on the page every time you pick up this account of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom (yes you will yes).
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Is To Kill a Mockingbird the most difficult book on this list, prose-wise? Nope. Will it fill you with humanity? Absolutely. I’m sure you read this in, like, the seventh grade, but read it again as an adult: You’ll see it all in a whole new light.
4. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Set in Jefferson, Mississippi, this book centers on the Compsons, a formerly aristocratic family trying to come to terms with the dissolution of their golden age. One of the foundation books of the “stream of consciousness” movement, it wasn’t a hit when Faulkner first wrote it. Now, it’s on every library’s “Best of” list, so you should pick it up.
5. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
More of an extended essay than a regular book, Woolf’s thesis in A Room of One’s Own is that women need a place — both literally and metaphorically — in the writing canon, and boy, did Woolf make her own place in there. It’s one of the foremost feminist texts, and one that’s still worth a read nearly a hundred years later.
6. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Du Maurier was a brilliant suspense writer, and her tale of a woman caught in the shadow of her husband’s first wife is harrowing, frightening, and so well written that you really can’t put it down. You may not trust your significant other after this one, but at least you'll have experienced a great book.
7. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The newest novel on this list (it was published in 2003), it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction that year. Dealing with the effects of climate change in a far-off future land, it’s a beautiful tale of human evolution and structure. Plus, Atwood is a BAMF, so you should be reading her anyway (and following her on Twitter).
8. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
This novel won a Pulitzer Prize, but don’t pick it up because it won an award. Pick it up because it deals with intersexuality like no other book has done before. As Calliope, a young girl living in Michigan, evolves into Cal, readers feel every bump along the way in a journey to finding out who the character really is.
9. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
You all know this one: It’s notorious for its depiction of physical, ahem, relationships, and for its graphic-for-the-time sex (and all the unprintable words, but that’s beside the point). Pick it up and see how scandalous you think it is in 2015.
10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
The one that started it all! I reread this book every few years, just because Rowling is that good and it makes me feel like a kid again. A nerdy, wizard-wanting-to-be kid.
11. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 18 years old and published it when she was 20. Doesn’t that make you feel like an underachiever? Also, for the last time, Frankenstein refers to the protagonist doctor of the tale, not the monster.
12. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities was a book that I couldn’t put down, so you can imagine how original readers felt in 1859 when it was published only in serialized form: They had to wait weeks to read the next chapter. The work accounts the plight of the French peasantry during the French Revolution, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about love, sacrifice, social justice, and figuring out your place in the world.
Get reading, bookworms! Rory is outpacing us all.
Images: Screenshot/The WB; Giphy (12)