Way back in Season 1 of Orange Is the New Black, there was a brief moment when the crisp New York sunshine filtered down through colored leaves, and Piper Chapman settled into a grassy nook in the yard to enjoy peace, quiet, and a book. After all, a maxi pad may be useful as a sleep mask, a dust mop, or even a blindfold if the need arises, but only a good book can offer true relief when you've got time on your hands.
Of course, due to the dramatic bedbug debacle of Season 3, the Litchfield library was stripped of its bounty, and the inmates have been reduced to feeding upon Suzanne's creative genius — and what a story THAT is. With the current stock of publicly available titles reduced to a smoldering heap in the yard and The Time Hump Chronicles comfortably concluded, Litchfield Penitentiary has never seen such a literary shortage.
Hopefully that doesn't last for too long. So, when those good old MCC dollars finally see to it that the shelves get restocked, there is bound to be a run on the most recent bestsellers, as well as some lesser-known works. If you're wondering what your favorite inmate will get around to reading as soon as the Litchfield library shelves are plentiful, I have some guesses right here.
Piper Chapman: Grey by E.L. James
All throughout Season 1, Fifty Shades of Grey was a hot commodity at Litchfield, and although the library wasn't packing, Piper Chapman could always be counted on to spread the love around. Now that Chapman's got business on the brain and Grey is in stores, surely Litchfield's most entrepreneurial inmate can be counted on to satisfy the desires of her fellow readers — that is, after she's had a chance to wind down with the steamy sequel.
Alex Vause: Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
Now that she's back at Litchfield courtesy of a hot tip from her selfish girlfriend, Alex is having a pretty tough time of it. Along with paranoia and deep misgivings about her personal safety, nostalgia tinged with regret seem to have settled on the former drug runner's shoulders. Because languishing in her sorrows seems to be the order of the day and no one does abiding regret quite like Joan Didion, as soon as the library reopens a copy of Play it As It Lays is sure to be found dog-eared and wet with tears on dear Ms. Vause's pillow.
Stella Carlin: The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
The mysterious Aussie with the killer wit and nerves of steel has turned Litchfield on its head with brains and beauty. Although you can keep the girl out of trouble you can't keep trouble out of the girl, and Rachel Kushner's thrilling story of one bad girl going places is sure to appeal to the rebel heart that beats within that stony, scheming, sultry exterior.
Norma Romano: The Gospel of Anarchy by Justin Taylor
Up until now Norma has been something of a mystery — the silent sidekick without much of a backstory, but thanks to a healthy dose of Santeria and a hiatus from Red's overbearing influence, Norma is coming into her own this season and contending with a growing cult following. Although the traditional religious orders don't have much to say about what Norma has to offer, Justin Taylor's hypnotic story of eccentric anarchists seeking a new home within the decaying dreams of a Florida commune might provide just the right dose of cautionary exuberance.
Dayanara Diaz: Secret Garden by Johanna Basford
Daya's artistic proclivities are well-known within the walls of Litchfield, and the meditative delights of Johanna Basford's coloring book might be just what the expectant mother needs to take her mind off of her troubles.
Red Reznikov: The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Without giving anything away, I think it's safe to say that Red's days in the kitchen are far from over, but in prison — as in life — nothing lasts forever. As Red has worked her way from queen of the mess hall to master of the greenhouse and back, power and control have come and gone but an abiding love of food has never waned. Because Red seems to derive almost as much pleasure from thinking and talking about food as she does from the meals themselves, Alice Waters' sumptuous, simple, vivid descriptions of even the most basic meals is sure to put a smile on this calculating chef's face.
Suzanne Warren: The Pleasure Tube by Robert Onopa
Back when she was simply "Crazy Eyes," Suzanne Warren's sexual hunger marked Piper as a target. As seasons have passed, Suzanne has struggled to work through her emotions without ever losing that limitless imagination and deep, personal well of desire. Careening wildly through space and buoyed by lust lyric prose, Robert Onopa's The Pleasure Tube is perhaps the only piece of fiction that could truly occupy a mind like Suzanne's. Who knows — Onopa might even provide enough inspiration to set the incarcerated author on the path to a sequel herself.
Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson and Poussey Washington: Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin
With a love of Harry Potter that is virtually limitless and a deep appreciation for the finer texts in life, it's virtually criminal that Tasty and Poussey have been denied The Song of Ice and Fire series for so long. The epic storylines and shocking twists are sure to provoke heated commentary along the way, but in the end it's impossible to imagine the cannon of these two comrades without George R. R. Martin.
Carrie "Big Boo" Black: Christopher and His Kind by Christopher Isherwood
From her many wives to her masterful dancing, Boo has always been a grand presence within the walls of Litchfield, but only now are we beginning to understand her desparate journey to secure that singular identity. As Boo recalls her own heroic efforts to stand up for just exactly who she is, reading Christopher's Isherwood's seminal accounting of young gay men in Weimar Berlin is sure to make the cut for Boo's selective reading list.
Image: JoJo Whilden/Netflix