Dickinson premiered on Apple TV+ at the beginning of this month, but it's already generating a lot of hype, particularly for those of us who never quite got over our Emily Dickinson "phase." For those looking for supplementary material in this new phase of the famed poet, look no further than this lit lover's guide to watching Dickinson, replete with all the books you need to read to stay abreast of what's going on in the charming new series.
For some, the idea of Emily Dickinson being a bratty teenager is just too much to bear, but at least one Dickinson scholar says the show's portrayal is true to the poet she knows. Whether or not the show remains true in its depictions of the various players in Dickinson's life varies from character to character — John Mulaney captures the utter weirdness of Henry David Thoreau in his cameo, while Matt Lauria's Benjamin Newton is less than historically accurate, for example.
If you're currently enjoying Dickinson, or planning to take a deep dive in before Season 2 comes out, here's what you should read if you want to find out more about Emily Dickinson and her world:
Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Obviously, no Dickinson reading list would be complete without Dickinson's own poetry, so let's get this out of the way first, shall we? Hope Is the Thing with Feathers takes its name from one of Dickinson's most famous poems, and, if you don't already own a complete collection from the poet, it's a must-have.
Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds by Lyndall Gordon
One thing Dickinson perfectly captures about Emily Dickinson's life is the sheer amount of drama that she and her family become involved with. In Lyndall Gordon's Lives Like Loaded Guns, you'll learn about a major rift in Amherst society, caused by Dickinson's brother Austin's affair with Mabel Todd, the wife of a local professor.
Othello by William Shakespeare
Dickinson sees the poet friends stage her own version of Othello. If you haven't read Shakespeare's play before, or if it's just been a while, you should consider picking up your own copy to read as you're watching the Apple TV+ series.
Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson's Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson, edited by Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith
You might have noticed the ~connection~ between Emily and Susan in Dickinson. In case you were wondering, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that they were more than friends in real life. Check out this collection of Emily's letters to her sister-in-law and see what you think!
Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux
Published just before Little Women's 150th anniversary in 2018, Anne Boyd Rioux's Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy explores the impact of Louisa May Alcott's most famous novel over the decades since its release in 1868. Although Dickinson probably never met Alcott in real life, reading Rioux's book will impress upon you the importance of the poet's contemporary on women's literature.
Emily Dickinson's Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Iconic Poet by Marta McDowell
Emily Dickinson's garden might not get as much love in Dickinson as it did in real life, but that's all the more reason to read this book. From Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life author Marta McDowell comes Emily Dickinson's Gardening Life — a book that examines how botany influenced the famous author's work.
Walden: Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau
In Dickinson, Emily remarks that Walden Pond is not at all like Henry David Thoreau described it. To fully understand what she means, you'll have to read Walden: Life in the Woods — the story of Thoreau's trek into the not-so-wild wilderness of New England.
Texts from Jane Eyre and Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
Daniel Mallory Ortberg made a name for himself by publishing funny and razor-sharp takes on classic literature over at The Toast. That website may be defunct now, but you can pick up some of his best work, including his Emily Dickinson jokes, in Texts from Jane Eyre.
These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson by Martha Ackmann (Feb. 25)
OK so this book isn't coming out until the end of the winter, but I couldn't make this list without including it. Martha Ackmann's These Fevered Days distills Dickinson's life down to the 10 key moments that most influenced her development and work. This book is a must read for any Dickinson — or Dickinson — fan.