My Top 5 Literary Moments in Gilmore Girls

Today is the day! Today is the day!Today is the day the Gilmore Girls revival comes to Netflix! My mild obsession with the seven season mother-daughter dramedy is no secret, so today I’d like to honor it by examining the bookish side of Stars Hollow.

The show is famous for its rapid-fire pop-culture references, and the literary world is certainly represented in those bits. After all, to say Rory is an avid reader would be a wild understatement. Somebody counted one day and determined that, in the seven seasons, the Gilmores allude to 334 books. You can take a survey here to see how many you’ve read. The first time I took it I felt like Rory when she finds out the Harvard Library houses 13 million volumes:

“I’m a failure. I am stupid. I am uninformed and ignorant and…I can’t even think of a second synonym for uninformed. I suck. I’ve read like, what, three hundred books in my entire life and I’m already sixteen? Do you know how long it would take me to read thirteen million books?”

-The Road Trip to Harvard, season two

So, in honor of Gilmore Girls’ Netflix debut today, I’ve picked the five most significant (to me) book references from the series. Ready? Go.

5. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust (1.11)

One evening at Max’s, Lorelai admits that, though she’s often compelled to begin sentences with “As Marcel Proust would say…” she’s never read Proust, so she really has no idea what he’d say. Ever the gentleman, Max loans her a copy of Swann’s Way. She makes it through the first sentence before realizing she’s not ready to commit. If I was an English major I might call that an ominous symbol of the fate of her relationship with Max. Oh, wait…

4. The Compact Oxford English Dictionary (1.15)

Rory’s father, Christopher, has been absent much of her life but, in an effort to tie up loose strings, has decided he wants to be “a pal she can rely on,” now. As a symbol of his new pal-ish reliability, he takes Rory to Andrew’s bookstore and insists on buying her the book of her dreams. In true Rory fashion, she chooses the Compact Oxford English Dictionary (which, for reasons unknown, the small town indie bookseller happens to have in stock). When Christopher’s credit card is declined his promise falls through, and we’re left wondering just how reliable he’ll really be from here on out.

3. Emma by Jane Austen (1.08)

Dean grudgingly tolerates Rory’s penchant for browsing libraries and book sales, but he’s just not a reader — an early indicator that their relationship is doomed. But in one episode, very early on, we see evidence that he might have a little bookishness in him, deep, deep down. He returns the copy of Emma Rory has coerced him into reading, admitting that it wasn’t so terrible, and suggesting she try a little Hunter S. Thompson. Funny, though, we never see Dean reading again. (Let’s be real, it was early in the relationship, so he was probably just trying to impress Rory.)

2. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman 5.16

After he and Emily return from their second honeymoon, Richard presents Rory with a 100-year-old copy of Leaves of Grass – in Greek. Rory gushes over the gift much the way she gushed over the leather-bound first edition Flaubert he’d found in his study in season two. These rare-book-geekery moments define the affectionate relationship between Rory and her grandfather and, in a bittersweet sort of way, highlight the distance between Lorelai and her father.

1. Howl by Allen Ginsburg (2.5)


Oh, Jess. When Luke’s troubled nephew comes to town, he raises a lot of eyebrows. But he wins Rory’s heart when, having claimed not to be much of a reader, he swipes her copy of Howl and proves the opposite. This isn’t the last time Jess and Rory bond over books, either. He reappears in season six, having gotten his act together and written a book, which he travels to Hartford to show her. These are just the first and last instances (bookends, if you will) that demonstrate Jess is smart enough and witty enough to keep up with Rory, and that Huntzberger ought to be history.

So, what are your favorite bookish Gilmore Girls moments?