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If You Like...What to Read Based On Your Favorite 2000s Show

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • September 09, 2020

Gilmore Girls

Ah, mothers and daughters: So much love! So much drama! So much junk food! This show captures the push-and-pull feelings that can make intimate relationships so powerful and tenuous. Free-spirited, single mother Lorelai has chosen a life independent of her wealthy parents in an attempt to escape their staid expectations. She and Rory, her serious, driven teenage daughter, balance each other beautifully. And then there's the lovely little enclave of Stars Hollow, full of eccentric characters and small-town scandals.

Our number one recommendation has to be the charming memoir from actress Lauren Graham. Talking as Fast as I Can showcases the actress’s bubbly personality and rapid-fire wit. Sharing anecdotes from making the show and what she learned along the way, it's like sitting down for coffee and doughnuts with Lorelai herself.

Indulge in a few more tasty, high-calorie snacks:

Lost

This gasp-inducing, melodramatic puzzle of a show references lots of great literature, from Alice in Wonderland to Catch-22 to the Bible. But for books that capture the mind-bending feeling that Lost offers, look for a mix of themes including survival, conspiracy, flashback storytelling, globetrotting locales, and astonishing developments. Here are some stories that will leave you saying things like: "What?"..."No way?!"...and "But that's impossible!"

Don't start reading Lexicon by Max Barry if you have anywhere you need to be, because this award-winning page-turner will take you hostage from the get-go. The story draws you in with high voltage action, backstory-building flashbacks, and a diverse network of characters connected by a far-reaching, mysterious organization. Warning: this book contains some episodes of intense violence.

Get lost on these trippy adventures:

  • The Stand by Stephen King: We've heard that Lost writers were heavily influenced by this bestseller, which features normal people living in a post-apocalyptic world and battling forces of good and evil.
  • Rust by Royden Lepp: This gorgeous, sepia-toned graphic novel series offers perplexing, slow-burning suspense. A relatively small cast of characters allows for nuanced emotions and complex relationships.
  • Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane: This first person narrative is not particularly violent (refreshing!) and the plot moves steadily forward, gaining momentum with every new development.

Veronica Mars

Solving mysteries has never been so much fun as with sharp, sassy teen Veronica and her slyly clever, tough-as-nails Pop. The show's breezy California noir vibe expertly walks a fine line between comedy and tragedy. The new reboot is great, but with only eight episodes, you've probably already binged it, right? What's a girl to do? Duh. Books, of course! No worries. We've gotcha covered. The only thing missing is Backup.

For the ultimate Mars immersion, you can tap into the Veronica Mars series (only two books, so far) cowritten by none other than series creator Rob Thomas. The books find Veronica ten years after high school, ditching her law degree and returning to Neptune and PI work.

Here are some other leads for you to follow:

The Sopranos

It's the story of a mob boss who goes into therapy to work on finding balance between family life and his role as the leader of a criminal organization. Show creator David Chase, hoping to break out of TV, pitched the idea as a movie. But luckily for us, HBO made him an offer he couldn't refuse. This brilliant series paved the way for a darker, grittier brand of television like The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men.

There are, of course, many great books about organized crime, but at its heart, The Sopranos is really about family. And with Tony Soprano, we find a sympathetic antihero who, amidst the corruption and violence of his occupation, is trying to figure out how to be a better person. A close approximation might be Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi. This book inspired Martin Scorcese's Goodfellas, but Wiseguy offers a much richer and more robust story than the film.

Get in on a couple more sure bets:

  • The Valachi Papers by Peter Maas: This nonfiction first-person account from a disgruntled soldier of New York's Genovese crime family is excellent. Plus a copy of the book was used as a prop in a scene from The Sopranos.
  • Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman: A YA novel about the son of a mobster who falls in love with the daughter of an FBI agent. Kind of like Romeo and Juliet meets Godfather.
  • Five Families by Selwyn Raab: This tome is definitely a commitment, but it provides a comprehensive history of the ups and downs of America's most powerful Mafia empires.

Friday Night Lights

Do you love football? Does it even matter? Fans of the heartfelt drama may not know the difference between a linebacker and a tight end. But luckily that's not necessary to appreciate the engaging stories of the Dillon Panthers as they pursue life, love, and victory. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!

If you haven't read the book that inspired the show, do so immediately. H. G. Bissinger's nonfiction account of big football dreams in a small Texas town offers a brilliant exploration of the social, economic, and racial dynamics in the rural American South.

You could also consider one of these solid plays:

  • First and Then by Emma Mills: This YA novel has been described as Friday Night Lights meets Pride and Prejudice. Devon Tennyson thinks she knows exactly what she wants in life. But the universe has other plans.
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely: Social and racial tensions loom large in Dillon. This story examines these same themes when an episode of shocking violence exposes a community's divisions.
  • Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines: This story chronicles the unlikely connection of two small-town teens both struggling with painful pasts. The first in a charming series.

The great television of the 2000s is hard to replace! But hopefully some of these volumes will provide the perfect diversion for what you've been missing.

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