Some folks may not realize it, but The Golden Girls is actually a very literary show. Not only are there many clever references to books throughout the series, but the Girls are frequently shown reading in the living room or on the lanai. Blanche even tries to write her own book at one point and later becomes angry when she mistakenly thinks her sister Charmaigne’s novel is based on her. Dorothy also visits the library at least three times a week, and of course who could forget her brush with Miami’s so-called literary intelligentsia, Barbara Thorndyke?
This post was inspired by Katie Yee’s recent LitHub article that pairs books with episodes of The Twilight Zone. Readers’ advisory is also one of my favorite things to do as a librarian, so I’ve chosen an episode from each season of The Golden Girls and matched them with a book that’s similar in some way. Read on to discover why!
Season 1: The Engagement
Read: Other People We Married by Emma Straub
Marry Harry, marry Harry?? Yes, Blanche very nearly married a bigamist named Harry in the pilot, but this episode is also full of the kind of hilarious and touching moments that would make the show such a hit. Emma Straub’s Other People We Married will take you through the highs and lows of the language of love in stories with “characters as recognizable as a best friend.”
Season 2: End of the Curse
Read: I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
In “End of the Curse” Blanche deals with starting menopause while Dorothy and Rose start a business raising minks in the garage. One seemingly doesn’t have much to do with the other, but that’s life! Nora Ephron was a writer who was known for her similarly humorous takes on life. I Feel Bad About My Neck is Ephron’s collection “about life as a woman of a certain age” that will have you laughing out loud and seeing a little bit of yourself in her words.
Season 3: My Brother, My Father
Read: Wow, No Thank You: Essays by Samantha Irby
Dorothy and Stan pretend to be married when Sophia’s brother Angelo, a priest (except not really), comes to visit. Meanwhile, Rose and Blanche are rehearsing for a regional production of The Sound of Music and collecting lingerie for needy sexy people. It’s a farce that only The Golden Girls could pull off! Similarly, Samantha Irby’s latest collection of essays offers a “frighteningly precise look at the cultural landscape” told in her witty and laugh-out-loud irreverent style.
Season 4: Yes, We Have No Havanas
Read: Chances by Jackie Collins
Sophia and Blanche fight over the same man in an unexpected love triangle in “Yes, We Have No Havanas.” When he dies they discover just how many, many other women he also dated! If you’ve got a hankering for something a little tawdry and trashy, then Jackie Collins is your gal! Chances is the first novel in her Santangelo series, and it follows the exploits of the mob family by the same name. This one is also perfect if you’ve always wished that Vixen: Story of a Woman was a real book.
Season 5: The Accurate Conception
Read: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Blanche’s daughter Rebecca arrives in Miami and announces that she’s going to have a baby by artificial insemination. Throughout the process mother and daughter have to come to terms with their differences. Celeste’s Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere explores “the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood” in her modern version of a small town secrets and lies novel.
Season 6: Henny Penny–Straight, No Chaser
Read: Patti LuPone: A Memoir by Patti LuPone
We get an honest to goodness floor show in “Henny Penny–Straight, No Chaser” when all of the kids in the play at Dorothy’s school are quarantined due to the measles. This means they have to re-cast it with adults and, well, you know the rest of the story! Patti LuPone is the reigning grande dame of the Broadway stage, and she shares all the stories to prove it in her memoir. Don’t be fooled by that smile on the book cover, either: she will call you out from the stage if you interrupt her performance with your cell phone! Broadway may be on pause right now, but the show will go on one day, and Patti’s book is a fantastic read in the meantime.
Season 7: The Case of the Libertine Belle
Read: A Witness to Murder by Verity Bright
Everybody has their moment in the spotlight in this universally loved murder mystery episode. Thankfully, all’s well that ends well by the time “The Case of the Libertine Belle” is up. This episode is very much in the vein of a cozy mystery novel, and A Witness to Murder by Verity Bright fits the bill if you’re looking for “solid characters, great writing and a marvelous mystery to satisfy even the most diligent armchair detective.” It’s part of a series but can be read on its own, too.
Bonus episode: Journey to the Center of Attention
Read: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
I couldn’t let this post end without including this episode, not to mention one of my favorite books. Valley of the Dolls has it all, and if you’ve never read it now is the perfect time! It’s pure escapism and drama of the best kind, and you’ll find yourself swept up in a bygone era that somehow still seems pretty relevant, all things considered. The three women at the center of Valley of the Dolls are each on their own journey to being the center of attention, and Susann’s iconic novel is one that helped popularize stories about the interconnected lives and friendships of women. Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?
If you’re in a reading slump I hope you’ve found a helluva book to try in this post! Please help support independent bookstores by shopping online at Bookshop.org or socially distanced at one near you if they’re open. And don’t forget to check your local library as they may be offering curbside pickup. Happy reading!