In the seventh grade, we watched the movie John Tucker Must Die at every sleepover. Every. Single. One. Not only did I have the movie pretty much memorized, but eventually I could actually start to see the acting. You know, the strain in the eyes, the calculations behind gestures. At any rate, one of my favorite lines in that movie is when Penn Badgley’s character says to his brother (the infamous John Tucker) that he shouldn’t pursue Brittany Snow’s character (I can’t remember their fictional names.) Why? “I don’t know, man, she’s deep. She listens to Elvis Costello, she reads Dave Eggers.”
It is hard to determine where in Kate’s (Kate! That was her name) busy schedule planning to ruin John Tucker’s life she has time to read. But when she does, it’s Dave Eggers. I am tickled by that, as I am tickled by all fictional characters who love books as much as I do. A lot of the movies and television shows I loved growing up involved book-loving girls (and occasionally boys, but mostly girls), and I was always interested in what, specifically, they were reading. Who made the Dave Eggers decision, for example? That question will probably haunt me as long as I live (or at least as long as it takes for me to forget every detail of John Tucker Must Die – nine years hasn’t been enough time).
In honor of Kate, I’ve made up a list of my favorite onscreen bookworms (that weren’t book characters first):
- Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail: Let’s be honest. The loss of Kathleen’s Shop Around the Corner should have been considered a national tragedy. I know it never really existed, but it is representative of all the independent bookstores that went under when the big chains expanded, and yes, Tom Hanks is perfectly charming as a soulless book businessman, but how could the ending of this movie be considered even remotely acceptable? Who cares about romance when there is a children’s bookstore at stake? Kathleen is a wonderful human being, and her relationship with her eccentric employees makes Shop Around the Corner one of my preferred fictional workplaces. The best part of this movie (and most tear-jerking, in my opinion) is when she’s walking around the new Fox’s Books, and a woman asks for help from a Fox employee finding “the shoe books.” Kathleen helps out, crying at the loss of her store as she does so, and directs the woman to the Noel Streatfeild books, saying “I’d start with Ballet Shoes, it’s my favorite.” Support your local independent bookstores, people.
- Jane Villanueva from Jane the Virgin: Despite living inside her very own telenovela, Jane still loves to escape by reading – and writing – romance novels. Jane is a really refreshing character in a lot of ways, but her unabashed love for romance is truly exciting. The whole narrative of this show celebrates romantic fiction and women readers, as well as Latin American traditions of storytelling, so if you’re not watching it, you should be! I, for one, cannot wait until Jane’s novel is released.
- Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls: In honor of the upcoming Gilmore Girls revival, I had to include Rory on this list. Who can forget when Rory sits in her school library, smelling the books? I do that all the time. There are dozens of us! Or when Dean tries to placate her with the words “we could go to a bookstore, I’ll watch you browse for six or seven hours”? That is something every book lover would love to hear. Although, all things considered, I’m really more of a Paris than a Rory.
- Kat Stratford from 10 Things I Hate About You: One of our first introductions to Kat is her sitting on her couch, deeply absorbed in The Bell Jar – a book that I’m not ashamed to say I bought and read after watching this movie (and seeing how awesome a character she is – hooray for mewling, tempestuous wretches!). Later, of course, Heath Ledger follows her into a bookstore and makes a joke about losing his copy of The Feminine Mystique, a copy of which she shoves into his hands before storming out. Nowadays, I think Kat would probably be found reading Andi Zeisler’s We Were Feminists Once, or maybe Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me. I would not want to be the one to interrupt her.
- Taystee Jefferson from Orange is the New Black: Although many of the characters on this show could be considered bookworms (what else is there to do in prison?), let’s not forget who actually works in the library: Taystee and Poussey! Their conversations about Harry Potter are a reminder that Potterheads can be found everywhere. Taystee wins for her consistent literary references, and she’s a math genius, too. That makes her probably one of the smartest characters on the show, and one of the kindest, too. Here’s hoping she lives near a library upon her release from Litchfield.
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