The Golden Girls has had incredible staying power as a cultural phenomenon because the characters are truly iconic. The humor holds up surprisingly well, and the show didn’t shy away from a thorny topic, making it incredibly rewatchable. But really, it’s the characters. They’re so well-developed that it’s easy to imagine what they might read. My first instinct is that they all should read Little Women. That’s because I always have fun mapping quartets of characters onto the Little Women. Sophia is Meg, Dorothy is Jo, Rose is Beth, and Blanche is Amy. Kind of perfect, right?
So what else would they read? I paired two books per character, mostly fiction. I’d like to think these characters all have broad tastes as readers, but I endeavored to find the books I think would really be in their wheelhouses. I hope some of these appeal to you, too. Might I suggest taking a “Which Golden Girl are You?” quiz and starting with those selections? I’m a Sophia, apparently. Then you can put on your best fashion jogging suit or opulent, besequined caftan. Cut a slice of cheesecake for yourself. Read out on the lanai. And don’t forget to sing that theme song, because it’s an all-timer, as is the gospel remix.
What Would Sophia Read?
From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke
Is it too obvious to pair Sophia with a memoir about Sicily? It’s not, because she’s so truly invested in the Old Country. This memoir, about a Black American actress who falls in love with a Sicilian chef from a traditional family, is delicious and at times, devastating. Author Tembi Locke lost her husband to cancer, but this richly-told tale of big love, family, and food will make you long to visit Sicily.
The Florios of Sicily by Stefania Auci
More Sicily? Yes, more Sicily! You know that Sophia would absolutely eat up a historical novel about her homeland. If you love a sweeping family saga like I do, here’s your book. It traces the rise of the Florio family from humble spice shop owners to powerful shipping magnates. This story dramatizes the actual story of the Florio family in all its naked ambition, revenge, and romance.
What Would Dorothy Read?
The Kingdom of Sand by Andrew Holleran
Dorothy is clearly the most serious Golden Girl. As a former English teacher, she’d be into some hard-hitting literature, I’d imagine. A particularly memorable episode of The Golden Girls deals with Rose’s HIV test following a possible exposure, making the show stand out for its inclusion of topical issues. So I think Dorothy would eagerly read The Kingdom of Sand, about a nameless gay narrator who moves to Florida. He’s caring for aging parents (Dorothy can relate) at the height of the AIDS crisis. This isn’t an uplifting book, but it does delve honestly into the feelings of loneliness and loss.
Grounds for Murder by Tara Lush
While I think Dorothy would read somber literature, I think she’d also indulge in some really fun books, like this cozy mystery set in a small Florida town. Lana has a public fight with a former employee at her coffee shop, Perkatory. Naturally, that guy ends up dead and Lana is a prime suspect. She needs to clear her name so that she can also compete in the state barista championship. It’s breezy, quirky, and I suspect Dorothy would drink it down like her morning coffee (never decaf).
What Would Blanche Read?
A Taste of Her Own Medicine by Tasha L. Harrison
Blanche’s defining trait is perhaps her horniness. And we all love her for it. So you know I’m right when I say she’d want to read some really sexy romance. One that pairs an older woman with a younger man? Blanche would be spritzing herself with that spray bottle. Atlas is the instructor at Sonja’s entrepreneur workshop, and Sonja is smitten. She’s guarding her heart, but Atlas wants to break down her barriers. Add in a love potion and a wise grandmother (hello, Sophia!) and you know you’re in for a treat.
Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow
One might assume Blanche would be a devotee of Southern epics like Gone With the Wind, but did you know about the spinoff Golden Palace and its Confederate flag episode? Blanche had a change of heart regarding glorifying the Confederacy. Still, I know she’d want something sprawling, dramatic, and Southern, so I think Memphis would be a book she picks up. It traces three generations of women in a Black family from 1937-2003. At the heart, there’s a woman striving not to be defined by her legacy. There’s both heartbreak and hope in this engrossing story.
What Would Rose Read?
The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
Not only would Rose read The Lager Queen of Minnesota, don’t you think she would have held the title in her day? In fact, we know that she lost the title of St. Olaf Butter Queen due to “churn tampering.” But The Lager Queen of Minnesota is not about pageants; it’s about two sisters and one granddaughter who bond over making beer. It’s a witty family drama about inheritances, secrets, dreamers, and hard work that oozes Minnesota charm, just like Rose.
The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson
Rose grew up on a farm and has deep ties to farming and farm animals. I think she’d really appreciate the story of Rosalie, a Dakota woman recently widowed who returns to her childhood home after decades living on her white husband’s farm. In searching for community, she learns how she is descended from women who transmit a precious cache of seeds through the generations. Rose would relate to the story of someone discovering their deepest relationship to their roots and the life-giving earth.
If you want even more Golden Girls bookishness, we have a painstaking compilation of every literary reference made in the show! Now there’s a treasure trove. And I hope there are some books on this list that intrigue your inner Golden Girl. When it comes to finding great books to read, consider me your pal and a confidant.