Wednesday, June 07, 2023

What Do TV’s Richest Characters Read? Gladwell, Nietzsche and Sally Rooney, Apparently

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The rich kids on HBO Max’s “Gossip Girl” continuation look a little different than they did in the original series: they take Ubers instead of private cars, they actually think Dumbo is cool and, as many have wrote about, are a lot more woke — a fact made even more clear by the characters’ reading choices.

While sitting on the steps outside of their Upper East Side private school, the elite can be seen reading everything from Kennedy Fraser’s collection of feminist essays, to Eve Babitz’s stories about the hippie craze of the ’60s and ’70s.

The well-placed book prop creeps into many of TV’s richest worlds, working as an easy way to poke fun at elitist intellectual facades (like Audrey Hope’s endearing, if not ironic, fascination with Edith Wharton in “Gossip Girl”), or even as a way to give humanity to some of T.V’s most cold-blooded characters (like when political powerhouse Shiv Roy reads Sally Rooney in “Succession.”)

The same goes for HBO’s dark comedy “The White Lotus,” whose characters’ reading choices are part of the entire series’ satirical take on the preoccupations of the ultra-rich. The scenes between the show’s unhinged drama ring the most true, when the characters are cracking open a book by the beach, only to get a few pages in. Shane Patton (Jake Lacy) alleviates his anger over the Paradise Suite debacle by digging into Malcolm Gladwell. His wife Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) opts for Elena Ferrante as she questions her marriage. Meanwhile, the intolerable college girl duo Olivia (Sydney Sweeney)and Paula (Brittany O’Grady) skim through Nietzsche and Freud as they tan by the pool.

So, what exact books do television’s richest characters read? Here’s a comprehensive rundown:

‘Black Swans: Stories’ by Eve Babitz

Courtesy of Amazon
Courtesy of Amazon

Eve Babitz, a Hollywood “It” girl turned author, is an apt choice for the elite characters of HBO Max’s “Gossip Girl” continuation, which sees the ultra-rich Max Wolfe (Thomas Doherty) holding “Black Swans” while in between classes. The collection of short stories takes readers through Babitz’s glitzy LA life in the ’70s and ’80s. You might also enjoy Babitz’s more recent novel, “Sex and Rage.”

Black Swans: Stories by Eve Babitz


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‘Hollywood’s Eve’ by Lili Anolik

Courtesy of Amazon

Eve Babitz must be having a moment at Constance Billard because “Gossip Girl’s” Audrey Hope (Emily Alyn Lind) is also seen reading the artist’s story, this time through Lili Anolik’s biography “Hollywood’s Eve.”

Hollywood’s Eve by Lili Anolik


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‘Ornament and Silence: Essays on Women’s Lives from Edith Wharton to Germaine’ by Kennedy Fraser

Courtesy of Amazon

When Audrey isn’t busy with Babitz, she’s diving into feminist literature, a sign of how much woker the elite high schoolers are in HBO Max’s “Gossip Girl” continuation. One of her favorites seems to be “Ornament and Silence,” in which Kennedy Fraser analyzes the love affairs, friendships, marriages and families of some of the most famous women throughout history.

Ornament and Silence by Kennedy Fraser


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‘Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking’ by Malcolm Gladwell

Courtesy of Amazon


Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” is the most on-brand book choice for Shane Patton (Jake Lacy), the obnoxious, rich dude from “The White Lotus.” Gladwell’s best-selling book is so popular for a reason. In it, the award-winning writer analyzes some of the world’s most brilliant thinkers to help us understand why some people make smarter decisions than others.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell


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‘My Brilliant Friend’ by Elena Ferrante

Courtesy of Amazon

Despite her wild desires to live an extraordinary life, Rachel (Alexandra Daddario) from “The White Lotus” is painted as very average. So it makes sense that, just like her husband, she goes straight towards whatever is on the best-seller list without much thought. “My Brilliant Friend” is probably the best beach read of the travelers, though, taking readers through a vibrant tale about a lifelong friendship between two women in Naples.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante


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‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ by Sigmund Freud


Courtesy of Amazon

Even if Paula in “The White Lotus” isn’t actually writing her thesis paper on colonization, she still shows at least some intellectual prowess based on her reading habits. While lounging by the pool, she’s seen reading Sigmund Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams,” his classic work on the psychology and significance of dreams.

The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud


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‘The Portable Nietzsche’

Courtesy of Amazon

Lounging next to Paula is Olivia, a few pages into Nietzsche. Delving into the deep philosophical musings of the 19th century German thinker while on vacation is a hilarious choice for one of the least self-realized people in T.V history. But the best-selling portable edition is available on Amazon for those interested, and includes the writer’s four major works: “Twilight of the Idols,” “The Antichrist,” “Nietzsche Contra Wagner” and “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.”

The Portable Nietzsche


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‘Conversations with Friends’ by Sally Rooney

Courtesy of Amazon

A lot went down in the Season Two finale of “Succession” so it might’ve been easy to miss that Shiv Roy (Sarah Snook), the political powerhouse next in line to take over her family’s billion-dollar media empire, is reading a YA novel on her family’s yacht. But if Sally Rooney is on the reading list for someone as successful as Shiv, then sign me up. Rooney’s page-turner “Conversations with Friends,” follows 21 year-old college student Francis as she navigates a series of confusing intimate relationships. You can follow it with Rooney’s buzzy novel “Normal People.”

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney


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