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Prison Book Club – The Books of OITNB Season 1

By May 20, 2016June 4th, 2016Literature, Reading Habits, Television

I always try so hard to read the book before I watch any adaptation but Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison is still on my TBR and OITNB fever has overtaken me. I couldn’t wait any longer, I thought I’d just watch the first episode to get a taster and was hooked at the line ‘I’ve memorised my Amazon Wish List, I’m going to make my time count’.

By the end of episode 1 I realised there were going to be endless book references, and so I grabbed a notepad! Join me for the prison book club as we look at the books featured in season one of Orange is the New Black. I’ve listed the books by character, so here we go!

Piper Chapman


Piper is the star of the show, and while she seems an unpopular character going by Internet boards I love her! She is exactly what I’d be like if I was in prison, foot constantly in mouth, questions everything and is generally her own worst enemy. Here are the books that connect her to season 1.

In episode 5 “The Chickening” Piper goes out for a walk in the grounds and sits and reads Gone Girl under a tree when she meets an unexpected visitor.

Other bookish moments include Piper’s explanation of Frost’s The Road Not Taken, the Pablo Neruda poem Every Day You Play and a reference to author Nicholson Baker.

Chapman’s one time girlfriend Alex Vause soon makes an appearance in episode 1 and it’s thanks to her that Piper is behind bars in the first place.

Alex seems to always have a book in her hands and we see her reading City of Thieves by David Benioff, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls in the first series. When we first get a shot of Alex’s cell we can also see Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and the Tao of Pooh on her table. It’s interesting that both The Glass Castle and Les Miserables feature father figures strongly and that Les Miserables also deals with a reformed convict.

Smart choices, Alex.

Alex Vause Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.


Every prison needs a Russian matriarch and Red is it in OITNB. Red runs the kitchen and Piper runs foul of her at first and the fowl of her later on.

She’s often seen reading and we see her with Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin. Later during the WAC elections she is seen reading This is Where I Leave You by Jonathon Tropper.

We don’t see any books in Red’s cell, but we do see her in a couple of library scenes, and even when working in the kitchen she can be seen with book in hand often.

Taystee is a sassy, fun character in OITNB and she works in the prison library, so possibly has the best job in the whole prison.

Although we never see her with a nose in her book, she’s does recommend Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire over Ulysses like only Taystee can.

“You want a book to read or a stepping stool? Cause I tell you right now you ain’t steppin’ on the Goblet of Fire. Don’t be fucking with Harry Potter. Now you can step on Ulysses. Everyone said it’s so genius, but I call it bullshit. Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Taystee also makes a very funny reference to The Help in an argument with crazy evangelist Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett that made me snort I laughed so hard.


Officer Foster

We don’t see much of Officer Foster, but when she has a run in at the gate with prison guard Mendez and calls him an asshole as he’s walking away, she has her nose in a book. That book is King’s Night Shift.


Night Shift US
Night Shift UK

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That’s not the end of the literary references, they just keep coming. There are several scenes regarding 50 Shades of Grey, including an attempt to get it into the prison library. In the beginning of the season we see Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ get a girl crush on Piper, quoting Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and Coriolanus at her in a single episode. In another scene, Daya can be found in her cell reading Manga, and when Miss Claudette and Piper get thrown together, Pride and Prejudice and Emma are in the ‘book mess’ that she tells Piper to clean up.

As a bonus point, when slightly crazy Blanca Flores (her who likes to shout in the only toilet with a door) comes face to face with Piper in the yard she rants at her in Spanish, translated she says

“I like reading more than I like living my actual life”

And on that we leave you. See you at the end of Season 2!

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