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Prison Book Club – The Books of OITNB Season 3

By June 21, 2016Television

So we’re into Season 3 of Orange is the New Black and the bookish references just keep on coming, in fact Season 3 probably brings more of them than ever before! I’ve again binge watched the entire series, note pad in hand ready to pause and write down a book at any moment and we now have the next instalment of the prison book club with the books of OITNB season 3!

I’ve tried to keep the show spoilers to an absolute minimum, but do be aware if you haven’t yet watched the series there may be a few clues within. Just like the previous seasons I have split the books into the characters we see read or mention them, and so without further ado here are the books of OITNB season 3.


If Piper led the book recommendations in earlier series then in season 3, it’s all about prison librarian Poussey Washington.

In Episode 1 ‘Mother’s Day’ the bookish references start with Poussey and Taystee analogising voodoo with what happens to Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in what is a very funny scene for book lovers. It’s not long either until someone mentions Calvin and Hobbes triggering a flashback memory for Poussey where she is reading with her mother as a child.

As we know, Poussey works in the library and without giving too much away she has a difficult time in episode two when we see her trying to save Mr Frisby and the Rats of Nimh from the bed bugs. In the same scene the exterminator picks up Fighting for Air — the Unknown Adventures of Young Doc Holliday by Jack Kincade.


By episode three things are looking fairly serious for book lovers and an incident leads to a memorial service for books, Great Expectations, and The BFG both get a mention here from Poussey. In the same episode we see a mention for David Sedaris where Poussey honours all his books and also getting a mention is The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Traven, and The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter. Before the scene is over books by Jonathan Swift, Jonathan Lethem, Jonathan Tropper, Jonathan Franzen, and Jonathan Kellerman all also get a mention.

Episode five is the next big run of book mentions from Poussey. As the episode opens she is seen reading Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw, and later on she calls the theft of her hooch Winnie the Pooh: Tales from the Ghetto. By episode 7 there’s banned erotica being passed around the prison, cue a mention from Poussey to Taystee of 50 Shades of Grey and by episode 11 she’s begging that said erotica be made into a trilogy ‘make it a three parter, like Hunger Games!’. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.


Regular watchers will know that if Red isn’t in the kitchen, then chances are she has a book in her hand (though never what I’d be expecting her to read, funny the assumptions you make). Red’s first book reference comes in episode two ‘Bed Bugs and Beyond’ where she’s seen with a copy of Sophomore Year is all Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin.

By episode nine, Red is feeling pretty down in the dumps about her reduced status, leading Gloria to offer her a copy of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, leading to a sarcastic and pithy response. By episode 11 it’s another dorm shot of Red reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

Flaca and Maritza

These two are the ditzy Latina double act, rarely seen apart (and rarely seen reading). This one is the first book reference for the duo who are having a discussion in episode one where copies of both Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, and Taking the Heat by Brenda Novak are seen in their hands.


Joe Caputo

We see Caputo going up in the world in season 3 of OITNB and as such he’s rearranging the office in episode 1, using Total Feng Shui by Lillian Too to do so. In episode 9 he makes another reference during a conversation with the MMC group where he says ‘that’s what Big Brother said’, a clear reference to Orwell’s 1984. And while we don’t see Caputo reading again, in episode twelve he is heard saying to O’Neill ‘I feel like we’re in Narnia’, a clear reference to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.


Piper Chapman

In previous seasons of OITNB Piper has led the book suggestions but she’s lagging behind in season 3. However, in episode two we see her chatting with Red and reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and during another dorm conversation with Red in episode 11 we see her reading She Said Yes by Cassie Bernall.


Alex Vause


Season 3 is a difficult one for Alex, and she finds herself accused of paranoia, this leads to a literary quote in episode 4 where she tells Chapman ‘It’s strange how paranoia can link up with reality now and then, to quote Phillip K. Dick’, a clear reference to A Scanner Darkly.

It’s episode nine before we actually see Vause with a book, and when we do she’s reading An English Interpretation of The Holy Qur’an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.

The final reference for Vause actually comes from Yoga Jones who quotes Rumi when giving her some advice, and that’s it for a season where Vause was incredibly preoccupied.

Big Boo

We haven’t seen many references from archetypal butch lesbian Big Boo but we get a couple in season 3. In episode one we see an unlikely friendship develop between Boo and Pensatucky and in one of their first conversations Boo asks Pensatucky if she’s read Freakanomics and uses the book as an analogy for cause and effect. In episode four we see the two of them together again, joined this time by Sister Jane Ingalls. They’re talking about the bible, specifically Leviticus but Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables also gets a mention. Another conversation between the two in episode 12 sees Boo making a reference to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.


We met Blanca in season 1 and everyone just thought she was a bit mad, but she’s come into her own a bit now, and we see a couple of book references from her in season 3.

As already mentioned episode three has a lot of book references, and in it we see Blanca reference A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes, and mention for author Sister Souljah too. In the same episode she speaks the line in Spanish that I previously incorrectly attribute to a previous season ‘I like reading more than I like living my actual life.’ We agree Blanca, whole heartedly.

Then if we fast forward to episode ten we see Blanca chatting in the kitchen with Maritza in a conversation where Blanca references Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, both by E. B White, plus a mention for Fieval Goes West by Cathy East Dubowski.

I think just that alone makes season 3 of Orange is the New Black the most bookish season yet, but the books of OITNB season 3 don’t end there! In episode three during one of Nicky’s flashback moments we get a mention for a first edition of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Then in episode nine we see Maureen and Suzanne chatting with mentions for authors Fran Lebowitz and Gena Showalter. Episode ten brings a scene with season 1 regular Mendez where he is talking of star crossed lovers and mentions both Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov and the Shakespeare tragedy Romeo and Juliet.

Phew, we think that’s the lot, though I’m sure to have missed one or two that you will no doubt tell me about in the comments. Having just binge-watched season 4, we’ll be back with that soon, but if you want more check out our books of OITNB season one, and season two too.

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