- The Lifetime-turned-Netflix thriller “You” features a number of literary references.
- During season one, Stephen King and Owen King’s book,“Sleeping Beauties,” is featured at Joe’s bookstore.
- Throughout season two, Joe takes a photo of a few books with haunting themes.
- Warning: This post contains spoilers for “You.”
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The Lifetime-turned-Netflix thriller “You” has suspense, plot twists – and plenty of references to books.
Here are some of the literary and pop-culture references scattered throughout “You” and how they could add to the series.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for “You.”
During season one, Joe highly recommends Beck read the 1970 novel “Desperate Characters” by Paula Fox.
When Beck first comes into Joe’s bookstore, she’s looking at a Paula Fox novel, to which Joe recommends she read “Desperate Characters.”
Beck says she’s worried it won’t live up to the hype but ends up buying it anyway.
“Desperate Characters” tells the story of a couple, Sophie and Otto, living in Brooklyn. After Sophie is bitten trying to feed a stray, a series of small disasters begin striking the couple, revealing the rifts in a marriage and society crumbling to pieces.
The book is later on her coffee table during a scene where she’s with Benji and Benji asks about the book.
Peach Salinger is a distant cousin of J.D. Salinger.
A rude customer can be seen buying “Franny and Zooey” on episode one of season one.
A rude customer can be seen buying “Franny and Zooey” from the bookstore on the first episode.
“He’s just pissed he has to buy Salinger to feel respectable,” Joe’s internal monologue says over the scene. His rudeness might just allude to Joe’s later impression of Peach, the author’s fictional descendant in the show.
Joe lends Paco “Don Quixote.”
“The most valuable things in life are usually the most helpless. So they need people like us to protect them,” Joe tells Paco on episode one, season one.
It could be alluding to his later feelings that he is protecting Beck out of love through his actions.
Right after, he gives Paco an old copy of “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes.
“It’s about a guy who believes in chivalry so he decides to be an old school knight,” Joe explains to Paco. Joe says this book is one of his favourites.
Joe lends Paco “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas.
Joe sees Paco reading on the stairs of their building and comments on how fast he’s reading “The Three Musketeers.” Paco replies, “It reads quick. It’s good.”
“The Three Musketeers” follows d’Artagnan after he leaves home to join the Musketeers of the Guard, where he becomes friends with the three most intimidating musketeers of the age.
Beck gives Joe “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown in Italian.
After he saves her from the train tracks, Beck comes back to the store and gives him “Il Codice Da Vinci” and she wrote a poem inside.
This book is a mystery thriller, the same genre as “You” as a series.
Joe and Ethan set up for a debut of Stephen King and Owen King’s book, “Sleeping Beauties,” at their bookstore.
The morning “Sleeping Beauties” is released at Joe’s bookstore, Ethan says, “Let’s give thanks to our Lord Stephen King who bestowed books so that our bookstores in third-dimensional locations may live.”
“Sleeping Beauties” asks the question of what would happen if women disappeared from the world.
Its prominent display could be alluding to a variety of women in “You” who disappear in one way or another: Beck, Peach, or even Candace.
Joe gives Paco “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley to read next.
When Paco isn’t enjoying a novel about werewolves the girls in his class keep talking about, Joe recommends “Frankenstein,” saying, “The monster is really cool and scary, but also not really the monster.”
The audience later realises that this is probably how Joe feels about himself.
“It’s cool how you get the monster’s POV, you understand why he does stuff,” Paco later tells Joe as he reads “Frankenstein.” “It’s weird because he’s bad, but not all bad.”
Joe then adds, “Well, I think it’s open to your interpretation.”
This can be alluding to the format of the “You” series in and of itself and the audience’s potential perception of Joe.
Joe steals “Ozma of Oz” by L. Frank Baum from Peach’s house.
During Peach’s party on episode two, season one, Joe finds a collection of old and first edition books, and sneaks L. Frank Baum’s “Ozma of Oz.”
“Ozma of Oz” is the third book in the Oz series, and follows Dorothy Gale of Kansas as she makes the trip over the rainbow for the second time.
It’s also revealed that Joe used to read that book when Mr. Mooney locked him in the basement of the bookstore as a kid.
Joe turns to numerous books and authors to figure out how to get rid of a dead body.
Joe lists Stephen King and Caleb Carr among the authors he turned to to figure out how to get rid of Benji’s body.
He takes a look at “The Alienist,” which is a thriller about a ritualistic killer, before he turns to a cookbook that explains how to butcher a chicken.
Joe follows Beck to a Charles Dickens festival.
Beck attends a Dickens festival with her family, where everyone dresses up in Victorian-era clothing and participates in old-fashioned activities.
Joe recommends Paco read “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas.
After Paco tells Joe about his issues with Ron and how he wants revenge, Joe recommends “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Paco gets mad at the book because, he says, “he waits 24 years to get justice,” but Joe replies, “It’s all about the long game.”
This becomes foreshadowing for when Ron is killed later on.
Joe throws Beck a literary-themed birthday party and dresses up as author Ernest Hemingway.
Among the party-goers, you can also spot Shakespeare and Mark Twain.
Candace reads and destroys “Wuthering Heights.”
During season one, episode nine, there’s a flashback of Candace reading “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë to Joe.
The book is later destroyed – and Joe is shown repairing the book during the episode, too.
During one scene, Joe and Beck are reading together.
Season two kicks off with a mural of books.
This real-life mural is located in Hollywood, California, and the books featured in it are all written by Charles Bukowski, a German-American novelist and poet whose home city is Los Angeles, California.
Los Angeles is where the new season takes place, and the books could be foreshadowing how Joe will be offered a job as a bookseller at the high-end wellness store Anavrin just a few moments later.
During the first episode of season two, Joe whips out “Crime and Punishment.”
Joe takes the Fyodor Dostoyevsky book out of his bag during his job interview with the Anavrin employee Calvin, who asks him about it.
“I just feel like it gets more relevant every day, right?” Joe tells him. ” … This guy’s struggling, trying to get past his mistakes, you know. I don’t like to get political but I will say our world is done for if we don’t think about that, how to be better.”
“I can’t believe you just did that, made a Russian novel sound like something I’d want to read,” Calvin tells him.
We later learn that Joe brought the book to basically secure his job at Anavrin when we see a flashback of Joe watching Forty angrily lecturing Calvin for ordering a bunch of copies of “Crime and Punishment.”
“What? There’s a human alive who wants to read ‘Crime and Punishment?'” Forty tells Calvin.
That said, the book could also be a nod to Joe’s present state. Like Joe, the narrator of the book is struggling to overcome his dark past mistakes.
One of Joe’s first social-media posts is a photo of three books.
During season two, episode one, Joe takes a photo of three colourful novels.
The red book is “The Power” by Naomi Alderman, a sci-fi novel about how women develop the ability to shoot electrical jolts from their fingertips, helping them to become the dominant gender.
This might be alluding to how Love, a woman, ends up having the upper hand toward the close of the season, when she has Joe locked in his own cage.
The yellow book is “Gold Fame Citrus” by Claire Vaye Watkins, a novel set in California in the future. According to the book’s summary on Goodreads, this novel “explores the myths we believe about others and tell about ourselves.”
The last book is “Sum” by David Eagleman, a novel that goes through different afterlives and alternate realities of what could have been.
The inclusion of this novel could be suggesting Joe’s present task to start over as someone new (Will) and live a new life.
Love’s “parting gift” to Joe is a Joan Didion book.
During season two, episode one Love gives Joe Joan Didion’s novel “Play It As It Lays,” which is known as being a disturbing novel that dissects American life in the 1960s.
As she gives it to Joe, she calls it “smart,” “complex,” and “a little dark” because it’s what “makes [him] feel at home” and what makes her feel at home.
This is foreshadowing when Love would later reveal her own dark past of murder and deception.
We later see Joe reading the book during episode three, and packing it in his duffel bag during episode eight.
Joe’s locker at Anavrin contains the book “Nostromo” by Joseph Conrad.
During season two, episode three, Joe opens his locker to get a baked treat from Love, revealing two books in locker.
Although the brown book’s name is unclear, the green book is “Nostromo” by Joseph Conrad, a tale of rebellion and exploitation set in a fictional republic.
The book has an omniscient narrator who withholds details from the reader, sort of how Joe as the narrator of “You” withholds details from the viewer (like how he really saw Love long before he met her in the grocery store and how he purposefully got an apartment that overlooks hers).
Joe gives Ellie a list of books to read — and the first one is a Russian novel.
After Ellie gives Joe a movie recommendation, he insists on getting her a book, making “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov his first ick.
“For Ellie, something dark, funny, ambitious,” Joe says as he buys the book at Anavrin during season two, episode three.
Interestingly, the book is a Russian novel (something Joe is likely trying to sell more of because of his initial job interview with Calvin).
It is known for being darkly funny and it is based around the devil, a naked witch, and a black cat who loves to drink vodka and play chess.
During season two, episode seven, we get a glimpse at some of the books in Joe’s “cage.”
As Delilah digs around his cage, you can glimpse a few of the books Joe has kept inside of it.
Although it’s difficult to make out all of the titles, some keywords and names you see are “Aristotle Onassis,” Jacqueline Kennedy’s second husband and one of the richest men in the world during his lifetime.
You can also see the book “Berlin Wild” by Elly Welt, a book set during World War II.
These could be some of the books that Joe wanted to bring with him during his trek from New York to Los Angeles.
Joe’s newest target is reading a stack of classic books.
During the season-two finale, Joe is carrying “Crime and Punishment” (the book that helped him get hired at Anavrin) into his yard.
But instead of actually reading it, he peers over through the fence at his neighbour, who is making her way through a few books.
Her stack of books includes “Brave New World,” a classic dystopian novel by Aldous Huxley. The sci-fi book is more or less about a future world where life is genetically engineered and pain-free, but also meaningless.
She also has “A Guide to Jane Austen” by Michael Hardwick and “Kafka’s Selected Stories,” which are both focused on classic writers.
These books could allude to part of the reason why Joe has already begun falling for his neighbour – she has a taste for literature just like he does.
- Read more:
- 20 details in season 2 of ‘You’ that you may have missed
- 20 ways the ‘You’ TV series is different from the book
- 10 things you probably didn’t know about Penn Badgley
- 10 movies you should watch if you love the show ‘You’
- 8 things ‘You’ got wrong about bookstores, according to experts
- All of the hidden book references on ‘You’
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