There are all kinds of readers in this world. There are the casual readers; the people who read a respectable handful of books a year, maybe when they’re on vacation or during those few precious moments in bed before turning off the light. Then there are the bookish ones; the readers who love ticking off books on their TBR list and updating their Goodreads page, maybe buying a few too many books from watching deliciously addictive BookTok videos.
And then, there’s Rory Gilmore. Not just the character, but the persona of her. The I-don’t-go-anywhere-without-a-book kind of reader, or the I-carry-four-books-in-my-backpack-because-I-don’t-know-what-mood-I’ll-be-in book nerds.
If this type of sitting under a tree reading a book persona is you, the kind that wouldn’t even look up if two guys were throwing a football and one broke his nose and there was blood everywhere and chaos ensues, then you might be the perfect person to attempt the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.
If you’re a religious follower of Gilmore Girls and find yourself always flicking it on as soon as the temperatures drop in September, then you know damn well that Rory reads a lot of books. Her bookshelf is teeming with titles, she converted her dresser into a library system, and piles of books are just waiting to be discovered under her bed. She’s always reading books, talking about books, smelling books. It’s the only relationship of Rory’s that truly lasted throughout the show, because let’s be real, that girl is a hot mess when it comes to her dating history.
But she’s not just reading any book on the shelf. Oh no…Rory reads a vast amount of literature throughout the series, from the pilot to A Year In The Life. And throughout the entire series, you can catch her either reading, holding, referencing, or pointing to different books of hers, adding up to a stunningly long list of 518 books.
The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge is just that—a challenge to read through the entirety of her list. Time to grab your bookmarks!
How was this list made?
If you Google the “Rory Gilmore Challenge” you’ll likely come across a dozen different lists. The original list published by Buzzfeed only included 339 books, but after releasing the Netflix revival A Year In A Life, bookish-dedicated sites like Bookriot finalized their lists in the 400 range. These book lists focus specifically on the books that Rory associates with.
And yet, there are so many more references on the show that have gone unnoticed. So where does 518 come from?
Julianne “Jules” Buonocore, founder and president of The Literary Lifestyle, is the curator of the list and the creator of The Rory Gilmore Book Club. She has culled through the show multiple times to find every reference to a book on the show—both big and small—and continues to add to her growing list. Her book club has amassed over 13,000 followers around the globe, and she has already finished over 100 books on the list herself.
As avid watchers of the show, you likely know the volume of pop culture references coming from Rory and Lorelai, and Jules marks them all down. “I’m trying to get the really, really obscure things—as obscure as a book is in the background, or a reference in a joke,” Jules explains. “For example, in the show, Lorelei says something like ‘hey, Pony Boy,’ and if you’ve read or watched The Outsiders, you would know that’s one of the characters.”
How to start the Rory Gilmore book challenge
While this particular Rory Gilmore book challenge list is slightly different compared to other lists online—especially in length—Jules still refers to it as the Rory Gilmore Book List given that she is the most bookish character on the show.
How you decide to tackle the list is completely up to you. With so many books on Jules’ list (which you can download for free), there is a big chance there are titles listed that you’ve already read before, like the handful of classic literature you probably read in high school.
While you could simply check off the books you already read, you could also be a purist and start from scratch, especially if you haven’t picked up any of those titles in a while. For example, do you remember if you’ve read Henry IV Part 1 and Part 2, Henry V, and Henry VI? (Yes, those are all on the list.) And when was the last time you picked up a copy of Charlotte’s Web?
Nevertheless, it is completely up to you how you want to tackle the challenge. And if you decide to do it, The Rory Gilmore Book Club is happening year-round over on Instagram with all kinds of challenges and check-ins from Jules as you tackle the list.
So the question stands—are you up for the challenge? Ready to put Rory Gilmore to shame? Here are ten books on the list to get you started, with all of your favorite Gilmore Girls references to pair. A pairing just as sweet as Pop-Tarts and coffee.
With so many references to literature and tiny nods to the books that Rory, Lorelai, and the rest of the Stars Hollow crew have read, this is probably one of the most sentimental book references in the entire show. It’s season three, and Rory talks about how she has journeyed in many worlds through her books in her valedictorian speech during her graduation at Chilton. In her speech, she says she “rode a sad train with Anna Karenina.” Then it gets really sappy when she starts talking about how much she wants to be like her mom, and we all end up in a puddle of tears in that moment—but maybe not as much as Luke.
Ah…remember the days when Dean Forester was tall, dark, handsome, and reading classic literature? Well, season one Dean was certainly a lot more intriguing than—ahem—season two, three, four, and five Dean. Probably because season one Dean was okay with reading the books that Rory recommended, including Emma by Jane Austen, in which he responds to Rory’s “how’d you like it?” with “Well I could tell you but, then I’d have to kill you.” Only if Paris knew…she would be so proud.
Did anyone else’s heart skip a beat when they watched Rory call Jess and he answered all sweet and immediately started talking about books? Whatever your opinion might be about Jess Mariano, you can’t deny that their banter about books—particularly The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand—is especially sweet. Even if Jess doesn’t know what “this crazy woman” is talking about.
Well, we’re on the Jess Mariano train, so let’s stay there for a moment—because we can’t just walk away from the one book that started it all. Jess and Luke come over for a dinner party at the Gilmore house when he glances up at Rory’s impressive shelf and says “my, aren’t we hooked on phonics.” He pulls Howl and Other Poems from the shelf, which Rory says he can borrow, but he thinks it must be way more charming to steal it and write in the margins instead. When he returns her now ruined book (or newly improved book, depending how you see it), Rory seems to take a liking to him, and as Taylor Swift once famously said, sparks fly.
When Richard and Emily return from their trip in season five, they present Rory with a 100-year-old copy of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Oh, and it’s written in Greek! The book becomes symbolic again in A Year In a Life when Rory leaves a copy of this book at Richard’s tombstone, a nod to a man who also loved to read and share his favorite books with his granddaughter.
Maybe not the most exciting reading material, but our girl Rory had an odd obsession with Hersh after reading this book…and loved telling a bewildered Logan Huntzberger all about it. They meet at a bar to discuss notes for a story Logan is going to work on, and Rory admits to having been enraptured by Hersh after reading this report when she was 12 years old (my lord), which followed her polishing off the entire Nancy Drew series. Wow. This girl really can read.
So many good book moments in Rory and Jess’ meet cute, one of them being a cute reference to the book Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. After Jess returns Howl to Rory and says goodnight, Rory replies by saying “good night, dodger,” and tells him to figure it out. In just a mere few seconds he does, calling out “Oliver Twist” to Rory as she walks away all cute and smiley. Oh, the innocence. Oh, the moments before we all had our hearts broken. Gosh dang it, Jess Mariano. You had us in a chokehold.
There are a few references to this book in the Gilmore Girls series, one of the first is during Jess and Paris’ heated discussion in the Gilmore kitchen as they eat burgers and fries with salt and pepper dip. Another, and may we say one of the most iconic references to the book in the whole series, is when Lorelai Gilmore is talking to Emily at Friday night dinner and says Rory is “on the roading it, pass the peyote.”
A little ode to the boyfriend that never was, Chilton's bad boy Tristan Dugray. Before his heartbreaking exit in season two, our final few scenes with Tristan involve a recreation of Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet, where students reenact different interpretations of the play. And of course, how could we forget Paris’ valiant effort to replace Tristan on stage, and her demand for Rory to start sucking on an Altoid.
There may be a lot of bookish references around our girl Rory, but there are quite a few clever ones around Lorelai as well—including the heartbreaking return of Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust. After borrowing the book from Max during a late-night tryst, Lorelai tries returning the book to Max at Chilton in an effort to break it off with him. But her attempt epically failed when she ended up in his arms kissing him instead. While we do love our Luke and Lorelai, there’s something to be said about making out with a swoony professor after fighting about books. And of course, Rory can’t help but mention her “stroll down Swann’s Way” in her graduation speech, a tidy bow to finish off a significant chapter in her life…get it?