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    22 Books Mentioned In "You" Season 3 And What They Mean

    Interesting that Joe reads The Great Gatsby, which is about a man who is fixated on the idea of making Daisy his, so much so that he creates grandiose gestures to lure her.

    Major spoilers for You Season 3 are ahead, so read at your own risk.

    1. We open with Joe and Henry reading a book — The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    Joe reads to Henry in a rocking chair

    Joe reads this specific line to Henry: "The thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He'd come a long way, to this blue lawn, and it—" and then Henry vomits on the book. This passage is telling. As we know from reading the classic, Gatsby is fixated on the idea of making Daisy his, so much so that he creates grandiose gestures to lure her. It's also worth remembering that Daisy is responsible for the death of Myrtle, the woman who was having an affair with her husband, Tom. Tom frames Gatsby for the murder of Myrtle. All of this is foreshadowing for what comes later. 

    2. In the beginning, Joe stalks Natalie Engler at the library with his son, Henry. He spies Natalie checking out Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin, and Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand.

    Stack of books on library checkout

    We have to believe this show is meticulous in picking titles that might tell us something about the character who reads them. Natalie is the beautiful woman next door, but despite refusing to conform with suburbia and the influencer, waspy types, she picks mainstream, bestselling titles that would probably be read at a book club. More interesting, the Broken Earth series starts with death and betrayal, Gone Girl follows a missing wife who pins her disappearance on her husband, and Seabiscuit is about an underdog who finds success. 

    3. Before she exits the library, Natalie coyly leaves Joe a book: Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.


    Later, when Joe begins to read, we see him analyze Natalie's selection when he says this novel is "Fitzgerald's darkest work — it's about marriage, infidelity. Invitation, or warning?"

    4. We find Joe reading Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel to Henry in the library a little later.

    Joe reads to Henry outside

    Frog and Toad is a curious pick — a story of two best friends who are always there for each other. We see that this is the kind of man Joe wants to be for Henry. Dependable. Reliable. It's also curious to note that "Frog represents the practical and sensible part of the self, while Toad is emotional and tempestuous." It seems that at this point in time, these are the two things Joe struggles with internally — wanting to make sensible decisions to avoid the person he was in the past, while battling the darker side of him driven by emotions. 

    5. In the rare book annex, Marienne allows Joe to browse. He steals a rare edition of A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde, but Marienne believes he has only borrowed Wildflowers of New York by William Chapman.


    It's fascinating that they chose the title A Woman of No Importance for this scene. Remember, Joe is using the money to help Ellie — but toward the end of the show, he seems to forget about her entirely. The meat of Wilde's play is a satirical, social commentary on the upper class, which foreshadows a specific conversation Marienne and Joe will have later about their childhood when Marienne incorrectly assumes that Joe comes from wealth. I'll leave you with this quote from the play to do with what you will: “The ideal husband? There couldn't be such a thing. The institution is wrong.”

    As an aside, it's interesting that Wildflowers of New York doesn't come full circle when Joe discovers what Love is growing in the backyard.


    6. Joe wakes up early to tend to his crying son and reads from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

    Joe reads To Kill A Mockingbird while holding Henry

    Interesting that Joe is reading a book about seeking justice when he is part of the reason Natalie has disappeared...

    7. Marienne shelves a copy of Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols, and the frame is positioned so the audience can clearly see the title.

    Marienne shelves Vessel

    Vessel is about a woman who goes missing when her spacecraft loses contact with NASA, and as a result the world believes she is dead. When she emerges a decade later, she finds her husband has moved on, and she holds an unsettled anger toward the people in her life. I MEAN! Listen, I feel like there's no coincidence why this title was chosen. Natalie is still missing (but we know she's dead). Joe is already moving on from Love and is now fixated on Marienne. 

    8. Marienne gives Joe a copy of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens after their heart-to-heart in the library.

    Marienne hands Joe a book at the library

    We already know why Marienne chose this title, a story of a boy who comes from an impoverished childhood as he grows to become a successful novelist. She says, "You know, hardscrabbled orphan down on his luck. Figured you could relate." It's how Marienne sees Joe. 

    9. Marienne asks Joe his favorite series as a kid, and he answers with Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey.

    Joe sits in Marienne's office facing her

    Dragonriders of Pern is about a young outcast named Lessa who dreams of revenge when her parents are murdered and her birthright is stolen. This is an intriguing piece of information we learn about Joe, who has murdered more than once for revenge. 

    10. Later, in a flashback, we find Joe reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

    Young Joe reads Perks

    During these childhood flashbacks, we learn that Joe himself was an outsider. It makes sense he would find comfort in this coming-of-age story. 

    11. When Joe is stalking Marienne's apartment, he finds a copy of The Tradition by Jericho Brown.

    Joe glances down to see The Tradition

    This Pulitzer Prize–winning poetry collection draws on themes of Blackness, queerness, and trauma. It paints Marienne as thoughtful and literary. 

    12. A child in the library asks Joe where she can find The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

    Joe shelves books while answering Where's Narnia question.

    We all know this story — a real good versus evil classic. We know which one Joe falls under. 

    13. After Marienne confronts Joe about getting involved in her life, he reads The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera in bed.

    Joe reads in bed, dim light

    We hear Joe read a direct quote from the text: "The absence of burden causes a man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth, free. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?" Remember, Joe has just had a revelation about himself: the women he stalks all stem from what he deems as "mommy issues." Is this realization the burden he chooses to lift? Or is the burden his murders? He also has a copy of Frankenstein on his nightstand, a story of a monster who seeks revenge against his creator, but also who happens to be both persuasive, kind, and eloquent, much like the kind of person Joe presents himself to be.

    14. Young Joe holds a copy of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton in a flashback to his childhood.

    Young Joe holds The Outsiders in his hands

    A classic novel about characters struggling to find themselves in the world, it's no wonder this title was something Joe gravitated toward. 

    15. During a plateau in their relationship, Joe reads More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert while Love gardens.

    Joe reading outside

    This guidebook emphasizes that it is possible to have more than one romantic partner without jealously or cheating. As we know, Love's jealousy leads her to murder. Joe is already infatuated with Marienne. During this episode, Love realizes that she isn't the only woman in Joe's head, which leads to terrible consequences. Even this book can't save Love and Joe from destroying each other. 

    16. Finally, in the finale, Joe quotes Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery.

    Joe cleans blood from his hands

    Shirley Jackson's unsettling story is about a town's annual lottery, in which one person is selected to be stoned to death by the rest of the townspeople. Amid a cheerful, pleasant town that, to any outsider, may look peaceful and carefree lies a dark tradition. In this parallel, Madre Linda is the town and Love is the unlucky winner of the lottery. We can also connect this to The Unbearable Lightness of Being quote from earlier — "The absence of burden causes a man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth, free." If Love was Joe's final burden in this town, he has now freed himself. But he believes he can never truly feel free unless he is reunited with Marienne. 

    What are your takeaways from this? Do you have other thoughts that we might have missed? Let us know in the comments!