Meet Me on the Lanai: Readings Recs for Each of The Golden Girls

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Book Riot Managing Editor Vanessa Diaz is a writer and former bookseller from San Diego, CA whose Spanish is even faster than her English. When not reading or writing, she enjoys dreaming up travel itineraries and drinking entirely too much tea. She is a regular co-host on the All the Books podcast who especially loves mysteries, gothic lit, mythology/folklore, and all things witchy. Vanessa can be found on Instagram at @BuenosDiazSD or taking pictures of pretty trees in Portland, OR, where she now resides.

I’m a person who likes a little white noise to fall asleep to, often opting for a sleep story or meditation to help me drift off to dreamland. One of my other favorite ways to turn my brain off before bed is to watch (or listen to, really), shows I know inside and out so I won’t be too tempted to pay too much attention; on most nights, that means episodes of The Golden Girls via Hulu.

The series aired from 1985 to 1992 and was a staple in the Diaz household, a show my mom would let me watch with her when I was too young to get most of the humor. I came back to the show as an adult when I caught it on syndication, buying all seven seasons on DVD within weeks. It has remained one of my favorite shows for decades now, a brilliant, comedic masterpiece about four women of a certain age doing life together as widows and divorcées in Miami. They truly live, laugh, and love together, and then talk about it all over slices of cheesecake.

We’ve covered the literary references made on the show as well as books we think the Golden Girls would read. Now I’m telling you what I think they should read. My process was mostly based on feels and vibes, with lots of references to specific episodes that informed my picks. If you’re a fan of the show, pick your favorite character. I hope you read and enjoy the selections I’ve made for them, too.

To the lanai!

Dorothy Zbornack

The brain, the know-it-all, diagrammer of sentences. Whip-smart, clever, and she knows it, too. Sarcastic and cutting, and if not nice, kind. A facts-over-feelings gal, she may just hurt yours.

Book cover of A Study in Scarlet Women, featuring a woman in a red dress walking into a doorway that is spilling light out into the nightBook cover of A Study in Scarlet Women, featuring a woman in a red dress walking into a doorway that is spilling light out into the night

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

We know our girl Dorothy loves her some classic crime fiction from my favorite GG episode of all time, “The Case of the Libertine Belle” (Season 7, Episode 2). She read every word Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler ever wrote, after all! I think she’d enjoy this clever gender-bent take on the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and perhaps see a bit of herself in Charlotte Holmes’ brand of humor and particular powers of deduction.

cover of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberycover of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Given the “I’m a serious reader and you’re all plebs” attitude Dorothy initially adopts when she befriends author Barbara Thorndyke in “Dorothy’s New Friend” (Season 3, Episode 15), I’m going to guess that she’s a lit fic reader at least some of the time (even if Barbara’s book titles sound more like mystery series than high-brow, fancy-pants fiction). Though Renée is ultimately a very different character than Dorothy, I see some similarities in the way they appreciate art, philosophy, music, and learning in general. I think this is a story Dorothy would appreciate.

Rose Nylund

The lover, the romantic, the gentle soul. Warmth, fuzzies, stories for (actual?) days. Heart on her sleeve, eyes glazed over. Best damn Gnurchen-Frurgen this side of Saint Olaf.

Book cover of An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene TurstenBook cover of An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten

I didn’t just pick this collection of stories for its Swedish protagonist (though that would probably be enough for Saint Olaf’s finest). I also picked it because I live for the moments when the bright, shiny version of Rose gives way to her inner baddie. I want Rose to find a little bit of Maud, to be a little spiky, suffer no fools, and get in a little bit of trouble, maybe even say something a little spicier than, “Heck!”

cover of How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water by Angie Cruzcover of How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water by Angie Cruz

How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water by Angie Cruz

Like Rose, Cara Romero finds herself suddenly jobless in her 50s, jarred when she’s forced back into the job market for the first time in decades. Cara also cannot tell a short story to save her life. Sound familiar?

Blanche Devereaux

Vivacious, voracious, collector of gentlemen callers. Sexy, spontaneous, and Southern through and through. Blanche Elizabeth Devereaux earned those initials. She’ll meet you at the Rusty Anchor.

cover of The Rakess by Scarlett Peckhamcover of The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham

The Rakess by Scarlet Peckham

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that Blance Devereaux gets hers. So does one Seraphina Arden. The setup of The Rakess reminds me of “The Commitments” (Season 7, Episode 16) where Blanche tries to get it poppin’ on the first night but Jerry’s all, “that’s not how I get down.” There’s room for both spice and romance, I say! And since Blanche did once have fleeting notions of becoming a great romance novelist (“Sick and Tired – Part 2,” Season 5, Episode 2), maybe she could take a few pointers from Scarlet Peckham.

Cover of Mrs Martin's Incomparable Adventure by Courtney MilanCover of Mrs Martin's Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan

In an alternate universe or someone’s fanfiction, at least one of our golden gals ends up with a lady, right? I originally thought to suggest this Courtney Milan romance for Rose because seriously, wouldn’t she and Pat have made an adorable couple? (“Isn’t It Romantic, Season 2, Episode 5)!? But if anyone has kept her youthful-ish appearance with daily doses of spite and baths of man-tears like the titular Mrs. Martin, it’s Blanche. Maybe the solution to her many, many man problems was women all along! We’d just need go remind her that it’s “lesbian,” not “Lebanese.”

Sophia Petrillo

Picture this: 99 pounds of wisecracks and worldly wisdom. A wedge of lemon and a smart answer for everything. Sicily’s finest, Our Lady of Shady Pines. She may be Dorothy’s mom, but she’s our mom too.

cover of Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordanocover of Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano

Within seconds of starting this book over five years ago, I said out loud in a bookstore, “Oh so this is like if Sophia were German and a lot more drunk!” Auntie Poldi’s got the spunk, the sass, the nosiness and lack o’ filter, and she knows her sex life ain’t over just because she’s no spring chicken. Go off, auntie.

cover of Dial A for Aunties Kindle Edition by Jesse Q. Sutantocover of Dial A for Aunties Kindle Edition by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Sophia Petrillo knows how to meddle, and almost exclusively does so in pursuit of a love interest for Dorothy. Enter the equally meddlesome ladies in Jesse Q. Sutanto’s Aunties series. If Sophia had a cell phone, I’m confident she too would have interpreted those eggplant emojis as an invitation to enjoy some eggplant parmigiana. She’d appreciate the efforts of this comic bunch of ladies, and maybe learn some new ways to find love for her beloved Pussycat.

What books would you recommend for Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia? Let us know in the comments. And for more recs featuring golden gals, try these mysteries and thrillers with older women protagonists and must-read fiction featuring older women.

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