Meta-Reading: Literature Cameos in Film


Books and movies are probably our two most favorite kinds of entertainment. Concerts are great, but you usually have to stand up the whole time, and well, you can listen to music while reading. At any rate, it turns out that the characters in some of our favorite films also dig books, and that makes us like them even more. A character reading a book can either be a plot element, or character development, or a little joke, a secret between the director and those in the know, but it’s unlikely that it’s totally meaningless. After all, do you know how much money they spend on these things? Just saying. Click through for eight examples of great literature cameos in movies, and weigh in on your favorites.

The Bell Jar in 10 Things I Hate About You

Kat also reads The Feminine Mystique, it’s true. But, um, this shot of Julia Stiles reading The Bell Jar combined with our deep teenaged love for her character may or may not have been the actual moment that started us on the path of literary snobbery.

The Cat in the Hat in Addams Family Values

“Are you enjoying this? A child of mine? …. Oh, no…he lives.”

Twenty One Stories in Donnie Darko

Graham Greene as the instrument of the devil! In this scene, Donnie reveals himself to be what every girl wants: handsome, damaged, and capable of astute literary analysis.

The Princess Bride in The Princess Bride

Okay, a bit obvious, and almost cheating, we know. But what discussion on meta-reading would be complete without this classic? Plus, The Princess Bride is actually a book that exists in the world, you know. Even meta-er.

The Catcher in the Rye in The Shining

Wendy reads The Catcher in the Rye in her kitchen, before anything goes down at the Overlook Hotel. We’re not sure what this means in the context of the film, but it is blood red. The book also makes an appearance in Annie Hall.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in Notting Hill

At the time of this sneaky self-promotion, the 2001 film version of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was to be Notting Hill director Roger Michell’s next production. He later became seriously ill and had to drop out.

The Bible in The Book of Eli

This whole movie is about this book, which honestly wouldn’t be the first one we’d go for in a post-apocalyptic world (how about those Boy Scout wilderness survival manuals?), but to each his own. Plus Eli is super badass.

Love in the Time of Cholera in Serendipity

So, okay, this is a really cheesy movie, and this is a really cheesy use of a book in a movie. But the themes of the book (noble suffering for love, the lasting power of true love, etc.) are a good foil for the themes of the movie. So it’s like it had to be that book. Awwww.