The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson
If you want to read a book related to the themes of Dickinson, it seems like a good idea to start with Emily Dickinson’s poetry. When she died in 1886, she had written 1,775 unpublished poems (that we know about). This specific volume has about 400 of them and they give readers an insight into Dickinson’s thoughts on life, death, and more.
In the show, Emily thinks there should be more for her than life at home, and being married off, and despite the fact that Tara Westover grew up over a century later, the two shared similar struggles. Westover’s candid memoir recounts her cloistered upbringing in the rural US, without attending school, and how she overcame her family’s expectations.
Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune
Part of Emily Dickinson’s struggles is that her parents don’t accept her career choice. In Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune, Natalie hasn’t seen her mother in seven years because she didn’t accept her career as a chef. But now, Natalie’s mother has passed away and she returns home to find that she’s inherited her grandmother’s restaurant in a much-changed neighborhood.
Dickinson takes a close look at romance between women, and no one excels at that subject more than Sarah Waters. In Affinity, Margaret Prior, an upper-class women, starts making visits to the women’s prison for charity work. There, she becomes captivated by the spiritualist Selina Dawes, and becomes desperate to secure her freedom.
The Daring Ladies of Lowell
The setting of Dickinson is Amherst, Massachusetts, which is where Emily spent her life. Kate Alcott’s historical novel is set in 1832 in Lowell, Massachusetts, and features Alice Barrow, who works in a textile mill under very hard conditions to escape her situation. But when one of her friends at the mill dies under mysterious circumstances, it changes everything completely.
Ayesha At Last
In Ayesha At Last, Ayesha wants to be a poet, but has had to set her dreams aside because of family expectations—something Emily can sympathize with. Ayesha doesn’t want an arranged marriage—that is, until she meets Khalid. But when he becomes engaged to her younger cousin, she must face how she feels about him, herself, and her place in her Muslim community.
We Are Okay
Marin has started a new life now that she’s in college, but the ghosts of her past won’t stop haunting her. When her best friend, Mabel, decides to come visit, Marin knows she can’t run any longer. Everyone’s got their own secrets, but it’s time for Marin to face the truth about herself and her own loneliness.
Conversations with Friends
Female friendship is a beautiful, difficult thing, as is shown in Dickinson. Sally Rooney has an uncanny knack for uncovering the sharp edges of our humanity, as she does in Conversations with Friends—Frances and Bobbi are best friends, but when they meet a famous photographer and become drawn into her circle, things will change for them irrevocably.
The Movement of Stars
Hannah Gardner Price lives in a Quaker community in the mid-1800s, and she’s expected to get married and have children. But she has larger dreams, the pursuit of astronomy, and when she discovers a comet, it seems there may be a path ahead for her. But when Hannah unexpectedly falls in love, it threatens to derail everything she’s worked for.
The Apple TV+ show Dickinson is the unexpected delight of Apple’s new streaming service. It is set in pre-Civil War Massachusetts and stars Hailee Steinfeld as a young Emily Dickinson chafing against the expectations of being a woman in the 1800s. It has a modern sense of humor (including the us-age of current slang and dialogue) and it’s witty, sharp, and entirely surprising.
If you have watched the first episode (or entire season) of this hidden gem and want to read some books in this vein, check out this list of books we’ve put together based on the themes of this entertaining show.
Featured image: Hailee Steinfeld in Dickinson (2019)