Book Recommendations from Taystee Jefferson

Posted by Danielle Mohlman

Photo by Michelle Oude Maatman on Unsplash

Season six of Orange is the New Black is about to drop on Netflix and we’re itching to see what books they feature this season. (Last season really threw us for a loop, though. We’ll count ourselves lucky if we see a single person reading at Litchfield this season.) To celebrate the return of this roller coaster of emotions, we’ve solicited some help from our favorite fictional librarian: Taystee Jefferson.


For Red: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Red Reznikov is hands down the most prolific reader at Litchfield. Her sons are always stuffing her care packages with the latest and greatest bestsellers. But she hasn’t yet read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. When Taystee had free reign of the warden’s computer, she learned that Reese Witherspoon has a book club now. (What?!) Not only that, she’s turning tons of her favorite books into movies. So rather than wait for the Eleanor Oliphant movie to make its way onto basic cable (in five, ten years) Taystee is recommending Red read this captivating novel. And after her sons send her a copy, maybe she’ll be nice enough to loan it out to the rest of the inmates. This book is impossible to put down and an incredible escape.


For Cindy: We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

We all know Cindy Tova Hayes as Litchfield’s newest convert to Judaism. What started as a plea for Kosher food turned into a genuine and mikveh-filled conversion. Since her choice to convert, Cindy’s reading material has skewed Jewish. And if you were mid-conversion, yours probably would too. But Taystee is determined to diversify Cindy’s reading, both by introducing her to some quality non-fiction and giving a nod to her former Black Cindy nickname. She’s set aside the library’s only copy of We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates for Cindy’s reading pleasure. This collection of essays is an incredible and heartbreaking look at each year of President Barack Obama’s term – including one on the American prison industry.


For Gloria: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat

Ever since Gloria Mendoza gifted her copy of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking to Red, Taystee’s been searching for the perfect cook book recommendation for her. It just doesn’t feel right to see her without a heavy book of recipes and food science at the ready. That is, until she discovered Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. This tome is part kitchen rules to live by, part experimentation blueprint, and part food science mastery. Sure, there are recipes, but they’re the lowest priority. It’s all about that balance of, you guessed it, salt, fat, acid, and heat. This book is guaranteed to be Gloria’s new second in command in the Litchfield kitchen.


For Anita: Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

In season four, Anita DeMarco spots Piper reading Nick Hornby’s Funny Girl and gushes that she loved High Fidelity. While we know Anita is still itching to read Hornby’s sweeping novel about the world of early 1960s BBC sitcoms – let’s face it, Piper doesn’t seem like someone who shares her reading material – Taystee came up with a Nick Hornby readalike that’s, frankly, much more exciting and complex. Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan takes her readers on a journey from a small town in Ireland to the opportunity of Boston in a novel that spans decades and encompasses so many secrets. Anita’s going to love this one.


For Piper: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Taystee thinks that Piper Chapman could use a reality check when it comes to what the prison system is like for black men and women across the country and honestly, we couldn’t agree more. So, while we often see her carrying around the latest and greatest literary fiction, Taystee is thrusting some non-fiction into her hands with The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. In this incredible debut, Alexander educates her readers on the reality that mass incarceration is born out of slavery and Jim Crow laws. She discusses, backed by careful research, how black children are put through a pipeline of underfunded schools to high tech prisons. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.