The Prison Reader: What to Read When You’re Done Bingeing OITNB

Season Four of Orange is the New Black premieres tonight! Last year, Buzzfeed published a comprehensive list of every book the Litchfield crew mentioned in Season Three. A show with such obviously well-read writers has to have bookworm fans, so we found a bunch of titles to tackle after you’re done binge-watching.

Here are my suggestions:

exceptionThe Exception, by Christian Jungersen

A mysterious killer threatens a group of women working together at the Danish Centre for Genocide Information. When the colleagues start to think the murderer is among them, the backstabbing begins. In this case study of women in confinement, Jungersen peppers his narrative with factual accounts of group psychology studies—making it seem like genocide is just one stolen stapler around the corner.


Pastoralia, by George Saunders

The tile story in Saunders’ second collection finds two people who don’t like each other very much stuck living together in a caveman exhibit at a failing theme park. An absurdist, screamingly funny take on institutionalization, arbitrary rules, and the perils of surveillance.


Meaning of FreedomThe Meaning of Freedom: And Other Difficult Dialogues, by Angela Davis

The noted prison abolitionist reckons with the economic and historical forces that lead to America’s current plight of mass incarceration.



And here are some recommendations from Booklist editors:


Annie Bostrom suggests this YA memoir about a young man in federal prison:

Hole in My Life, by Jack Gantos


Here’s Donna Seaman’s favorite novel about a poetry class at a women’s prison:

Channeling Mark Twain, by Carol Muske-Dukes


And here’s Rebecca Vnuk’s favorite horror story about a women’s prison:

Fellside, by M.R. Carey


Finally, some classic prison books, courtesy of Bill Ott:

The Animal Factory, by Edward Bunker

In the Belly of the Beast, by Jack Abbott

A Place to Stand, by Jimmy Santiago Baca

That Smell and Notes from Prison, by Sonallah Ibrahim

Soul on Ice, by Eldridge Cleaver




About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist. She worked in bookstores for twelve years, reviews books for The Boston Globe, and writes about books, culture, and politics for several other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Genie.

1 Comment on "The Prison Reader: What to Read When You’re Done Bingeing OITNB"

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  1.' Lisanne Erie says:

    Please include Wally Lamb’s Couldn’t keep it to myself : testimonies from our imprisoned sisters / Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution.
    A heart-breaking and captivating read.

  2. Always Running, and The Republic of East L.A., by Luis Rodriguez! Also, not just Jimmy Santiago Baca’s memoir, but also his postry (Healing Earthquakes, Spring Poems Along the Rio Grande, etc.) and his novel (A Glass of Water). White Oleander, by Janet Fitch, could work. And in YA books, Upstate, by Kalish Buckhanon.

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