When Younger—a television show from Sex and the City creator Darren Star set in the publishing world—hit my television screen, I was hooked. Not just by the drama, the jokes, and the fashion (though those are all A+) but by the smart, hilarious spoofs (I wish they all were real!) of popular books that I saw on my own shelves. From P IS FOR PIGEON to page 58 of MARRIAGE VACATION, here are my favorite Empirical Press titles and their real-world counterparts.
Surprise! This entertaining and insightful autobiographical novel, written by Empirical Press's publisher's estranged wife, is a book both on- and offscreen! It follows Kate Carmichael, an Upper East Side wife and mother who realizes that her perfect life came at the cost of her own dreams. On a whim, she gets on a plane—but the adventure doesn't go as planned.
In the second episode of Younger, Kelsey spends all day and all night reading an English translation of an autobiographical novel by Swedish author Anton Björnberg that she believes could be a game-changing work of literature—and she's right. A MAN IN LOVE was one of the first book parodies on the show, a clear reference to Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgaard's works that shaped the literary conversation for more than a year when they were published.
Comprised of six novels, My Struggle is a semi-autobiographical chronicle of the author’s experiences from childhood to the present day. Whether describing a fight with his father or a quotidian trip to the grocery story, Knausgaard finds a surprising rhythm and beauty in life’s struggles that makes this series a hypnotic read.
Helen Macdonald's memoir was a surprise hit when it was published in 2015, garnering praise from critics everywhere and shining a light on the power of nature writing. This poignant memoir about grief and obsession follows Macdonald as she finds solace in falconry after her father's death. But if birds aren't your thing, don't let that stop you. As Diana Trout explains while pitching Mary Quigley's book: "It's a metaphor!"
Read the full review of H IS FOR HAWK.
It wouldn't be a show about publishing without a reference to Marie Kondo, whose decluttering approach has sold millions of books around the world. Kiko Kagami has a similar approach, believing that objects hold a spirit and serve us at certain points in our lives but that in time we have to let them go. (Books are obviously exempt, though, right…?)
Imagine having to organize your home only once, and living happily ever after in a beautifully tidy space. Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo shares her revolutionary cleaning method that promises to help you do just that in this blockbuster bestseller and international phenomenon.
Meg Jay's bestselling self-help book for millennials explores the ways in which your twenties have the unexpected power to shape the rest of your life, so it's no wonder that Kelsey and Liza are drawn (for different reasons) to its fictional counterpart by Dr. Jane Wray. Not only is the book's blend of science and firsthand experiences fascinating but its presence on the show taps into the much bigger themes of age and opportunity.
Also the author of MAN-HATTAN and GOLDMAN SEX, Annabelle Bancroft is clear and loving homage to Candace Bushnell, who has written a number of books about sex and relationships in New York and is a close friend of Younger creator Darren Star. (Bonus points if you notice another nod to another New York writer—the SHE-DONISM cover is a dead ringer for Lena Dunham's!)
I came to the HBO version of Sex and the City before the Candace Bushnell book, binge-watching the series in my friend Alexa’s barn while drinking frozen margaritas. When I bought the book that had inspired the show, I was surprised that it was a collection of essays rather than a fictional narrative. But rather than diminish my appreciation of either work, that only enhanced it. I admired how Darren Star had created the dramatic arc of the series from Bushnell’s meditations on life in New York, and Bushnell’s essays give depth to the HBO adaptation. Coming at the material from both directions, Sex and the City is more than the sum of its parts.
Empirical Press's star author Edward L. L. Moore is the creator of Crown of Kings, the most popular fantasy series in the world, featuring a badass warrior queen named Princess Pam Pam. With titles like THINGS OF KINGS and SCORN OF KINGS, Moore's books—which Charles always worried won't be finished in time—are an obvious nod to Martin's bestselling epics.
Read the full review of A GAME OF THRONES.
This is high fantasy at its bloodiest, morally complicated finest, and is the inspiration for another brilliant television adaptation to obsess over.
A millennial fashion blogger with enviable writing and partying skills, Jade Winslow is Kelsey and Liza's dream debut author when they're given their own imprint. Jade doesn't end up writing a book, but, lucky for you, Cat Marnell did. HOW TO MURDER YOUR LIFE is a surprisingly powerful roller-coaster ride featuring sex, drugs, and the Internet that you won't be able to put down.
Those familiar with Cat Marnell from XO Jane, or her stint at Vice magazine will recognize her drug-fueled, eating-disordered, wildly kinetic writing; and those who’ve never heard her name before might have to put this memoir down between chapters and take a breather. Either way, Marnell’s viscerally unglamorous glamorous life of privileged addiction is laid bare in her trademark brutally honest, self-deprecating, name-dropping way. You’ll be rooting for her.
There are plenty of high-profile book deals that make headlines and get readers excited, but the bidding war and buzz around Garth Risk Hallberg's novel was undoubtedly the inspiration for Colin McNichol's debut that Kelsey wants to publish but ultimately loses to Random House. Set in New York City in 1976, CITY ON FIRE follows a group of people connected by a shooting in Central Park, and lived up to all our expectations.
The most anticipated novel of 2015, Garth Risk Hallberg’s debut fetched a huge advance, and even bigger buzz. We were able to lay our hands on an advance copy, and spoiler alert: it’s well worth the weight!.... Page Count: 944
A former author of Kelsey's, Rob Olive is a hilarious parody of John Green, whose YA novels crossed over into the adult world, becoming a worldwide phenomenon and giving birth to a new genre called sick lit. Olive's new book centers around a girl whose illness will prevent her from going to prom—a nod to a number of themes in Green's books—but our hearts will always belong to Hazel and Gus.
It appears that even hard-bodied hot dudes have a soft spot—and it comes in the form of John Green’s novel THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. When Hazel’s terminal cancer lands her at Cancer Kid Support Group, the last thing she expected to find was love. But when Augustus shows up, she gets to experience all the thrills, the heartbreak, and the raw emotion of being alive and being in love.