It probably isn’t the first show you’d think of when discussing “bookish” TV shows, but over the course of its nine seasons, The Office did quite a bit of literary name-dropping.
There was that episode with the Finer Things Club, which is basically an immersive, themed book club (I’d love to join, but I might not make the cut; it’s very exclusive). There was the fire alarm episode (when Ryan burned the cheesy pita), when the group discusses what books they’d bring to a desert island. And of course there are Toby’s Chad Flenderman novels (although, since those unfortunately don’t exist in our universe, they’re not on my list here, and neither is James Trickington’s guide to throwing a garden party). Plus, several of the main characters seem to be at least casual readers and talk about books from time to time.
So, inspired by the Gilmore Girls reading challenge, I decided there was no better way to spend my free time than by rewatching every single episode of The Office to note every single book ever mentioned on the show. But I quickly realized that would take far too long, so I found OfficeQuotes.net, a site that has transcriptions of every single episode, plus webisodes and deleted scenes. Check it out, it’s pretty cool.
Here is the (hopefully) complete list of every single book mentioned on The Office:
Season 2, Episode 4, “The Fire”
During the Jim-facilitated game of “Desert Island,” people are challenged to name the three books they could read for the rest of their lives.
- The Bible (Angela)
- A Purpose Driven Life (also Angela)
- The DaVinci Code (Phyllis, to Angela’s disgust)
- Physician’s Desk Reference (Dwight; hollowed out to store survival gear)
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (also Dwight, who then changes his mind)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Dwight)
Season 2, Episode 18: “Take Your Daughter to Work Day”
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
As if we weren’t all in love with Jim already, he seals the deal by bonding with Abby, Kevin’s fiancee’s daughter, over E. L. Konigsburg’s classic middle grade novel.
- Der Struwwelpeter
This is a real book. I googled it. It’s a German children’s book of moral stories and accompanying illustrations and the title translates to “shock-headed Peter.” But, though Dwight says the book is from 1864, it was actually published in 1845.
I have to say, the literary references in this episode are deliciously obscure and totally on-point, which isn’t surprising considering it was written by the incomparable Mindy Kaling.
Season 3, Episode 6: “Diwali”
- The Kama Sutra
Another Kaling episode.
Season 4, Episode 3: “Launch Party”
- Green Eggs and Ham
- Oh, The Places You’ll Go
Michael is excited to see Ryan after Ryan’s promotion to corporate, and wants to give him a copy of the Dr. Seuss classic often given as a graduation gift, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, but the store is sold out of it, so he buys Green Eggs and Ham instead.
Season 4, Episode 5: “Local Ad”
I don’t know if this counts because they don’t mention a specific book, but Phyllis is tasked with recruiting author Sue Grafton to appear in the local Dunder Mifflin ad the office workers are making. I include it here only because it’s one of the funniest dialogue exchanges of the entire series, in my opinion:
Phyllis: [gasps] Sue Grafton is at the Steamtown Mall. She’s doing a book signing right now.
Michael: Okay, okay, Phyllis this is what I want you to do. I want you to go down to the mall. I want you to get in line. I want you to get her to be in this commercial. This would be a huge coupe [I feel it’s important to note that he actually pronounces the “p”], people. All right? Do not take no for an answer.
Andy: Does anyone actually know what Sue Grafton looks like? I mean, is she hot or-?
Creed: She’s crazy hot.
Andy: Well then maybe we should just use Angela and say she’s Sue Grafton. Would anyone notice?
Angela: That’s not happening.
Season 4, Episode 6: “Branch Wars”
Mindy Kaling wrote this episode, too. Are we starting to see a pattern? This is the episode with the very exclusive Finer Things Club. In the episode, we get to see four books that the club reads, as well as the themed food and decor to go with them:
- A Room With a View (with classic English tea service)
- The House of the Spirits (with traditional Chilean food)
- Memoirs of a Geisha (with sushi and Japanese tea service)
- Angela’s Ashes (with potatoes, dark beer, and newsie caps)
There’s also a fifth Finer Things Club meeting we see where Pam, Oscar, and Toby are wearing berets and eating fruit and gesticulating over a painting, but we never get to see the book cover.
Season 5, Episode 1: “Weight Loss”
- Lonesome Dove
On Jim’s advice, Michael is trying to get to know Holly as friends before asking her out, and he learns that she’s read this book three times. I find this such a sweet detail, so simple, and yet it tells us so much about Holly’s character.
Season 5, Episode 19: “Golden Ticket”
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
I don’t know if my explanation can really do this episode justice, so you should just watch it. Eventually you get to this dialogue:
Michael: [bursting into the conference room] There is no movie called Willy Wonka. It’s called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Pam: It’s actually based on a book called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Michael: I can’t… vouch for that.
Season 6, Episode 8*: “Double Date”
This is another reference that might not exactly count under the strictest criteria, as it doesn’t mention a specific book, but again, it is really funny. While breaking up with Pam’s mom Helene, Michael tells her, “You need somebody who– who understands your references. Who is Kafkaesque? I’ve never– I don’t know him.”
Season 6, Episode 12*: “Secret Santa”
- The Kite Runner
Ryan has Toby for Secret Santa, and gives him a copy of The Kite Runner and a kite. Nice job, Ryan!
Season 6, Episode 19*: “Happy Hour”
- Iacocca: An Autobiography
After Michael tells Donna about Somehow I Manage, the management book he’s writing, she recommends that he read Lee Iacocca’s classic business-focused autobiography.
*A note about episode numbers in season 6: This season featured the two-part episode “Niagara,” which is officially considered one episode, but is listed as two separate episodes if you’re looking at it on Netflix, so my episode numbers here don’t match the ones on Netflix.
Season 7, Episode 18: “Garage Sale”
Kelly gives up her collection of Jennifer Weiner and Helen Fielding novels in exchange for a half-used candle from Dwight, who is attempting to get the biggest prize he can through the art of the swap at the office garage sale. I kind of love that they made Kelly a reader, although from the looks of the stack of books Dwight picks up, she may not have actually read those novels.
Season 9, Episode 3: “Andy’s Ancestry”
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
- Basic French
Erin and Darryl are study buddies. Erin is trying to learn French to impress Andy’s family, and Darryl is learning some time-saving life hacks.
Season 9, Episode 18: “Promos”
- 50 Shades of Grey
I can’t believe this is on this list. And that the very last book ever mentioned on The Office is 50 Shades of Grey. Sorry, guys.
So there they are, all 22 specific books mentioned on The Office, plus a few more book-related references. If I missed any, let me know!
I don’t know if we really learned anything through this, except maybe that Mindy Kaling is my hero, but I already knew that. Happy reading!