Literary Works Referenced in Lost

atkins-bookshelf-booksLost, the critically-acclaimed series that intrigued and baffled viewers throughout its six-season run, first premiered a decade ago, on September 22, 2004. The show that defied a simple label (an exotic blend of adventure, science fiction, supernatural, mystery, and drama) was developed by J. J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, and Jeffrey Lieber for the American Broadcasting Company. Over 121 episodes, more than 11 million fans, known as Losties or Lostaways, came to love or hate the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 as well as the island’s inhabitants — human, animal, and supernatural.

Despite its complex mythology, dizzying time travel, and countless unanswered questions — all of which annoyed fans to no end — the show was regarded by critics as one of the best television shows of all time, being nominated for hundreds of awards, and winning dozens of them. Television reporter Bill Carter wrote “[Lost had] the most compelling continuing story line in television history.” In the preface to Television’s Second Golden Age: From Hill Street Blues to ER, television critic Robert Thompson discusses what defines “quality television.” Thompson cites an industry definition: “A quality series enlightens, enriches, challenges, involves, and confronts. It dares to take risks, it’s honest and illuminating, it appeals to the intellect and touches the emotions. It requires concentration and attention, and it provokes thought.” Sounds like a checklist for Lost. Thompson goes on to delineate 12 attributes of quality television. One of the most interesting items on the list is number eight: “Quality TV tends to be literary and writer-based.”

And as many critics, fans, and students of the series have all noted, the writers of Lost consistently paid homage to the show’s many literary predecessors and influences either by showing the actual books and/or discussing their key characters or themes. In several interviews, the producers of the show acknowledge that the novels of Steven King, particularly The Stand, were the greatest influence on the show. In a podcast about the show, screenwriter and producer Carlton Cuse states: “… I think there’s a lot of television and book influences [on the show] as well, and both of us have to give a shout out to Stephen King. Stephen King is so artful at blending science fiction or horror concepts with really compelling character stories, and that is so much a model for what we are doing on the show. I mean those books of his sustain for 800/1000 pages. Not because of the mythology but because the characters are so damn cool!” Bookshelf honors Lost on the tenth anniversary of its premiere by listing some of the key literary works (50 out of a total of 94 listed in the most comprehensive list of books referenced on Lost — the Lostpedia website; a related website, Listal, allows you to sort the books 14 different ways). Not surprisingly, the most referenced author is Stephen King (12 novels), followed by Charles Dickens (3 novels).

1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
2. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
3. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
4. An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
5. The Oath by John Lescroart
6. Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
8. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stonen by J.K. Rowling
10. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
11. Dune by Frank Herbert
12. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
13. The Dark Tower 3: The Waste Lands by Stephen King
14. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
15. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
16. Animal Farm by George Orwell
17. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
18. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
19. High Hand by Gary Phillips
20. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
21. Walden Two by B. F. Skinner
22. Watership Down by Richard Adams
23. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
24. What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
25. VALIS by Philip K. Dick
26. Valhalla Rising by Clive Cussler
27. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
28. Ulysses by James Joyce
29. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
30. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
31. The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien
32. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
33. The Survivors of the Chancellor by Jules Verne
34. The Stone Leopard by Colin Forbes
35. The Stand by Stephen King
36. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
37. The Shining by Stephen King
38. The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
39. The Shape Of Things To Come by H.G. Wells
40. A Separate Reality by Carlos Castaneda
41. Roots by Alex Haley
42. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
43. Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy_II
44. The Pearl by John Steinbeck
45. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
46. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
47. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
48. On Writing by Stephen King
49. Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
50. The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Casares

Read related posts: Easter Eggs in Movies
Who is Alan Smithee?
Biggest Box Office Bombs
Five Fascinating Facts about Godzilla

For further reading: Lost’s Buried Treasures by Lynnette Porter, et al., Source Books (2009)

Television’s Second Golden Age: From Hill Street Blues to ER by Robert Thompson, Continuum (1996)


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