If you’re a regular viewer of ABC’s Lost, you’re well aware of the fact that there are a lot of books involved in the series. Literature is a very important aspect of the Lost universe. Whether characters are read-aholics, or the plot of a well-known novel comes to play in an episode, the creators of Lost keep the more literary among their fan-base on their toes with literary references throughout the series.
ABC and the creative minds behind Lost took this literary facet of the show a step further when they created the Lost Book Club, an official branch of the Lost universe that allows fans to read books that are seen, mentioned, or alluded to on one of today’s most popular television series.
In preparation for Season Five, fans have already been introduced to a new book for the Lost Book Club’s bookshelf. The show’s writers and producers informed fans that Benjamin Linus would be reading Ulysses in an episode titled “316”. In the announcement, Damon Lindelof read a selection from page 316 of James Joyce’s novel. Part of that selection reads “So off they started . . . about hurley and putting the stone and racy of the soil and building up a nation once again and all of that.” However, after posing the question of whether the reference to “Hurley” (another castaway favorite) was coincidence, Lindelof replied, “Absolutely.” Lost fans can only watch and see for themselves whether the reference is indeed merely coincidence.
The books composing the Lost Book Club have often served as inspiration to the show’s creators. For this reason, they are often worked into the plot in a number of creative ways. For example, several episodes of Lost have been named after the titles of literary works from authors ranging from Lewis Carroll to Charles Dickens. The first episode of Season Three was called “A Tale of Two Cities”. The twenty-second episode of that same season was called “Through the Looking Glass”; Lewis Carroll gains a secondary reference through the naming of the Dharma Initiative’s underwater station, known as the Looking Glass.
Literary works are also connected to several different Lost favorites. The most avid reader on the island is Sawyer, who has been seen on the series reading everything from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to Judy Bloom’s Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. Desmond revealed that the last book he wants to read before he dies, and the book he kept with him during his long stay on the island, is Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend. In one season, the Dharma Initiative’s orientation film is found by the castaways hidden behind Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw; the second part of the orientation film is appropriately found by Mr. Eko (who once masqueraded as a priest and was perhaps the most religiously oriented island member) in a copy of the Bible. Benjamin Linus is also apparently an avid reader, having been spotted with books like Stephen King’s Carrie and John Lescroart’s The Oath.
The writers and producers have found even more creative ways to incorporate literature into Lost. The last two episodes of Season Four are titled after Dorothy Gale’s famous line from L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: “There’s no place like home.” In another season, when Benjamin Linus is captured by the Flight 815 castaways, he gives his name as Henry Gale, which is the name of Dorothy’s uncle in Baum’s classic novel. Linus also claims to have crashed on the island after a hot air balloon accident, which is reminiscent of both the Wizard of Oz’s balloon accident and an accident in Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island; in Verne’s novel, the main characters have a ballooning accident that strands them on an island in the South Pacific.
Fans have also drawn connections between the characters on Lost and philosopher-writers. For example, Desmond’s full name is Desmond David Hume; the real Hume, who in his writings attempted to invalidate metaphysics, probably wouldn’t have approved of Desmond’s time traveling and visions on Lost. John Locke’s philosophical counterpart’s writings in Essay Concerning Human Understanding, in which he argued that experience is the only source of knowledge, likely would have been disregarded by the Lost castaway. At the end of Season Four, Locke is referred to as “Jeremy Bentham” in an obituary; Locke likely would have found Bentham’s writings in his Principles of Morals and Legislation— which held that an action is morally right when it leads to the greatest happiness for the greatest number– a strong support for his actions regarding the castaways in that same season.
Fans who join the Lost Book Club won’t be members of the first book club involving the Lost castaways and other island folk. Unfortunately, Benjamin Linus and his posse known as the “Others” beat the creators to the punch! In one episode, the Others’ book club is seen reading Stephen King’s Carrie when Oceanic Flight 815 first broke up over their homes, starting the Castaway-Others conflict. However, joining the Book Club does let you do one thing the castaways and other folks on Lost can’t do: figure out the secrets of the island through the literary works that inspired the series!