For a show that was promoted as being about nothing, the sitcom Seinfeld sure did touch on many different issues. The most well-known themes involved relationship troubles, problems with co-workers, and learning how to live peacefully among the many eccentric citizens of New York City.
One of the often overlooked characteristics of the show was its literary emphasis, a rare component in most modern sitcoms. The title character was a comedian, and he was occasionally shown at his table attempting to write some new material.
His friend and ex-lover Elaine (played by Julia Louis Dreyfuss) works for a publishing company, where her main job is to read manuscripts. Her father was also involved in the world of books, having been the author of several works.
In addition to the literary ties involved in their various occupations, the characters often mentioned directly or made allusions to famous books. Here are nine of those titles and the episodes in which they were referenced.
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
This controversial novel mentioned in “The Library” episode was the one Jerry thought had prompted the visit from book cop Mr. Bookman, who was investigating about a novel Seinfeld had checked out back when he was in high school.
Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller
At the end of “The Library” an old girlfriend reveals that it was this novel by the same author that Jerry had checked out, and the book is shown among the possessions of their old but now homeless physical education teacher.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
“The Marine Biologist” episode from 1994 is memorable for George (played by Jason Alexander) pretending to have that profession, but Elaine gets in trouble with her employers when she claims that this Russian classic was originally titled War, What Is It Good For?
Breakfast At Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
After joining a book club in the 1994 episode called “The Couch”, George finds that he cannot muddle through this American classic. He ends up inviting himself to view the work with the family who had rented the only copy of the film.
So literary was the sitcom that it not only used the library as a title, but in 1998 also named another “The Bookstore”. George takes this book into the bathroom with him, but the store forces him to buy it and makes it impossible for him to sell or even give away.
Falconer by John Cheever
Susan’s dad is accused of having had an affair with the American author in a 1992 episode called “The Cheever Letters”, after Kramer found some love letters between the two men. This book is the only work directly mentioned in the show, although the writers could have chosen from a huge number in Cheever’s anthology.
The Big Game by Daniel O’ Brien
In a 1992 episode called “The Limo” George and Jerry pretend to be this author and his pal, even though neither one had even heard of the book that was the focus of discussion in the limo ride.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
This classic novel about children being stranded on a secluded island is referenced in the 1991 episode with the apt title “The Library”.
Cape Fear by John D. McDonald
Elaine mentions this title in “The Red Dot” episode from 1991, shortly before discovering the tiny crimson mark on the sweater George had given her.