Lisa Simpson’s bookshelf: from the curator of Instagram’s Simpsons Library

8 November 2017

Guatemala City-based Carmen López is the curator behind the popular Instagram account, Simpsons Library. Similar to the anonymous curator of Scenic Simpsons, Carmen trawls through old episodes of The Simpsons cataloguing the various book covers that appear in the show.

“As a big Simpsons fan, I was already following a lot of Instagram accounts that share recurring themes in the show and found myself collected snippets of scenes and details of the huge Simpsons universe like cars, tattoos, movie references, food. I love them all, but it seemed very strange to me that nobody had covered the literary elements because it was one of the things that caught my attention the most. One sleepless night I started collecting some of the screenshots to pass the time,” explains Carmen.

In her day job, Carmen is an art director where she works with her creative partner in studio she set up earlier this year. While this side project hasn’t taken over yet, the process is time consuming. Carmen first began by searching for the books she remembered from episodes she really liked. “When the followers started to grow, people began to send me their favourite books. It’s awesome how big the community built around The Simpsons is,” Carmen says.

From season one to 29, printed material has been part of the fun and wit of The Simpsons but Carmen notes it’s also a way for the writers to satire the current zeitgeist of society from time to time. “They have evolved through the years, and we can find parodies, real books, books written by characters, lifestyle magazines, and so on,” she says.

With an unparalleled insight into the books these dysfunctional characters read, we asked Carmen to compile a bookshelf that reflects her favourite covers from the show. With her selections, the art director has treated us to a portrait of her favourite character. “My favourite character is without a doubt Lisa. She is smart, an idealist, a vegetarian, a strong environmentalist, a feminist and a buddhist. She loves school, Jazz, playing the baritone saxophone, reading and ponies. Who wouldn’t want to be like her?

She’s also the most avid reader in Springfield,” says Carmen. “Through the books she reads we can discover a deeper side of Lisa. She is also a character everyone, especially women and girls can relate to. Even though she’s only eight years old, Lisa faces all kinds of situations that many of us find ourselves dealing with. That’s why it’s easy for me (and others) to identify with her”.


How To Talk To a Drunk Father

Catch’em if you can (S15E18): How To Talk To a Drunk Father

This book appears as a small detail in a scene where Lisa is sitting on the school bus reading peacefully just before a water balloon thrown by Bart lands on her head. This is one of the cases where the book could be irrelevant to the scene, but it’s used as a way to give a deeper sense of the relation between Lisa and Homer.

It’s not always easy for them to get along because of their huge differences in personality but they always make a point of hanging out together and enjoy each other’s company. These episodes always end up being giving me a fuzzy feeling inside. 


Thin By Third Grade

Sleeping with the enemy (SE16E03): Thin By Third Grade

After Lisa’s friends teased her about her big butt, she started to become self-conscious about her weight. She then proceeds to learn about the unhealthy beauty standards that out society imposes over us. Though that didn’t stop her from reading the book, Thin by third grade.

During this episode she goes through a crisis where she cries and eats a whole cake, which many people can probably relate to. Finally Nelson helps her stand up against the girls and Homer makes her say to him that she’s okay, and even though she does but we know that she doesn’t really believe it.


The Simpsons: A complete guide To Our Favourite Family

Today I’m a clown (S15E06): The Simpsons: A complete guide To Our Favourite Family

In this episode, Lisa confirms a past event with a Simpsons episode guide. The book says that Homer had taken Santa’s Little Helper to be neutered after the events of Two Dozen and One Greyhounds but Homer confesses that he couldn’t bring himself to actually do it. 

We can see that Lisa is so smart, she’s able to see through the fourth wall and is aware she’s in a TV show. These scenes may not be caught by the casual watchers but they are placed by the writers to continue building a more complex universe for the most hardcore fans. This cover is well-loved by The Simpsons community since it’s actually a real book that many fans had during their childhood.


They promised me ponies

Fat Man and Little Boy (S16E05): They promised me ponies

Lisa and Janey were playing in the backyard when Bart began shooting a barrage of spitballs at them from his treehouse, when the girls took cover behind the swing set, Bart announced that he was using Lisa’s unfinished novel, and holds up the manuscript of They Promised Me Ponies.

I picked this one because it shows Lisa’s personality, and her wishes to be recognised by a more intellectual and artistic community. This is a recurring theme through all the seasons, and it sometimes becomes an insane obsession that let’s us see what Lisa’s goals in life are. These moments reveal a more competitive, sometimes vain and even selfish side of her. 

What I like about the title of this book is it combines the mixed feelings from her childhood with the realisation that having everything we were promised is not necessarily true. Some of us would’ve really loved to have had a pony.


Sane planning, Sensible tomorrow

Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy (S06E10): Sane planning, Sensible tomorrow

Lisa bought Al Gore’s book when the family visited Books! Books! and Additional Books! (Guess what? This is an episode full of funny covers). This scene is specially funny because as the book was scanned at the cash register, a signal went to The Pentagon and Gore was informed that someone had finally bought his new book.

To celebrate, he listened to the song Celebration by Kool & The Gang. Lisa also mentions another Gore book, Rational Thinking, Reasonable Future.  Lisa is always showing characteristics rarely seen in Springfield, including spirituality and commitment to peaceful ways, and is notably more concerned with world affairs than her life in Springfield.

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About the Author

Rebecca Fulleylove

Rebecca Fulleylove is a freelance writer and editor specialising in art, design and culture. She is also senior writer at Creative Review, having previously worked at Elephant, Google Arts & Culture, and It’s Nice That.

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