May 19th would have been Nora Ephron’s 75th birthday, and it seems now, more than ever—especially after watching her son Jacob Bernstein’s documentary on his mother’s life, Everything is Copy—that we miss her so much. Whether you’re a fan of her classic screenplay for When Harry Met Sally, her directorial debut Sleepless in Seattle, or you can’t get enough of watching Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks do their best Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in You've Got Mail, Nora Ephron’s healing sense of humor continues to inspire through both her many films and books.
Celebrate Nora Ephron’s birthday with some of her favorite reads. If it’s good enough for Nora, it’s definitely going on our list—to be read and re-read over and over again, even if we know what happens in the end.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Of all the American classics, Ephron said of Fitzgerald’s masterpiece of love and tragedy in the indulgent Jazz age: “Every time you read it, you see something new in it … It’s a masterpiece. And … [at 180 pages] it’s short.”
Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout
Ephron loved Elizabeth Strout’s critically-acclaimed novel about a retired schoolteacher and those closest to her (which later became a successful HBO miniseries starring Frances McDormand in the title role), that when she finished reading it, “I started at the beginning and read it over again.”
The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing
Doris Lessing’s epic 1962 novel scandalized the public when it was published due to its honest portrayal of a woman’s intimate life. Even Ephron was impressed. She said, “I was electrified by Lessing’s heroine, Anna, and her struggle to become a free woman.” The book follows writer Anna as she attempts to merge the four notebooks she’s kept over the years into one diary of her life, a fifth and final golden notebook.
Smiley’s People, by John LeCarré
Ephron wrote in an essay “You’ve Got Rapture,” for O Magazine: “I love John le Carré, but I’m even more in love with his hero, George Smiley, the spy with the broken heart. I want George Smiley to get over his broken heart. I want him to get over his horrible ex-wife who betrayed him. I want George Smiley to fall in love. I want George Smiley to fall in love with me.”
And of course … All of Jane Austen
As you can tell from her work in You’ve Got Mail, Nora Ephron was a die-hard Jane Austen fan. She said she liked to read all six of Austen novels in chronological order, back to back, “blissfully worrying over the lovers’ misunderstandings” and wondering if they will ever get it together. She was so enthralled by Austen’s work that “you’d never guess I had read them all at least 10 times before.”