If you’ve ever watched the show, you know it’s hard not to fall in love with “Ted Lasso”—both the Apple TV+ series and the titular character of the same name.
Ted and his team, AFC Richmond, have returned to the pitch for a third and final season (here’s a recap of season two, if you need a refresher), already full of drama, Ted’s signature, dad-level puns and literary references.
Wait. Literary references?
While on its surface, you know that “Ted Lasso” is a show about soccer, you may not have been expecting the level of contagious enthusiasm and optimism each episode doles out. And what only eagle-eyed viewers (or particularly bookish ones) may have caught onto is the importance of books to Ted Lasso and his team. Not only are literary references sprinkled throughout the show’s dialogue, but characters are often reading something on-screen, whether they’ve been given the book by Ted, or want to improve their soccer game (here’s looking at Coach Beard).
Take a look at some of the most prominent reads featured in “Ted Lasso,” and click on the titles if you’d like to check them out for yourself!
Books to Believe In
In Season 1, Episode 3, we see Ted tell AFC Richmond that he’s left them some gifts in their lockers. Each player has been given a book, hand-selected by him. This elicits a variety of reactions, from selfish bad boy Jamie Tartt throwing his hardcover of “The Beautiful and Damned” promptly into the trash, to good-natured Sam Obisanya immediately diving into “Ender’s Game” whilst getting his cardio in on a stationary bike.
The grumpy-but-loveable Roy Kent is given “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle. He immediately confronts Ted about his selection:
Roy: “I mean, what even is ‘A Wrinkle In Time?’”
Trent Crimm (“The Independent”): “It’s a lovely novel. It’s the story of a young girl’s struggle with the burden of leadership as she journeys through space.”
Ted: “Yeah. That’s it.”
Roy: “Am I supposed to be the little girl?”
Ted: “I’d like you to be.”
At this point in the show, not much of the team has warmed to Ted’s unconventional coaching methods. Obviously, he has assigned books to his players that are meant to inspire or relate to them in some way.
- Roy Kent’s book: “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle
- Jamie Tartt’s book: “The Beautiful and Damned” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Sam Obisanya’s book: “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card
- Robbie Roberts’ book: “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs
Coach Beard’s Book Club
These are fun Easter eggs! you may be thinking. But are they really important to the show?
Part of the reason “Ted Lasso” is so popular is due to the well-rounded cast of loveable characters. And a good television show will have put a lot of thought into those characters, in both the details you see on-screen, and even the things you’ll never learn about them. The way you learn about another person in real life is often subtle—rarely do people say what they’re really thinking and feeling—and the same applies to your favorite characters. Those little details we see or hear on-screen, but aren’t explicitly told, are called indirect characterization.
Penguin Books has its own list of books cleverly hidden in the background of popular media, and they remind us that books have long been used in TV and movies to emphasize characters’ interests, desires, and insecurities as well as plot points.
Fan-favorite Coach Beard, Ted Lasso’s longtime assistant-slash-best friend, is arguably the most bookish character in the series. From the very first episode, we see him with a book in his hand on the flight to London. He’s almost never without one in his office, whether he’s reading a notable soccer biography, or a fluffy British romance, Beard’s reading choices often convey more about his feelings than his words (or lack thereof).
- Season 1, Episode 1: “Coaching Soccer for Dummies” and “Inverting the Pyramid” by Jonathan Wilson
- Season 1, Episode 6: “The Arco Book of Soccer Techniques and Tactics” by Richard Widdows
- Season 2, Episode 5: “Fever Pitch” by Nick Hornby
- Season 2, Episode 6: “Football Against the Enemy” by Simon Kuper
- Season 2, Episode 7: “About a Boy” by Nick Hornby (Perhaps he loved “Fever Pitch” so much, he decided to read a non-soccer Nick Hornby novel?)
- Season 2, Episode 11: “Entangled Life” by Merlin Sheldrake
Other Books from the Lasso Library
Coach Beard isn’t the only one spotted with his nose in a book; Ted, and much of his team, are extremely well-read.
In Season, 1, Episode 1, as Ted gets up to use the airplane restroom, you can spot a copy of “The Dharma Bums” by Jack Kerouac on his seat. When we see him reading it, he specifically opens up to chapter 14. In that chapter, the narrator, Ray, is preparing for a solo journey into the wilderness. This seems to be an example of art (imitating art) imitating life, as Ted is quite literally embarking on his own solo venture (having left his wife and son at home in the States).
In Season 2, Episode 7, Roy Kent spends the episode reading “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown, in a quest to discover new hobbies and interests.
In Season 2, Episode 8, Sam reads “A Wrinkle in Time” on the stationary bike—and it looks a little worn. Could it be on loan from Roy Kent?
In Season 2, Episode 2, Ted tries to get to know AFC Richmond’s new team therapist, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, by asking her what her favorite book is.
While she isn’t amused by this tactic, she does tell him her answer: “Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy. He offers that his favorite book is “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand, saying “I know, curveball, right? But I can explain.” Unfortunately, he never gets the chance to explain, so we can only guess as to why this is Ted’s pick.
- Ted’s airplane read: “The Dharma Bums” by Jack Kerouac
- Ted’s favorite book: “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand
- Dr. Sharon’s favorite book: “Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy
- Roy’s read: “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown
What do you think Coach Beard will read in season 3? Did you catch on to the number of books featured in the show during your watch? Let us know!