SFF Reading Recommendations for the Characters of Ted Lasso

I never thought I’d get so obsessed with a show about a middle-aged cishet white man doing sports stuff, but Ted Lasso has become one of my all-time favorite shows. The current and presumably final season in particular has struck a chord with me in terms of how it has leaned in hard on Blackness with Sam and queerness with Keeley, Colin, and Trent…and don’t even get me started on headcanons and fanfic with Jamie x Roy x Keeley. One of the creators, Jason Sudeikis, has talked a lot about how heavily the show is influenced by Star Wars—everything from the Hero’s Journey to Nate’s Empire-inspired office decor—and as a huge Star Wars nerd and hella queer Black person, it’s no wonder I love this show so much.

Another thing I love? Reader’s advisory. So, in the spirit of book recommendations, here is a list of adult and young adult science fiction and fantasy books I’d give to each of the characters if they came into my library.

 

Ted Lasso should read… The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magic by F. T. Lukens

Look, I don’t buy for a second that Ted’s real favorite book is The Fountainhead. There has to be some convoluted Ted-esque story behind why he chose that, and knowing what we know about Ted I doubt it has anything to do with the actual content of the novel. So why recommend The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magic? Because it’s short, fun, chaotic, has a dash of romance, and is all about a teenage boy dealing with anxiety and an absent father. I think Ted would dig the humor and find the bizarre situations enthralling, and I think he’d appreciate the soft romance that gradually unfolds between Bridger and Leo. I think he’d come into it suspicious that he could get anything out of a YA fantasy and be pleasantly surprised.

 

Rebecca Welton should read… Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

Rebecca doesn’t have much in common with Shizuka Satomi, Katrina Nguyen, or Lan Tran in the literal sense, but if we’re thinking thematically and psychologically then I feel like Rebecca would see a lot of herself in this novel. As the novel progresses, we see these three women come out of their shells, learn how to use their power to help others and themselves, and connect with others on an emotionally intimate level. These women begin their stories feeling frustrated and isolated and end it with an entirely new perspective of the world and their place in it. Rebecca isn’t there yet, but after her night with the Dutch guy, she’s on her way.

 

Nate Shelley should read… Fire Becomes Her by Rosiee Thor

This was the first book I thought of when putting this list together, and I stand by it. Fire Becomes Her features a protagonist with a fraught (to say the least) relationship with her father. She sets out to grab success (instead of earning it) by attaching herself to a powerful, wealthy white asshole of a man, then uses that position of privilege to try and undermine the people who care about her. She finds family in an unexpected place, loses them due to her own bad behavior, then has to work to try and win them back. Nate could learn a lot from Ingrid.

 

Roy Kent should read… All Systems Red by Martha Wells

If you’ve read All Systems Red, you know exactly why I’m recommending this for Roy. For those of you who haven’t (why on earth haven’t you???), the main character of this series is a sentient AI cyborg killing machine who calls itself Murderbot. Murderbot likes watching cheesy television dramas and dislikes humans and their sticky insides. Murderbot is grumpy and emotionally aloof, yet it also goes out of its way to help all those pathetic humans who always want something and are constantly emoting all over the place. Also, since Roy liked how short the chapters were in The DaVinci Code, I think he’d appreciate the short length of the Murderbot books.

 

Jamie Tartt should read… Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

A himbo for a himbo. If you’ve only seen the movie, you have no idea what a chaotic mess of hotness the Wizard Howl really is. This book is light, funny, and cute, which I think will work with the season 3 version of Jamie. Ted was more making a point when he gifted him a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned, but Howl’s Moving Castle better suits his personality and interests. This current version of Jamie reminds me so much of Hywel, especially after his little bit of Dutch nerditry in Amsterdam.

 

Keeley Jones should read… Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

I had this book picked out for Keeley before the episode where she revealed that Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility was one of her favorite books. As soon as I heard that, I knew I’d made the right choice with Zen Cho. Fantasy romance set in the Regency era should appeal to Keeley, especially a story involving a capable woman everyone underestimates except for the fussy, grumpy love interest.

 

Coach Beard should read… Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

I spent days mulling over Coach Beard, and even consulted some friends and fellow Ted Lasso obsessives. When Piranesi was suggested, it all clicked. This is exactly the kind of fantasy novel Beard would be into. It’s lush and pensive, intellectual yet tumultuous, with way more going on under the surface than meets the eye. And the plot might give him something to think about with regards to his own relationship, specifically how a man can get tangled up with someone he admires but who doesn’t respect him the way he deserves and what the emotional consequences of that can be.

 

Sam Obisanya should read… Once & Future by A. R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy

Sam was another character who I hemmed and hawed over, but I feel good about Once & Future. Assuming he enjoyed Ender’s Game, I think he’d get a kick out of this fantasy/sci-fi adaptation of the King Arthur myth. Everything from the wisecracking protagonist to the race- and gender-bending, from the young leader who has to learn how to lead to the oppressive capitalist empire the teens have to take on, seems like it would appeal to him. There’s action and adventure, humor and romance, and a plot that has a lot to say about the world.

 

Colin Hughes should read… Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues by H.S. Valley

There are quite a few parallels between Tim Te Maro and Colin Hughes. Both are trying to be braver and more open about who they are and what they want. Both find companionship in unexpected quarters. And both are so sweet I just want to scoop them up and take them home and ply them with tea and cookies. Tim’s emotional breakthrough looks different from Colin’s, but Colin deserves a story that lets him feel safe and loved as a queer man.

 

Trent Crimm should read… Babel by R. F. Kuang

You can’t tell me Trent wouldn’t be obsessed with a book set at a place as pompous as Oxford with a queer protagonist that is all about language and exploitation wouldn’t appeal to Trent “I wear leopard print dress shoes and introduce myself with the name of my employer” Crimm. He would eat this book up and come bursting into the room to tell you all about it, just like he did when he finally understood Ted’s new football strategy. This man would show up at my reference desk two days later begging for more books like Babel. (And I’d hand him Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.)

 

Leslie Higgins should read… Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Leslie Higgins is not what you expect. When we first met him, he seemed like a pathetic little weasel of a man who screwed over Rebecca to keep in Rupert’s good graces. But by the third season, we’ve learned so much more about him. Leslie is fundamentally a good man who got forced into a bad position and didn’t know how to get out of it. He’s also got an unexpected silly streak and loves unabashedly and honestly. Good Omens is perfect for him. I’d recommend Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, too, but I’m certain he’s already read it.

 

Dani Rojas should read… Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz

Dani is delightful, but he’s not exactly the deepest thinker on the team. He also doesn’t seem like a guy who spends much time reading. Hence Blazewrath Games. A book set in a world a lot like our own and centered around a sports-like competition (the championship is even called the World Cup) offers some easy entry points for him. The book has a lot of fast-paced action, which should keep his attention. Plus, Lana’s arc has just enough similarities to his that Dani could probably relate.

 

Isaac McAdoo should read… The Disasters by M. K. England

Like Dani, Isaac doesn’t seem like a big reader, so I’d want to give him something with a lot of entertaining content and relatable characters. Roy inspiring Isaac to be the team leader really pushed Isaac to grow as a person, as we saw during the Amsterdam episode. He was just some guy at the beginning of the show, but he’s held everyone together from crisis to crisis. While he’s far from perfect, he’s exactly what Richmond needs. That’s why The Disasters is a good book for him. He’ll be as hooked by the wild adventures and high-octane action as he will Nax as the unwitting leader of a ragtag team.

 

Dr. Sharon Fieldstone should read… Lone Women by Victor LaValle

Now, I know the doc’s favorite book is Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides, but that’s why I think this would be a good speculative story to slide her into. Lone Women is about a Black woman forging a life in early 20th century Montana while the dark and terrible secret she brought with her from California terrorizes the plains. And it’s about the violence of racism, misogynoir, and colonization and what it takes out of a person of color to fight back. Dr. Sharon doesn’t deal with any of that on the show, but she does like stories of complicated families in unfamiliar historical American settings. She’d like having a book to dig her teeth into, that makes her think, and pushes her to understand why she’s reacting the way she is to the way the plot unfolds.

 

Will Kitman should read… Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

This one is a bit out there, but given Will’s delighted reaction to getting propositioned about a threesome in Amsterdam, I think he’d like this book. He can live vicariously through Phèdre’s sexy adventures. He’s probably never read anything quite like Kushiel’s Dart, and I’m a big believer in giving readers books that stretch them outside their usual reading habits.

 

Mae, Baz, Jeremy, and Paul should read… The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Mostly I picked this because it’s about an ordinary teen living in a world of Chosen Ones. What is it like to be an NPC when everyone else has a whole show built around them? To be the person who pops in at key moments in the main character’s development but otherwise doesn’t really exist to the audience? Mikey resents being surrounded by Chosen Ones, but eventually comes to appreciate his life. Some tough love for our favorite footie fans.

 

Alex Brown is a Hugo-nominated and Ignyte award-winning critic who writes about speculative fiction, librarianship, and Black history. Find them on twitter (@QueenOfRats), instagram (@bookjockeyalex), and their blog (bookjockeyalex.com).

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