What Would Jim Holden Read?

Captain James Holden, the lead character of SyFy's The Expanse (based on the books of James S. A. Corey) is an interesting guy. He could easily be thought of as your typical big, dumb hero who accidentally gets caught in the middle of political intrigue and magically comes out unscathed in the end. But while all that is true, I think mistaking his simplicity for stupidity does a disservice to the reserved ex-military man from Montana.

What do we know about Jim Holden? 

He's honest, usually too honest for his own good. He was raised to have the independent spirit that the American West is known for. Once he sets a goal, he is laser-focused on achieving it and is hard to dissuade. He's an idealistic do-gooder (Amos even calls him "righteous"). He loves his ship, his crew, his girlfriend, and he loves his coffee. 

So if we were to step aboard the Rocinante and peruse his digital bookshelf, here's what I think we would find:

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (available in these formats)

If there's any book that holds special meaning for Holden, it's this one. He has a (rare and expensive) paper copy in his home on Earth, he names his ship after Don Quixote's horse, and he even drops the occasional reference to tilting at windmills. When another character talks to one of his mothers while trying to learn more about him, she explains that as a child Holden 'fancied himself as a knight' and that 'he thought it [the book] was funny'. She goes on to say that she 'never had the heart to tell him it's actually a tragedy.' How's that for revealing character psychology?

Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck (available in these formats)

Hey! Another guy who named his vehicle Rocinante and likes to travel around with a light crew (a four-legged one in this case). I have a feeling that Holden and Steinbeck would be kindred spirits. 

Contact by Carl Sagan (available in these formats)

Since the central plot of The Expanse centers on the discovery of an alien 'molecule' that (maybe accidentally) wreaks havoc on humankind, and particularly since Holden is one of the first humans to interact with it, he might feel the need to spend some time with Dr. Sagan exploring the possibilities and the fallout of so momentous a thing as finding out you are not alone in the universe.

Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger

Okay, I don't actually think this is a book Holden has ever read (or ever would), but I *do* think it's the type of thing that would end up on his hand terminal as a "gift" from Naomi. While Kissinger might not be the best person Holden could look to for advice, he could definitely learn a thing or two from his broader perspective on the effect things like the balance of power, war, peacetime, and idealism have on diplomacy.

A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean (available in these formats)

Hugely evocative of the spirit and wilderness of Montana, this book explores themes of religion, fishing, connection to the earth, and what it means to be a father, a son, and a brother. It would be a good story to turn to whenever Holden feels homesick while out in the black of space.


Season 3 of The Expanse premiers April 11 on the SyFy Channel.

Start (or re-watch) the first two seasons here. If you're interested in reading the books the TV series is based on, you can find the novels and novellas here.