Lena Dunham: TOP TEN BOOKS


Golden Globe-winner Lena Dunham is best known for her work as screenwriter, director, producer and actor on HBO’s Girls, for which she also won the 2013 DGA Award for Outstanding Directing – Comedy Series (the first woman to do so). She’s also garnered solid attention as the author of her own book, Not That Kind of Girl, and the Lenny book imprint.

“So, right now books for me are all about comfort,” says Dunham. “That may seem like a true “duh,” but think about it: sometimes we read to learn, sometimes we read to get riled up, sometimes we read to ensnare a boy or master a new sex trick involving ice and cream (NOT ice cream). But right now I read to feel the cozy waves of recognition of self and affirmation of human goodness that can come from giving it to a book hard. Below, my current comfort favorites that are both deeply sweet and totally wild (cozy brain doesn’t mean lazy brain).”

Below are Lena Dunham’s favorite books, available to purchase individually or as a set.


Conversations with Friends

Sally Rooney
I don't respond well to being told what to do, so I slept on this for like six months and when I finally read it the emotions were so all-encompassing that I wept like a baby. Toxic female friendship? Check. Chronic illness? Check. Unbreakable pattern with unavailable man? CHECK! And written with a precision rarely credited to young female authors.
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Of Human Bondage

Somerset Maugham
I read this when my first boyfriend broke up with me and wept across three continents—weeping seems to be a theme today. The protagonist is one of those assholes who thinks he's going to "save" a sex worker (the politics are rough), but the obsession and abandonment shit is on point. Then I bragged to my college English teacher and he was like "oh, that's a lesser British novel." Whoops!
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The Cat Inside

William S. Burroughs
I love cats. Specifically, I love hairless cats. William S. Burroughs (you know, noted wife murderer,) writes so tenderly about cats that you wonder if it's your job to go back in time to help him be who he could have been. Smart pet writing is so rare.
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There Are Things More Beautiful Than Beyoncé

Morgan Parker
Parker is, quite simply, our best working poet, and she just blinds me with her skill. She somehow makes a book about deep psychic pain (also a meditation on a broken society, no biggie) into something that feels celebratory and joyous. I’m nominating her for the best pop references in poetry award! She is also the funniest on twitter and echoes my judge-y, agoraphobic general mind state, only with pizazz.
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Nora Ephron
This just reentered my life. Always need an Ephron on the list. Love when one book can make you desperate to eat food and avoid men. She told us all to turn our pain into art and she knew of what she spoke. I wish she'd written more prose-fiction, but she was too busy changing the industry for women and cooking ornate meals and telling us all how to handle our hair.
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Too Much and Not the Mood

Durga Chew-Bose
Not since The Empathy Exams has a book of essays stuck with me this way. I've known Chew-Bose for a decade and she's always applied the same academic contemplation to her experiences, to her studies of human behavior, and to how it plays out in the films we know and love. She's now writing profiles for places like Vanity Fair and she turns the genre on its head.
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Kicking Sick

Amy Kurtz
Kurtz inspired me to take my chronic illness into my own hands with her beautiful book, which is a public service for every woman or person who has felt caged by their pain. She gives action items and cute lil' stories and pretty pictures of delicious smoothies. It's lifestyle porn for self-described weaklings. I love it.
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All Night Party

Andrea Barnet
This is a deliciously dense historical text about some of the baddest bitches ever to crawl the streets of New York. Drama. Drugs. Sex. Violence. Flapper dresses that would look so good on the women of Big Little Lies. This book has it all.
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The Crimson Petal and the White

Michel Faber
This is another book about a man in Victorian England trying to reform and own the heart of a sex worker. It's a theme for the Victorian period and it's a theme for me as a reader and this psychosexual drama held my attention on every page. Very ornate descriptions of the main sexy girl's chapped and bleeding lips, which I like. It is very rich with period sex details (the way they applied spermicide is haunting), which is primo for me.
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Raven Leilani
Raven Leilani's unique ability to capture both the pained and hilarious inner monologue of an acerbic Black twenty something and the waning marriage of two basic white suburbanites with blistering truth is a testament to her limber writing style and wild ingenuity. This book was consumed over one smoky day during the Los Angeles fires when we were told not to go outside, so instead I entered the claustrophobic dynamics of this hesitant threesome. I'm sure I will again on a stay inside day soon.
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