“I’ve always felt unclaimed. This is a story of the ways I created a territory, something more than just an archipelago of identities, something that could steady me, somewhere that I belonged.” From the first sentences of Carrie Brownstein‘s thoughtful 2015 memoir, Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl which chronicles the Sleater-Kinney guitarist’s childhood, coming-of-age, and the formation and break-up of one of riot grrrl‘s best-loved bands – it’s clear that Brownstein can write. And it’s reading and writing that helped her find solace in the chaotic lifestyle she craved.

On combating loneliness during the band’s hectic touring days, she writes: “On U.S. tours I would read novels about the states through which we were passing, trying to populate the vastness—the long stretches of green and brown and grays—with characters I could grow to know and love. Willa Cather kept me company in Nebraska and the upper Midwest. I read Joseph Mitchell essays about the Bowery and tales from James Baldwin’s Harlem before arriving in New York. Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms accompanied me through the South. For the West Coast I brought along Joan Didion essays and the writing of Wallace Stegner. Books grounded me, helped me to feel less alone.”



Feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression are threaded throughout the memoir, and Brownstein’s acknowledged the importance of stepping outside of oneself to find perspective: “I’ve been trying to immerse myself in the narratives of other people. I try to not isolate myself as much. It is really hard. People that are sensitive, you just feel too porous sometimes. There’s this inertia that sets in, and it’s hard to get out of bed. I think knowing that other people go through it is really reassuring.”

Read on for a list of books Carrie Brownstein has found comfort in, and complement with the Sleater-Kinney classic, Modern Girl. For further reading, dip into the booklists of Annie Clark, Kim Gordon and Patti Smith.


The Devil Finds Work by James Baldwin

“Baldwin is one of my favorite writers and cultural critics. His work always feels both relevant and revelatory. This book-long essay on film and moviegoing is part memoir, part homage to cinema, and also an exploration of the ways corrosive ideas seep into the collective imagination.” -CB

Baldwin’s Harlem by Herb Boyd

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote

“A dizzying, almost surreal bildungsroman about a search for a familial love that is just shy of non-existent.” -CB

Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (also rec’d by Annie Clark & Gabrielle Union)

Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (also rec’d by Annie Clark)

“A seminal book of essays. A meditation on the mythologies of the West and on America itself. Trenchant, prescient, timeless.” -CB

Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham

The Book Of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Rookie Yearbook Three by Tavi Gevinson

Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon (READ: Kim Gordon’s Favorite Books)

Brownstein spoke with Gordon on the release of her memoir. Watch here.

Me by Katherine Hepburn

“Katharine Hepburn wrote an amazing memoir just called Me, which is such a great title.” -CB

The Other Side by Lacy M. Johnson

The First Bad Man by Miranda July

Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

Collected Poems by Philip Larkin

“‘On me your voice falls as they say love should, / Like an enormous yes’ (‘For Sidney Bechet’). Such spare and soaring prose to examine stunted, anxious lives.” -CB

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers

“‘The most outlandish people can be a stimulus for love.’ A Southern Gothic novella on the eccentricities and vicissitudes of the heart.”

Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

“Moore is one of the best short story writers of all time. She is a strange, wondrous and occasionally unmerciful storyteller while also being incredibly profound.” -CB

Collected Stories by Lorrie Moore

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (also rec’d by Emma WatsonKim Gordon)

“Such an amazing book. What I liked about it was the form, you know? It starts out very theoretical, like it’s just this ontological exploration, very polemical, and you can feel that it’s kind of brittle up top, and dense. And like, as she is changing—this is why it’s like a poem—it starts to just open, the narrative, it’s like you can feel the air in the pages, and the whole story starts to loosen, and she’s kind of loosening from this place of just being, you know, in her head. I thought it was so beautiful, that exploration, because, like a poem, you could see the form being affected by her story. I loved all the references in the margins. It was one of those books where I thought, ‘Everyone should read this book.'” -CB

Just Kids by Patti Smith (also rec’d by Annie Clark & Marina Abramovic)

“Her writing has always seemed to transcend her music. It exists in the same world, but it also can be divorced from it and you can just read her books and think, Who is this fascinating writer?” -CB

Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag (also rec’d by Patti Smith)

Balanchine: A Biography by Bernard Taper

We the Animals by Justin Torres

“Ruminations on family, brotherhood, and the ways we are simultaneously — sometimes devastatingly — both different and similar to our kin.” -CB

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

“One of my favorite history books. It’s a story about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary and of an epistolary and academic friendship between two men, one of whom (unbeknownst to the other) was an inmate at an insane asylum.” -CB

The Waves by Virginia Woolf (also rec’d by Patti Smith)

“An impressionistic, experimental novel that is filled with an immense and delicate beauty. Told in soliloquies, the book explores a vast and tender interior landscape.” -CB

(via One Grand Books, Bookforum & Instagram)


Books by Carrie Brownstein

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl (2015)

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