Since catapulting to stardom as Special Agent Dana Scully on the The X-Files in the early ’90s – which set a benchmark for strong female characters on TV – Gillian Anderson has solidified her status as a captivating actress and cultural icon. Born in Chicago in 1968, she’s endeared audiences around the globe with her charismatic and compelling performances, cultivating a diverse body of work spanning screen and stage.

Beyond her beloved role on the The X-Files, Anderson’s garnered acclaim as an ill-fated socialite in The House of Mirth, an oversharing sex therapist in Sex Education, and a chilling Margaret Thatcher in The Crown. On stage, she’s turned in award-winning performances as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire and Margo Channing in All About Eve.

Earlier this year, Anderson invited women around the world to write to her about their sexual fantasies for Dear Gillian, an exploration of women’s private lives she’ll be turning into a book. Appearing on the Women’s Prize Podcast, Anderson cited Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden – a groundbreaking collection of women’s sexual fantasies that’s become a feminist lit classic – as central inspiration to the project, and one of five women-penned works that have most impacted her life and craft.

From Nancy Friday to Lisa Taddeo, explore Anderson’s favorite books by women below, and complement with the female-forward reading lists of Kim Cattrall, Elena Ferrante, Emma Watson and Reese Witherspoon.

Gillian Anderson’s Reading List

My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday

“It’s quite shocking. But not necessarily in the way that you’d expect. The level of intimacy and honesty from the women who were interviewed is just completely extraordinary. Women are sharing their deepest fantasies in an unfiltered, raw way. That, you know, it’s almost as if they’re, they’re not masking themselves for a reader at all.” -GA

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

“I think it’s in the title, to be honest. I mean, it’s the duality of humour and despair. It’s one of those rare books that kind of makes you cackle with laughter one moment and then rips you off the next moment and utterly destroys and devastates you. I think that’s what you want when you go to fiction. At least that’s what I want.” -GA

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (also rec’d by Phoebe Waller-Bridge)

“It was unlike anything I’d ever read before. It’s narrative journalism. It had that kind of curious, incisive journalistic perspective. But it’s also a book that really cares about and honours its subjects. So it’s about these three women, but it’s really about who we are, as women. It asked big, profound questions about sexual power, politics, desire. It covers quite a lot when you dig down into it.” -GA

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid (also rec’d by Reese Witherspoon)

“I remember tearing through this book. Just desperate to know what was gonna happen and how any of these impossibly awkward situations are going to be resolved. I also found myself thinking back to it for months after I read it. You know, everything that Kiley Reid writes about in the book is painfully true.” -GA

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

“The journey takes them through not only the journey of releasing attachment to these material things, it takes them through the journey of letting go of the resentment of being forced to give up their life that they had built everything, that they had an attachment to that we as human beings are attached to. I think it hit me so hard.” -GA

(via Women’s Prize For Fiction; photo by Charlotte Hadden)

Looking for an Amazon alternative? Support local, independent booksellers by shopping Gillian Anderson’s reading list – and hundreds of other celebrity book recommendations – through Radical Reads’ Bookshop page.

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