In addition to being a Golden Globe-winning actress, director, and producer, Lena Dunham has also dipped toes in the literary world – with her 2014 memoir Not That Kind of Girl and Random House book imprint Lenny.

Reflecting on her current reading habits for NY-based bookstore One Grand, Dunham wrote:

“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.”

Find a list of Lena Dunham’s favorite books for comfort below, and complement with the bookshelves of Nora Ephron and Shonda Rhimes.


Conversations with Friends by 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.” -LD

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham (also rec’d by Ernest Hemingway)

“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!” -LD

The Cat Inside by 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.” -LD

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by 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.” -LD

Heartburn by Nora Ephron (READ: Nora Ephron’s Favorite Books)

“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.” -LD

Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose (also rec’d by Florence Welch)

“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.” -LD
Kicking Sick by 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.” -LD
All Night Party by 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.” -LD

The Crimson Petal and the White by 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.” -LD

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

“Want a thousand pages of pure romantic anxiety in which the biggest war in our nation’s history is just a mere backdrop for the heartache of a woman who should probably be in Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous? Then this is the book for you! I loved the descriptions of food when I was younger, and also of fashion and French kissing, and it’s a real master class in plot, pacing and how to sew a dress out of window decorations!” -LD

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