Best known as the creative force behind the beloved BBC tragicomedy show Fleabag, English actress-writer-producer extraordinaire Phoebe Waller-Bridge has paved the way for centering unapologetically flawed female characters on screen. A London native, she cut her teeth performing solo shows on West End stages before pursuing television and film work – including roles in Crashing, Broadchurch, and the Star Wars film Solo.

Waller-Bridge followed Fleabag‘s phenomenal success with the female-led BBC thriller Killing Eve, which she adapted from Luke Jennings’ book series of the same name. A homoerotic cat-and-mouse assassin story that subverts the spy genre, the series has only cemented its showrunner’s status as a master of telling complicated women’s tales with fresh writing, dark humor, and endless nuance.

Extolling on a lifelong penchant for villains and antiheroines, Waller-Bridge gave honorable mention to Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander and Vladimir Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert in a 2019 New York Times interview on the books of her lifeFind her full reading list below, and complement with the women-centered recommendations of Italian novelist Elena Ferrante.


CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away by Richard Brautigan

I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild’s Pocket Book edited by Iona Opie and Peter Opie

The Blue Lenses by Daphne du Maurier

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (also rec’d by Jamie Lee Curtis)

Killing Eve by Luke Jennings

The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (also rec’d by Daniel RadcliffeDavid BowieJohnny Depp, Marlon James, Patti SmithPearl Jam & Salman Rushdie)

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (also rec’d by Axl Rose, Patti Smith & R.L. Stine)

“Frankenstein took my breath away, but when I discovered Mary Shelley was 19 when she wrote it my head blew off.” -PWB

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

“I do have a penchant for an antiheroine/hero. I prefer not to know exactly how I feel about a character. I definitely started walking like a badass while reading Lisbeth Salander.”

The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy (also rec’d by Johnny Depp)

“I was horrified yet set alight by the brutal amorality of Sebastian Dangerfield from J. P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man.” -PWB

The First Bad Man by Miranda July (also rec’d by Carrie Brownstein)

“I’ll never quite shake the impact of Cheryl Glickman from The First Bad Man, by Miranda July.” -PWB

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (also rec’d by Bradley Cooper, Cheryl StrayedDavid Bowie, Kim GordonMichael StipeNick CavePatti Smith & Richey Edwards)

“Humbert Humbert in Lolita was the most unforgettable, uncomfortable relationship I’ve had with a character I can remember.”

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

“Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy defined me as a young reader. I lived between those pages. I remember the physical ache of wanting to be deep in those worlds. I even wrote to Pullman asking if I could play Lyra. Still waiting.” -PWB

Forever by Judy Blume

“The sexy ’70s classic Forever, by Judy Blume, was banned from my school because a Certain Page was getting the students all sweaty. But any number of detentions were worth being caught with it and I had… one or two detentions.” -PWB

Little Birds by Anaïs Nin (also rec’d by Dita Von Teese)

“Not dissimilarly, years later, I picked up Anaïs Nin’s Little Birds while browsing Waterstones and stood frozen there, entranced, for about an hour until an employee had to remind my flushed face that Waterstones isn’t a library and I had to remind myself that erotic short stories should be read in private.” -PWB

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

(via The New York Times)

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