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 life. Find her full reading list below, and complement with the women-centered recommendations of Italian novelist Elena Ferrante.
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
Killing Eve by Luke Jennings
“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.”
“I was horrified yet set alight by the brutal amorality of Sebastian Dangerfield from J. P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man.” -PWB
“I’ll never quite shake the impact of Cheryl Glickman from The First Bad Man, by Miranda July.” -PWB
“Humbert Humbert in Lolita was the most unforgettable, uncomfortable relationship I’ve had with a character I can remember.”
“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
“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
“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)