115 Books on Lena Dunham & Miranda July’s Bookshelves at Home (Plus a Bonus Short Play)


Miran­da-july-read­ing” by Alex­is Bar­rera / Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons.

Ah, the joys of din­ing at a new friend’s home, know­ing soon­er or lat­er, one’s host­ess’ blad­der or some bit of last minute meal prepa­ra­tion will dic­tate that one will be left alone to rifle the titles on her book­shelf with aban­don. No med­i­cine cab­i­net can com­pete with this peek into the psy­che.

Pity that some of the peo­ple whose book­shelves I’d be most curi­ous to see are the least like­ly to open their homes to me. That’s why I’d like to thank The Strand book­store for pro­vid­ing a vir­tu­al peek at the shelves of film­mak­ers-cum-authors Miran­da July and Lena Dun­ham.  (Pre­vi­ous par­tic­i­pants in the Authors Book­shelf series include just-plain-reg­u­lar authors George Saun­ders, Edwidge Dan­ti­cat and the late David Fos­ter Wal­lace whose con­tri­bu­tions were select­ed by biog­ra­ph­er D.T. Max.)


Lena Dun­ham” by David Shankbone — Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons.

I wish Dun­ham and July had offered up some per­son­al com­men­tary to explain their hand-picked titles. (Sure­ly their homes are lined with books. Sure­ly each list is but a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­pling, one shelf from hun­dreds. Hmm. Inter­est­ing. Did they run back and forth between var­i­ous rooms, curat­ing with a vengeance, or is this a case of what­ev­er hap­pened to be in the case clos­est at hand when dead­line loomed?)

Which book’s a long­time favorite?

Which the lit­er­ary equiv­a­lent of com­fort food?

Are there things that only made the cut because the author is a friend?

Both women are cel­e­brat­ed sto­ry­tellers. Sure­ly, there are sto­ries here beyond the ones con­tained between two cov­ers.

But no mat­ter. The lack of accom­pa­ny­ing anec­dotes means we now have the fun of invent­ing imag­i­nary din­ner par­ties:


ME: (stand­ing in the liv­ing room, call­ing through the kitchen door, a glass of wine in hand) Whoa, Lena, I can’t believe you’ve got Impor­tant Arti­facts and Per­son­al Prop­er­ty from the Col­lec­tion of Lenore Doolan and Harold Mor­ris, Includ­ing Books, Street Fash­ion, and Jew­el­ry!

LENA DUNHAM: (polite, but dis­tract­ed by a pot of red sauce) I know, isn’t that one great?

ME: So great! Where’d you buy it?

LENA DUNHAM: Uh, The Strand, I think.

ME: Me too! Such a great con­ceit, that book. Wish I’d come up with it!

LENA DUNHAM: I know what you mean.

ME: Ooh, you’ve got Was She Pret­ty? 

LENA DUNHAM: Hmm? Oh, yeah, my friend Miran­da gave me that.

ME: (glanc­ing between the two books.) Wait! Leanne Sharp­ton. Leanne Sharp­ton. I didn’t real­ize it’s the same author.


ME: The per­son who wrote Was She Pret­ty? also wrote Impor­tant Arti­facts and Per­son­al Prop­er­ty-

ME & LENA DUNHAM IN UNISON: — from the Col­lec­tion of Lenore Doolan and Harold Mor­ris, Includ­ing Books, Street Fash­ion, and Jew­el­ry!

LENA DUNHAM: Got­ta love that title.

ME: Why do you have all these kids’ books?

LENA DUNHAM: Those are from my child­hood.

ME: (slid­ing an unnamed title off the shelf, eyes widen­ing as I read the shock­ing­ly graph­ic per­son­al inscrip­tion on the fly­leaf) Oh?

LENA DUNHAM: I real­ly relate to Eloise.

ME: (hasti­ly slid­ing the vol­ume back onto the shelf before Lena can catch me snoop­ing) Oh yeah…ha ha.

LENA DUNHAM: Are you the one who likes graph­ic nov­els?

ME: Me? Yes!!!

LENA DUNHAM: Yeah. My friend Miran­da does too.

ME:  That’s fun­ny - Sex and the Sin­gle Girl right next to Of Human Bondage.

LENA DUNHAM: (curs­ing under her breath)

ME: Need help?

LENA DUNHAM: No, it’s just this damn …arrrggh. I hate this cook­book!

ME: (bright­ly) Smells good!

LENA DUNHAM: … crap.

ME: So, is Adam Dri­ver com­ing? Or Ray or any­body?

LENA DUNHAM: (testi­ly)  You mean Alex Kar­povsky?

ME: (flus­tered) Oh, ha ha, yes! Alex! … I sent him a Face­book request and he accept­ed.

LENA DUNHAM: (mut­ters under her breath)

ME: Design Sponge? Real­ly? What’s some­one in your shoes doing with a bunch of DIY dec­o­rat­ing books?

LENA DUNHAM: (cold­ly) Research.


Actu­al­ly, maybe it is bet­ter to admire one’s idols’ book­shelves from afar.

I’m cha­grined that I don’t rec­og­nize more of their mod­ern fic­tion picks. That wasn’t such a prob­lem when I was mea­sur­ing myself against the 430 books on Mar­i­lyn Monroe’s read­ing list.

Thank heav­en for old stand­bys like Madame Bovary.

In all sin­cer­i­ty, I was glad that Dun­ham didn’t try to mask her love of home decor blog books.

And that July includ­ed her husband’s mono­graph, Our Bod­ies, Our­selves and a hand­book to rais­ing self-con­fi­dent babies.

One’s shelves, after all, are a mat­ter of taste. So, cel­e­brate the sim­i­lar­i­ties, take their rec­om­men­da­tions under advise­ment, see below and read what you like!



A Time for Every­thing  — Karl Ove Knaus­gaard

A Very Young Dancer — Jill Kre­mentz

Alice James: A Biog­ra­phy  — Jean Strouse

Ani­ma­cies: Biopol­i­tics, Racial Mat­ter­ing, and Queer Affect  — Mel Y. Chen

Arthur Tress: The Dream Col­lec­tor — John Mina­han

Build­ing Sto­ries  — Chris Ware

Crud­dy: An Illus­trat­ed Nov­el  — Lyn­da Bar­ry

Diaries, 1910–1923  — Franz Kaf­ka

Do the Win­dows Open?  — Julie Hecht

Dorothy Ian­none: Seek The Extremes! (v.1) — Bar­bara Vinken, Sabine Folie

Edge­wise: A Pic­ture of Cook­ie Mueller  — Chloe Grif­fin

Embryo­ge­n­e­sis — Richard Grossinger

Friedl Kubel­ka Vom Groller  — Melanie Ohne­mus

Amer­i­can War  — Har­rell Fletch­er

Han­nah Höch: Album (Eng­lish and Ger­man Edi­tion) — Han­nah Höch

How to Build a Girl  — Caitlin Moran

Humil­i­a­tion  — Wayne Koesten­baum

It’s OK Not to Share and Oth­er Rene­gade Rules for Rais­ing Com­pe­tent and Com­pas­sion­ate Kids  — Heather Shu­mak­er

King Kong The­o­ry  — Vir­ginie Despentes

Leav­ing the Atocha Sta­tion  — Ben Lern­er

Light­ning Rods  — Helen DeWitt

Lost at Sea: The Jon Ron­son Mys­ter­ies  — Jon Ron­son

Maid­en­head  — Tama­ra Faith Berg­er

Man V. Nature: Sto­ries  — Diane Cook

Mike Mills: Graph­ics Films  — Mike Mills

Napa Val­ley His­tor­i­cal Ecol­o­gy Atlas: Explor­ing a Hid­den Land­scape of Trans­for­ma­tion and Resilience  — Robin Grossinger

Need More Love  — Aline Komin­sky Crumb

Our Bod­ies, Our­selves (Com­plete­ly Revised and Updat­ed Ver­sion)  — Boston Wom­en’s Health Book Col­lec­tive

Jim Gold­berg: Rich and Poor  — Jim Gold­berg

San­ja Ivekovic: Sweet Vio­lence  — Rox­ana Mar­co­ci

Sophie Calle: The Address Book  — Sophie Calle

Star­ing Back  — Chris Mark­er

Taryn Simon: A Liv­ing Man Declared Dead and Oth­er Chap­ters, I‑XVIII — Homi Bhab­ha, Geof­frey Batchen

Tete-a-Tete: The Tumul­tuous Lives & Loves of Simone De Beau­voir and Jean-Paul Sartre  — Hazel Row­ley

The Hour of the Star  — Clarice Lispec­tor

The Illus­trat­ed I Ching — R.L. Wing

Two Kinds of Decay: A Mem­oir  — Sarah Man­gu­so

Traf­fic  — Ken­neth Gold­smith

Two Seri­ous Ladies  — Jane Bowles

Was She Pret­ty?  — Leanne Shap­ton

What is the What: The Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Valenti­no Achak Deng: A Nov­el  — Dave Eggers

Why Did I Ever  — Mary Robi­son

Women in Clothes  — Sheila Heti

Work­ing: Peo­ple Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do  — Studs Terkel

Your Self-Con­fi­dent Baby: How to Encour­age Your Child’s Nat­ur­al Abil­i­ties — From the Very Start  — Mag­da Ger­ber

Far from the Tree  — Andrew Solomon

How Should a Per­son Be?  — Sheila Heti



The Girls’ Guide to Hunt­ing and Fish­ing  — Melis­sa Bank

A Lit­tle His­to­ry of the World  — E. H. Gom­brich

Anne of Green Gables  — L.M. Mont­gomery

Apart­ment Ther­a­py Presents: Real Homes, Real Peo­ple, Hun­dreds of Real Design Solu­tions  — Maxwell Gilling­ham-Ryan

Ariel: The Restored Edi­tion  — Sylvia Plath

Bad Fem­i­nist: Essays  — Rox­ane Gay

Bas­tard Out of Car­oli­na (20th Anniver­sary Edi­tion)  — Dorothy Alli­son

Blue is the Warmest Col­or  — Julie Maroh

Brighton Rock  — Gra­ham Greene

Caved­weller  - Dorothy Alli­son

Coun­try Girl: A Mem­oir  — Edna O’Brien

Crazy Sal­ad and Scrib­ble Scrib­ble: Some Things About Women and Notes on Media  — Nora Ephron

Design Sponge at Home  — Grace Bon­ney

Din­ner: A Love Sto­ry: It All Begins at the Fam­i­ly Table  — Jen­ny Rosen­stra­ch

Eleanor & Park  — Rain­bow Row­ell

Eloise  — Kay Thomp­son

Eloise In Moscow  — Kay Thomp­son

Eloise In Paris  — Kay Thomp­son

Fan­ny At Chez Panisse  — Alice Waters

Good­bye, Colum­bus and Five Short Sto­ries  — Philip Roth

Hol­i­days on Ice  — David Sedaris

Impor­tant Arti­facts and Per­son­al Prop­er­ty from the Col­lec­tion of Lenore Doolan and Harold Mor­ris, Includ­ing Books, Street Fash­ion, and Jew­el­ry  — Leanne Shap­ton

Lentil  — Robert McCloskey

Love Poems  — Nik­ki Gio­van­ni

Love, an Index (McSweeney’s Poet­ry Series)  — Rebec­ca Lin­den­berg

Love, Nina: A Nan­ny Writes Home  - Nina Stibbe

Madame Bovary: Provin­cial Ways  — Gus­tave Flaubert

NW: A Nov­el  — Zadie Smith

Of Human Bondage  — W. Som­er­set Maugh­am

Ran­dom Fam­i­ly: Love, Drugs, Trou­ble, and Com­ing of Age in the Bronx  — Adri­an Nicole LeBlanc

Rebec­ca  — Daphne Du Mau­ri­er

Remod­elista  — Julie Carl­son

Select­ed Sto­ries, 1968–1994  - Alice Munro

Sex and the Sin­gle Girl  — Helen Gur­ley Brown

She’s Come Undone  — Wal­ly Lamb

Some­where Towards the End: A Mem­oir  — Diana Athill

Stet: An Edi­tor’s Life  - Diana Athill

Sula  — Toni Mor­ri­son

Sum­mer Blonde  — Adri­an Tomine

Super Nat­ur­al Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Nat­ur­al Foods Kitchen  — Hei­di Swan­son

Tenth of Decem­ber  - George Saun­ders

Tess of the D’Urbervilles  — Thomas Hardy

The Boys of My Youth  - Jo Ann Beard

The Col­lect­ed Sto­ries of Lydia Davis  — Lydia Davis

The Dud Avo­ca­do  — Elaine Dundy

The Impor­tant Book  — Mar­garet Wise Brown

The Jour­nal­ist and the Mur­der­er  — Janet Mal­colm

The Liars’ Club: A Mem­oir  — Mary Karr

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.: A Nov­el  — Adelle Wald­man

The Mar­riage Plot  — Jef­frey Eugenides

The Phi­los­o­phy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)  - Andy Warhol

The Sto­ry of Fer­di­nand  — Munro Leaf

The Woman in White  - Wilkie Collins

The Writ­ing Class  — Jin­cy Wil­lett

This Is My Life  - Meg Wolitzer

Tiny Beau­ti­ful Things: Advice on Love and Life from ‘Dear Sug­ar’  - Cheryl Strayed

Wall­flower At the Orgy  — Nora Ephron

Was She Pret­ty?  — Leanne Shap­ton

We Have Always Lived In the Cas­tle  — Shirley Jack­son

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vin­cent Mil­lay  — Daniel Mark Epstein

What She Saw…  — Lucin­da Rosen­feld

What the Liv­ing Do: Poems  — Marie Howe

While I Was Gone  - Sue Miller

With or With­out You: A Mem­oir  — Domeni­ca Rut

Women in Clothes  — Sheila Heti

via Scrib­n­er Books

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Miran­da July’s Quirky Film Presents Some­body, the New App That Con­nects Strangers in the Real World

David Fos­ter Wallace’s Love of Lan­guage Revealed by the Books in His Per­son­al Library

The 430 Books in Mar­i­lyn Monroe’s Library: How Many Have You Read?

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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