Actress, screenwriter, producer, director and author, Lena Dunham, 28, shares the books that have shaped her life.
Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni
I read this book when I was 11 and remember thinking it was very sexy, without knowing exactly what sexy meant. Nikki Giovanni's poems are rhythmic, soothing, confessional. She talks about love in all its forms. I wrote her a fan letter using multi-coloured pens and I am not even mad that she didn't write back.
Forever by Judy Blume
Judy Blume is one of my heroes. I masturbated to this a whole bunch.
Goodbye Columbus by Philip Roth
First love: beautiful, painful, awkward, hideous, perfect, precious in that it only happens once. Philip Roth is America's great narcissist, someone I would never want to date but will always want to read. This book is all about the way that young people self-immolate, isolate the people they care about, can't love each other for the simple reason that they don't yet love themselves. Extra points awarded for subtle depiction of class warfare between Jews. This also has the best description of an underwater kiss in literary history.
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
This book revealed a whole new form to me: the comic essay. And Sedaris is the God of the medium. But he's also a writer who seems to exist outside of the typical confines of genre, as this book contains memoir, satire and even a faux-family Christmas newsletter that remains one of my favorite pieces of writing in American history. Sedaris' only rule: be funny or perish.
Ariel by Sylvia Plath
The mother of the confessional screed, the scorned lover's lament, the daddy rant. Sylvia Plath is the girl who will take you home for a mind-blowing one-night stand, set your curtains on fire then convince you not to press charges. She's also a beautiful, delicate, commanding poet. I wrote my senior thesis about the way in which Sylvia Plath made way for Alanis Morissette and Fiona Apple. I didn't get a great grade, but I stand by it. Sometimes I find myself mimicking her rhythms in my work, to much less arresting effect.
Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest
This is an honest and moving memoir about what it's like to be sick and what it takes to get well. Forrest perfectly renders her relationship with her therapist, capturing the complexity of coming to rely on someone you don't really know. She understands the romance of madness, and the fact that sometimes growing up means falling out of love with self-destruction.
Not That Kind Of Girl, by Lena Dunham (Fourth Estate) is out now