book club

Judy Blume and Lena Dunham Curate a Reading List for You

Lena Dunham and Judy Blume had a long conversation that has been published by The Believer, in an adorably pocket-size volume that comes as a special reward for subscribing to the magazine. Dunham and Blume spoke about many topics, like growing up, sexuality, feminism, writing, being frightened, and respecting childhood. But the real highlight is when they talk about reading. The two speak about how writing has influenced their coming of age in the world, and their description of books is delightful.

In the introduction to the volume, Dunham writes:

When we, as young women, are given the space to read, the act becomes a happy, private corner we can return to for the rest of our lives. We develop this love of reading by turning to stories that speak to the most special, secret parts of us.

While they note books they are ambivalent or not interested in (50 Shades of Grey and Twilight), their conversation includes mostly recommendations. Some highlights from their expansive list:

Book: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Recommender: Lena Dunham; supported by Judy Blume

Notes: Lena Dunham is proud she read and misunderstood Lolita at age 9. Blume is proud of this, proof that parents should stop freaking out about racy, sexual content in books their children read. “Let the kids read the book,” Blume says.

Book: Telex From Cuba by Rachel Kushner

Recommender: Judy Blume

Notes: It inspired Blume to write the book she is currently working on “in a burst.” Kushner’s The Flamethrowers was endorsed by Dunham.

Book: Forever by Judy Blume

Recommender: Lena Dunham

Notes: Best when stolen from your babysitter as a child and read furtively in the bathroom.

Book: Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers edited by Judy Blume

Recommender: Lena Dunham

Notes: “It’s like a sci-fi novel,” promises Dunham.

Book: “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf

Recommender: Judy Blume

Notes: For important concepts regarding home offices.

Book: The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger

Recommender: Judy Blume

Notes: “It’s funny!” says Dunham.

Book: The End of Alice by A.M. Homes

Recommender: Lena Dunham

Notes: Like Lolita, this was read as a child, misunderstood, and enjoyed.

Books: Fiction by John O’Hara, Saul Bellow, and J.D. Salinger

Recommender: Judy Blume

Notes: These are the ones to go to when you want the best of both worlds. “I wasn’t just looking for hot scenes, I was reading for great stories.”

Book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (on tape)

Recommender: Judy Blume

Notes: “We were so into the story, we couldn’t wait to get in my car for the trip back. When we pulled into the carport we still hadn’t finished, so we sat in the car until the end. That’s high praise.”

Book: Not 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Naysayers: Lena Dunham and Judy Blume

Notes: “I don’t have an elicit [sic], confused relationship to my sexuality, so I don’t need a book like that right now in my life … I don’t think it would be that exciting for me,” says Dunham. “I have no interest in it, either, which is interesting, because when I was 12, I was going through my parents’ bookshelves, I found the most wonderful books, by the best writers, and within those wonderful books were scenes that were real turn-ons,” says Blume.

Book: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

Recommender: Lena Dunham

Notes: Not to read with people you know; Dunham says the Girls crew read it at the same time and they were so annoying trying to talk about it that she realized she didn’t like the concept of book clubs.

Book: Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

Recommender: Lena Dunham

Notes: To influence your Girls: “It was the first thing I ever consumed that looked at the way female friendship can be glorious and can be complicated and a worse betrayal than something romantic.”

Book: Not That Kind of Girl, forthcoming by Lena Dunham

Recommender: Lena Dunham

Notes: “It comes out on October 7, 2014,” she says to Blume.

Judy Blume and Lena Dunham Curate a Reading List