Carrie Brownstein’s favourite books of all time
(Credit: Jason Persse)

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Carrie Brownstein’s favourite books of all time

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    Celebrity bookshelves have become somewhat of a hot topic recently, with everyone from Lorde to Harry Styles showing off their reading lists to the masses. However, what better individual to discuss literature than someone who has actually written it?

    Carrie Brownstein isn’t just a lover of books, she’s an artist who dives deep into her love of literature and has herself written a memoir that won plenty of praise. Joining the likes of Patti Smith and Kim Gordon with her genuine authorship and literary talents, Brownstein’s book Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl made waves and entertained plenty, as does her music in Sleater-Kinney, and her comedy on Portlandia. 

    It’s clear that Brownstein is a force to be reckoned with, so where exactly does this powerhouse find her inspiration? Well, that depends on where she is at the time. She states of her reading list on the road, “On US tours I would read novels about the states through which we were passing, trying to populate the vastness—the long stretches of green and brown and grays—with characters I could grow to know and love. Willa Cather kept me company in Nebraska and the upper Midwest. I read Joseph Mitchell essays about the Bowery and tales from James Baldwin’s Harlem before arriving in New York. Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms accompanied me through the South. For the West Coast I brought along Joan Didion essays and the writing of Wallace Stegner. Books grounded me, helped me to feel less alone.”

    And that’s what books are meant to do, right? They comfort you in times of trouble, they connect you to your surroundings, and they offer a sense of newness and education. She says, “I’ve been trying to immerse myself in the narratives of other people. I try to not isolate myself as much. It is really hard. People that are sensitive, you just feel too porous sometimes. There’s this inertia that sets in, and it’s hard to get out of bed. I think knowing that other people go through it is really reassuring.”

    As for some of her favourite specific titles, Brownstein has quite a few that line her shelves. Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote is among her favourites, calling it, “A dizzying, almost surreal bildungsroman about a search for a familial love that is just shy of non-existent.” Brownstein also loves one of my personal favourites, Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion. She says of the essay collection, “[It’s] a seminal book of essays. A meditation on the mythologies of the West and on America itself. Trenchant, prescient, timeless.” I couldn’t agree more.

    As for poetry, she has a soft spot for Philip Larkin’s collected poems, calling them “Such spare and soaring prose to examine stunted, anxious lives.” And although not a book of poetry, she does love another favourite of mine by a poet-memoirist-musician of the ages, none other than Patti Smith. She says of the memoir Just Kids, “An impressionistic, experimental [memoir] that is filled with an immense and delicate beauty. Told in soliloquies, the book explores a vast and tender interior landscape.”

    Brownstein has many other favourites, too, as she’s quite the avid reader. You may find some great recommendations on her list below.

    Carrie Brownstein’s favourite books:

    • The Devil Finds Work by James Baldwin
    • Baldwin’s Harlem by Herb Boyd
    • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
    • Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote
    • Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver
    • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    • Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
    • Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio
    • Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
    • Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham
    • The Book Of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
    • Rookie Yearbook Three by Tavi Gevinson
    • Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon
    • Me by Katherine Hepburn
    • The Other Side by Lacy M. Johnson
    • The First Bad Man by Miranda July
    • Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
    • Collected Poems by Philip Larkin
    • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
    • Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers
    • Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
    • Collected Stories by Lorrie Moore
    • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
    • Just Kids by Patti Smith
    • Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag
    • Balanchine: A Biography by Bernard Taper
    • We the Animals by Justin Torres
    • The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams
    • The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
    • The Waves by Virginia Woolf

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