5 Books to Celebrate the Return of HBO's Girls

HBO’S Girls is back, in all its jaw-clenchingly uncomfortable glory! (Did anyone else crumple into a fetal ball during Marnie’s jazz brunch performance?) While the show is wildly, wonderfully divisive for a half-hour comedy, I think we fans can agree on one thing: why doesn’t it last a full hour? When 30 minutes of Hannah and the gang just isn’t enough, you can turn to a book. Here are five thematically appropriate and/or Dunham-approved reads to fit in between your Sunday-night viewing parties.

Love Me Back

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Love Me Back, by Merritt Tierce
In homage to Hannah’s defection to Iowa City, pick up this masterful portrait of self-destruction by an alum of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Tierce tracks the dead-end journey of a deeply damaged waitress through brutally misogynistic hookups, routine acts of self-harm, and a string of restaurant jobs. Love Me Back can be as diificult to read as Hannah acting on her worst impulses is to watch.

Catherine Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman
This diary-style account of the life of the cranky, nearsighted, 13-year-old daughter of a minor baron in 13th-century England is among the funniest, most enduringly delightful books I’ve ever read. Catherine spends her days dreaming, getting out of spinning, and doing her best to confound her father’s clumsy attempts to marry her off. She likes fart jokes and pranks and her best friend, Perkin the goatherd, and hates lady’s work, suitors, and her boorish brother Robert. Dunham has named this one of her all-time favorite books, and announced plans late last year to adapt it into a film.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., by Adelle Waldman
Waldman’s gimlet-eyed, Brooklyn-set debut examines a callow young man’s romantic entanglements through a magnifying mirror. Nathaniel P. is a modestly successful writer with a certain scruffy, indecisive charm, who shambles through one relationship and into another, learning very little about himself on the journey. The Girls would be right at home among his artistically ambitious, emotionally shallow crew, and you know he’d end up dating at least two of them.

The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy
Sally Jay Gorce is a twentysomething American in Paris, running around having just the kind of romantic misadventures twentysomething Americans in Paris hope they’ll have. Its 1950s setting makes Sally something of a pre-Pill adventuress, with a bracingly unsentimental view of the men who come and go through her life, including a bullfighter, a diplomat, and a Hungarian photographer. Best of all, Dundy is hilarious, with a sharp eye for the ridiculous and an ability to brilliantly dissect the kind of people whose ideas about themselves far outpace reality.

Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham
If you’re a Girls fan, this one’s probably already on your shelf. Dunham’s first book of essays is as funny and frank as you’d expect, and it’s also deeply, wonderfully weird. It chronicles bad dates and girl crushes and childhood neuroses, online boyfriends and mom fights and finding true love. It’s exactly the book you’d want Dunham to write, and the perfect thing to read over dinner for one, even if “dinner” is cookie dough eaten out of the tube in the bathtub. We’re not about to judge—Dunham sure as hell wouldn’t.

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