The best books on smart, sarcastic, funny-sad-angry women dealing with art, friendship, family, love, death, & sex

Who am I?

My favorite books are funny/sad. In my own writing, I aspire for balance between satire and sympathy, going to dark places and shining a light of hilarity on them. I’m compelled by the psychological complexities of desire, particularly in female characters—flawed, average women, struggling for empowerment. For me, desire is inextricably bound with loss. I’m inspired by loss both superficial and profound, from misplaced keys to dying fathers. Many voices clamor in my head, vying for my attention. I’m interested in ambitious misfits, enraged neurotics, pagans, shamans, healers, dealers, grifters, and spiritual seekers who are forced to adapt, construct, reinvent and contort themselves as reality shifts around them.


I wrote...

Made by Mary

By Laura Catherine Brown,

Book cover of Made by Mary

What is my book about?

Desire, Desperation, and Mother-Daughter Family Planning—What Could Go Wrong?

When Mary and Ann agree to a surrogacy partnership everything goes awry. Ann, a preschool teacher, is desperate for the children she physically can’t have. Mary, a 50-year-old pagan jeweler, hopes to make amends for years of maternal neglect. Together, they plunge into the expensive, morally complex world of reproductive technology and an intimacy neither they, nor Ann’s husband, Joel, is prepared for. Sharp and audacious, Made By Mary is a wise, tragicomic exploration of the complex ties of family, with a little bit of magic thrown in. Brown understands that, between a daughter’s debt, and a mother’s due, there is a whole territory of resentment, love, fury, devotion, and mutual incomprehension.

The books I picked & why

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How Should a Person Be?

By Sheila Heti,

Book cover of How Should a Person Be?

Why this book?

Sheila, a playwright, is trying to figure out how to be in the world, and she’s using her best friend Margaux, a visual artist, to help get her there. This book is filled with trenchant observations, sharp dialogue, and the twists and turns of a female friendship with all the emotional intimacy, creative cross-pollination and cannibalization, rupture and reconciliation that happen during the formative years of young women in their mid-twenties trying to be somebodies. But that doesn’t begin to describe the pleasure of reading this astute and hilarious story that begins with the idea of an ugly painting contest. It will make you examine your own world anew.

How Should a Person Be?

By Sheila Heti,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Should a Person Be? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chosen as one of fifteen remarkable books by women that are shaping the way we read and write in the 21st century by the book critics of The New York Times

"Funny...odd, original, and nearly unclassifiable...unlike any novel I can think of."—David Haglund, The New York Times Book Review

"Brutally honest and stylistically inventive, cerebral, and sexy."—San Francisco Chronicle

Named a Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, Flavorpill, The New Republic, The New York Observer, The Huffington Post

A raw, startling, genre-defying novel of friendship, sex, and love…


I Love Dick

By Chris Kraus,

Book cover of I Love Dick

Why this book?

I love I Love Dick! This is a hilarious, shocking, keenly intelligent interrogative adventure into the art world and ideas about stalking a muse and being female. The book was published in 1997 but I didn’t discover it until a decade later, so I was late to the game. In her forward, Eileen Myles describes Chris Kraus as “marching boldly into self-abasement and self-advertisement,” which is a perfect way of putting it. Shredding the veil between reality and fiction, in her relentless pursuit of Dick (a real person), Chris Kraus embraces the world, no holds barred. If you’re curious about being female, being an artist, being a failure (whatever that means), chasing your desires, and fighting your way out of limitations both within and without, this riveting, lacerating, revealing, surprising book is for you.

I Love Dick

By Chris Kraus,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked I Love Dick as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Chris Kraus, an unsuccessful artist pushing 40, spends an evening with a rogue academic named Dick, she falls madly and inexplicably in love, enlisting her husband in her haunted pursuit. Dick proposes a kind of game between them, but when he fails to answer their letters Chris continues alone, transforming an adolescent infatuation into a new form of philosophy.

Blurring the lines of fiction, essay and memoir, Chris Kraus's novel was a literary sensation when it was first published in 1997. Widely considered to be the most important feminist novel of the past two decades, I Love Dick is…


Everything is Flammable

By Gabrielle Bell,

Book cover of Everything is Flammable

Why this book?

This book is brilliant and heartbreaking. I’ve read everything by Gabrielle Bell. I marvel at her artistry, her linework, her drawing and composition and incisive visual storytelling. If I sound like a fangirl it’s because I am. Everything is Flammable is a dark, funny, brutal, honest story, full of heart and originality. When Gabrielle’s mother loses everything in a fire, Gabrielle uproots her east coast life and heads west to rural California to help. But she has her own issues, and the trip pulls her back to her semi-feral childhood as she and her mother try to build a new home on top of the ashes. It’s a searing examination of a mother-daughter love, with illuminating artwork, immediate and poignant visuals, and mordant observations.  

Everything is Flammable

By Gabrielle Bell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everything is Flammable as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Bell's pen becomes a kind of laser, first illuminating the surface distractions of the world, then scorching them away to reveal a deeper reality that is almost too painful and too beautiful to bear."-- Alison Bechdel, Fun Home, Are You My Mother In Gabrielle Bell's much anticipated graphic memoir, she returns from New York to her childhood town in rural Northern California after her mother's home is destroyed by a fire. Acknowledging her issues with anxiety, financial hardships, memories of a semi-feral childhood, and a tenuous relationship with her mother, Bell helps her mother put together a new home on…


Over Easy

By Mimi Pond,

Book cover of Over Easy

Why this book?

Over Easy is the first part of Madge’s story, followed by The Customer is Always Wrong. They can be read separately as each stands on its own, but are best absorbed one after the other. These books are visually inventive and full of unforgettable characters who leap off the page and lodge in your imagination. The story follows Madge, an open-hearted artist who finds refuge and adventure in the wise-cracking, fast-talking, drug-taking world of the Imperial Café where she gets a job as a waitress after being denied financial aid to cover her last year in art school. Full of wit and pathos, Mimi Pond captures the perfect balance of hilarious and heartbreaking, all with fantastic drawings. She makes it look easy!

Over Easy

By Mimi Pond,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Over Easy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over Easy is a brilliant portrayal of a familiar coming-of-age story. After being denied financial aid to cover her last year of art school, Margaret finds salvation from the straight-laced world of college and the earnestness of both hippies and punks in the wisecracking, fast-talking, drug-taking group she encounters at the Imperial Cafe, where she makes the transformation from Margaret to Madge. At first she mimics these new and exotic grown-up friends, trying on the guise of adulthood with some awkward but funny stumbles. Gradually she realizes that the adults she looks up to are a mess of contradictions, misplaced…


The Story of My Tits

By Jennifer Hayden,

Book cover of The Story of My Tits

Why this book?

I started this book because I liked the drawing style. Within the first 3 pages, I couldn’t put the book down. It’s not just Jennifer Hayden’s illustration skills or the freshness of her lines and patterns and mark-making and the way each panel is a masterpiece in itself, it’s the story that pulled me in. This is a book about life and love and family, told with humor, insight, and intelligence. In Jennifer Hayden’s words, the book is “a dramatic comedy sewn together from real events and real emotions,” but that doesn’t begin to convey the richness and depth of this narrative journey and the quirky sarcastic honest way it tells it like it is. The story still resonates long after I finished reading it.

The Story of My Tits

By Jennifer Hayden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Story of My Tits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Jennifer Hayden was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 43, she realized that her tits told a story. Across a lifetime, they'd held so many meanings: hope and fear, pride and embarrassment, life and death. And then they were gone. Now, their story has become a way of understanding her story. Growing up flat-chested and highly aware of her inadequacies... heading off to college, where she "bloomed" in more ways than one... navigating adulthood between her mother's mastectomy, her father's mistress, and her musician boyfriend's problems of his ownnot to mention his sprawling family. Then the kids…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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