10 Incredible Books All Boygenius Fans Should Read
This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s fall editorial intern Raven Minyard. Find her on Instagram at @raven.minyard. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boygenius, the indie supergroup made up of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, is one of the most talked about music artists of the year. They released their first full-length album, the record, in March, opened for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and headlined their own world tour, aptly titled “the tour”. They also just announced their new EP, “the rest.” But did you know before they were a band, boygenius started out as a book club? According to an interview with The Guardian, boygenius began in 2016 when Julien Baker found Lucy Dacus reading The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James backstage at a show they both played. The two hit it off and began a digital book club as they emailed recommendations to each other, later adding Phoebe Bridgers to the mix after Baker introduced her to Dacus. The group has since recommended countless books to each other and the world. If you’re a reader who wants to read like boygenius, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’ve gathered ten books recommended by the boys so that you, too, can feel like a member of the boygenius book club.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Cited by One Grand Books as one of Phoebe Bridgers’s top 10 books, Her Body and Other Parties is a collection of feminist short stories that uses science fiction, fantasy and horror elements to depict the reality of how women and their bodies are viewed in our society. Described by Bridgers as “horny, spooky, sad, smart, queer, funny,” this book is a perfect read for the boygenius fanbase.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
This 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist was recommended by both Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers. A semi-autobiographical novel, The Idiot follows Selin, a Harvard freshman, as she learns about language, relationships and herself throughout her first year of college. “This book tackles communication in a way that I haven’t read before,” says Dacus in a Q&A with Vox. And according to Bridgers, “The writing is better than Salinger.”
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
The Lonely City is a memoir/biography that follows author Olivia Laing after she moves to New York City and discovers just how lonely a big city can be. She begins exploring the lives and works of various artists, including Andy Warhol and Edward Hopper, to learn just what it means to be alone. Julien Baker recommended this title in an interview with Paste Magazine, as she was fascinated by the idea of how childhood affects artists: “It’s really interesting how some of these artists, like Andy Warhol and John Cheever, talk about how all-American and fine and uneventful their childhoods were. But then when you dig into it, well, were they? Or was there some sort of longing for unmet need there still, despite the fact that their childhoods weren’t catastrophic or traumatic? But I guess it’s more to the point that something happened to all of these people, something went wrong or maybe wasn’t ideal that somehow made them artists.”
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Lucy Dacus has recommended James Baldwin on several occasions. In an interview with Penguin UK, she talked about The Fire Next Time being one of his most influential works: “In particular, The Fire Next Time is the one that has made such a huge impact on me for similar reasons to Rilke – in how to greet the world and not be destroyed, and what’s at the core of the human experience that can be clung to.” The book contains two of Baldwin’s essays on racial injustice, “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation” and “Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region of my Mind.”
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Described by Julien Baker as “incredible and spiritually affecting,” Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower follows the main character, fifteen-year-old Lauren, as she fights to protect her loved ones in a dystopian world set in the 2020s. Butler is one of the most prominent Black voices in science fiction, and if you’re a fan of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Parable of the Sower is perfect for you.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
In an interview with Vulture, Julien Baker relates her own experiences to those of Patti Smith in her memoir Just Kids: “It makes me think of my own memories, to read a book that’s just these jumbled vignettes of dashing around in the art scene and having this surreal, disjointed collection of experiences, but that’s how we tend to remember things.” Just Kids explores punk rock icon Patti Smith’s ever-evolving relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe during their youth in New York City. It’s a love letter to music, art and friendship.
Devotions by Mary Oliver
While Lucy Dacus did not specify which of Mary Oliver’s works she was reading in her interview with Vanity Fair, she said the act of reading Oliver was “so unique – just so essential and grounded.” Devotions is a great starting point for reading Oliver’s poetry, as it collects work from over fifty years of her writing, featuring poems from her first collection, published in 1963, all the way to her last, published in 2015. Oliver explores the natural world with care and a softness that makes her a must-read for any poetry fan.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
A Little Life is a book that directly inspired Lucy Dacus’s own writing. In an interview with the Southwest Review, Dacus talks about how the tragic novel inspired the last verse in her song “Triple Dog Dare.” “I have a hard time telling people to read it because it is so brutally sad, but I think it’s an incredible book,” she says. “There’s a scene where a character describes losing a son and says that people talk about the grief associated with death, but they don’t express the relief that washes over you once your worst fears have been realized. The line inspired by the book is ‘Nothing worse could happen now.’” A Little Life is not for the faint of heart, as it spans the tragic life of Jude, as he attends college in New York City with his friends and tries to move on from his childhood traumas.
Tenth of December by George Saunders
Phoebe Bridgers admires George Saunders for the way he writes characters. “The coolest thing to me about George Saunders is his ability to create wildly different characters, and make you empathize with each one,” she said in an interview with One Grand. “As someone who writes pretty much exclusively from my own perspective, this is a mysterious gift.” Tenth of December is a collection of short stories that delve into the human experience through themes of love, loss, war, work and despair. This collection asks the big questions about what it is to be human and explores the concept of morality.
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder
In Nightbitch, an artist turned stay-at-home mother begins to suspect she’s turning into a dog… literally. Rachel Yoder’s debut novel is a metaphor for mothers everywhere, who are expected to put their own dreams and aspirations on hold to raise children. The boys mention Nightbitch in an interview with Rolling Stone, as they discuss their recent reads.
If you want even more boygenius book recommendations, check out this article from Literary Hub that gathers 48 titles the boys love. And if you want to join an actual boygenius book club, check out this club on Fable, a book club app that you can learn more about here.
We hope you enjoyed these boygenius book recommendations! Will you be joining the unofficial boygenius book club? Let us know in the comments!