Not afraid to break up with a book


By Amy Sutherland Globe Correspondent 

The star of three Netflix comedy specials and the youngest comedian (and only woman) ever to be named NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,’’ Iliza Shlesinger explains what she calls “digestible feminism” and other conundrums of being a modern woman in “Girl Logic: The Genius and The Absurdity.” The Emerson College grad (she admits she was a very bad film student) was in town recently to explain how women think, or don’t.

BOOKS: What are you reading?


SHLESINGER: “Hit Makers” by Derek Thompson about how things become popular; at the same time I’m reading “The Comedians” by Kliph Nesteroff, which is a bit of a bear to get through because it’s about the entire history of comedy. I only read when I have free time, which is never.

BOOKS: How do you pick what you read?

SHLESINGER: I’m bad about picking books. I always end up with something like about witchcraft so I defer to my mother. Among the books that she recommended that I love are “Among the Ten Thousand Things” by Julia Pierpont, “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd, and “Longbourn” by Jo Baker. Also I’m interested in why things are the way they are, especially language. I was reading “Through the Language Glass” by Guy Deutscher about how the world looks different through different languages. Then I have books that you think they will change you, and they don’t. I have Dan Harris’s “10% Happier,” which made me 10 percent poorer. Before my last late-night show my manager suggested I read “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson. That quelled some of my fears about being in the public eye.

BOOKS: Do you read much about comedy?

SHLESINGER: If you always read about comedy you don’t get to expand your mind. I read this biography of Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie. I had this delusion I would spend my Christmas break on a stay-at-home book adventure through Russia. I got three quarters of the way through and I was like, “I can’t do this anymore.” It did give me an appreciation of the opulence of her life, and it influenced my own writing, even the Instagrams about my dog, Blanche.


BOOKS: How does “girl logic” apply to reading?

SHLESINGER: You don’t want to be a walking, talking Snapchat. You want to be well-read but also want to read hot garbage about celebrities and the occasional book about shopping and marriage. Then you want to read a book by Amy Trask about being a strong woman in a man’s world. You want to read to be smart but also for fun. For girls that’s a big conflict.

BOOKS: Is there a book you were surprised to like?

SHLESINGER: “The Invention of Wings.” I think every white person should read this book. I was crying on the plane for the protagonist and her mother. It’s one of the books that when you close it you have goose pimples. You feel horrible, but you are so glad you read it.

BOOKS: What about a book you were surprised to not like?

SHLESINGER: The bestseller “Barbara the Slut and Other People” by Lauren Holmes. I thought I would find myself in these pages — not the slut part, but that the stories would be tacky and fun. There was no ending, no moral. I was bummed out because the cover looked cool.


BOOKS: Do you give up on books?

SHLESINGER: I don’t know if it makes me look smart or like a loser that I have this many books I’ve given up on. I have given up on Amor Towles “Rules of Civility,” Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights,” Paula Brackston’s “The Witch’s Daughter,” and Candice Millard’s “Destiny of the Republic.” Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends & Influence People” — I was like, ‘I get the gist of that.’ I’ve ordered so many books that I ran out of space on my Kindle.

BOOKS: Do you read with your dog?

SHLESINGER: Yes. She prefers it when I’m reading because I’m not squeezing her and kissing her on the mouth.

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