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Books of my Life: Caitlin Moran on 'Ulysses,' 'Jaws,' and 'Fifty Shades'

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The British journalist—author of the funny, scathing feminist manifesto How to Be a Woman—took our book quiz to mark the paperback debut of her feisty novel How to Build a GirlRead on to find out what books made her laugh, made her cry, and which writer she thinks probably “swim[s] away her cares in her lovely infinity pool whilst wearing her swimsuit of gold and putting swans up her bum.”

A book I read in secret as a kid

Riders by Jilly Cooper. Cooper is a British institution who wrote posh, jolly, utterly filthy books about the British upper classes. At 13 it was dynamite, although I was initially confused by the use of the word bush and thought she might actually mean a hedge.

Books I’ve read over and over

Since I gave up smoking marijuana, Alice in Wonderland and the Narnia books are the ones I go back to for that floating magic: talking lions and knitting sheep and mountains and iced sherbet and tiny cakes and mermaids. As a godless creature I’m kind of hoping that, when I die, I end up in one of those books.

The book that cemented me as a writer

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ is an absolute comic masterpiece. It’s about a working-class boy who thinks he’s intellectually superior to everyone else on his Midlands council estate and regularly writes letters to the BBC asking for a job. Sue Townsend wrote it as fiction. I was pretty much living it for real.

The classic I’ve never read

I have, of course, read all the classics—except Jaws. Can’t see how it would be any good without the music.

The last book that made me cry, and the last one that made me laugh

Anyone who’s read Stoner is borderline traumatized by the terrible, terrible sadness. LOL-wise, it’s Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe. She was a working-class au pair to a media couple in London in the 1980s and was generally nonplussed when all their celebrity mates came over. It’s an exquisitely written memoir—the funniest debut in years.

Books I wish I’d written

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay is awesome, and Lorrie Moore’s short stories are staggering works of miniature genius. But any writer who answers this question with anything other than Fifty Shades of Grey is a liar. Who cares if E L James has ruined sex for an entire generation? I bet she can swim away those cares in her lovely infinity pool whilst wearing her swimsuit of gold and putting swans up her bum.

My favorite movie adaptation

I’m going to have to guess it’s Jaws.

A book I’ve pretended to have read

I actually think reading half of Ulysses counts as reading all of it. You’ve kind of got the gist by then—and, to be frank, you can just listen to Kate Bush’s “King of the Mountain” if you want a better version of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy.

The books people might be surprised to learn I love

Probably porn. It’s either horny or unintentionally funny.

The genre I’d pick if I could read only one

Probably porn. It’s either horny or unintentionally funny.

The eternal question: Do I read my own books after they come out?

Yes. And every time I’m amazed I was so honest and filthy. “Blimey—this chick is very explicit about her vagina,” I think, before realizing it’s me.

The writing that I’m proudest of

The chapters on masturbation, eating disorders, birth, and body hair in How to Be a Woman hold up pretty well, I think. That is typical British understatement. If I were American I’d be punching the air and shouting, “They’re f—ing awesome! USA! USA! USA! USme!”

This article originally appeared in the July 24, 2015 issue of Entertainment Weekly. Pick up the issue on newsstands now, or subscribe at ew.com/allaccess.

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