boygenius, an indie band comprised of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus, was formed in 2018. Their first album, The Record, came out earlier this year, and their second, The Rest, was released October 13. Their music is big on lyricism and rich with emotions. Each member brings their signature sound to the group, which was formed and named as an antithesis to the tortured genius male songwriter trope and the way the music industry pits women against each other.
But did you know, according to their Rolling Stone profile, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker met because of a book? As they tell it, Baker walked into the dressing room before a show they both were playing and saw Dacus reading The Portrait of a Lady. After chatting, Dacus ripped a page out of the back matter of the book to write down her email, the pair sending book recommendations back and forth. And this isn’t the only bookish thing about boygenius.
Together, the trio share a love for reading in their Rolling Stone profile, in which they share their thoughts on Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg, Elif Batuman’s Either/Or, and Rachel Yoder’s Nightbitch, to name a few.
They’re a readerly bunch together, it seems. So, let’s explore the bookish lives of boygenius’s three members.
Dacus is the most public about her love for books, posting frequently on her Instagram about the books she’s read, especially between 2014 and 2018. She also runs an active Goodreads account where she has, at the time of writing this, 10 books on her currently-reading shelf, including Cry Perfume by Sadie Dupuis, Earthsea by Ursula K. Leguin, and Springsteen’s Born to Run.
In an interview with Penguin, Dacus joked her first words were “bible, bubble and book,” calling herself a voracious reader with an embosser that says “From the Library of Lucy Dacus.” Which is something I think many of us readers yearn for one day. She reveals she’s a multi-book-at-a-time reader and says she learned lessons from Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke and James Baldwin’s Collected Essays.
In 2018, Vogue released a summer reading list from Dacus, where she shares that she reads more than she listens to music while on the road as a way to escape the sameness of touring. Her summer recommendations include No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July, Think on These Things by Krishnamurti, and Tenth of December by George Saunders, showing her all-over-the-map tastes.
In an interview with Clash, she says her favorite book is House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski and names Elena Ferrante, Maggie Nelson, Leo Tolstoy, and James Baldwin as fellow favorites. When asked if her literary loves influence her songwriting, she says she doesn’t pull material from books but has learned a lot from “eloquent writers and well-said words.”
Her love for literature is apparent and out loud, but she’s in good company with fellow band members who also have been public about their love for books.
Baker, in true bookworm fashion, studied English at Middle Tennessee State University while recording her album Little Oblivions. In an interview with Vulture about the album, she put together a syllabus of sorts, pairing her songs with books they evoke. She recommends Minima Moralia by Theodor Adorno with her song “Hardline,” both a look into the futility of the world and the responsibility we have for each other. With “Faith Healer,” she pairs The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon, both in their own ways about how vulnerable we are to extreme ideologies. For “Relative Fiction,” she chose East of Eden by John Steinbeck; for “Crying World,” Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams; and for “Bloodshot,” the poem “I want a president” by Zoe Leonard.
In an interview with The Irish Times, Baker shares her favorite books, naming Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. She recommends The God of Small Things again in an interview with Billboard, also naming Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, which was recommended by bandmate Dacus.
In an Instagram post from 2020, Baker shares a photo of a paper excerpt of Walt Whitman’s preface to Leaves of Grass from 1865. In the caption, she shares the excerpt has moved with her from dorm room to apartment since she was a freshman in college.
Dacus also posted a photo of Baker reading Robinson Crusoe, dog in lap, which is many a bookworm’s perfect afternoon activity.
Bridgers seemingly has less bookish content out there, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t talk about her favorite books from time to time. In an interview with Far Out Magazine post her Punisher release, she shares that reading helped her with her writing skills, naming The Night Kitchen by Sendak as a formative book in her childhood. Her all-time favorite, though, is The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, a book about the way trauma lives in our bodies and how to start to heal. Other books on her favorites list include Modern Tarot by Michelle Tea, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (which you can see featured on one of Dacus’s Instagram book posts, too!).
In the Rolling Stone profile, Bridgers shares her favorite Joan Didion quote: “Was anyone ever so young?” from Slouching Towards Bethlehem, a lyric that’s quoted in their song “Anti-Curse.” More of the band’s music is presumed to have been inspired by literature, like the riff on Letters to a Young Poet with their song “Letters to an Old Poet,” for example.