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Emma Jane Unsworth: ‘Carrie Fisher’s Postcards from the Edge is a tonic’ | Books

The book I am currently reading
Paradise Block by Alice Ash – a collection of searingly brilliant short stories all set in the same tower block. She is a witch with words.

The book that changed my life
The Republic of Motherhood by Liz Berry. My friend Stef put me on to this after we had a conversation about postnatal depression and I realised I probably had it. It’s a collection of raw and beautiful poems about how hard motherhood can be. I reread it often.

The book I wish I’d written
I honestly don’t wish I’d written anyone else’s book, how could I? Books are ripped from your soul, and your soul alone. But if you’re asking which book I most admire I would say The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan. A true literary masterpiece. The story of a girl in care with wild dreams. Funny, heartbreaking, heart-expanding, everything.

The book that had the greatest influence on my writing
Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood. An old frenemy introduced me to it, which is terribly apt. This book made me want to write about intense female relationships. How deep they go. How wild they run.

The book I think is most underrated
Problems by Jade Sharma and Fast Lanes by Jayne Anne Phillips are two books I hugely admire that you don’t hear talked about so much. I often dip into the Phillips when I need a style injection. It spurs me on to write good sentences when I lose heart.

The book that changed my mind
The Mental Load: A Feminist Comic by Emma. My husband gave me this graphic novel and it awakened me to the concept of the mental load, which is basically all the stuff women do for free in their heads.

The last book that made me cry
Brown Baby by Nikesh Shukla. An exquisitely written memoir about race, fatherhood, courage and food. It’s like a clever friend in your ear. I learned so much about race and how to talk about race reading it. It also tells you how to eat a mango for maximum mango satisfaction.

The last book that made me laugh
I was lucky enough to see an early proof of Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel, which will be published this summer. It’s about two female American art students in Berlin. They are salty girls and the book is full of delicious layers. The scene where they try to get into Berghain, the exclusive nightclub, is priceless. I felt drunk reading it.

The book I couldn’t finish
The one I’m currently writing.

The book I’m ashamed not to have read
Take your pick off my teetering TBR pile! I have two children under five. These are not my reading years. These are my feeding/wiping/dicking about in the garden years. And that’s fine.

The book I give as a gift
Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher. It makes everyone feel better. It’s a tonic of a book – about addicts in rehab, acting, mothers, fame and Hollywood. It has the best description of someone trying to stay off drugs but ending up taking drugs. It will make you wince and howl.

My earliest reading memory
Edith Holden’s The Hedgehog Feast, which I pronounced “fee-ast”. It was about some hedgehogs who need to get some apples up a hill to make a pie, so they roll on them and the apples stick on their spines. I do not think it was based on a true story. Everyone knows hedgehogs don’t eat apple pie; they eat cat food.

My comfort read
The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis. I know, I know, I know.

• Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth is published in paperback by Borough (£8.99). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

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