Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com’s books column, in which authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re on the hunt for a book to console you, move you profoundly, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours, too.

All Fours by Miranda July

<i>All Fours</i> by Miranda July

Filmmaker, artist, and author—most recently of All Fours (Riverhead)—Miranda July likes making things.

She’s the NYT bestselling author of short story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You, which won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, nonfiction story collection It Chooses You, and debut novel The First Bad Man. Her feature-length movies include “Me, You, and Everyone We Know” (winner of the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a Special Jury Prize at Sundance and re-released by Criterion Collection), “The Future,” and Kajillionaire with Rachel Evan Wood. She also narrated the Oscar-nominated volcanology documentary, “Fire of Love.”

In addition to her many art and performance art pieces, July created an interactive sculpture garden at the Venice Biennale; the Joanie 4 Jackie underground distribution network by female filmmakers; the messaging app Somebody with Miu Miu; the music videos for Sleater Kinney; the monograph featuring such contributors as friend Carrie Brownstein and Spike Jonze; the Hermes show she narrated; the romantic film/Instagram post series with Margaret Qualley; the feminist punk zine Snarla with Johanna Fateman of Le Tigre (they met at basketball camp at 14), which was part of the Brooklyn Museum’s “Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines”; and her career-spanning solo show, “New Society,” on view at Osservatorio Fondazione Prada in Milan until October 14.

The Vermont-born, Berkeley-raised, L.A.-based July is the daughter of two writers who ran the New Age-y publishers North Atlantic Books out of their home. July dropped out of UC Santa Cruz to move to Portland; wrote her first play “The Lifers” based on correspondence she exchanged as a 15-year-old with an inmate convicted of murder; was the recipient of an Elle personal style award; interviewed Rihanna (and made a video, involving Play-Doh, on how to interview the singer); designed t-shirts for Uniqlo; walked for Miu Miu and Gucci; introduced Tavi Gevinson to the Rodarte sisters; once named a Coke product; collects button pins; was told by Seth Meyers he loved her the first time they met; was an Onion headline; wore her tights over her shoes in the 90s; once lived in a residential hotel in Liverpool; and watched Mission: Impossible every night growing up.

Fan of: Somewhere in Time (with Christoper Reeve and Jane Seymour); intimate rituals; artist Friedl Kubelka Von Groller among others including Franz West, Mike Kelly, Dorothy Ianone, Ida Applebroog and Sophie Calle; Souen in NYC and Jewel in LA; estate sales; Angel Olsen; and Sonia Boyajiyan bracelets.

Likes: fabric scraps, being in motion.

Dislikes: the words “quirky” and “adorkable,” “Garfield.”

Interested in: archives, money as a concept, collaborative projects.

Not good at: singing. Take note of her book recs below.

The book that…

…helped me through a breakup:

A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes. When you are utterly obsessed and just can’t kick the habit of a particular person, Barthes gets it. I read this daily while writing the first third of All Fours, it kept me wound up in my narrator’s erotic fixation.

…I recommend over and over again:

Motherhood by Sheila Heti. If you’re wondering if you should have kids or not, this book won’t decide for you, but Sheila is the best possible company for your journey.

…I’d pass on to my kid:

One! Hundred! Demons! by Lynda Barry. I first started loving Lynda Barry as a teenager so it is one of my purest joys that my 12-year-old reads and re-reads all of her books. This is their favorite and also her most heartbreaking.

…I’d give to a new graduate:

The I Ching. I’ve been consulting this ancient oracle since it was given to me at age 16; it will at least slow down the young graduate on the way to disaster.

…I’d like turned into a TV show:

All The World Beside by Garrard Conley. Tell me you don’t want to watch a hot and tortured love story between two men in 18th-century Puritan New England?! (Don’t skip the research notes at the end).

…broke my heart:

Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Blackby Cookie Mueller. Only breaks my heart because she should have gotten to live past 40, but we get to be shaped by her nonetheless. My favorite part is “Ask Dr. Mueller,” the selections from her art and advice columns.

…helped me become a better writer:

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro. Or any Alice Munro book. I like twists and turns and to be surprised, both as a reader and a writer, and I’ve read all her books again and again to figure her particular calm, dry way of shocking; she often does it like a filmmaker using the art of omission.

…should be on every college syllabus:

Trans+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You by Kathryn Gonzalez and Karen Rayne. There hasn’t been a ton of new thought about sex—not gender and sexuality but actual fucking, what it is, what it can be. This book is really for therapists working with Trans patients but is a gift to us all and would be especially incredible for anyone just starting to have sex.

…I would have blurbed if asked:

The Beautifully Worthless by Ali Liebegott. But she didn’t need me because she had Maggie Nelson and Eileen Myles! Liebegott moves between forms so masterfully that you’ll just relax right into the newness, like you’re in the hands of a really confident lover.

…everyone should read:

What Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You by Heather Corinna. This book came out while I was writing All Fours, and it allowed me to cut out a bunch of educating material from my novel and approach perimenopause entirely through the funhouse mirror eyes of my lustful narrator.

…surprised me:

Cleanness by Garth Greenwell. The way Greenwell writes about art, folding it in among the intimacy, using it to describe other things besides art… so many folded back corners and notes in the margins.

Bonus question: If I could live in any library or bookstore in the world, it would be:

I have a special love for the Portland Public Library, downtown branch, because I became a writer in Portland, Oregon and spent a lot of time here, padding around on the rose carpet.

The literary organization/charity I support:

826LA, a non-profit writing and tutoring organization (also features a Time Travel Mart that my child loves and is walking distance from my house).

Read July’s Picks:

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