Semper Femina: The Reading List

by Rob Scott

During Laura Marling’s student press conference, which PearShaped attended this week, she devoted a lot of time to talk about her literary influences:

“I used to read a lot of fiction but I don’t any more. I read a lot of poetry. Where Gothic or Romantic literature used to play quite a big part in my vocabulary of emotional experience, now that I have my own emotional experiences, I like delving into poetry more than fantasy fiction.”

Here’s a list of all the writers and books that she mentioned and recommended.

Perhaps, by reading what she’s reading, you can gain a fresh and more nuanced insight into the work and mind of one of the most thoughtful and intelligent singer-songwriters today.

1. Selected Poems — Rainer Maria Rilke


“My favourite poet is Rainer Maria Rilke, who was a bit of a hopeless romantic. He’s actually the main reason I got to writing this record [Semper Femina] in some ways, because I was research his life for a libretto for an opera. He was dressed as a girl until he was 8, which had quite a profound effect on his relationship to women, and made him somewhat like an obsessive woman-fancier. It was his misguided perception of femininity that led me to investigate more about that.”

2. Lou Von Salomé: A Biography of the Woman who Inspired Freud, Nietzsche and Rilke


“I can’t recommend Lou Salome enough. She was a literary mentor for a lot of people. Any biography of hers that you can get your hands on would be of great benefit to your life, I’m sure.”

3. The Diaries of Anaïs Nin

3Anais Nin: essayist, and criminally overlooked feminist icon. She wrote frankly and radically about sex, psychology, and how women could thrive in a male dominated world. 

4. We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction

4The essayist Joan Didion is known for her witty and clear style, but mostly for her sharp eye for acute and devastating insights.

5. The Rebel Angels — Robertson Davies

5This book inspired Laura for how it shows that forgotten cultures and mysticism have urgent messages to teach us today.

6. Women Who Run With the Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman — Clarissa Pinkola Estes


By exploring myths, folklore, and fairy tales, this book revitalises the concept of the ‘wild woman’ — “the wise and ageless presence in the female psyche that gives women their creativity, energy and power.”