Shelf Life: Leslie Jones


Welcome to Shelf Life,’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.

This is an image

“Now, I’m gonna be honest: Some of the details might be vague because a bitch is 55 and she’s smoked a ton of weed.” So begins the blurb for Leslie F*cking Jones (Hachette Book Group, out on September 19), the new memoir by comedian and actress Leslie Jones. In it, she walks us through some of the most memorable moments of her life and career thus far: her early days doing stand-up, acting for the big screen, and the long journey of creating space for herself as a Black woman in comedy.

The Tennessee-born and California-raised multi-hyphenate attended Chapman University on a basketball scholarship and majored in communications. She’s best known for her stint on Saturday Night Live, which earned her two Emmy nominations for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2017 and 2018. Since then, she’s acted in a slew of feature films like Trainwreck, Ghostbusters, and Coming 2 America and hosted everything from award shows to Supermarket Sweep. Dive into her hazy book recommendations below.

The book that…

…helped me through a loss:

Embraced By The Light by Betty Eadie. It just changed my perspective on almost everything.

…kept me up way too late:

It would have to be between The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah or Kindred by Octavia Butler.

…made me weep uncontrollably:

Either The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor or The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Or wait no, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange. It’s not that I was considering suicide but the book just really spoke to me, and it felt very relatable. Also, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King.

…I recommend over and over again:

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, definitely.

…shaped my worldview:

I can’t really answer this with just one book, and my worldview continues to change now. But all the books that I’ve mentioned above have influenced the way I think and see the world. I guess it could be Acts of Faith by Iyanla Vanzant.

…made me rethink a long-held belief:

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. It’s not that I didn’t have this belief, but this book confirmed what I was believing. It reaffirmed the belief.

…I swear I’ll finish one day:

Sooo many. A lot of James Baldwin books. There are so many that I wanna finish that when I do sit down to retire I’m gonna have such a nice reading list. You can picture me retired, in a nice recliner, with a cup of tea and a big stack of books that I’m gonna have to finish.

…I read in one sitting, it was that good:

The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah. It’s just such a good book.

…currently sits on my nightstand:

Kenan Thompson’s upcoming book, When I Was Your Age. And Tom Papa’s We’re All In This Together.

…I’d pass on to my kid:

All of the above.

…I’d give to a new graduate:

I know I’ve said it, but The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It gives so much perspective.

…I’d like turned into a Netflix show:

Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler. And I know this became a movie, but Misery by Stephen King would also be great.

…I last bought:

Ha! I don’t buy books anymore, they just send it to me now. No, but I actually bought 50 Rappers Who Changed the World by Candace McDuffie.

…has the best title:

Leslie F*cking Jones.

…has the best opening line:

Huh? That’s just hard, man. Who remembers that shit? Probably nerds. I guess The Bible. “Let there be light.”

…has a sex scene that will make you blush:

All of the Jackie Collins romance novels. And the one with the twin blonde English girls and one had to marry a playboy and he fucks his assistant, who he hated, and he would fuck her and leave and then she got pregnant and ended up being with her. The sex scenes in that book. Oh! And Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris.

…features a character I love to hate:

All the Game of Thrones books.

…helped me become a better writer:

On Writing by Stephen King. It’s his writing tutorial book. Every writer should read.

…grew on me:

Any book that’s gonna have to grow on me, I’m not gonna finish reading, but I’d probably have to say The Firm by John Grisham. They did a movie later, too.

…is a master class on dialogue:

Anything by Octavia Butler and Stephen King. You can read them very easily, and that’s a huge thing.

…should be on every college syllabus:

The Secret because it helps understand that your mental shit is connected to your physical shit.

…I brought on a momentous trip:

I usually buy magazines and crossword puzzles. There is not any book that I can think of that I bought on a trip.

…I would gift to newlyweds:

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

…I consider literary comfort food:

Graphic novels or magazines. Anything with pictures. I’m not a big reader to where I would read a book and feel comfort because I would probably fall asleep, honestly.

…I never returned to the library:

I’m not gonna say that because I think that’s a set up and I’m not falling for it. I plead the fifth.

…sealed a friendship:

I had a friend that introduced me to Beloved by Toni Morrison and all of Terry McMillan. Even though we’re not friends anymore, we just lost contact with each other, but she introduced me to those two amazing writers.

…I could only have discovered at:

There is this Black bookstore in Pasadena, on Lake Avenue and I don’t know if it’s still open, but back in the ’90s everyone used to come to it, and I would always go there for my Black authors. I bought Sula by Toni Morrison and everything and anything by a Black author from there.

…I asked for one Christmas as a kid:

I have never in my life. Maybe some Nancy Drew books, but I can never remember saying “Daddy get me a book for Christmas.” He would have taken me to the doctor and asked WTF was wrong with me.

…that holds the recipe to a favorite dish (please name cookbook dish)

Let’s Do Dinner by Antoni Porowski. Anything from this book as long as this man cooks it for me. I literary have him on my coffee table.

…taught me this Jeopardy!-worthy bit of trivia:

One of the most satisfying places to scratch an itch is the ankle, from Bill Bryson’s The Body. That’s why books shouldn’t be banned. No one’s gonna win on Jeopardy now!

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

Any Black-owned bookstore that got like food and stuff in it, but I’m not gonna lie, I might end up in a Barnes & Noble because they have sandwiches there.

Read Jones’ Picks:
Headshot of Juliana Ukiomogbe

Juliana Ukiomogbe is the Assistant Editor at ELLE. Her work has previously appeared in Interview, i-D, Teen Vogue, Nylon, and more.  

About Post Author

Leave a Reply