On Sunday, it was International Women’s Day, and I decided that I would write a few blog posts this week focusing specifically on women and feminism.
This first blog post is a list of some (and only some – there are many) of my favourite books by women. When I was at school (12-13 years ago), much of the curriculum focused on books written by men. I was lucky enough though to have some women writers on my A-Level curriculum, such as Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and Carol Ann Duffy’s poems. It was the point at which I started to wonder why Austen wasn’t considered as on a par with Dickens (I’ve always considered her to be just as much in the realm of ‘classic’ as he), or why there couldn’t be more of a balance between both sexes on the curriculum.
When I was younger, about 80% of the books I read were written by men. They were, and are still, good books – many of my favourites are written by men – but I began to redress the imbalance when I was at University and doing Gender and Society. I decided to consciously read more fiction and non-fiction written by women. The interesting (and important) thing is that this didn’t restrict my exposure to subject matter, as some might believe. It widened it, opening my eyes to new fictional possibilities and styles, new ways of seeing the world, as all good fiction and non-fiction does. After all, books by women are written by human beings – the other half of the world. They encompass everything from science-fiction to philosophy to memoir.
I’ve included links to my reviews for some of these books below.
Literary and Classic Fiction
Persuasion, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Chocolat, The Lollipop Shoes, and Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure by Joanne Harris
The Handmaid’s Tale and Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Woman on the Edge of Time and Sex Wars by Marge Piercy
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin – Review here.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Empress Orchid, and The Last Empress by Anchee Min
The Borrower by Rebecca Makai
The Women’s Room by Marilyn French – Review here.
Supernatural, Magic, Sci-Fi and Fantasy
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Review here.
The Vampire Chronicles (Interview with the Vampire etc) by Anne Rice
The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop – Review here.
The Left Hand of Darkness, The Earthsea Quartet, and The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Female Man by Joanna Russ
Women of the Otherworld Series by Kelley Armstrong
Boneshaker, Dreadnought, and the Eden Moore Series by Cherie Priest
Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor
The Splintered Trilogy by A.G. Howard
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Non-Fiction and Memoir
Eat, Pray, Love and Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe
Just Kids by Patti Smith – Review here.
Coal to Diamonds by Beth Ditto
A Daughter of Isis by Nawal El Sadaawi – Review here.
Daring Greatly by Bréné Brown – Review here (at Deaf Auntie).
Quiet by Susan Cain – Review/thoughts here.
It’s So You: 35 Women Write About Personal Expression Through Fashion and Style by Michelle Tea
Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century by Katha Pollitt and Alison Piepmeier et al.
Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion by Virgie Tovar
The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer – Review here.
Any of these books are a good read, and all have something different to offer. There are a lot I have omitted, mostly to try and keep the list concise, but there are definitely books and authors I have left out. There is no particular order – and in fact some of them are recent reads – I only finished Station Eleven at the weekend and it is amazing: elegant, dark and thoughtful post-apocalyptic fiction.
‘I ask questions. I watch the world. And what I have discovered is that the parts of my fiction that people most tell me are ‘unbelievable’ are those that are most closely based on the real, those least diluted by my imagination.’ – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.