Happy International Women’s Day!
While I think we should be shouting the praises of our favourite women every day, today is the perfect chance to celebrate fierce females from across the world and in different communities. I’m very proud to work and study alongside some wonderful ladies and I’m also over the moon to be working for the UK’s only independent women’s press, Linen Press. They publish books written by diverse women about a wide range of topics; please check them out.
Honestly, I mostly only read books by women. It’s never been an active decision but I love reading female voices and I studied gender issues a lot in my undergraduate degree so my bookshelves are filled with more or less exclusively female authors. However, for the sake of International Women’s Day, and because my dear friend Eilidh requested this blog a while ago, I’m going to do a top ten of some of my personal favourite books by women.
1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
I am starting to impress myself with my ability to include this book in every reading list I have ever written – see My Top 5 Books of 2016, The Liebster Award and Classic Bibliophile Literary Designs for more about my love for this book. Jane Eyre is my all-time favourite book. It follows Jane on a journey of self-discovery. She falls in love but refuses to sacrifices her sense of self for a man. It was completely innovative and ambitious at the time and Brontë managed to create one of the most badass women in literary history.
2. Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O’Toole
This is a bit sneaky because I haven’t actually finished it yet. However, I’m confident that it will continue to be awesome so I’m going to recommend it anyway. It was chosen as the Napier Literary Society ‘Book of the Month’ for International Women’s Day and I recommend it to everyone. It’s a non-fiction book looking at the way we perform gender and O’Toole tackles everything from underarm hair to pronouns. I think this should be handed out to every new student at University because it provides a very clear overview of gender.
3. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Another one of my all-time favourites, The Miniaturist tells the story of a young woman living in 17th-century Amsterdam with her new wealthy husband. Deep secrets are revealed and nothing is as it seems as Burton explores modern-day issues of gender and sexuality in an otherworldly and magical setting. I get really annoyed when people haven’t read this book because it is SO GOOD. Read it now!
4. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
The Bloody Chamber is a collection of postmodernist fairytale retellings and it is awesome. It’s dark, sexy and sinister and you will never look at the Disney princesses in the same way again once you’ve read it. Carter plays with gender and sexuality and flips classic fairy tales on their head. There are a few Beauty and the Beast retellings in there which is quite relevant considering the impending release of the new B&TB movie.
5. Minaret by Leila Aboulela
I happened upon this book during my final year at Glasgow Uni when I was studying postcolonial literature and it is a hidden treasure. This novel tells the story of Najwa, a Muslim woman living a life of luxury in Sudan until a coup forces Najwa and her family into political exile in London. This book was a real eye-opener for me and I loved that it doesn’t play into the stereotype of Muslim woman as victim. Najwa’s faith is her strength and it’s really beautiful.
6. How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
This was the book that made me realise I was a feminist. I read it when I was about eighteen years old when I was just discovering who I was as a young woman. In this memoir, Moran makes you laugh, makes you angry and makes you proud to be a woman. I really recommend it to any young woman leaving school and figuring out where they stand in the big bad world. Moran will sort you out.
7. Expecting: The Inner Life of Pregnancy by Chitra Ramaswamy
When I first found out that I had to read a book about pregnancy for the SYP Saltire Awards I was a bit anxious. What did I know about pregnancy? What did I want to know about pregnancy? But fear not! This book is an utterly charming yet raw memoir about Ramaswamy’s experience of pregnancy, same-sex parenthood and life as a minority. She is incredibly intelligent and has a penchant for “name-dropping” some of the best literature in history.
8. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
My most recent read, Big Magic, is inspirational not just because it was written by a very cool lady. It talks all about the anxieties we feel as creative people and how we can learn to overcome them. I wrote a bit more about it in my February Reading Round Up so check that out if you’re interested. I listened to it on audiobook and I’d recommend this format because Elizabeth Gilbert really sells her own stories.
9. Sula by Toni Morrison
All hail Queen Toni. Sula is a novel about two friends growing up in the Bottom, a mostly black neighbourhood in Ohio. Morrison has a huge talent for exploring female friendships and Sula is no exception. The eponymous character, Sula, is a disruptive and dangerous force who challenges gender and moral expectations while her friend, Nel, is an incredibly resilient woman determined to rewrite her own story.
10. Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann
I wrote my dissertation partly on this book. It is relatively unknown in the UK but I’m determined to get more people reading it. Ingeborg Bachmann is the Austrian equivalent of Sylvia Plath – although she is incredibly unique and I probably shouldn’t reduce her to a comparison like that. Malina is a crazy, topsy-turvy novel about an unnamed female writer and her relationship with two different men. Trigger warning: features very upsetting scenes including sexual and violent abuse by the narrator’s father.
There are so many books written by women that I absolutely love but alas I have Uni deadlines and cannot spend my life writing them all down. Comment below with your favourites.