I made a vow to myself in the middle of 2019 that I would only buy books written by women. This led me on a wonderful literary journey.
The end of the academic year is fast approaching and the opportunity to read non-curriculum books is upon us. Now is the time to read that book you got for your birthday. The one that’s been sent on your bedside table for months. The one that you always attempt to start but can’t because of the stress of deadlines. There are no excuses now! Time to read some books! Time to read books written by women!
While paperback and hardback books might not be as safe or easy to get as they used to be, all books are available as e-books and many are available as audiobooks. Here’s a selection of different genres, styles and forms of books written by women that I have purchased in this past year.
Dolly Alderton, Everything I Know About Love
“I am always half in life, half in a fantastical version of it in my head.”
If you haven’t heard of this book before, goodness me, you have been missing out. Journalist, sex-columnist and love-seeker Dolly Alderton makes her debut into novel writing. Alderton chronicles her journey through life this autobiographical memoir dedicated to love and friendship. We join Alderton on a journey from her youthful days of dreaming of finding a boyfriend. Through her life-changing time at university. Through make-ups, break ups and fuck ups. Right up until the time of writing her book. The book is a witty and touching reminder that success and completion in life is so much more than romantic love.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists :
‘We teach girls that they can have ambition, but not too much … to be successful, but not too successful, or they’ll threaten men’
A short but incredibly empowering read. A book that will, sadly, make all your fragile masculine friends cringe at the thought of reading. The text is adapted from Adichie’s TEDx Talk of the same name, which has now reached over 6 million views on YouTube. Adichie writes eloquently; weaving between witting personal stories and the stark truth of being female in Nigeria. Adichie also addresses the consequences of toxic masculinity being pushed on men from a young age. Although she focuses on her experiences as a woman in Africa, her argument reflects the lives of women all over the world.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag: The Scriptures
‘Feminist lecturer: So, I pose the question to the women in this room today: please raise your hands if you would trade five years of your life for the so-called “perfect body”.
[Fleabag and Claire immediately raise their hands, then realise that nobody else in the auditorium has.]
Fleabag: [to Claire] We are bad feminists.’
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 4 years, you must have seen Fleabag. Heard of Fleabag. Laughed at Fleabag. Cried at Fleabag. Phoebe Waller-Bridge first performed Fleabag as a One-Women play at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe to mixed reviews.
The show BBC show Fleabag ran for two cleverly written and performed seasons. The Scriptures contains the original play script and the two seasons scripts in their entirety with all of the specifically funny stage directions.
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
“The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.”
I couldn’t make this list without including at least one Virginia Woolf. Woolf is still considered one of the most important early pioneers of feminism and the modernist form. In October 1928, Woolf was asked to deliver lectures at Newham College and Girton College, the only two women’s colleges at Cambridge University, on the topic of ‘Women and Fiction’. The text addresses the importance of women taking up space both literally and figuratively in the literary world. Woolf uses the techniques of fictionality to create a stimulating story that conveys her argument in a form that makes it more accessible to a wide range of readers.
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
‘If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.”
When asking what books to include on this list this book was recommended to me the most, so of course, I had to include it. This is Sylvia Plath’s first and only novel and focuses on the characters of Esther Greenwood and addresses themes of identity and mental health. The book has been thought to be a roman à clef of Sylvia Plath’s own life, although it is based around Esther’s experiences with her first internship in New York City. The book questions what it is to be a woman in the modern world.
Lisa Taddeo, Three Women
‘One inheritance of living under the male gaze for centuries is that heterosexual women often look at other women the way a man would.’
Non-fiction about, you guessed it, Three Women: Maggie, Lina and Sloane. I was introduced to the book by the Foyles in Waterloo who were giving away a free tote bag with anyone who bought the book (and who can pass up a free tote bag). When I picked up my copy, I was not only drawn in by the stunning hardback cover but the multiple reviews by authors I already loved. I read the blurb and was sold. Taddeo spent eight years with her ‘subjects’ interviewing them on their wants, needs, desires and obsessions for her debut novel. The book is a non-fiction, journalistic piece about female sexuality and its varieties and complexities.
Carol Ann Duffy, The World’s Wife
‘Words, words were truly alive on the tongue, in the head, warm, beating, frantic, winged; music and blood.’
The Former Poet Laurette’s first themed collection of poems published in 1999. Duffy writes from the perspectives of females, real or fictional, throughout history. With poems entitled ‘Anne Hathaway’, ‘Mrs Darwin’ and ‘Circe’, she writes with wit and insight, inviting us to view history in a new light and style. The collection gives a voice to women throughout history who have been silenced and giving a new life to women who were ill-treated.