Originally written 2002,
A List of Books to Read When You Need a Little Enlightenment
I have a Sam's Club card, the coveted piece of plastic that will get you into those warehouse doors to buy gigantic bulk cans of tunafish, mayo, masses of toilet paper you'll never think you'll really use, etc. I like my Sam's card, and my husband and I hang out at the store a lot; it's an interesting place to people watch. I wonder why people are buying bulk cans of mustard (can anyone ever use that much? are they bathing in it?)
In addition to all that bulk stuff, Sam's also sells books. They tend to be bestseller/popular works, religious stuff, kids books, cookbooks and coffee table books. One that I see A LOT of Sam's shoppers buying is the Chicken Soup for the (fill in blank with gender, or age, or other cultural identifier term) Soul series. I'll admit that I am not hugely fond of the books, but am really glad that people are reading SOMETHING at least. I wish people would try reading something that makes them think, learn new things, instead of reinforcing the things that they already "know." I find the categories that the C.S. for the S. folks pick a bit limiting. Not all women, teens, grandmothers, etc, want to read the same thing. And what is so nourishing about short, syrupy stories that we could pick up any home magazine for? But am I just being a book-elitist again? Is there something inherently comfortable about that kind of story? Chicken soup, after all, is not what I would choose to eat every day, but it is something worth your time now and then. Perhaps those stories are the same?
But I was thinking-- rather than merely stand on the sidelines and complain and critique, maybe I ought to do something about it myself? How about a list of "Chicken Soup for MY Feminist Soul?" Maybe it's partly that people just don't know what to read, what they might like. I know I have really close friends who, knowing I do this for a living, sometimes ask me for a list to read. Maybe that's even why you, gentle reader, stumbled onto this website.
So here I will attempt a not-at-all complete list of the books I read when my radical, personal-is- political, chick-lit teaching/reading feminist soul needs a little home-cooking. There are books here that I have read and will read time and again. There are a few I've only read once, but would read again. Some are radical-- some are not. Some fire me with anger and purpose, and some are just the kinds of things you slip into, like soft flannel pajamas on a cold day-- they are comfortable and warm. Some of the books are sort of "brain candy" for when I'm not in the mood to change the world, when I want to be entertained, when I want to NOT think about oppression and unfairness. But even some of those grab my feminist soul and shape it. For the most part, this list is fiction, more things I would read in my hammock in the backyard, less those books I read for my job. If you want something more "intellectually meaty" there are more "Feminist" women's studies "theory" type books on the webliography.
All the books on this list teach me something about what it means to be a feminist in the world today. They might teach you, too-- they might not. I could also include a lot of male writers who should be on this list, for not all feminists are women. But since the site's focus is specifically women writers, I'm going to limit this list to people who are apparently carrying around two X chromosomes. The list is not in a hierarchical order... they are random here, as they occur to me. So you could conceivably figure out something about the way my brain is shaped, or how my messy bookshelves are organized today by looking at the order in which they appear. But if you're looking for something to read... check this list out. Some of them might not really be called "Feminist" in the "radical, goin' to meetin'" sort of way. But in some way, they make me think about what it means to define yourself as a feminist, to be a woman, to think of the issues of social equality and difference. They are my own, personal, women's canon.
Want a nice, print-outable list? Click here for a printer-friendly HTML version.
In 2008, I found a cool web "widget" that easily
allows us to update books for you to read. Women writers' editor
has added these books to the scrolling slideshow below, for your
viewing/reading pleasure. :) These are all still books I have
personally read, and recommend because they are thoughtful, interesting,
have good, strong (usually women) protagonists, or are theory
about feminism & women's lives.
I'm updating the widget as we go. It should be easier to add books to this list, and so more readily updateable as I read new stuff, and you can easily go and make your own wishlist using Amazon. :)
I know I'm leaving something out... but this is it for now!