Over the weekend, I was thinking about Deborah Copaken Kogan’s piece and this interview with Meg Wolitzer and FlavorWire’s list of books by women that men should read. (I’m not totally on board this list. I really think that you’ll be able to get a grasp on femininity without reading The Second Sex. I’ve never been a huge fan of Margaret Atwood either.)
And I started to wonder about the last time I’d discussed a female author with a male friend or heard a guy that I was dating mention he was reading a text by a woman writer. I… um… came up relatively short. As in, I couldn’t think of a single instance.
I suppose that I could have gotten angry about the situation, but instead I felt rather lazy to be honest. Like I wasn’t doing my best to discuss the writers that I loved who also happened to be women and I wasn’t making enough recommendations.
So I wrote down a few selections of my own, I’d love if you added on to it. I’d also love to hear from my male followers about the last book they really enjoyed reading, if it was by a male or female author, and if they ever consciously seek women writers out. Is this something that you ever consider, fellas? Do you think that you should?
1. The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel - These will make you a better human being. There’s nothing more to say.
2. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen - Because any women who loves literature wanted to be Lizzy Bennett before we read any critical theory. Now that we’re all grown-up, we have a complicated relationship with the characters we treasured who ultimately got trapped by that same ol’ patriarchal tool: MARRIAGE. (See also, Jo March and Dorothea Brooke.)
3. On Beauty by Zadie Smith - Actually anything by Smith, but this one happens to be my favorite. She uses her intelligence like a knife.
4. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss - Because sometimes we need a reminder that there’s a fulfilling, life-affirming quality to having our hearts ripped straight out of our chests.
5. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion - UNWAVERING TRUTH. Didion is not afraid to face the consequences of her own worst attributes and she will also help you destroy your penchant for nostalgia! Win win.
6. The Bone People by Keri Hulme - Because it is my all-time favorite book, a work that highlights my love for experimental fiction. Also, if you identify as an outsider, it will shine light on your hope for alternative forms of love and understanding. It will broaden your view on what it means to watch a culture fall apart and a look into ways that it can possibly (or impossibly) be restored.
7. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx - More outsiders! (Do you see a theme amongst my reading preferences?) Proulx’s characters are so full of complexity, but above all these ones in particular carry so much hope within their words.
8. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko - This book helped me understand that there were huge gaps when it comes to my knowledge of American history. It also presents a different view of personal spirituality and how it can be individually constructed. Silko also has a very wonderful memoir, The Turquoise Ledge, that I would absolutely recommend.
9. An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler - I love food and I love reading about food. However, I’ve often found it weird that the “kitchen in the home” is considered a female space and the “kitchen in a restaurant” is considered a male space. Adler is a great counterbalance to all those posturing celebrity chefs, she’s a student of Alice Waters, and this book provides excellent, practical advice about cooking. I’d also suggest any of Ruth Reichl’s memoirs and any essay by Laurie Colwin.
10. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed - Once I picked up a copy of this as a gift and spent 10 minutes talking about with the booksellers. (You’re awesome, McNally Jackson.) It also made me cry on a park bench. I know Oprah likes Wild, but I love Dear Sugar. Read this. It will help your wounds heal.
PS. I know that Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, and Marilynne Robinson were not included. To me, those ladies are such givens and such a necessary addition to any library that includes a good section of female writers. However, I wanted to have a few different choices and mix it up a bit here. But I have to mention them because RESPECT.