The Book Challenge

Friday, 15 March 2013

woman writing

I’ve been thinking about my last post. In fact, it’s distracting me when I should be finalising my grant application. So I figured the best thing to do is to get it out of my system by proposing a book challenge to anyone who is interested in joining me. It’s quite simple: Make a conscious decision to read more books by women, and write about them on your blog. I’m going to try do this myself – I’m going to try and review books primarily by women this year on my blog. If the statistics in my last post left you feeling likewise depressed and annoyed, then please consider joining my challenge. If anyone is interested, leave a comment here or email me to let me know you’d like to participate. This is not a particularly original challenge, as there are probably similar ones online via other blogs. But I think the more people who create these challenges and the more who participate, the better. If enough people are interested, I can make a small badge for us to put on our blogs. But if it’s just me, that’s okay too.

By the way, I did end up looking at my bookshelves, and this is only a select shortlist of the books by women I have in them (if we also include my kindle as a ‘bookshelf’):

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Villette by Charlotte Brontë
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Emma by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath
Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath
Possession by A.S. Byatt
The Shadow of the Sun by A.S. Byatt
Sixty Lights by Gail Jones
Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones
Sorry by Gail Jones
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
The Waves by Virginia Woolf
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
The Submerged Cathedral by Charlotte Wood
Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
Gut Symmetries by Jeanette Winterson
Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson
Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
Keynotes and Discords by George Egerton (Mary Chavelita Dunne)
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
Middlemarch by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
Mariana by Monica Dickens
The Far Cry by Emma Smith
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
The Complete Poems by Christina Rossetti
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
The God of Small Things by Arundati Roy
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
The Fifth Heaven by Rachel Eytan
Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
A Spy in the House of Love by Anaïs Nin

I would love to hear what’s in your own bookshelves.

Image credit: Woman Writing (1928) by Henri Lebasque.


hannah debbie said...

I'm totally interest. In fact, I'm doing this (badge or no badge, doesn't really matter at all to me).

Hila said...

Excellent, thanks! I'll make us a badge next week, just for fun.

rooth said...

After your post, I started choosing books BY women more consciously so of course I'm in on this challenge. I also just wishlisted an Isabelle Allende book. My favourite female authors are: Mary Roach, Jhumpa Lahiri and Kelly Link. Maybe we could do an entire blog post thing around this as well - I'd love to share my favourites with people

Hila said...

Absolutely Rooth, that's a great idea! Everyone is welcome to share their favourites on their blogs.

Hila said...

By the way Rooth, Allende is fantastic! Eva Luna made such a big impact on me when I read it as a teenager.

Anna said...

Hullo, Hila!

Have you heard of the Australian Women's Writing Challenge? It's very much like what you've proposed only, uh, official and has been running for a couple of years I think.

I'm not a contributor but I do peruse it occasionally for work (I'm a librarian in Melbourne).

A quick squiz of my own read books list from last year tells me that 75% or so were authored by women, which is a lot more than I thought! My shelves are pretty 50/50.

Hila said...

Hi Anna, yes I have heard of that challenge, and I think it's a great initiative. I've also seen similar ones online in the past. I do hope my proposed challenge contributes to these more official challenges. I had thought of participating in the Australian Women Writers Challenge, but I'd like to try a wider one with women writers worldwide. Maybe this will help diversity too? I'm guilty of reading too many books by British women authors, for example (mainly because of my research area), and I'm consciously trying to read other books by women. Although I do think the focus on Australian women writers in that official challenge is necessary.

My shelves are pretty 50/50 too! There may be a slight lean towards more female authors though, once again, because of my research work. I would honestly like men to start reading and reviewing more books by women too - my wishlist is endless!

Gabriela said...

This sounds awesome. I'm in!

Danielle P. said...

So it turn out that my bookshelves aren't so evenly split after all... This realization made me a bit sad, so I decided that for the rest of the year, I'm only going to purchase books (new or used) written by women. Thanks for the nudge, Hila!

I love your idea of a book challenge, no matter what shape it takes, and I have a couple of ideas of how to join in.

Michal said...

Love this idea!! I just picked up The White Album by Joan Didion as I'm working my way through her nonfiction works. I liked reading your list too, it makes me want to go home and see how many female authors I have on my shelves. I've read a bunch of the ones you've listed!

Chio said...

I've been thinking of joining to a book challenge similar to what you propose, but I don't like it when they prescribe the books that you ought to read, that's why I've been consciously reading more books written by women on my own but I'd like to join to your challenge.

Right now I'm reading "Two Serious Ladies" by Jane Bowles, I have been looking for it for ages and I finally found it, though in Spanish (I'm from Chile so it's v. difficult to find English books). I've checked my bookshelves and I seem to have more books written by women mostly because I feel I should support them.

I've also noticed that I tend to read the same female authors: Woolf, Austen, the Brontes, Sontag, Plath, Didion, Murdoch. So your list comes in handy, I'll look up some of the authors!

Chiara said...

Hi Hila,
does the challenge apply only to English written blogs or would you accept my... application from Italy?

nice idea, anyway :)

Hila said...

Great Gabriela, thanks!

Danielle: That's great Danielle, feel free to join in any way you like.

Michal: It's actually a fun task going through your bookshelves, tell me what you find!

Chio: I don't like being prescribed what to read either, which is why I tend to shy away from book clubs. But this is a pretty general challenge, with little rules - basically, read whatever you like, as long as it's by women. I'm glad you're joining this challenge. I tend to read the same authors too, and I'm trying to extend my range this year.

Chiara: Of course! Part of the reason I didn't make this challenge country or language specific is because I want to encourage diversity, while still focusing primarily on women writers. So whatever language the books are, and whatever language the blogs are, makes no difference - everyone is invited. Thank you!

Petra said...

sounds great, I'm in :)

Debie Grace said...

This is awesome, Hila! I will put everything in my list ;)

Rambling Tart said...

I'm in. Absolutely. :-) Your list has me heading for my bookshelves to see what women I have in residence there. :-)

peach panda said...

I'm so happy to see this! I just recently decided to start reading only books written by women, so it's a nice coincidence. I made a list of some of the books by women that I want to read, and it ended up being so long that I feel pretty happy to be doing this for a long time!

Nell Heshram said...

I'd like to join in, so long as you don't mind participants from the UK! Would we choose the books individually, or all read the same thing?

Mariella said...

I would love to be part of this Thanks for the idea :)

Jen said...

Fabulous idea! And a fabulous list too.

Last year I became more aware of these kind of stats (and saddened by them). Interestingly, 90% of the books I read are by female authors. Including this year's selection (so far). Currently reading Gillian Flynn's 'Gone Girl' and loving it.

Consider me 'joined in'.


heleen said...

Quite an impressive book list you have there. I will join the challenge as well! I don't have a real blog anymore (besides tumblr) but I do make frequent use of my goodreads account, so I will be reviewing the books there. This is a great initiative, and I am excited to make a conscious effort in discovering and reading more female writers.

heleen said...

By the way, have you read 'How to Surpress Women's Writing' by Joanna Russ? I haven't myself, but I think it might be an insightful read.

"She didn't write it. She wrote it but she shouldn't have. She wrote it but look what she wrote about. She wrote it but she isn't really an artist, and it isn't really art. She wrote it but she had help. She wrote it but she's an anomaly. She wrote it BUT..." How to Suppress Women's Writing is a meticulously researched and humorously written "guidebook" to the many ways women and other "minorities" have been barred from producing written art. In chapters entitled "Prohibitions," "Bad Faith," "Denial of Agency," Pollution of Agency," "The Double Standard of Content," "False Categorization," "Isolation," "Anomalousness," "Lack of Models," Responses," and "Aesthetics" Joanna Russ names, defines, and illustrates those barriers to art-making we may have felt but which tend to remain unnamed and thus insolvable.

stephanie from texas said...

I am in the middle of Sarah by Orson Scott Card. Hearing her emotions, fears, triumphs puts a whole new perspective on the story of Abraham and Sarah.
Next on my list is Reading Lolita in Tehran. It will be a reread for me. A fantastic memoir of women risking grave danger for books.

Denise said...

Love this! For the past 10 years (except for a few in the middle) I attend a monthly "Women reading Women" Book Club at our local library. We are a great group of middle aged women, wished you lived in the NYC area, you might find this fun!

Sundari said...

This is a great idea, Hila. I haven't read anything since before the Summer holidays. I feel so empty without my books. They are all in boxes. So I will buy Sylvia Plath, Zadie Smith, and Anaïs Nin. Thanks for the great list.

Fen said...

This is such a brilliant idea, I'm currently moving house and looking forward to reorganising my bookshelves, and I shall be making a list of my favourite female authors as I do so. So happy to spot I Capture the Castle on your list - one of my all time favourites! I must re-read it soon :)

I review lots of books for Mills & Boon, so I think about 80% of the material I read is written by women. I've just started reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which I'm enjoying so far.

I've put a little badge on my blog, hope you don't mind! :)

rokkn said...

i like the idea - and i like booklists at the moment. theres a beautiful list from jessica stanley here: (in fact i sometimes think i deliberately have to choose a book written by a man from time to time.)

Imene said...

I'm in! I have some of the books and will add the others to my list

Hila said...

Petra, Debie Grace, Krista, peach panda, Mariella, Jen, Imene: Glad to have you all join, thanks!

nell: absolutely, everyone is welcome to join. I'm letting people pick the books individually - I don't really like telling people what to read, and I don't want to place too many rules.

Heleen: oh thanks for that, I haven't read it either. But I will check it out. Happy to have you join!

Stephanie: That memoir sounds fascinating, I might have to give it a try too.

Denise: I wish so too! Alas, I'm all the way in Australia :)

Sundari: I feel empty without my books too - there's something depressing about having them all boxed up and hidden, rather than surrounding me on bookshelves.

Fen: Of course I don't mind!

rokkn: yes, I read Jessica's great list a while ago too.