I love women supporting women. I also love books. So it makes sense that I am finally writing about my top books written by women! This post is meant to open people’s eyes to the wonderful world of women writers, when education and academia is full of boring, old, white, male authors talking about the American Dream and falling for courtesans; yes, I know not all education is like that anymore, but we still have a long way to go. These may not be my favourite books (although some are), but they are all incredibly important pieces of literature, ranging from breaking the genre mould, to telling unheard stories that need to be told. It was hard to whittle them down to just five, but here are my top five books from women in writing!
‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith
Yes, this is book by the Patti Smith, the punk-poet icon herself. Just Kids is a memoir about Smith’s life in the 60s and 70s, as she finds her way to New York, and befriends the then unknown Robert Mapplethorpe. In fact, they are both unknowns throughout most of this book, with their careers only taking off towards the end. Most of the detail centres around the love Smith and Mapplethorpe had for each other; whether that was platonic, romantic, or as artists. What sets the book apart from other rock stars memoirs, is the way it is written. You do not have to know anything about Patti Smith to enjoy it. I knew very little about her before I picked it up, yet I was instantly swept up into her world through her writing. It’s descriptive and poetic in a very human way, yet doesn’t shy away from the importance of realism. It is simply put, b-e-a-u-tiful.
‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou
Let me present to you, the most powerful book I have ever read – Dr Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It completely broke me when I first read it, and I found it incredibly hard to read in some places; not because of the way it’s written, it’s written beautifully, but because of the honesty she approaches some of the content with. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is an autobiography covering author and activist Angelou’s younger childhood years. The reason I found this book so heart-breaking is because of the trials and hardships young Angelou faces; things that no human should ever face, let alone a young child. This book deals with rape, racism, and trauma, and yet pushes the story of strength in the face of adversity, and the power literature can have on someone’s life. It’s tough and inspirational in one sitting, and a book I recommend that everyone reads at least once.
‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath
Take a shot every time Rosie talks about The Bell Jar. Yes, I know I go on about it, and no, I will never stop. In case you are new to me or my blog, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is my all-time favourite book; it’s pulled me through bouts of depression, has travelled with me across the globe, and I could read it over and over again and never get bored. Why has it had such an impact on me? I think it’s because it’s the first book I ever read that realistically covered what it is to be a modern woman who just so happens to have a mental illness. None of this ‘she doesn’t know she’s beautiful and that’s what makes her beautiful’ or manic-pixie-dream-girl-smoking-a-cigarette bullshit. This book deals with relationships, mental health treatment, working out who you want to be, sex, travel, and the genuine insecurities that come with being a young woman. It makes me cry, laugh, sigh, and shake my head in all the ways a good book should. When people ask for book recommendations, this will be the first one I pull out.
‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley
You’ve seen the comments. You know, the ones where men behind their Twitter masks call women ‘fake gamer girls’ and ‘not true fans’ because they just so happen to not be men. Well, let me tell you, Mary Shelley walked so those sci-fi weenies could run! Mary Shelley is referred to as the creator of the science-fiction genre, through the creation of her seminal novel Frankenstein. For years, it was assumed that her husband Percy Shelley wrote the novel (because novel writing was not deemed ‘women’s work’ back then – the eighteenth century men’s clubs would certainly hate me), but Mary stood out and said the work was hers, and changed the face of science fiction and feminist literature forever! Although this isn’t my favourite book, I’m more of a modernism gal myself, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and there’s something special about reading a book you know made a big difference.
‘The Color Purple’ by Alice Walker
Groundbreaking. That’s how I would describe The Color Purple. I mean that as in a piece of art and as a piece of literature. Until reading this book, I realised I had lived a very sheltered literary life. This book is written from the perspective of an uneducated fourteen year old in America, and is written on the page as such. This completely blew my mind. The spelling, syntax, punctuation; it was all written on the page in such a manner as they would write. It added another layer to an already phenomenal book. However, I will say one thing. I have only read this book once, and I will not be reading it again for a long time. This book was incredible and is of immense literary importance, but it pulled at my humanity and emotions in a way that a book had never done before. It took something out of me, and I cried for days after reading it. I’m so glad I have read it and certainly will again, but when the time is right.
So, those were my picks for my ‘Wonderful World of Women; Top Five Books’! I know I may have missed some gems (runners up include The Yellow Wallpaper and The Handmaid’s Tale), and I know I have a lot more books to read that may bump some of these books off the list. For example, my current reading list includes Swing Time by Zadie Smith, Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. I’ve only heard good things about all these books, so I’m looking forward to expanding my strong female author list!
Let me know what you think of my list below! What books would you include in your Top Five? I’m always on the lookout for recommendations.