We are celebrating International Women’s Day with a special book club only featuring books by women who rule! Everyone at Smith Goodfellow has put forward their favourite female authors and books written by awesome women.
Check back each week during March to see our recommendations, and follow our #WomenInPrint Book Club on our Instagram
I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to my female authors. I love the keen observation and subtle wit of Jane Austen; the dark passion and ethereal quality of the Bronte sisters writing. I count ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ amongst my all-time favourite novels.
But I also admire many modern wordsmiths. I love Jojo Moyes’ unsentimental portrayal of difficult subjects, and her deft characterisation. ‘Me Before You’ is an absolute classic, and ‘The One Plus One’ is a joy to read. Anne Patchett’s ‘Bel Canto’ is a roller coaster of tension, comic effect and tragedy. Or for a real taste of there being two sides to every story, how about ‘Happenstance’ by Carol Shields.
If a bit of fantasy is more your thing, check out the compelling ‘Uprooted’ by Naomi Novik
I could go on and on (as you’ve probably gathered), but my final contribution for any budding writers out there is read Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life’.
Kelly recommedns ‘The Gender Games’ – by Juno Dawson
This is a great book, not just as an educational tool, but also because I find Juno’s blunt but witty approach really refreshing.
‘The Gender Games’ is a biography that covers British culture, relationships, sexuality, feminism, stereotypes and more… It is both a social commentary and Juno’s own story. Given she was born a man, her story is particularly interesting as she talks about her childhood and family life, her life when she believed she was a gay man, and then coming to the realisation she identified as a woman. The book is a bare-all account of what she had to go through growing up and during adulthood. She also candidly explains what challenges she faced as a trans woman.
Personally, I think this should be on an essential-reads list for any adult!
Dave recommends ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ – By Zora Neale Hurston
The book uses its setting, just one generation removed from the abolition of slavery, to discuss racial relations within the African American community and offers a frank commentary on the way women’s roles and lives are defined, particularly within relationships. Whilst partners and others try to enforce the norms of society upon her, Janie constantly rises above, defining her own path to a fulfilling life.
A beautifully described tale of an African-American woman’s journey through life in early 1900s America.
Jodie recommends ‘Milk and Honey’ – by Rupi Kaur
Kaur’s poetry is life-changing. That seems a bit of an over-the-top statement, I know. But her concise clarity, unrestrained and raw, is what we need in this world.
Here’s one of my favourites, and one which I think is particularly resonant today:“we all move forward when we recognize how resilientand striking the women around us are”
Kelly recommends ‘A Signature of All Things’ – by Elizabeth Gilbert
In some ways, this is an odd book to love so much. Alma isn’t a particularly likeable character, the subject matter to many may not even be of interest (there’s a lot of botany-research that has gone into this), and it’s a historical novel based in the 19th Century. And yet, this is one of my favourite books. The reason for this is the way in which it is written, the style, the questions it raises… it is Alma’s journey through life as she tries to find her place in a world that doesn’t believe women can be leaders in a field. She also tries to understand things such as love, passion, friendship, and the meaning of life through her work.
Elizabeth Gilbert is one of my favourite authors, both because I love her work and because I love hearing what she has to say as a woman.
Owen recommends ‘The Suffragettes’ – by Penguin ‘Little Black Classics’
A very interesting little collection of newspaper articles, leaflets, posters and legal documents surrounding the Suffrage movement in the UK. The book is split into sufferage, anti-sufferage and Victory, all for £1.
‘Once they are aroused, once they are determined, nothing on earth and nothing in heaven will make women give way; it is impossible.’ The first page set the tone.
Adrian recommends ‘The Descendants’ – by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Hemming’s debut novel tells the story of Matt King a successful attorney and descendant of Hawaiian royalty. As the largest shareholder Matt is faced with the dilemma of what to do with the large amount of land he and his family has inherited from his ancestors. He feels pressure from his cousins to sell the land to real estate developers. However, this would be relinquishing the last portion of land in Hawaii owned by native Hawaiians.
When his adrenaline seeking wife, Joanie, suffers from a speedboat accident which leaves her in an irreversible coma, Matt is forced to confront his shortcomings within his personal life. He must look after his two emotionally estranged and troubled teenage daughters and deliver the news to his family’s wife that she is about to be taken off life support.
A confrontation with his oldest daughter, A recovering drug addict and model, leads to the revelation that Matts wife had been having an affair which spurs him to go in search of his wife’s lover in order to deliver the news.
The Descendants is a darkly comic novel which explores themes of Identity, race and family.
Kelly recommends ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ – by Maya Angelou
This is such a beautifully written book. Stunning, heart-breaking, enlightening… a stroll, sometimes stumble, sometimes dance through Maya’s life as a child right up to the point of finding out she was going to be a mother. It covers her experiences growing up in a fractured family unit, racism, education, poverty, sexual abuse… She also discusses meeting her role models. Such a wonderfully strong and smart woman!
No book list on inspiring and influential women would be complete without some Maya!
Jodie recommends ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ – by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story from 1892. Written as a series of journal entries by a woman who has been prescribed ‘the rest cure’, is an unsettling look at people’s attitudes towards women’s health, both mental and physical. It was one of the first texts to really make me think about how women are represented in literature, and how they represent themselves.
This isn’t just my favourite book by a woman, but my favourite book!
Paul recommends ‘Woman on The Edge of Time’, by Marge Piercy
I can’t describe this book better than the genre description from Shmoop: “When you think of Sci-Fi, you probably think of bug-eyed monsters, lasers and Marty McFly lopping off Mr. Spock’s ears with the Tardis. But this is not that kind of science fiction. Instead of jetpacks and laser battles, ‘Woman on the Edge of Time’ has gender equality; instead of a pill containing a full day’s nutrition, it has equal distribution of resources.”
It is both thoughtful and thought provoking. Read it.
I recommend this book as it is one of the most intellectual Sci-Fi books I’ve ever read!