Why we should all be reading more books by women
I might digress into a rant here but only because I had to read another list by a man, who forgot that there are female authors, citing the “20 books you should read this year”. Out of the 20 books this author found essential to read in 2017, only a measly 3 were by women. How is that even possible? Did he not know any more female authors? Or did he simply not consider books by women to be quite as essential? Mind you, he did consider reading the manual of the Apple Watch to be essential. Regardless of whether you actually own an Apple Watch, I presume. This might be my addled female mind talking but I don’t actually consider reading the user manual of something I don’t own essential. I do, however, find it essential that we all read more than three books by women every year.
Books by women are brilliant and funny, heartfelt and vicious. They can speak to the heart and can scare you to death. In short: They are just as good as any book written by a man. With the important addition of being capable of portraying real female emotions. Not just the emotions a man thinks that a woman feels.
Growing up, I never paid too much attention to whether the author was male or female. But in the last couple of years, I have made a concerted effort to read more books by women. And you know what? Women write bloody brilliant books (that should go without saying but apparently it doesn’t).
Childhood heroes – Rowling and Lindgren
One of the most influential female authors in my life, as in many people’s life, is J.K. Rowling. Her story about a boy wizard who defeats the evil with the help of friendships and love is one of the most powerful stories any author could tell. Philosophically as well as financially powerful. And yet, when “Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone” was first published, her publisher thought it’d be a good idea to conceal her gender because “boys don’t like books by women”. I guess we can all agree that Ms Rowling proved them spectacularly wrong.
But what is more important about Rowling’s books, she portrait strong female characters. Characters who were unafraid to love books and learning, to live in their own little worlds or to choose love over status. To put Hermione, a girl who’s described not as pretty but as smart, inventive and strong, at the centre of the books, next to two dizzy boys, showed millions of girls around the world that it’s okay to love books. I always adored the character of Hermione. I was always the nerd in school. The girl everyone made fun of because she had studied for the test and read more than was necessary. And when a boy who was teasing me once said that whatever I was wearing at the time made me look like Hermione. I actually took it as a compliment, even though it was intended as an insult.
Another great female author that shaped my childhood was Astrid Lindgren. The story of “Pippi Longstocking” is one of the best children’s books I know. I mean it’s about a girl living by herself who can lift a horse. What’s not to love?
Adichie, Solnit & Steinem
More recently, I have gotten into the two “feminist manifestos” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, namely “We should all be Feminists” (also available as a TED talk) and “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions”. Both are really quick reads and both are equally important for both men and women because both genders still have a lot to learn on the road to true equality.
Then there’s Rebecca Solnit and Gloria Steinem. Both of whom I started reading last year. Steinem’s biography “My life on the road” is as much about feminism, as it is about travel and activism. The experiences she shares are captivating and I am absolutely in awe of what she and other feminists have achieved. Rebecca Solnit is a feminist, yes, but she is also a ingenious author who can draw parallels between such things as the desert and human existence in general. I particularly love “The field guide to getting lost” and “Men explain things to me“.
There are so many more incredible books by women which is why I will leave you with two more great places to find them.
As far as hashtags go, #ReadWomen might not be a feat of linguistic achievement or wit but it does do its job. So if you are ever stuck and are trying to find a book written by a fierce and brilliant woman, head over to Instagram and look up that hashtag. Bookstagrammers from around the world are sharing the fantastic books by women they are reading. And not just in English either. You can find books by women in all languages and for all kinds of tastes. Fiction, crime, feminist reads, high literature and light reads. It’s all there and just a hashtag away.
A bit more high profile is the book club “Our Shared Shelf” by Emma Watson, who, for 10 years, acted as the most famous book nerd there ever was. For almost two years now, Emma chooses a book every two months and thousands of women join in, read the books and share their opinions on the Our Shared Shelf Goodreads page.