#ReadWomen 2017 Update

I’m still focusing on largely ready books by women. We’re half-way through 2017 (!!!), here is what I have read so far this year. Of note–I have started reading more poetry! This is something inspired by a tidbit in the book by Cheryl Strayed (see below):

If you had to give one piece of advice to people in their twenties, what would it be?

Cheryl Strayed: To go to a bookstore and buy ten books of poetry and read them each five times.

Why?

CS: Because the truth is inside.

  1. The Violet Hour: Great Writers the End by Katie Roiphe
  2. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (again)
  3. Not Just Jane: Rediscovering Seven Amazing Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature by Shelley DeWees
  4. It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright
  5. The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino
  6. Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs
  7. Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon
  8. Wigs on the Green by Nancy Mitford
  9. The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-Seven Visions of a Wildly Better Future edited by Alexandra Brodsky and Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
  10. Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada
  11. Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey (again)
  12. Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace by Jessica Bennett
  13. Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of an Artist by Emily Carr
  14. Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives by Brian L. Weiss, M.D.
  15. A Lonely Lady by Willa Cather
  16. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  17. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
  18. The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi

 Poetry

  1. Dark Sparkler (poetry book) by Amber Tamblyn
  2. Memories by Lang Leav

UPDATED: I Read 50 Books by Women in 2016.

18490533

In 2016 I read fifty books total, forty-eight fifty-two books total, fifty of them are by women. I have highlighted my favourites below.

  1. Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
  2. The Long-Winded Lady: Notes from The New Yorker by Maeve Brennan
  3. Gutshot: Stories by Amelia Gray
  4. Listen to the Squawking Chicken: A Memoir (sort of) by Elaine Lui
  5. Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays by Joan Didion
  6. Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth
  7. The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente 
  8. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
  9. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch
  10. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  11. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  12. Speed Dreaming: Stories by Nicole Haroutunian
  13. An Unofficial Rose by Iris Murdoch
  14. The Color Master by Aimee Bender
  15. Tempting the Gods: The Selected Stories of Tanith Lee, Volume One by Tanith Lee
  16. My Ántonia by Willa Cather
  17. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
  18. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  19. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
  20. Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
  21. The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee
  22. Dancing Girls: Stories by Margaret Atwood
  23. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente 
  24. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
  25. Don’t Lose Track Vol. 1: 40 selected Articles, Essays, and Q&As by Jordannah Elizabeth
  26. All over Creation by Ruth Ozeki
  27. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
  28. Pink Noises: women on electronic music and sound by Tara Rodgers
  29. The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
  30. Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur
  31. Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott
  32. Flight from the Enchanter by Iris Murdoch
  33. Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963 by Sylvia Plath
  34. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
  35. Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey
  36. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
  37. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  38. The Electrical Field by Kerri Sakamoto
  39. Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery
  40. Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery
  41. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  42. Waiting by Ha Jin
  43. What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours: Stories by Helen Oyeyemi
  44. My Year of Meats by Ruth L. Ozeki
  45. Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman
  46. The Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats & Ex-Countries by Jessa Crispin
  47. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
  48. Space Is Just A Starry Night: Short Fiction by Tanith Lee
  49. The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P.D. James
  50. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
  51. In the Country we Love by Diane Guerrero
  52. One of Ours by Willa Cather

Here are some tidbits about the books above.

mitford

The Mitford novels were hilarious and I want to read more of her work. Elaine Lui’s memoir had me in stitches also.

Helen Oyeyemi continues to be one of my favourite authors, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours and White is for Witching were amazing.

oyeyemi

For these troubling times, I would strongly recommend reading Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road and anything my Ruth Ozeki. Ozeki’s books are about ordinary women who end up doing amazing activism in page-turning, addictive stories full of compelling characters. Steinem’s book is inspiring and very much focuses on the positivity of humanity in a way that inspires hope,

I’m pretty sure my wedding vows will be one of Rupi Kaur’s poems in Milk & Honey.

I read some awesome books about women and music this year, but my favourite was Don’t Lose Track Vol. 1: 40 selected Articles, Essays, and Q&As by Jordannah Elizabeth

I’m not one for reading mystery/thriller books that contain murder, but the P.D. James short stories and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History were awesome! It’s fun to read something different.

I keep thinking about Valente’s Radiance. I think it’s because I’m re-watching Battlestar Galactica right now.

The Closet Feminist is big on #ReadWomen. Check out more awesome books here:

My 2014 reading list

My 2015 reading list 

Best of Catherynne M. Valente’s “Deathless”

Catherynne M. Valente is one of my favourite writers of all time. I have read almost everything she has written. She’s a feminist, her books always have queer characters, and her writing is nothing short of magic. She’s pretty much The Closet Feminist dream.

catvalente-deathless1

Here are some of my favourite quotes from her book Deathless.

When Marya saw something extraordinary again, she would be ready. She would be clever. She would not let it ruler her or trick her. She would do the tricking, if tricking was called for. (p.24)

When I am Tsarita, I will break all these machines and I will set them free. (p.110)

A marriage is a private thing. It has its own wild laws, and secret histories, and savage acts, and what passes between married people is incomprehensible to outsiders. We look terrible to you, and severe, and you see our blood flying, but what we carry between us is hard-won, and we made it just as we wished it to be, just the color, just the shape. (p.215-216)

first_edition_cover_of_deathless_by_cathrynne_valente

This house, she knew. It stayed within her as it had always been, the architecture of her girlhood. The wood held the oils of her skin deep in its grain; the windows still bore the imprint—long gone, invisible—of her tiny nose. (p.239)

I cannot make you understand that I forgive you, that I know you loved both he and I, the way a mother can love two sons. And no one should be judged for loving more than they ought, only for loving not enough, which was my crime. (p.320)

The 35 Books By Women I’ve Read in 2016 (so far)

We’re over half-way through 2016 now, so I thought it was time for an update on my goal to redefine the literary canon.

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Above: I post more frequently about my reading adventures on my instagram here.

Last time we talked about this project in April, I had hit 20 books. Now it’s mid-July and I’m at 35. Here is the complete list of what I’ve read so, I’ve greyed out the books I had posted about previously.

  1. Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
  2. The Long-Winded Lady: Notes from The New Yorker by Maeve Brennan
  3. Gutshot: Stories by Amelia Gray
  4. Listen to the Squawking Chicken: A Memoir (sort of) by Elaine Lui
  5. Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays by Joan Didion 
  6. Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth 
  7. The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente 
  8. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
  9. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch
  10. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  11. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  12. Speed Dreaming: Stories by Nicole Haroutunian
  13. An Unofficial Rose by Iris Murdoch
  14. The Color Master by Aimee Bender
  15. Tempting the Gods: The Selected Stories of Tanith Lee, Volume One by Tanith Lee
  16. My Ántonia by Willa Cather
  17. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
  18. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  19. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
  20. Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
  21. The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee
  22. Dancing Girls: Stories by Margaret Atwood
  23. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
  24. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
  25. Don’t Lose Track Vol. 1: 40 selected Articles, Essays, and Q&As by Jordannah Elizabeth
  26. All over Creation by Ruth Ozeki
  27. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
  28. Pink Noises: women on electronic music and sound by Tara Rodgers
  29. The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
  30. Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur
  31. Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott
  32. Flight from the Enchanter by Iris Murdoch
  33. Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963 by Sylvia Plath
  34. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
  35. Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey 
There were so many good ones in this batch! I bolded my favourites. Ozeki’s book All Over Creation stood out for sure, I want to read more of her stuff. I was lucky to find Letters Home by Plath at a used book store, it was heartbreaking and insightful.

The Best of Sylvia Plath’s ‘Unabridged Journals’

SylviaPlathJournals

I read The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath a couple years ago. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Plath was really, brilliantly smart. I have read The Bell Jar a couple times, so I already ‘knew’ she was smart, but reading her journals really hit it home.
  2. She loved Lord of The Rings (see the last quote)
  3. She considered her baking speciality to be Lemon Meringue pie.
  4. She’s not perfect–there are definitely some unconfronted class privilege and racism in her entries
  5. I’m torn about whether or not she’d be a Ravenclaw (see comment #1) or a Slytherin–she was very ambitious, and most of her entries were about how badly she wanted to write, be a good writer, write something great, write more, etc. She was obsessed.
  6. She wrote very little about her immediate family
  7. She really wanted kids and to get married, but even once she did, she wrote mostly about writing (or at least that’s the impression I got)
  8. Like many other famous writers, she loved fashion

Here are some of my favourite/most interesting quotes from these journals.

sylvia-plath-010_1360487421_crop_550x330

Writing breaks open the vaults of the dead and the skies behind which the prophesying angels hide. The mind makes and makes, spinning its web.

p. 286

I may never be happy, but tonight I am content. Nothing more than an empty house, the warm hazy weariness from a day spent setting strawberry runners in the sun, a glass of cool sweet milk, and a shallow dish of blueberries bathe din cream. Now I know how people can live without books, without college. When one is so tired at the end of a day one must sleep, and at the next dawn there are more strawberry runners to set, and so one goes on living, near the earth. At times like this i’d call myself a fool to ask for more.

p.8

I live in two worlds and as long as we are apart, I always shall.

p. 220

I love people. Everybody. I love them, I think, as a stamp collector loves his collection. Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love’s not impersonal yet not wholly subjective either […] But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with objective curiosity all the time…

p.9

banner_sylvia plath flickr

What horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated, brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle-age.

p.524

I think baby would make me forget myself in a good way. Yet I must find myself.

p.458

And yet, does it not all come again to the fact that it is a man’s world? For if a man chooses to be promiscuous, he may still aesthetically turn up his nose at promiscuity. He may still demand a woman be faithful to him, to save him from his own lust. But women have lust, too. Why should they be relegated to the position of custodian of emotions, watcher of infants, feed of soul, body and pride of man? Being born a woman is my awful tragedy. From the moment I was conceived  was doomed to spread breasts and ovaries rather than a penis and a scrotum; to have my whole circle of action, thought and feeling rigidly circumscribed by my inescapable femininity. Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars—to be part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.

p. 77

Lord knows what is happening to me: I am dying of inertia.

p.458

sylviaplath beach

the kind of radiance too that suddenly comes over you when I look at you dressing or shaving or reading and you are suddenly more than the daily self we must live with and love, that fleeting celestial self which shines out with the whimsical timing of angels.

that confident surge of exuberance in which I wrote you has dwindled as waves do, to the knowledge that makes me cry, just this once: such a minute fraction of this life do we live: so much is sleep, tooth-brushing, waiting for mail, for metamorphosis, for those sudden moments of incandescence: unexpected, but once one knows them, once can life life in the light of their past and the hope of their future.

p.195

It’s hopeless to “get life” if you don’t keep notebooks.

p.273

[…] because I see every now and then how one must live in this world even if one’s true full soul is not with one; i give of my intensity and passion in minute homeopathic spoonfuls to the world […] to all these, I can give my fantastic urges of love, in little parcels which will not hurt them or make them sick, for being too strong.

p. 218

I feel we are as yet directionless (not inside, not so much as in a people community way—we belong nowhere because we have not given of ourselves to any place wholeheartedly, not committed ourselves).

p.454

Finished the Tolkien trilogy. A triumph. A battle of pans and kevas. I don’t know when I have been so moved.

p.475

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