Originally published in: 2016 (North American edition 2017)
What’s it about: This reads like a thought experiment gone very, very right.What would happen in a world where women developed a physical power that men couldn’t match?
What made me pick it up: I think I put this on hold because there was a blurb from Margaret Atwood on the cover. But I’m also just a sucker for speculative work that is (post)apocalyptic and/or dystopian.
My favorite things: Somehow this book is both a very heavy-handed critique of global patriarchy and an electrifying story. The novel is bookended by letters between two writers, Naomi and Neil, whose gendered interactions flip the script in a way that will entertain anyone tired of mansplaining.
Who it’s great for: Fan’s of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Readers looking for unapologetically feminist read that doesn’t sacrifice story for politics.
Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).
Originally published in: 2017
What it’s about: Roxane Gay reflects on her life in her body. She explores struggles with size, eating disorders, assault, and what it’s like to exist in a world that wasn’t designed to accommodate your body.
What made me pick it up: I love Roxane Gay’s work and I thought this book sounded important.
My favorite things: Take a deep breath before you dive into this because it is deep, raw, and painfully honest. She doesn’t shy away from details of her assault or the ways she thinks of her assailant to this day. She even takes the time to explain why she’s more comfortable identifying as a victim of sexual violence rather than as a survivor – without condemning or questioning those who do identify as survivors. The courage and openness throughout Hunger is consistently inspiring.
Who it’s great for: Fans of Roxane Gay’s other work. Memoir readers looking for something heavy to dig into.
Find this book at Amazon or in your local library.
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper because I had someone tell me they were his favorites from childhood and I’d never heard of them.
To Provence with Love by T.A. Williams because I am all about everything France.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith because a coworker told me she thought I’d identify strongly with it.
Second Star to the Right by Mary Alice Monroe because Peter Pan.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho because my friend said she loved it and I haven’t read it.
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande because I’m all about lists.
Give and Take by Adam Grant because it’s about giving and I’m a huge fan of Grant.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue because Oprah said so.
My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul because book about books.
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore because women in science.
The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace because female empowerment.
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn because Jane Austen and sci-fi.
The Liberal Redneck Manifesto by Trae Crowder because I’m curious.
The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan because I grew up a stone’s throw from Ontario and I wish we cared for these amazing ecosystems as we should.
The Rules Do No Apply by Ariel Levy
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon because movie and good press and I read The Sun Is Almost a Star and it was pretty good.
Word by Word by Kory Stamper because words.
Blockade Billy by Stephen King because it’s short and about baseball and I’ve never actually read it.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman because I like his other stuff.
Whereas by Layli Long Soldier because Native American poetry.
White Working Class by Joan C. Williams because I read White Trash and am just on a jaunt on that subject.
Picture books Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus, The Banana-leaf Ball by Katie Milway, This is Edinburgh by Miroslav Sasek, and Sea Otter Heroes by Patricia Newman because they looked interesting and also ‘merica, play, otters, and Scotland.
Originally published in: 2013
What it’s about: COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg considers her own experiences and gives advice for women on investing fully in career and life. You can also read Erica’s review of Sandberg’s later book Option B.
What made me pick it up: I’ve been meaning to check it out for a while and the audiobook was available to check out.
My favorite things: Some will argue that this is geared only toward certain women, but Sandberg does a great job of identifying her own privileges and trying to adapt her advice to women who may not have the same opportunities. She also encourages women to fully commit to whatever decisions they make even if they aren’t the same ones she would make.
Who it’s great for: Women looking for advice on career and life or insight into one woman’s rise to the top. Readers who enjoyed Sandberg’s later book, Option B.
Find this book at Amazon or in your local library.
First released in: 2015
What it’s about: Feminist scholars Hannah and Marcelle re-read and watch all of the Harry Potter books and films and tear them apart. With love.
What made me tune in: There was no chance I would pass up a podcast with both the perfect premise and the perfect name.
My favorite things: If you love something, rip it to shreds. Or, that seems to be the guiding idea behind this podcast. Hosts Hannah and Marcelle rejoice in the strong characters and engaging storytelling that make Harry Potter what it is, but still aren’t afraid to challenge various aspects of the books and films that are problematic. I think my favorite recurring segment is the one where they consider that Harry’s narration may be unreliable and that the story should be read with a grain of salt. A very big grain of salt.
Who it’s great for: Anyone who loves the Harry Potter stories but has struggled with some of the details. If you’ve tuned in to listen to Harry Potter and the Sacred Text you might enjoy the way this podcast approaches the books from a new angle.
Find it for free wherever you access your podcasts. Or here.
Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: Phoebe Robinson reflects on her experiences as a black woman in comedy and on her observations about race and gender. She challenges her readers to do better.
What made me pick it up: This one has been making the rounds at work so I’ve had it on my TBR list for a while.
My favorite things: Robinson easily discusses race and gender in a way that is both accessible and unapologetic. Her sharp wit is so compelling that you can’t help but laugh even if what she’s calling out is you or something you do. I appreciate that she writes the same way she talks – with a lot of unnecessary abbreviations. Although, I’m not sure I agree with her spelling of cazsh (casual).
Who it’s great for: Fans of her stand-up or her podcasts, Sooo Many White Guys and 2 Dope Queens. Readers looking for humor with depth and purpose.
Want a copy? Find one at Amazon (affiliate link) or see if it’s available at a library near you.
Originally published in: 2015
What it’s about: The author uses the graphic novel format to recount her experiences growing up during the terror caused by the Yorkshire Ripper and reflect on her personal experiences of sexual assault.
What made me pick it up: I saw a colleague with it and was instantly fascinated.
My favorite things: Each aspect of this graphic memoir comes together in a powerful condemnation of rape culture and victim blaming. The art is incredible and occasionally so arresting that I had to put down the book. For me, the strongest part of the book was also the most difficult to get through- a series of illustrations imagining what the victims of the ripper would be doing today.
Who it’s great for: Don’t pick this up if you’re looking for a quick or light read – this is for readers looking for something very raw and real. A great choice for those interested in dissecting rape culture and understanding the experiences of survivors.
Intrigued? Find a copy at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.
It’s the start of a new reading year and there is a lot to look forward to! Especially these upcoming nonfiction titles:
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxanne Gay – Like the other issues she has tackled in writing, in this book Gay will take on body issues and image in herself and other women. Pub date: June 2017
South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion – The inimitable Didion will release a series of notes from her road trip through the American South during the 1970s and all her observations from it. Pub date: March 2017
Theft By Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris – Didion is not the only one releasing past notes on life. The always entertaining Sedaris will publish this collection from journals he kept over 25 years. Pub date: May 2017
You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie – This book will be a tribute to Alexie’s mother who died at the age of 78. It will feature 78 stories and poems that Alexie wrote to process his grief. Pub date: June 2017