Read Harder 2016, Feminist-Style

Erm, well this is awkward. I was supposed to post my fave nonfiction reads of 2015 today, but…I forgot to finish that post and I’m about to spend the next 6 hours driving to Austin. I’ll post that list tomorrow. In the meantime, chew on this! I’m bumping it up the schedule just for you!

So. I completed Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge in 2015, and, being a total nerd, figured out my list for 2016 within hours of the categories being posted. This year, feminism is on the list. YAY, right? But as I was figuring out my own list, I kept seeing how many of the books I was considering overlapped with the feminist category. And then I started seeing, via the Goodreads boards and hashtags, what other people were choosing. That’s all part of the fun.

But is it me, or is everyone stuck in a feminist rut? The main titles being bandied about are:

  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (good book!)
  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (good book!)
  • Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (good book!)
  • How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (PLEASE GOD NO WHYYYYY)

That’s cool (Moran’s book notwithstanding). In the world of feminist publications, those do seem to be the heavy hitters of the past few years, and it’s great that people are seeking them out (Moran’s book notwithstanding). It’s just that there’s a huuuuuuuge world of feminist literature out there. So huge, in fact, that a feminist analysis can be applied to every single category.

Every. Single. Category.

Task 1: A horror book

  • The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
  • Carrie by Stephen King
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film by Carol J. Clover
  • Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Task 2: A nonfiction book about science

  • Brainstorm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences by Rebecca M. Jordan-Young
  • Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss
  • Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Entanglements of Feminism, Health, and Technoscience by Michelle Murphy
  • Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality by Anne Fausto-Sterling
  • Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl

Task 3: A collection of essays

  • BITCHfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine ed. by Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler
  • Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism ed. by Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman
  • Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashion ed. by Virgie Tovar
  • This Bridge Called My Back ed. by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua
  • Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape ed. by Jaclyn Friedman & Jessica Valenti

Task 4: Read a book out loud to someone

Technically, any title listed on this page will fit. But if you’re looking for something way shorter, here are some children’s books, all Amelia Bloomer-approved:

  • The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela: A Tale from Africa by Cristina Kessler
  • Every-Day Dress-Up by Selina Alko
  • A Pair of Twins by Kavitha Mandana
  • Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
  • Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle

Task 5: A middle grade novel

  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson
  • The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
  • Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins
  • The Shrouding Woman by Loretta Ellsworth

Task 6: A biography

  • Ida: A Sword Among Lions by Paula J. Giddings
  • Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable History of the Girl Scouts by Stacy A. Cordery
  • Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion by Jean H. Baker
  • On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson by William Souder
  • Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr

Task 7: A dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel

  • Daughters of the North by Sarah Hall
  • A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
  • When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
  • Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

Task 8: A book published in decade you were born

  • 1940s: Under a Glass Bell by Anaïs Nin
  • 1950s: A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf
  • 1960s: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • 1970s: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • 1980s: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • 1990s: Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros
  • 2000s: The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Task 9: Audie Award-winning audiobook

  • Glorious by Bernice L. McFadden
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • My Dream of You by Nuala O’Faolain
  • Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Task 10: A book over 500 pages long

  • America’s Women by Gail Collins
  • Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
  • The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
  • The Women’s Room by Marilyn French
  • You Are Not Like Other Mothers by Angelika Schrobsdorff

Task 11: A book under 100 pages long

  • for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange
  • Overcoming Speechlessness by Alice Walker
  • SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas
  • So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ
  • Wheels of Change by Sue Macy

Task 12: A book by/about a person who identifies as transgender

  • Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal by J. Jack Halberstam
  • A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein
  • A Safe Girl to Love: Stories by Casey Plett
  • Stuck in the Middle with You by Jennifer Finney Boylan
  • Whipping Girl by Julia Serano

Task 13: A book that is set in the Middle East

  • Arab & Arab American Feminisms ed. by Rabab Abdulhadi, Evelyn Alsultany, & Nadine Naber
  • Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World by Katherine Zoepf
  • The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf
  • Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy
  • A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar

Task 14: A book by an author from Southeast Asia

  • Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong
  • First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
  • Saman by Ayu Utami
  • Short Girls by Bich Mingh Ngyuen
  • Smile As They Bow by Nu Nu Yi

A book of historical fiction set before 1900

  • Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  • Gunnar’s Daughter by Sigrid Undset
  • Hild by Nicola Griffith
  • The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
  • Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Task 16: The first book in a series by a person of color

  • Dawn by Octavia Butler
  • Dove Arising by Karen Bao
  • The Land by Mildred D. Taylor
  • Legend by Marie Lu
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Task 17: A non-superhero comic book

  • Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell
  • Monstress #1 by Marjorie Liu
  • Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag by A.K. Summers
  • Tomboy by Liz Prince

Task 18: A book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie

  • Carol by Patricia Highsmith
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  • The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek
  • Room by Emma Donoghue

Task 19: A nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes

  • Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide by Andrea Smith
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
  • Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards
  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  • Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis

Task 20: A book about religion

  • Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions ed. by Cami Ostman & Susan Tive
  • Buddhism After Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism by Rita M. Gross
  • Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin by Nicole Hardy
  • The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  • Yentl’s Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism ed. by Danya Ruttenberg

Task 21: A book about politics

  • Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women’s Activism in the Beauty Industry by Tiffany M. Gill
  • Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women by Rebecca Traister
  • The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World by Michelle Goldberg
  • Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt
  • Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections by Women Writers ed. by Susan Morrison

Task 22: A food memoir

  • Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
  • Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya Von Bremzen
  • My Life in France by Julia Child
  • Relish by Lucy Knisley
  • A Season to Taste by Molly Birnbaum

Task 23: A play

  • An American Daughter by Wendy Wasserstein
  • A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
  • Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
  • Proof by David Auburn
  • Wit by Margaret Edson

Task 24: A book with a main character who has a mental illness

  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
  • Marbles by Ellen Forney
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Believe me when I say I could’ve kept going.

I don’t know if this is the route I’m going to take. A lot of the titles I originally chose — not all “feminist” — come directly from my shelves, and I’d like those neglected books to finally see the light of day (I’ve also promised to read Harry Potter to my nephew). Then again, this could be a cool project for me…and maybe you!

Just remember: no Caitlin Moran. You are better than that. Feminism is better than that.

 

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22 comments

  1. Bina

    Haha it’s true, finally someone who’s not singing Moran’s praises. Also, awesome list! I’m doing the Read Harder challenge and diversity on the shelf challenge this year but even without those I’d refuse to set foot in the mythical land of weird white choice feminism of Moran.

  2. mdbrady

    WHEE!! That was fun. I totally agree that feminism is relevant everywhere. I used to teach a senor seminar in Women’s Studies that looked at issues feminism raised across the disciplines. Not quite the same categories, of course, but I want to go back and see what I can add to your choices. Only, like you, I could go on forever. Maybe we ought to create our own challenge doing just that.
    And thanks for the additions to my own TBR list.

  3. lauratfrey

    Bookmarking this. I got the same feeling when I was reading the categories in a “Back to the Classics” challenge. One of the categories was a classic by a woman. Um really? Lol. This is a fantastic post.

  4. fariiisthaa

    I am definitely gonna read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book. Fell in love with her mind and charisma after hearing one of her talks 🙂

  5. yasmine rose

    Haha, I definitely understand your sentiments on Moran! Although I’m not taking part in this challenge there are so many interesting books in your post that I will have to take a look at during the year.

  6. cindylu

    This category seemed to be one of those that could shift based on what I own and what I’ve been meaning to read for years (completely, not just a chapter here or there). I’ve been meaning to read “Lactivism: How Feminists and Fundamentalists, Hippies and Yuppies, and Physicians and Politicians Made Breastfeeding Big Business and Bad Policy” (Courtney Jung) for this category, but we’ll see how much it fits.

    You might want to correct Lilith’s Brood to Dawn. It’s the only book I’ve read in the Xenogenesis trilogy. It seems Lilith’s Brood refers to all three books combined. Technicality, I know!

  7. Janet Goodell

    I love feminist literature, but would use caution in reading it exclusively. This is only 24 books or less so probably not solid fem lit for the year. Look at it this way: If my right-wing ex only read lit supporting male-dominated white-acting people who support unfettered right to arms all wrapped up in a theocracy, it would be no help to society. I know this isn’t a good equality and a little hyperbolic. Diversity means diversity.

    • Melissa

      I’d have to disagree on that since feminism isn’t a monolith. There’s quite a bit of diversity on this list in terms of ideology, ethnicity, religion, nationality, socioeconomics, etc. SCUM Manifesto is verrrry different from, say, the Yes Means Yes anthology. 🙂

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  10. Mona

    Someone in the Goodreads group put a link in to your blog, so that’s how I found you. Thank you for doing this post. I was really struggling with a few of the categories. So you gave me some ideas and now I’m definitely reading Angela Carter for the horror task. I don’t know that I’ll go down a purely feminist path either but it’s nice to think more broadly about what’s available, instead of getting stuck in a box, which is of course the exact opposite of the intent of this challenge. Thanks!

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