Monday, 25 January 2016

The Femsplain Book Club

Was one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to join a book club? Well, you’ve already succeeded, because we’re bringing a Femsplain book club straight to you! We’ve been looking back on our all-time favourite books written by women, and we’ve come up with the Top 8. Let us know on Twitter what you think of our choices!

1. How to Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran

How to Build A Girl is more than incidentally feminist, like most coming of age novels written by women are. Even though Johanna (self-created “Dolly”) lives this seemingly glamorous rock writer life, she goes through experiences that are relatable to most girls: dealing with new social scenes; falling in love with a toxic persona she’s created for herself and rising above it; trying to be “cool” and accepted while also learning to accept herself. The realism and relatability is what makes this book feminist to me. Moran’s gritty, sometimes miserable description of what it is to grow up and be and “build” a girl tells the whole truth of what many women experience as adolescents/teenagers—and this truth feels revolutionary. As all Femsplain readers know—one of the most revolutionary feminist acts can be sharing real experiences.

  • picked by Victoria Turley

2. Neapolitan Novels by Elena Farrente

 Elena Ferrante is a literary magician. With her Neapolitan Novels, she paints a picture—one that couldn't be described as picture perfect (such a phrase doesn't do her work justice), but could instead be labelled REAL in capital letters for emphasis. Yes, Ferrante tells a story filled with love, life, failure, success, and everything in between. She doesn't promise her readers anything. Rather, she saves her promises for her characters by vowing that she'll give their complex stories a beginning, a middle, and an ending that may or may not be happy.

To put it simply, Ferrante's work breathes.

  • picked by Anna Gragert

3. Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

Impulse is one of my favorite books from my teenage years that has carried with me throughout my 20s. Ellen Hopkins writes narrative poems in novel format. Her stories are deep, descriptive, emotional. They dig deep into hard hitting issues like mental problems, depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol abuse. I read books by her as a teenager and each one always hit home for me. I’ve picked Impulse specifically because it helped me through a struggle of self abuse and depression; her symbolism towards the beauty of life resonates with me even now, and every so often I pick it up for yet another read. Truthfully, it's fantastic and so is she.

  • picked by Gianna Martorano

4. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
I’m going to choose my favorite series of all time: The Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling is such a badass, and she created an entire world, a world that will forever be beloved and lived in by all of society—and a world rife with strong female characters. She inspired women and girls everywhere (myself certainly included) to let their imaginations run wild and create anything they want to, to live in that magical world and embrace it (even if someone tries to tell you that male authors are always the most successful authors).

  • picked by Sammy Nickalls

5. When Women Were Birds: Fifty Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams

This is the kind of book you want to carry with you everywhere, just in case you need a little boost of wisdom. In fact, that’s exactly what I did. This book traveled in my purse with me for six months. Yeah, it’s that book. Williams wrote this memoir after her mother died and she inherited her journals, only to find they are all completely blank. When Women Were Birds deals with the aftermath of this discovery. Written in 54 short chapters, it reads like poetry. It concentrates on the importance of the female voice, and the journey to finding your own—and also deals with grief, family, nature, religion, and what it means to be a woman. It is delicately woven, yet extremely powerful (just like women!). I first read it the month I dropped out of college due to mental illness and a general lack of direction; it was the exact medicine I needed. My copy is beat up, highlighted, annotated, and shoved into the hands of any of my female-identifying friends who are searching for guidance. This book is truly magical and I cannot recommend its powers enough.

  • picked by Katie Steinberg

6. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander is one my favorite books of all time. The plot in a nutshell: Claire Randall, a former WWII nurse, and her husband Frank are on a second honeymoon in Scotland, when Claire stumbles into a magical stone circle that transports her back to the 18th century. With only her own wit, medical training, and scant knowledge of the Scottish Highlands, Claire has to figure out how to get back to the only life she's ever known. Claire is one of the most complex and intrepid female fictional characters that I've had the pleasure to read. She's smart; Gabaldon never misses a chance to highlight her wit and her skills as a nurse. I love that I can experience her character at her highest and lowest points and that each of those moments are so incredibly human. Claire's a BAMF in her own right, but when she ends up falling in love for the second time... she and her husband become nothing short of an 18th century power couple. They complement and conflict with each other in an incredibly realistic, relatable way, and as a reader, it's a delight to see two characters help each other grow and develop into even better characters. I'd recommend Outlander (and its sequels) to anyone who's craving to read about a solid female character navigating her way through a rich historical setting.

  • picked by Archana Madhavan

7. The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

"The person who interviewed her had no face."

If there is any justice in the world, the first sentence of The Beautiful Bureaucrat will be remembered among all the universal truths and the bright cold days in April of the literary canon. Helen Phillips' novel is about a woman whose months of unemployment end when she takes a job entering data at a mysteriously dreary company. The more she learns about the company, the more she has to grapple with the precariousness of her employment, of her marriage, and of life itself. This book stands out among my recent reads for its beauty and poignancy.

  • picked by Rachel Hock - @rachelcraves

8. Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

In the late 90s, after I graduated from college and moved to Boston to be a grown up, I met a woman. She was a window display designer, like my childhood idol Rhoda Morganstern from the Mary Taylor Moore Show; she had a New York accent, perfect posture, and a tiny silver statue of a ballerina that she wore around her neck (and used as a very fancy coke spoon). My friends and I went back to her apartment for a party; she and I sat close together on a saggy couch and talked about everything and nothing. I felt sparkly, noticed, special, understood. As I was FINALLY leaving, my new friend gave me Good Morning, Midnight, by Jean Rhys.

I fell in love with the book. It's about a woman named Sasha who has hit absolute rock bottom, and travels from London to Paris in a drunken, penniless haze of crippling social anxiety, until she gets picked up by a gigolo who thinks she's rich because she has a nice coat. I was just beginning my adult life, and I was drawn in by Jean Rhys's writing. I suffer from social anxiety myself, and Good Morning, Midnight was probably my first experience with a book that really discussed what it's like to live with this kind of anxiety. It made me feel sparkly, noticed, special, understood.

Eighteen years later, I still love the book and reread it regularly. I am probably now the same age as Sasha, which is an odd milestone. I still deal with social anxiety, but I don't have Sasha's self-destructive bent or an ongoing, elegant but deadly self-loathing monologue running through my mind, thank goodness. I never talked to the woman who gave me the book again. I wonder how she's doing.

  • picked by Karen Corday - @k_files

At Femsplain, we’re always looking to chat with more women—whether it’s about books, films, our jobs, our friends, or our wildest dreams! We have a Slack community open to anyone who wants to chat to us—including a special book channel that we’d just love to have you in. Come join our book club!

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