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Men Reading Women: Recommended Reading

stacks of books
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The final installment in a five-part series on why men may be reluctant to read women and how even well-intentioned men default to reading other men. Catch up with part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Recommended Reading: So you’ve read the last several blog posts and decided to add more women to your reading list. Great! There are so very, very many excellent books by women that this blog post could expand to ridiculous proportions. But I will attempt to restrain myself and recommend some books.

I am limiting myself to women who write in English, although this reveals another type of myopia. Plus, this is a very short list of women writers I particularly like or have been particularly challenged by; take these books as recommendations, not a comprehensive education or even introduction to literature by women.

Pre- and Early Modern Writers

  • Sappho, poems: both revered for her skill and vilified for excelling in a male-dominated art, Sappho deserves to be read alongside Homer. I particularly like the translation by Anne Carson titled If Not, Winter.

  • Marie de France, Lais: short romances, written in the twelfth century, that explore the nature of love and desire.

  • Julian of Norwich, Revelation of Divine Love: mystical theology that reflects on God’s great love for us despite our sinfulness.

  • Aemilia Lanyer, “The Defense of Eve”: in this poem, Lanyer makes a strong argument for not blaming Eve alone for the Fall.

  • Mary Sidney, Psalms: Mary completed her brother Philip’s English verse translations of the Psalms, and probably edited the ones her brother wrote as well; her translations beautifully render these ancient poems.

Seventeenth through Nineteenth Centuries

  • Aphra Behn, Oronoko: a tragic novel about the evils of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: man tries to create life, and instead creates something monstrous by usurping God and (mother) nature.

  • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice or Emma: these may be novels about women getting married, but they’re keenly observed and funny as hell.

  • Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: an early feminist classic.

Twentieth Century and Beyond: Fiction and Poetry

  • Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse. A classic novel that explores the limitations that women face.

  • Sylvia Plath, poems: Plath’s poetry transmutes the raw anger and despair of her female experience into tragically beautiful verse.

  • Marilynne Robinson, novels and essays: I could substitute Flannery O'Connor here; these two women explore the ordinary living out of faith — in all its joy and heartbreak — better than nearly anyone else.

  • Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night: one of her Peter Wimsey mystery novels, Gaudy Night has very little Peter and no dead body at all. The action takes place at a women’s college in Oxford, and explores the difficult decisions faced by women seeking to balance love, family and work.

  • Chimamanda Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun: a story about twin sisters, set during the Biafran War in Nigeria.

Twentieth Century and Beyond: Non-Fiction

  • Roxane Gay, Hunger: by turns heartbreaking and enraging, this series of essays considers the difficulties of living in a female body.

  • Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender: Fine digs into the science behind gender differences, and argues that we are using unclear science to support, not challenge, ingrained ideas about gender.

  • Lauren Winner, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis: this memoir grapples with continuing to trust God when that trust feels impossible.

  • Kate Bowler, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved: suddenly confronted with her own mortality after years researching the prosperity gospel, Bowler meditates on how we live when nothing makes sense anymore.

Twentieth Century and Beyond: Theology and Spirituality

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Tagged: books | gender | theology