09. #readwomen2014: In which, Lacy and Audrey talk books.

09. #readwomen2014: In which, Lacy and Audrey talk books.

Joanna Walsh started the twitter hashtag #readwomen2014 after drawing some bookmark-shaped New Year’s cards showcasing her favorite female writers. She had been inspired by two literary journalists—both male—who didn’t want to show up on the wrong side of this year’s VIDA pie chart, and so made a commitment to read only female authors for a set period. Today, we discuss our personal responses to the #readwomen2014 movement, and recommend some of our favorite books by women. (26:09)


Established in 2009, VIDA is a nonprofit literary organization that painstakingly tallies the gender disparity in major literary publications and book reviews annually. Today, the literary world is abuzz with the results of the most recent VIDA count.

Recent Reads We Recommend

Suite Francaise by Irene NemirovskySuite Française by Irène Némirovsky

“The prose is saturated in the blood of the people who were running away [from Paris during WWII]. It takes this incredibly close look at the way life can change so suddenly from everything-is-normal to Lord of the Flies.”

Bonus: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth StroutOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

“Usually books are about younger characters, but Olive Kitteridge is older. Everyone in the story, mostly, is older. By the end I felt like I’d lived this lifetime… like I’d been through her lifetime. And it weighed heavily on me in a really interesting way.”

The Classics

To the Lighthous by Virginia WoolfTo the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

“I think  if she wrote today, [Woolf] would be called experimental. She was one of the first to write in stream-of-consciousness, which I think can sometimes scare people. But don’t be scared. It just means you have to pay attention.”

Bonus: A Room of One’s Own, an essay by Virginia Woolf

Rebecca by Daphne du MaurierRebecca by Daphne du Maurier

“It’s a little dark and very mental… It’s gorgeous writing, and it’s one of my favorite characters of all time, but you never know her name.”

The Collections

The News from Spain by Joan WickershamThe News from Spain: 7 Variations on a Love Story by Joan Wickersham

“There are seven different short stories, and they all have the same title…  She highlights these friendships that are a kind of love–maybe unrequited love–but in a way that you’re not expecting at all.”

Ship Fever by Andrea BarrettShip Fever by Andrea Barrett

“Her books are laced with all this technical science. Her characters are scientists… an element that is surprising and interesting.”

Bonus: Servants of the Map by Andrea Barrett

The Round House by Louise ErdrichThe Round House by Louise Erdrich

“She’s a Native American writer; she writes about modern Native Americans… This is a chronological novel about the way rape crime is treated on Indian reservations… [it] deals with this very political issue that she wants to highlight, but she does it through this very engaging, interesting story.”

Bonus: Tracks and Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

The Nonfiction

Small Wonder by Barbara KingsolverSmall Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver

“She understands science; she understands technology; she understands how the world works on a very basic, birds-and-bees level, and she makes it beautiful. That’s my favorite part of it. She draws these grand conclusions by taking you through these beautiful, little, intricate steps. And you learn larger lessons while also enjoying beautiful writing.”

Bonus: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Woman and Nature by Susan GriffinWoman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her by Susan Griffin

“It’s this cornerstone of Feminist literature… It prompted me to go and do research on other things by myself afterwards that I wouldn’t have thought of before. I enjoy that about literature. I like to have it not only teach me something, but to prove to me how much I don’t know. So that I want to read more.”

A Little More About Me by Pam HoustonA Little More About Me by Pam Houston

“She’s writing about doing these superhuman things–these dream-worthy things–in relation to her being an absolutely real, fragile, flawed person. As a women, I find that to be so inspiring.”

Bonus: West With the Night by Beryl Markham

On Alice Munro

Runaway by Alice Munro“[Alice Munro] is making a political point, one that’s radical because it’s so enormous and so unsettling. The point is that the lives of girls and women, even of those who lead narrow and constricted lives, those who wield no influence, who have a limited experience in the world, are just as significant and important as the lives of boys and men, those who take drugs, ride across the border, drift down the river or hunt whales.” On Alice Munro by Roxana Robinson

Other Fun Stuff

A Year of Reading the World: Ann Morgan read books from every country in the world within one year.

“Setting goals like that just expands your horizon as a reader so much, that we should all probably make reading goals for ourselves. Those of us who really are serious about being readers and how it impacts us as writers, or even as human beings, we should make these goals for ourselves. That’s why I like the idea of ReadWomen2014.”

Audrey’s photos from her trip above the Arctic Circle to Lofoten, Norway last summer.

Closing Quote

When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest WilliamsReading has not only changed my life but saved it. The right books picked at the right times–especially the one that scares us, threatens to undermine all we have been told, the one that contains forbidden thoughts–these are the books that become Eve’s apples. — When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams

3 thoughts on “09. #readwomen2014: In which, Lacy and Audrey talk books.

  1. Thanks for the reading recommendations. Some excellent poetry collections: Words Under the Words by Naomi Shihab Nye, When My Brother was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz, One with Others by C.D. Wright, Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith.

    • Lacy and I both enjoy poetry, but I don’t think either of us feel qualified to comment on it the way we do with prose. (Although, I’m guessing this kind of self-doubt, so much more common in women than in men, is precisely what movements like #readwomen2014 are trying to shine light on and banish completely.) Thanks for the poetry recommendations!

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