Like a Louisa May Alcott heroine, she may be too fond of books, and perhaps it’s turned her brain. But that’s alright with us. Here Charlotte Jane, bibliophile, social media maven and voice behind @what.i.read recommends how to start your own feminist bookshelf. A shelf of one’s own, so to speak. Here’s to books by women, about women, and for everyone.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Austen’s heavy use of irony and strong, intelligent heroine perfectly deride the ridiculous anti-feminist laws and societal rules/ views of her time.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am an independent being of my own free will”. This famous quote says it all really.
We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Originally a Ted Talk, this powerful essay should be read and listened to by all; it perfectly encapsulates why people of all genders, ages, and races should be feminists.
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman. A short story in which three men discover a female-only town cut off from the rest of society. The women in this town have learned to procreate without men and teach the three friends their language and customs, defying preconceptions of femininity and the traditional notion of what it is to be a woman.
Snapshots of Dangerous Women by Peter Cohen & Mia Fineman. A collection of photographs from the mid-20th century of unconventional women and women doing unconventional things, and women just having fun. I absolutely love this collection – open to any random page and are guaranteed to smile or laugh.
The Heroines of SOE: Britain’s Secret Women in France by Beryl Escott. The true story of 40 women recruited into the SOE F Section to spy and sabotage on behalf of the Allies in occupied France during World War II. These women were incredibly brave, from all backgrounds in life, and the inspiration for some great books, including Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. In an extended essay told through a fictional persona, Woolf argues women need freedom, education, financial independence, and a space for their creativity, and tells the tale of Shakespeare’s sister Judith, an imaginary woman with all the brilliance of William but none of his freedoms.
The Power by Naomi Alderman. Set in the not too distance future, The Power imagines that girls around the world wake up to find that they have the power to inflict pain using their bodies; some are scared of it, some harness it, some use it to redress injustices.
Suffragettes edited by Joyce Marlow. Told through the voices of the women who fought, were imprisoned, starved, and died for women’s rights, this collection takes us through the history of the Suffragettes, culminating in their victory in 1928.
The girl who loved books & her feminist bookshelf
“My mum encouraged me to read from a really young age, so I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember! I used to love reading those Biff & Chip learning books and defaced all of my copies by drawing great fat tick marks on the page every time I thought I’d read it correctly!” – henceforth started Charlotte Jane’s love of books.
Like so many bookish women of our generation, Charlotte started off with the classics, “I loved the Beatrix Potter books, Heidi, Little Women, the What Katy Did series, and the Faraway Tree Collection. Of course when the first Harry Potter came out I quickly became obsessed.” She quickly moved on to more intense stories and soon enough she was hooked. Yes, you can become hooked on books. But we’re pretty sure that books are better than pills. So consider yourself warned, but please take no heed in this warning and read on.
Culture Stories caught up with Charlotte and her beautiful @what.i.read Instagram account, where the bibliophile chronicles the various books she reads (and sometimes the coffees she drinks, too). Through her curatorial tiny squares you get to see all sorts of literary inspiration: books, book bags, bookshops of London, books being read on Parisian balconies, and even a pet rabbit (who seems like a great reading companion). And though Philip Pullman was the first author to make her cry, “I loved his Dark Materials, The Amber Spyglass was the first book to ever make me cry”, Charlotte holds a special place in her heart (and on her bookshelf) for books by women, for women and about women. We do too. We think its good time we all do the same. So go ahead, add another book to your own feminist bookshelf.