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Women's writes - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
Women's writes
Borrowed from minkboylove, the Independent's lifechanging books every woman should read. How many have you read, girlz?

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

I don't get this. Why is this a book for women? It's not about sex or chocolate. And it's all about spaceships and aliens, which are boy stuff. Oh well, let's see if it gets any better...

2. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

Yes. The horror! The horror! Bloody brilliant.

3. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Ah, that's more like it. Vicious political satire and sex and shopping. And dark, brooding, stupid men. Good old Miss Austen! (With apologies to Brigid Brophy.)

4. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen

No, annoyingly, I still haven't got round to reading this. It's on my Pile. Honest. As is How to be alone, by the same author, which actually looks more interesting (and is non-fiction so will make me feel all smugly intellectual and virtuous).

5. The Rainbow, DH Lawrence

You must be joking.

6. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Márquez

Yeah... I enjoyed it, but I don't think I'd be able to say much more intelligent about it than that. It was like going on a journey which was interesting and entertaining but when I arrived at the end I couldn't quite remember why I'd started out in the first place, let alone whether I'd got where I was aiming for.

7. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

Yes, yes yes. Yes. (Again, though, why is this a book For Wimmin? I don't get it!)

8. The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton

Nope. Any good?

9. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

Bleh. Yes. JUST DIE ALREADY. Oops, spoiler.

10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

This is a funny one (see, that's what an Oxford English degree teaches you). In fact, it's rather like the latest James Bond; the first section is dark and interesting, and the second half is mad women and explosions and telepathy and miracles and invisible cars. I much preferred Villette, anyway, if only for the fantastic ending. You have to go read it now, see.

11. Middlemarch, George Eliot

Once. In a day and a half. I still have the scars.

12. Catch 22, Joseph Heller

Yeah... I really enjoyed this, but that doesn't change the fact that it's the same joke. Lots of times. And-yes-I-know-that's-part-of-the-point. But still. War is bad, mm'kay? Major major major.

13. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

The only reason this wouldn't be the one book I'd take to a desert island is that I already more or less know it off by heart.

14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

No. Keep meaning to. Honest.

15. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

I certainly started it. I can't remember if I finished it. Does she marry him in the end?

16. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson

This is about the only Winterson I haven't read. Out of sheer anti-hype perversity. And because Loughborough Library didn't have a copy when I was desperately hunting down anything that might have Actual Real Live Lesbians in it. (The Well of Loneliness kind of put me off that, though.)

17. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

Can't remember. Probably. I may be confusing it with The Colour Purple, though.

18. Villette, Charlotte Brontë

Yes! See above.

19. The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot

Hahahahahaha. No. No George Eliot, again, ever.

20. The Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett


21. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing

Never heard of it.

22. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

Frankly, life's too short.

23. The Secret History, Donna Tartt

No. Any good?

24. The Passion, Jeanette Winterson

I don't remember anything about it, but I know I've read it.

25. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood

I read this as an impressionable teenager, and it completely blew me away, and I haven't dared re-read it since in case it wasn't as good. If you see what I mean. I should, though. Must get round to watching the film version, which I taped about 10 years ago.

26. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

You know, I really wanted to totally fall in love with this book, because the whole "It's me, Cathy!" running-barefoot-across-the-moors thing appealed to me, but I found myself really preferring Charlotte Brontë despite myself.

27. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald

Don't remember much about it, I read it at about 14 and probably didn't understand it.

28. Ulysses, James Joyce

Grrrrrrrr. This is my bête noir. No I haven't bloody read it. Only the first 2 chapters, lots of times, and then I get bogged down. Oh, and the Circe chapter. And the last chapter. So, actually, quite a bit of it, but in pieces. Next year, really, I will take Bloomsday off work and read it in a day. 24-hour Joyce-a-thon.

29. The Grass is Singing, Doris Lessing

Never heard of it.

30. Beloved, Toni Morrison

Yes, yes yes yes. We 'did' this for A-level, and even that couldn't stop me loving it, and I cried at the end even when we read it out in class, though by that time everybody thought I was a freak anyway.

31. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien

Yeah. Once. I was 12 or so. It kept me busy for longer than the other stuff I read at 12. I haven't ever felt the urge to re-read it.

32. The PowerBook, Jeanette Winterson

Sorry, I think you mean "The.PowerBook", with a dot. She might as well have called it "The.e-PowerBook@crap-cybercliché.com". FOR FUCK'S SAKE. And it is completely and utterly Winterson-by-numbers, to the extent that she even steals the best line from Art and Lies, presumably banking on the fact that it's the one nobody read, but not only that, she gets it wrong so that it's not as good any more.

33. Persuasion, Jane Austen

Another A-level text that I loved. Far and away the best Austen. Salient plot points were abused by Fielding in Bridget Jones II: never say diet or whatever the fuck it was called.

34. The Stranger, Albert Camus

Actually, I've only read L'Etranger. (Smug smug smug.) La Peste was better, even if it did take me about A MILLION YEARS to read. But The Cure didn't write a song about that.

35. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert


36. Trumpet, Jackie Kay

Who? What?

37. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis

Yes. It was ace. And it didn't brainwash me. I didn't even notice the allegory. So screw you, Philip oh-I'm-so-clever Pullman.

38. Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust

One day, one day. Now, where did I put that biscuit?

39. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

No. I think I managed about 20 pages of War and Peace before giving up.

40. Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

No. The only Woolf I've read is Orlando, which was good, but didn't inspire me to read more Woolf.

23/40... Must try harder. Or something.
Read 27 | Write
From: kaet Date: September 14th, 2004 04:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
They could have called the article Some More Shoulds for Women.
From: besskeloid Date: September 14th, 2004 04:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sometimes I think the most offensive English word is "should".
reddragdiva From: reddragdiva Date: September 14th, 2004 04:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
But it's in the 'Enjoyment' section!
From: kaet Date: September 14th, 2004 04:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
But still it's an annoying trend, I think. For example, on google (the world's least scientific stidy follows):

men:         214,000,000          women: 198,000,000
men should:      524,000   women should:     820,000
shoulds/1000:          2.4                         4.1

senji From: senji Date: September 15th, 2004 02:13 am (UTC) (Link)
men could:       403,000    women could:     292,000
coulds/1000:           2.4                         1.5

(Incidently, google searching for "men could" is fun...)
ewx From: ewx Date: September 15th, 2004 05:26 am (UTC) (Link)
men should not:   50,300   women should not:  93,400
men may:         571,000   women may:        892,000    
should nots/1000:      0.24                        0.47
mays/1000:             2.6                         4.5

...counting "shouldn't" and "should not" as the same. It's probably (though possibly only slightly) worse than it looks due to some people using 'men' to mean 'people' as well as 'male adults'.

From: minkboylove Date: September 14th, 2004 04:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
23. The Secret History, Donna Tartt

No. Any good?

Oh yes. Very very good indeed. Thoroughly unexpected. You start out reading a college memoir written in a reflective tone rather reminiscent of Brideshead Revisited and find yourself sinking into a rich, textured and disgustingly accomplished narrative of some of humankind's darkest deeds.

If you like Classics you'll love it and if you liked Crime and Punishment you'll love it even more. It's damn near technically perfect as a novel - impeccably paced, beautifully written and breathtaking in its many little denouments. Can't recommend it enough.
taimatsu From: taimatsu Date: September 14th, 2004 04:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
The House of Mirth (the one about Lily Bart) is less good than other Wharton IMO - have you read any of her other stuff? If not, I like The Custom of the Country (the one about Undine Spragg), but it's a lot more obvious than some of her other books. The Age of Innocence (the one about Ellen Olenska) is also good and less obvious. There's others, but they're my big three.

I dipped into Mrs Dalloway but never finished it and can't remember where my copy is now. I picked up The Handmaid's Tale in your library ages back and read about half of it there and then, but haven't ever finished it, though I'd love to. Anna Karenina is good if you skip the bits about peasants. ISTR you can do this without injuring the story, though it's a while since I read it.

Have you read much Tom Holt? I was thoroughly confused and amused by Falling Sideways recently. And the Crossways Quartet by Madeline L'Engle, which begins with A Circle of Quiet, is worth a look.
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: September 14th, 2004 04:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I adore Tom Holt. Am trying to find time to get into his 'Greek' books right now, but I've read all the 'comic fantasy' and (I think) all the Mapp and Lucias. Great fun.
taimatsu From: taimatsu Date: September 14th, 2004 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Mapp and Lucia are E.F Benson, surely, not Tom Holt even remotely?
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: September 14th, 2004 04:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
He has written 'sequels'. Check them out, they are Jolly Good.
taimatsu From: taimatsu Date: September 14th, 2004 04:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think I'll finish the originals first. I tend to be dubious of third-party sequels.
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: September 14th, 2004 04:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
37. But more than half have been Required Reading at some point or other (and I always was one for reading all the books on a booklist if possible). Including the one you know I loathe (bloody MM again!). The number of these that I've read solely for pleasure is smaller. ;-)

FTR, I haven't read 36, 32, or 8 (although I think I own a copy of 8). Of the ones you haven't read, I'd recommend the two Doris Lessings, Donna Tartt, Rebecca, Madame Bovary and Mrs Dalloway. Franzen you've already got lined up so it's probably not worth prodding you further.
nja From: nja Date: September 14th, 2004 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wot no Philip Roth?

I've read nine of the books on that list (mainly the ones with explosions, spaceships and pissed Dubliners visiting brothels, rather than the ones with ladies in crinolines, of course).
addedentry From: addedentry Date: September 15th, 2004 02:22 am (UTC) (Link)
15, including The Handmaid's Tale and Mrs Dalloway from when I wanted to be a girl, but they weren't life-changing to that extent.
juggzy From: juggzy Date: September 14th, 2004 11:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
37. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis

Yes. It was ace. And it didn't brainwash me. I didn't even notice the allegory. So screw you, Philip oh-I'm-so-clever Pullman.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Pullman is so overrated. Mostly by himself.
From: bibliogirl Date: September 15th, 2004 01:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, only 10 out of that lot; bit poor, really. My English teacher assigned me Catcher in the Rye to read when the rest of my class were reading something a lot more watery, and I enjoyed it a lot at the time but haven't read it since.
From: rmc28 Date: September 15th, 2004 01:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, I've read 6. No great urge to read many of the others, except in some cases to see what the fuss is about.

(Hitchhikers, Pride & Prejudice, To Kill A Mockingbird, LotR, Persuasion and Lion, Witch & Wardrobe).

Quite why this is a list that women will magically benefit from more than men I fail to understand, as per usual with most attempts to split the sexes.
From: rmc28 Date: September 15th, 2004 01:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, the article shows that it's a result of asking 400 women from 'academia, the arts and publishing' what books changed their lives. No wonder I don't get it, being neither academic, arty nor, er, publishy. The concept of a single book 'changing my life' seems quite odd - the cumulative effect of vacuuming up everything in sight for the first 18 years of my life is more explanatory.
j4 From: j4 Date: September 15th, 2004 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)
No wonder I don't get it, being neither academic, arty nor, er, publishy.

Or rather, not being the specific people who were asked...

I suspect none of the women who were asked (who, after all, have in one way or another built their lives around books) would say that the book they chose was the only one to change their life; though certainly I have read some books which have had a lot more effect on me, and on my way of thinking, than others.

But, hey, these people were asked to come up with an answer for the equivalent of a LiveJournal quiz thing, so they did, and I guess they hope their readers are intelligent enough not to take it too seriously.

BTW sorry about the deleted comment, I misread the list in brackets as the ones you wanted to read, then realised what you meant. ... I hadn't had my coffee yet. :-}
From: scat0324 Date: September 15th, 2004 01:59 am (UTC) (Link)
The indy isn't the only media organisation to have had this idea, but the BBC lets you join in.
ewx From: ewx Date: September 15th, 2004 01:37 am (UTC) (Link)
But which of them changed your life?
j4 From: j4 Date: September 15th, 2004 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)
My life is the sum of my experiences to date, so in a very real sense everything I've ever read has "changed my life".
ewx From: ewx Date: September 15th, 2004 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Winning gold in a 100m sprint at the Olympics changes one's life in a more noticable way than just running around a bit (...at least, I imagine it does, never having done the former and not ever being likely to). Analogously for books. Did they cause some change in opinions (other than about that book or its author), did they make you look at the world in a different way, and did these things last more than a day or two after reading them?
j4 From: j4 Date: September 15th, 2004 03:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Winning gold in a 100m sprint at the Olympics changes one's life in a more noticable way than just running around a bit

Or at least, in a different way. Winning gold in a 100m sprint after a lifetime of training for that victory is probably a wonderful thing (though like you I have no direct experience on this front). But does it change your life? You're still going to be a full-time Olympic athlete, people don't just come from nowhere to win gold. (Though of course it may depend whether it's your first Olympics, your first gold, your first gold after a huge number of silvers and bronzes, gold against your lifetime's rival, etc. etc.)

On the other hand, "just running around a bit" could be lots of different things to different people. It could, for example, be the first time you've dared to do any exercise for years after getting bullied at school for being unfit; or something that you never thought you'd do again after losing both legs; or, or.

Also, it may have knock-on effects years later that you never imagined at the time. Butterflies, earthquakes, etc. Books, for me, are often more like that.

Did they cause some change in opinions (other than about that book or its author), did they make you look at the world in a different way, and did these things last more than a day or two after reading them?

Well, yes. Pretty much everything makes me look at the world in a different way, at least momentarily. And it's often hard to tell just how much long-term effect a fragment of experience can have. If a book only gives me one tiny thought that mightn't have occurred to me otherwise, or prompts me to read something else I mightn't've read, it's still "changed my life".

I think my view of reading -- and experience in general -- is more holistic than your questions seem to want it to be. I can't imagine a book completely changing all my opinions about everything, because that's not how I work; IMHO experience is cumulative (I can't unexperience things), and deeply intertwingled.
From: vyvyan Date: September 15th, 2004 03:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I think I've read 23 of them too (not the same 23, though). The only ones I think had any noticeable effect on my life were Oranges are not the only fruit and L'Étranger (which we did in French A level). I think if the researchers had asked me which my most life-changing book had been, I would have said Maurice, though probably almost any Forster would have done.

I have a friend who knows Lisa Jardine (from the article) quite well - he describes her disparagingly as a media don :-)
perdita_fysh From: perdita_fysh Date: September 15th, 2004 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)
11/40 for me and I like reading!

I've never even heard of some of those though. I'm not entirely sure how I'd come up with my top choice of 'life changing' book either. There are some absolutely brilliant books in that list (like Persuasion, and I didn't know BJII was based on it so I await the film with interest) but life changing? Not even HHGTTG managed to actually change my life.
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