Friday, August 8, 2014

Most Life-Changing Books by Women . . .

The Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction launched a campaign to find the novels, by women, "that have most impacted, shaped or changed readers' lives."

This list is the result:
1) To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
2) The Handmaid's Tale – Margaret Atwood
3) Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
4) Harry Potter – JK Rowling
5) Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
6) Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
7) Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
8) Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
9) The Secret History – Donna Tartt
10) I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
11) The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
12) Beloved – Toni Morrison
13) Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
14) We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
15) The Time Traveller's Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
16) Middlemarch – George Eliot
17) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
18) The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing
19) The Colour Purple – Alice Walker
20) The Women's Room – Marilyn French

Those titles in bold are ones I have read, while those in italic are sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I was surprised at how few of the books on the list that I had actually read, as I try to go out of my way to support women writers.

After thinking about it, I've come to the conclusion that the problem is the subject matter. Although a couple of them I'd not heard of (9 & 10), when I look at the unread books on this list, I see many deep and difficult subjects. And I am a wuss. You'd think that with all the murder and mayhem I consume, I'd have a stronger constitution. But you'd be wrong.

Over the course of my life I have had experiences (as have we all) that have left, well, scars; and I find I'm a bit gun shy of subjects that threaten to make me actually feel deeply. So, many popular and critically acclaimed books never end up on my night stand.

Are there subjects that you avoid? I don't mean for moral or ethical reasons (for the most rational among us often agree to disagree on such things), but for personal ones.

Source: The Guardian.


  1. That's an interesting list. I own many of those, but have read very few. Only three, plus part of the Harry Potter series. Anyway, that's also an interesting question. I tend to avoid books with animal abuse if I know it's in there. And rape. Actually, it's not that I won't read a book with rape handled responsibly as opposed to gratuitously, but I need to wait until the right time when I have myself steeled for it.

    1. I've noticed that my tolerance is connected to how I'm feeling at a given time. I go through periods when I can read heart wrenching stories, but at other times I can't even think about certain subjects.