Powell’s Books recommends 25 women to read before you die

powells-thumbnail  powells-city-of-books

The staff at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, one of the country’s (and the world’s!) best bookstores, have compiled a list of 25 women writers you need to read. I haven’t read all of these writers myself, but I can certainly vouch for many of them being worth your valuable reading time (Adichie, Armstrong, Atwood, Didion, Erdrich, Hempel, Solnit, Tartt).

As if you didn’t already have enough to read, here are 25 authors who have published well over a hundred books among them.

You can read the full article here.

As with any such list, the results are at least partially random (there should be little dispute about the inclusion of writers like George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, and Louise Erdrich). Just off the top of my head, I would add Jane Austen, Alice Munro, Jane Smiley, Elena Ferrante, Ali Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri, Lauren Groff, and Karen Russell. Every such list is guaranteed to be a very personal set of preferences.

Who do you think should be on this list? Reply in the Comments below. 

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Amazon releases most-highlighted excerpts from 2013-14 novels by women

The Interestings   Americanah

Amazon’s Kindle division recently issued a list of the 17 most-highlighted excerpts from books written by women in the past two years. For Amazon, publishers, and authors, the Kindle provides a ton of data about readers’ preferences. For readers, this may seem like an invasion of privacy; certainly, Amazon doesn’t know what you’ve highlighted or flagged on the actual books you’ve purchased from them.

Still, it can make for some interesting reading, like this list, which was covered by Bustle.com earlier this week. Not surprisingly, the most-highlighted authors included bestsellers and award-winners by the likes of Meg Wolitzer, Jhumpa Lahiri, Eleanor Catton, Chimamanda Ngochi Adichie, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Donna Tartt. But you might be surprised by some of the other oft-noted quotes.

http://www.bustle.com/articles/48583-17-of-the-most-highlighted-quotes-from-the-best-fiction-by-women-of-the-past-two-years

 

What Are Some of Our Favorite Women Authors Reading This Summer? Part 2

Summer is the season when readers have more time to read than usual. Accordingly, there seems to be more talk than usual these days about what people are reading or planning to read. So I thought I would ask several writers about their summer reading. 

I posed three questions to them: 

  1. What have you read recently that impressed you (and that readers should know about)?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What is in your To Be Read stack?

I received the responses that follow, each of which includes books you will almost certainly want to read. There are more good books being published than ever, and there are still all those earlier books, from classics to last year’s overlooked books, so the options for readers are truly unlimited. 

Part 1 of this feature was posted on July 20, 2014 and can be found here

 

Katie Crouch   Abroad

Katie Crouch, author of Abroad

Recently Read: The Blindfold  by Siri Hustvedt. This legendary writer’s first book. In this novel-in-stories, Iris Vegan is an impoverished graduate student in New York. I love how having no money is met with fear and utter despair here, which is such a very real phenomenon. So many times in novels characters say they’re broke, but being a woman alone with no money in New York invokes a special sort of peril. The book has some wonderful twists, during one of which Iris cross dresses, and another when she has a brush with madness. She also falls completely for the wrong man. It’s a truly wonderful psychological thriller.

Reading now: The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma. It’s about a young adopted Chinese woman in the U.S. who returns to her homeland to research her family, and how that choice reverberates throughout her life and her current fractured clan. The writing is out of this world.

Going to read: The Hundred Year House by Rebecca Makkai. I’ve heard great things about this one. Plus it’s spooky, and I love spook. Great writing? An English manor house? Twisted characters? I’m sold.

[My review of Abroad is coming soon.]

Kimberly Elkins   What is Visible

Kimberly Elkins, author of What is Visible

What I read recently that impressed me: David Samuel Levinson recently published a stunning novel, Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence, that really knocked my socks off.  The book manages the nearly impossible feat of being a page-turner while still embracing literary writing of the highest order.  The novel is populated by unforgettable characters, and the secrets abound and rebound.  Trust me, you want to read this one!

What I’m currently reading: I am, in general, often afraid of poetry–modern poetry, anyway–afraid that it will make me feel stupid for not understanding its obscure tropes and labyrinthine metaphorical conceits, and so when I find a poet whose work stirs me in ways that I both can and cannot understand, and yet is still accessible, then I am smitten.  Rita Mae Reese’s The Alphabet Conspiracy is such a book. Reese uses dictionary entries as the jumping-off point to uncover, and to rediscover, messages of the soul encoded in language, and the results are gorgeously engrossing.

What’s up next on my reading list: I’m eager to read Valerie Martin’s The Ghost of the Marie Celeste, another historical novel based on real people and events:  the Marie Celeste, a ship which vanished in 1872, and the storm stirred up by young Arthur Conan Doyle’s story about it.  Martin’s Property is one of the finest, most stirring novels I’ve ever read, and was key to showing me what historical fiction could be at its best.  There’s nothing like learning from a master, page by page, line by line.

Siobhan Fallon   You-Know-When-the-Men-Are-Gone

Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone

Was recently impressed by: Anything and everything by Valerie Trueblood. She is a master. We ought to all know her name; she belongs on that lofty shelf with Annie Proulx and Grace Paley. Her stories are wide sweeping worlds, everything captured in a handful of pages, and they astound. They also inspire; I always want to write, and write something completely different and new, as soon as I finish one of her stories. My favorite collection is Marry or Burn, but her latest, Search Party: Stories of Rescue, is also great.

Reading now: Right now I am reading Lily King’s Euphoria for the second time, and I very rarely reread a book when there are so many out there on my ‘list’ to get to. But Euphoria is everything I wish I could put in the novel I am currently working on— a tortured love affair combined with the examination of human behavior and how cultures clash. Euphoria is also filled with beautiful, insightful writing and electric tension. King is terrific.

Up next: Rebecca Rasmussen’s Evergreen, just released. Rebecca’s debut novel, The Bird Sisters, came out around the same time as my collection of stories, and we became fast friends thanks to social media and a panel (and shared hotel room!) at the 2011 AWP in Washington, DC. She’s an all-round lovely and magnificently talented woman. If you’ll excuse me, I am going to open up her new book right now…

[My review of You Know When the Men Are Gone is here.]

Patry Francis

Patry Francis, author of The Orphans of Race Point

I was afraid I might not have time to do much reading while I was promoting my novel [The Orphans of Race Point], but the opposite has proven true. Every time I do an author talk or a reading at a bookstore, I discover another book or two or three that I simply must have.

Recently, I’ve been telling everyone I know about The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh, Long Man by Amy Greene, and The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez. Though they are very different, they all have strong protagonists — and a lot of heart.

My current read is The Blessings by Elisa Juska. It was recommended to me by two friends who recently heard her speak here on the Cape and did not disappoint.

Booksellers have convinced me I must not miss: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra or Daphne Kolotay’s Russian Winter. Those are up next for me.

[My review of The Orphans of Race Point is coming soon.]

 mira-jacob   Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing

Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing

I just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I’m reading The Heaven of Animals by David James Poissant, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum, and The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes.

Next up are Ted Thompson’s The Land of Steady Habits and Marie Helene Bertino’s 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas!

 Dylan-Landis   Rainey-Royal

Dylan Landis, author of Rainey Royal

Recent: Robin Black’s Life Drawing. Suspenseful, gorgeously lyrical portrait of a couple whose marriage, shadowed by an old affair, is painfully tested again. I love it especially for lines like this: “There are often two conversations going on in a marriage. The one that you’re having and the one you’re not. Sometimes you don’t even know when that second, silent one has begun.”

Current: An advance copy of Marilynne Robinson’s Lila. I haven’t read Gilead, which this follows, but I’m an ardent lover of Housekeeping, and this seems nearly as beautiful and intimate. She has a lovely fluid way of looping back and forth through time, creating layer upon narrative layer.

Next: Maybe Lynne Tillman’s Someday This Will Be Funny. Or Ivy Pochoda’s Visitation Street. Or the new Edward St. Aubyn, Lost for Words.

[My review of Rainey Royal is coming soon.]

rebecca-makkai-

Rebecca Makkai, author of The Hundred-Year House

I just read Cristina Henriquez’s The Book of Unknown Americans, which is not just beautiful but important, the kind of book that teaches us empathy.

I’m reading Kate Racculia’s Bellweather Rhapsody, which is a bit like The Westing Game for adults. (That’s a high compliment. It’s so fun that I’m shirking all nonessential duty to read.)

I was blown away in the bookstore by the first page of Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State. I’d heard it was amazing, but I wasn’t prepared to be knocked clear across the bookstore.

[My review of The Hundred-Year House is coming soon.]

 Virginia Pye   River of Dust

Virginia Pye, author of River of Dust

I just finished Smith Henderson’s Fourth of July Creek.

Right now I’m reading Jonathan Spence’s The Search for Modern China (all 900 pages) in an ongoing way as research for my next novel. I’m also reading The Art of Floating by Kristin Bair O’Keeffe and Out of Peel Tree by Laura Long. I tend to read more than one novel at once.

I’m looking forward to reading Bret Anthony Johnson’s Remember Me Like This and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.

The research book by Spence — a history of modern China — is like ballast. The rest is for pleasure and to see what’s being written well right now. There are so many more books I’m not mentioning! These are just the ones of the moment.

I also always have an Audible book on my iPod for when I’m out walking the dog or on long car rides. Right now, I’m entering the magical, fully-fleshed out world of Bleak House, where I expect I’ll be for months. Kind of a treat to hear those wonderful British accents and to enjoy Dickens’ humor and impeccable language. The man could write.

[My review of River of Dust is here.]

Brittani Sonnenberg with Home Leave cover

Brittani Sonnenberg, author of Home Leave

I just finished Celeste Ng’s book, Everything I Never Told You, which I found intricately plotted and deftly written. I recently read Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote and really loved it, especially the way he paints setting. And I recently came across a poem (“Found to Be Borrowed from Some Material Appearance (5)”) by Donna Stonecipher, a Berlin-based American poet, which I think is pretty brilliant.

I think Jane Gardam, a British writer, now 86, deserves more attention. She wrote a fantastic trilogy mostly set in Hong Kong, the first book of which is Old Filth. I also admire Amy Bloom’s short story collection, A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You.

I’m currently reading The Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell and The Art Spirit by Robert Henri, and I plan on reading California by Edan Lepucki and Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.

[My review of Home Leave is here.]

Tomi L. Wiley

Tomi L. Wiley

I just finished Bloodroot by Amy Greene, and before that Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer (in between some John Greene, but he’s not a woman). I just bought Rebecca Makkai’s The Hundred-Year House two days ago – excited to read it. Up next is either Elizabeth Gilbert [The Signature of All Things] or Abroad by Katie Crouch. Reeeeeeally looking forward to the new Tana French.

TIME lists “21 Female Authors You Should Be Reading”

Goldfinch  The Round House   you-are-one-of-them_custom-b11e1ab622af31698377d8bd48c0dfc4fc8fa6eb-s6-c30  Americanah   The Luminaries -- Catton   Frog Music

The movement to increase the readership of serious female authors appears to be reaching critical mass as more and more articles appear in the mainstream media. At least people are “talking” about it. This week, following the announcement that Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch had been awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize, TIME Magazine ran a generally well-chosen list of 21 writers. As with any list, one can quibble with a few of the choices and suggest many other deserving writers. It would be easy to compile a list two or three times that long of writers more people should be reading (or at least know about). But it’s a start. Have a look at the list and let me know what you think. Who’s not on TIME’s list but should be?

http://time.com/63548/goldfinch-female-authors-reading/

Short list announced for prestigious Women’s Prize for Fiction

 

 

 

 

 

GoldfinchDonnaTartt
AmericanahChimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Hay festival 2012

Final Lowland cover.indd  jhumpa-lahiri

burialrites  Hannah Kent

the undertaking  Audrey Magee

half formed thing  Eimear McBride

The judging committee for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction announced the short list of six novels, narrowed down from the long list of 20 titles, on Monday, April 7 in London. The favorites to win the most prestigious award for women’s fiction are Donna Tartt for her epic coming of age tale, The Goldfinch, which too ten years to write, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for her story of African immigrants adapting to life in the U.S., Americanah. Adichie won the award for her previous novel, Half of a Yellow Sky, in 2007, when it was known as the Orange Prize. She was born and raised in Nigeria but attended college at Drexel University in Philadelphia and Eastern Connecticut State University, where she graduated summa cum laude in 2001. Other finalists include Jhumpa Lahiri for her story of two brothers and the woman they both loved, The Lowland; Hannah Kent for her debut novel set in 19th century Iceland, Burial Rites; Audrey Magee for The Undertaking, set in Berlin during WWII; and Eimear McBride for her challenging debut, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. McBride has already won the Goldsmiths Prize for 2013 for the novel.

Interestingly, there are no British (English, Scottish, or Welsh) writers on the short list. Tartt is American, Lahiri was born in England to Indian parents but raised in the U.S.; Kent is Australian; and Magee and McBride are Irish. Four of the books are available in the U.S., but he Magee and McBride novels won’t be published here until September 2014.

The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony in London on June 4.

 

Adichie wins National Book Critics Circle Award for “Americanah”

Americanah

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction for Americanah, her brilliant novel about a young Nigerian woman who comes to the U.S. for college and struggles to acculturate as a “Non-American Black.” Her lost love is experiencing his own struggles as an immigrant to the U.K. The novel is a powerful character study, a love story, and a sharp-eyed truth-telling about American culture, race, and identity.  Americanah was nominated just last week for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in the U.K. Adichie won the Orange Prize (now called the Baileys Prize) in 2007 for Half of a Yellow Sun, which detailed Biafra’s fight for independence from Nigeria in the 1960s.

Two other women won NBCC awards tonight. Physician-reporter Sherry Fink won the Nonfiction award for Five Days at Memorial, about the grueling experiences at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Amy Wilentz won the Biography award for Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti.

Five Days at Memorial  Farewell, Fred Voodoo

Longlist announced for Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014

Women's Prize for Fiction

The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014 judges have released the longlist of 20 nominees for the prestigious British prize formerly known as the Orange Prize. The five judges each read 158 novels before choosing the 20 that make up the longlist. The nominees, in alphabetical order, are:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Americanah

Margaret Atwood – MaddAddam

Suzanne Berne –  The Dogs of Littlefield

Fatima Bhutto – The Shadow of the Crescent Moon

Claire Cameron –  The Bear

Lea Carpenter – Eleven Days

M.J. Carter – The Strangler Vine

Eleanor Catton – The Luminaries

Deborah Kay Davies – Reasons She Goes to the Woods

Elizabeth Gilbert – The Signature of All Things

Hannah Kent – Burial Rites

Rachel Kushner – The Flamethrowers

Jhumpa Lahiri – The Lowland

Audrey Magee – The Undertaking

Eimear McBride – A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing

Charlotte Mendelson – Almost English

Anna Quindlen – Still Life with Bread Crumbs

Elizabeth Strout – The Burgess Boys

Donna Tartt – The Goldfinch

Evie Wyld – All The Birds, Singing

The judges still have to narrow these 20 books down to the six that will constitute the shortlist, which will be announced on April 7. The prize will be awarded on June 4. It comes with a check for 30,000 pounds (just over $50,000).

Helen Fraser, Chair of Judges, said: “This is a fantastic selection of books of the highest quality – intensely readable, gripping, intelligent and surprising – that you would want to press on your friends, and the judges have been doing just that.”

The judging committee comprises Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge; writer Denise Mina; Times of London columnist, author and screenwriter, Caitlin Moran; BBC broadcaster and journalist, Sophie Raworth; and Fraser, the former Managing Director of Penguin Books UK and Chief Executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust.

The list includes writers from the UK, Ireland, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, and Nigeria. The list includes two previous Orange Prize winners: American Suzanne Berne won in 1999 for her novel A Crime in the Neighborhood, and Nigerian Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won in 2007 for Half of a Yellow Sun.

Eleanor Catton’s second novel, The Luminaries, set in 19th century New Zealand gold mining country, won the Man Booker Prize for 2013, which was awarded on Oct. 14. Fatima Bhutto is the niece of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Also worth noting is that the list of 20 books includes six first novels and seven second novels, suggesting that the newer and/or younger women writers are already working at a very high level. Another interesting tidbit is that American novelists have won the prize the last five years straight, something viewed with distaste by some British cultural critics.

Four of the books have not yet been published in the United States. But don’t expect that to remain the case for very long.