What’s On Your Summer Reading List? Here’s Our Picks!


Word in the publishing industry is that women these days make up the majority of book buyers. Which makes the ongoing white male (and often anti-feminist) dominance of
prominent newspaper’s book review sections and other hotbeds of the
literary establishment a perennial thorn in feminist sides,
particularly this feminist’s side.

The primary reason for this
gender imbalance is simple bias: women tend to write and read more fiction,
which as a genre gets less space in print review sections. Meanwhile,
male editors don’t necessarily deem non-fiction books for women and about women’s topics worthy of review — unless they’re
stoking the flames of the mommy wars, that is.

There are notable
exceptions to this trend, but they’re mostly feminist already — particularly
magazines like Bitch, Bust and Venus Zine and online sites like Salon.com
and the wonderfully-titled bookslut.com.

Still, it’s rare to see a
list of books where you don’t have to count the number of X chromosomes
represented.

So just in time for beach (or
air-conditioned coffee shop) season, here’s RH Reality Check’s own
summer book list — a very small sampling of the amazing books out this
spring and summer by, for, and about women and gender. Happy reading! Photo by ShaletannBe a Literary Traveler! Photo by Shaletann

Beachy Sequels

For fun but not frivolous reading,
dip into one of the new releases by two "chick-lit" writers who
are at the top of their game. Though the pink cover category can pigeonhole authors, these two writers transcend the genre’s
conventions. Both of them maintain hilarious, impressively political
and savvy blogs (Jen’s and Alisa’s), and they are both are returning this
season with sequels to their most popular books.

Jennifer Weiner’s "Certain Girls" picks up years after the conclusion
of her previous hit "Good in Bed." Weiner is one of the reigning queens of books
in pink packaging, and the Princeton grad has a lot to say about women’s
lives. Notoriously flawed heroine "Cannie" returns, now trading chapter with her rebellious 13-year-old daughter.

Alisa Valdez-Rodriguez’s "Dirty
Girls Social Club" introduced readers to a tight-knit group independent
Latina women on the hunt for love, sex happiness and success. Five years
after that novel’s conclusion, "Dirty Girls on Top" (out in July) will find the ladies
still struggling with the same issues in the next chapters of
their lives.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Feminism

Two new books put a feminine
and feminist perspective on the heavily male-dominated narrative of
rock’n'roll literature.

Suze Rotolo is best known as
the girl on Bob Dylan’s arm on the iconic cover of his album, The
Freewheelin Bob Dylan. A Freewheelin’
Time
, Rotolo’s
new memoir, breaks silence of decades she’s kept when it comes to
that relationship with Dylan. But more importantly Rotolo offers a funny,
literary history filled with poetic snapshots of her early life in New
York as he daughter of communist Italian immigrants and a devoted activist
herself. She also describes the limited place for women in the turbulent,
exciting but still retrograde world of early 60s bohemia.

Girls Like Us: Carole
King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon–And the Journey of a Generation
by Sheila Weller picks up the same
story in its next evolution, chronicling the stirring of "women’s
lib" as it relates to the music and lives of three female rock icons,
connecting their journeys to their generations struggle with feminism
and sexuality.

Family Affairs

These female novelists, darlings
of the New York literary set, offer new takes on contemporary American
family values.

"The Ten Year Nap," a new novel by Meg Wolitzer,
examines the fall-out ten years after a certain set of overprivileged
New York city matrons decide to give up their careers and devote themselves
to hearth and home — and contrasts these women with their feminist foremothers.
Angst, betrayal, and wicked satire ensue.

The stunningly
talented, popular and enduring Jhumpa Lahiri, whose novel The Namesake
was one of the most celebrated in the past years, returns with a collection
of novellas, "Unaccustomed Earth," exploring her favorite themes:
parents and children, aging, immigration and identity.

Politicking

Everyone’s favorite anticapitalist
wordsmith Barbara Ehrenereich returns in July with a collection of her famously
trenchant and acerbic social commentary about the forgotten working
Americans and more. The book is called "This Land Is Their
Land
:
Reports from a Divided Nation."

Salon.com’s political blogger
Glenn Greenwald’s new book, "Great American Hypocrites," tackles the way Republican operatives
and the media have used the cult of John Wayne masculinity and strength,
and gender posturing to smear worthy opponents over recent decades.

No-Nonsense Nonfiction

"Population,
Nature, and What Women Want
,"
by Robert Engelman, looks at the history of population and environmental
issues as they intersect with women’s reproductive autonomy, making
the radical case that women’s freedom is the best method for ensuring sustainability the natural world.

Amy Richards’s "Opting In: Having
A Child Without Losing Yourself
"
is a manifesto of reconciliation between feminism and motherhood — rather
than re-hashing the mommy wars, she reminds readers of the progress
women have made in making motherhood and families more equitable and
fair — and the progress still to be made. Laura Barcella interview Richards for RH Reality check, which you can check out here.

Old Heroines

Finally, two novelists revisit
quintessential literary ladies of yore. Justine Picardie’s Daphne is a hotly-anticipated
literary mystery featuring Daphne du Maurier, the author of gothic
thriller Rebecca, and DuMaurier’s foremothers and inspiration, the very
writerly (and very gothic) Bronte family. Irina
Reyn’s What Happened to
Anna K
, due out in August, is a retelling of Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina set among Russian-Jewish
immigrants in Queens.

NARAL’s Summer Reading List For You!

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Follow Sarah Seltzer on twitter: @sarahmseltzer

  • http://momstinfoilhat.com invalid-0

    I just ordered What it Is by Lynda Barry, and Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers by Barbara Ehrenreich.

  • anna-clark

    Novels:

    Love Marriage by V.V. Ganeshanathan

    Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

    The Foreigner by Francie Lin

    Kyra by Carol Gilligan

     

    Nonfiction:

    City of Widows, by Haifa Zangana

    Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity, by Anne Elizabeth Moore

     

    And while it’s not a new title, I can’t wait to dig into Margaret Atwood’s essays on writing & literature, in "Negotiating With the Dead,"

  • http://www.billseaton.com invalid-0

    That is a really interesting and various list of books, some of which I’ve heard of and some I have never seen before – but am now intrigued by.

    I’d like to suggest a book for people’s summer list if I may – that of Bill Seaton’s funny anecdotal memoir of his time spent working as PR man for the famous San Diego zoo. The book is called “My Seven Years In Captivity” and it’s a great read for anyone interested in the crazy “zoo life”.

  • http://www.martawiechowska.com invalid-0

    I found a great summer book that I don’t feel guilty about … “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing” by Mignon Fogarty.

    Fun and readable guide to grammar usage, word choice and just plain simple good writing.

  • http://starwarsshipsguide.blogspot.com invalid-0

    Not so much on the novel side of life but more on the get ready mommy side, it’s called The Busy Moms Guide by Kathy Peel. This book has really given me a lot to plan on and look forward to in the coming months with my children and getting the chaos back in order.