Adding Girl Power to Your Summer Reading List: A Guide
Another school year has come to an end, but this doesn’t only mean more freedom to sleep in, head to the beach, or plan spontaneous road trips. It also means that – at least temporarily – required reading is a thing of the past, and bookworms like myself finally have the time to read for pleasure.
Are you also a book lover but not quite sure where to begin? If so, here are some novels to not only keep you entertained, but to remind you of the strength, creativity, and humor women possess.
Relive a modern classic with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Set in a dystopian society where women are only valued for their ability to have children, The Handmaid’s Tale has seen a surge in sales during the Trump administration and has also been made into a Hulu original series. The story follows the main character of Offred, who slowly begins to question her government’s Handmaid practice as she sees the pain it causes other women and begins to contemplate her past life and family. I read this during my senior year of high school, and though it was indeed required reading, it was a novel that made me deeply ponder the role of women in our society and reminded me of the strength we have to make a change.
Learn about the history of beauty standards with Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth
How has the makeup industry affected women? And why are the unreachable standards of beauty always changing? Wolf explores these questions and many more in her 1990 bestseller The Beauty Myth. Though the novel was published nearly 30 years ago, the themes and concerns still ring true, as Wolf describes how the beauty industry began a pushback against feminism and created the looks-obsessed world we live in today.
Explore the female experience with Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and Difficult Women
Published in 2014, Bad Feminist is a collection of essays detailing Gay’s experiences with feminism, race, and the messages about both that our media feeds us everyday. This book is a favorite of mine, not only because it makes me think, but also because Gay manages to cover the topic of feminism with such wit and self-deprecation that it is appealing to women who may not feel they are a “good feminist”.
And now, three years later, Gay’s Difficult Women is continuing this discussion about womanhood. Organized as a collection of short stories, the novel delves into the lives of women who are of different races, ages, careers, and socioeconomic statuses, showing that the experience of womanhood comes in many shapes and sizes.
Have an empowering laugh with Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Amy Poehler’s Yes Please
This dynamic comedy duo has not only found success in TV and movies – they have also both written funny and honest autobiographies about their lives. Fey’s Bossypants and Poehler’s Yes Please cover each of their careers, from their days in improv to their time on SNL to their subsequent solo television shows. And, though it isn’t the main focus of the books, the women address what it means to be a female in the entertainment business – or even just the world – as they recall the times they were called “bossy” or felt the need to apologize for just being themselves.
So what are the differences? I would say that Bossypants is the more purposefully comedic of the two, whereas Yes Please focuses more on offering ernest insights on life, love, and family in a humorous way. Of course, when it comes to Fey and Poehler, it’s impossible to make a bad choice.
Be inspired to explore with Cheryl Strayed’s Wild
Like Bossypants and Yes Please, Wild is an autobiography written by a strong woman. But, unlike the other two, it isn’t focused on humor: it is about Strayed’s arduous journey on the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT), which she hiked all on her own after the death of her mother and a resulting slew of poor decisions. Before reading the novel, I wondered how a book about hiking could be so popular. But this first-person account delves so much deeper than one might think, as Strayed gives readers insight into the self-realizations she makes on the trail.
Delve into topics of race with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah and Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give
These two novels are ones I have yet to read, but they’re currently on my personal summer must-read list, and I have heard nothing but glowing reviews from my classmates. Adichie is known for her popular TEDTalk – and, later, published book – We Should All Be Feminists, and her Nigerian roots make her an interesting voice in matters of American race relations. Americanah is about these race relations and so much more, as it follows a gifted Nigerian woman who moves to the U.S. and realizes what being black in America truly means.
Thomas’s The Hate U Give is about a young girl stuck between two worlds: the poor neighborhood in which she lives and the wealthier area where she attends school. But, when her childhood friend is shot, it grows more difficult for her to live in these two worlds as she’s faced with the harsh realities of race and class.