Reading books by women really is not a problem for me.
In fact, I actually need to be challenged to read more books by men.
I keep a spreadsheet of all the books I read, and I’ve crunched the numbers; so far this year, 85% of the books I read were written by women.The next three books I plan to read are also all written by women, so it will probably end up being 90% by year’s end. That’s a pretty big gender skew.
The most notable books by women I read this year were debuts. I highly recommend The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, Friendship, The Girls From Corona Del Mar, Life Drawing, The Last Days of California and Everything I Never Told You – all terrific first novels from American women.‘This House of Grief’ by Helen Garner.
Debuts from four Australian authors – What Came Before by Anna George, What Was Left by Eleanor Limprecht, Dress, Memory by Lorelei Vashti and Nona and Me by Clare Atkins – all impressed me as well. This year, I fell in love with two rather famous family memoirs; Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club and Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle.
I revisited Nora Ephron’s Heartburn, and read and adored Delia Ephron’s collection of essays Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog, etc. (and, in fact, I have since gone back and re-read her best essay from the book “Why I Can’t Write About My Mother” twice more; it’s so good). I spent a cozy weekend in bed enjoying Sarah Water’s big, juicy new novel The Paying Guests.
I found memoirs by Amy Poehler (Yes Please) and Lena Dunham (Not That Kind of Girl) to be fascinating and I highly recommend two standout new essay collections – Bad Feministand The Empathy Exams. Finally, any year when I get to read new non-fiction from Helen Garner (This House of Grief) is a very good year.
Elke Power, Editor of Readings Monthly:
I’ve lost track of all the great books by women that I’ve read this year, but in thinking back over those that have stayed with me, a few standouts come to mind. The first is Annabel Crabb’s The Wife Drought (which was voted to be one of our best non-fiction books of 2014). I’ve been a fan of Crabb’s writing for years so I wasn’t surprised by how addictive I found this latest book which I read it at every possible opportunity.
I brought it up in conversation under the slightest pretext and read sections aloud, through tears of laughter, to my partner and friends (the description of how credit is apportioned for dishwasher unpacking in one household undid me). Another non-fiction book by an Australian writer I’ve long admired which arrived this year was Sian Prior’s memoir, Shy.
I’m aware that some readers took an interest in this book partly because of the author’s prominent past relationship – and Prior’s writing about the break-up is superb to the point of being hard to bear – but for me the real appeal of this book is in her personal yet highly researched exploration of shyness and everything that comes with it. Some of the unconventional structural elements of this book won’t appeal to all, but they are far from overpowering.