The F-Word blog seeks book nominations for the F-Word book club

// 28 September 2008

As a sort of sub section of the F-Word blog, we’re seeking to start an F-Word bookclub. The idea is for this to be as reader-led as possible, with readers of the F-Word nominating books for the club, and comments on the book in question being posted on the blog.

Roughly speaking, it should work something like this… people nominate books, a book is chosen on a random basis from the list of nominated books, put up as a seperate entry on the blog, with a brief paragraph on the book by the person who has chosen it, detailing why they like it, why they’d like other people to read it. There will then be eight weeks of ongoing discussion about the book in question on the blog, before comments close, and we move onto a new book, using the same system as before.

So, any book suggestions would be greatly appreciated. We aren’t looking for a particular type of book, all we ask is that – because we can’t supply you with the book ourselves – you try to pick something that isn’t going to be too difficult for people to get hold of a copy of, as this will, inevitably, reduce the number of people able to read it and comment on it.

Anyone who reads the F-Word can nominate a book, and we don’t care if it’s fiction, non fiction, for adults or children, or teenagers, whether its a crime book, fantasy, sci fi, literary, middlebrow, lowbrow, pulp… we don’t care if it’s written by an author who is a feminist, or if it’s written by a woman or a man, just so long as it has something to say about women. Books don’t have to be nominated because they put forward feminist ideas, but because they’re of interest in some way to feminists.

Any nominations you wish to make should be submitted using the form below, along with your name (pseudnyms are allowed) and a brief paragraph on the book. The first choice will go up asap.

Comments From You

Aideen Johnston // Posted 28 September 2008 at 10:18 am

I suggest “We Need to Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver. Not only is it a very interesting critique on motherhood, it’s so well-written that everyone, feminist or not, should have the opportunity to read it. One of my favourite books of all time.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 28 September 2008 at 1:39 pm

Grotesque – Natsuo Kirino

it paints an interesting picture of what its like to be a woman, especially a prostitute. i dont think its taken from a real source or anything but its thrilling nonetheless and does make you think about it. the ending im not so sure of. it looks at how gaijin/haafu/mixed race european and japanese are either fetished or bullied. it mentions a few abuses and the troubles of being beautiful or in someone elses shadow. mainly though its about inner-demons, psychology and perspective. it features someone that has no interest in sex, a nymphomaniac who hates men but loves sex, and another the opposite. im not sure the message is particularly feminist but its certainly something that makes you think.

Milly // Posted 28 September 2008 at 6:09 pm

I’d really like to recommend The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. It explores different eras of American life and the women living within them, with three main characters: Virginia Woolf, from the early 20th century, Laura Brown, a 1950s housewife, and Clarissa Vaughn, living in 1990s New York and looking after a friend dying from AIDs. There are a couple of reasons why I’d recommend the book: firstly, the women are at the front and centre of the book. The book deals entirely with their experiences and how they feel about their day to day lives. They’re strong, independent women whose feelings strongly resemble the feminism that we know today (and when I say feminism, I mean the general idea that a woman should be free to follow her own destiny and not submit to a parter, which is definitely explored in the Mrs Brown chapters.) Another theme of the book is sexuality – each of the women could be described (at the very least) as bicurious or openly gay, which adds extra depth to their stories and allows them to resonate with both gay and bi women as well as with straight readers, which is unusual.

The writing of the book is absolutely exquisite as well – I think it’s one of the most beautifully written books that I’ve ever read, and I don’t think that there’s a flawed sentence in the book! The interlinking chapters make it really interesting to read, and provide a lot of discussion material. It’s a very good book for book clubs in my opinion, but I’m biased because I adore it so much! I’d actually recommend any of Michael Cunningham’s books for books which feature interesting female characters, though his other novels have male main characters.

Another book might be We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. It’s slightly creepy but fascinating, and deals with the aftermath of a school “shooting”. It’s written from the perspective of Kevin’s mother and basically deals with his entire childhood and his mother’s guilt – she can’t decide whether it’s nature or nurture or something entirely different that made him kill his enemies at school. It’s very interesting to read (even if it’s not used for book club, read it anyway, it’s unsettling but in a good way) and again looks at feminism – questions about working mothers, having children and even getting married are raised, which make it especially relevant to this site.

Lauren O // Posted 28 September 2008 at 6:44 pm

I know this is a monumentally stupid thing to say, but…I don’t see any book club form!

A different Helen // Posted 28 September 2008 at 8:47 pm

One readily accessible book which readers of the F Word might enjoy is “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell. This is one of my all time favourite books simply because so much happens in it, and it forces the reader to experience just about every human emotion there is. What makes the book particularly special though, is that it is written entirely from a woman’s point of view, and makes many comments about gender attitudes of the day. In my view the author is very astute about human nature, and even though her individual characters tend to be rather stereotypical for the sake of telling a good story, we would all recognise people we know amongst her extensive cast.

One word of warning though – because the story is set in the American South at the time of the Civil War, slavery features prominently throughout, and the book does contain some uncomfortable attitudes towards people of colour. For this reason this nomination may be a complete no-no, or on the other hand it may be an interesting one to discuss? I do apologise if this suggestion for the book club offends anyone.

Genevieve // Posted 29 September 2008 at 2:47 am

What about Curtis Sittenfeld’s new book American Wife? Or Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns?

Lindsey // Posted 29 September 2008 at 8:57 am

Yay! This is an awesome idea.

I’d like to nominate Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses, a YA re-imagining of life based on reveresed race relations. It follows the story of a rich black daughter of a politician and a poor white boy whose family get involved in terrorism, and how the dynamics of their society complicate their feelings for each other. It’s a great text of exploring ideas of privilege.

tom hulley // Posted 29 September 2008 at 9:52 am

Red Tears by Joanna Kenrick is about self harm. The main character is a young woman of school age who is pressured by family and friends. Initially she is content and successful but changing expectations marginalise her. The author seems to understand the attraction and satisfaction of self mutilation. It is a tough read but an important insight into the way people can be pushed into devaluing themselves.

It is available from Amazon:

Helen Steer // Posted 29 September 2008 at 5:03 pm

Walking Away by Charlotte Metcalf

DISCLAIMER: I work for the independent publisher that publish this book, but I genuinely, honestly am not just flogging it – I think it raises some really interesting points about race, charity, privilege and feminism.

Walking Away is a non-fiction book by a female documentary maker, Charlotte Metcalf. It is her account of her troubled relationship with the continent of Africa. She makes films, sometimes for broadcasters, sometimes commissioned by charities or organization on a wide variety of topics, like female circumcision, albinism, child marriage, and so on. She acknowledges her bias and western pov, and talks about the vile attitude and casual racism of the ex-pat community.

Anyway, I like it. Plus it would be supporting an independent publishers… Go on!

PS if you choose to pick this, could you link to because we get a pittance when people buy from amazon – sad fact of publishing!

earlgreyrooibos // Posted 29 September 2008 at 5:56 pm

Orlando by Virginia Woolf is one of my all-time favorite books. Orlando starts out male but becomes female, all while aging slowly over the course of 400 years. I think it’s Woolf’s best and most interesting work.

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 30 September 2008 at 11:58 am

Am just reading Women on Top by Nancy Friday, which I think could be a good book for discussion…

Taming the Beast – Emily Maguire

Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood (not least because of the questions this raises about the historical agency)

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

In and out of the goldfish bowl – Rachel Tresize (excellent!)

The Passion of New Eve – Angela Carter (on of my favourite books of all time, really interesting to read alongside Orlando and The Well of Loneliness)

So many!!hehex

Hannah Nicklin // Posted 30 September 2008 at 10:30 pm

Woman on the Edge of Time – Marge Piercy

A painful, gripping and still thoroughly modern piece of utopian Sci-Fi which follows a woman apparently wrongly entombed in a contemporary (70s, though I didn’t know that when I read it) mental instituation, at the same time as offering glimpses into a (possible) future utopia, where gender difference has been thoroughly erased through removing gender-specific roles etc. Brilliant, offers the true pain of being in a society opposed to your being at the same time as painfully contrasting it against glimpses into wonderful possibility. Found this on a bookshelf in a charity shop, didn’t leave my side until it had finished.

Rachael // Posted 2 October 2008 at 1:23 am

How about The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, spell-binding like all her books but more serious than Tipping The Velvet and Fingersmith. Fascinating insight into the lives of women and GLBT people during and imeediately after WWII and also a stark reminder of the situation that can face women when they have no access to abortion or birth control. Also, it’s readily available in audio format, something which might be worth considering when deciding on a book so that anyone unable to read standard text based books can join in.

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 8 October 2008 at 3:54 pm

Jenny Downham – Before I Die

Tropic of Caner – Henry Miller

Ellie // Posted 8 October 2008 at 5:04 pm

I must admit I’m kind of confused by these “something to say about women” and “of interest to feminists” clauses.

Could I nominate a book like “Narziss and Goldmund” by Herman Hesse? It doesn’t say anything about women specifically, because its about being a person, which is everyone. Does this mean I can or can’t nominate it? Does gender have to be an issue?

And, as a feminist, I have to say I don’t find straight up literature that interseting, I’m much more into sci-fi and horror, which I mention just to illustrated that “of interest to feminists” is about as helpful as saying “of interest to anyone”.

Could you clarify please?

Barbara Felix // Posted 8 October 2008 at 11:46 pm

Ellie, in response to your questions, I would say the following:

I have tried to not make too many rules in introducing the book club, for many of the reasons you have suggested. As long as you feel a book would be of interest to readers of The F-Word, feel free to nominate it. If you feel the Herman Hesse book you mentioned is of interest to F-word readers, please nominate it, and please include a paragraph explaining why you feel its worth nominating. This makes it a lot easier for me when it comes to selecting a title for the bookclub as, without the explanatory paragraph, I can’t be sure why people are nominating titles and may make assumptions about a book I’m not familiar with when introducing it.

It was never the intention to encourage readers to only nominate literary fiction titles for consideration, as I did explain in my entry above, any book nomination is welcome so long as you think it would be of interest to f-word readers and so long as it is reasonably easy to get hold of, as we aren’t in a position to supply you with the book ourselves.

As it happens, so far, most of the nominations I have received would fall into the literary fiction catergory, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome nominations from outside the confines of literary fiction. If you would like to nominate some Sci fi or horror books, I would be most grateful, and would consider them equally as much as I would consider any other entries. If you want to nominate crime or fantasy, or pulp, or non fiction, or childrens or teenage/young adult books, I would consider them. If you want to nominate the complete works of Katie Price or The Pornographer Diaries, I would consider them… but I would expect you to tell me why you think f-word readers should be reading them.

I hope this answers your questions, if not, feel free to post again, and I’ll try to clearer. I look forward to receiving your nominations.

Jess // Posted 10 October 2008 at 3:03 pm

How about Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston?

I just recently read it, as it’s been reissued, and found it some of the best writing of any kind I’ve had the pleasure to read in years. And, of course, it also prompts reflection on gender & race.

I also second (or third?) the suggestions of the Night Watch and Orlando.

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