My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

In honor of International Women’s Day, I thought it’d be appropriate to write about a book I read recently by a champion of women’s rights: Gloria Steinem.

My Life on the Road is an interesting title for a book by an author who doesn’t even have a driver’s license, yet Steinem gets around more than most people.

As someone who has not yet read Steinem’s other books, including the famous Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (it’s on my list!), I worried I might not be able to appreciate Steinem’s memoir as much as her devoted followers and readers. But if anything, My Life on the Road is the perfect introduction to Steinem’s work and a book that, after reading, made me count myself as one of her followers.

Steinem was in the news last month for her answer to Bill Maher’s question of why she thought so many young women support Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton. In what seemed like an off-the-cuff response, she said, “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’” Predictably, young women weren’t having that, and many called Steinem out for it. (She later apologized, adding that she had been misinterpreted.)

While it’s important to hold public figures accountable (and I certainly disagree with Steinem’s comment), I was amazed at how seething some of the backlash was. This was a woman who not only cofounded Ms. magazine, but the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Women’s Action Alliance, the Women’s Media Center, Voters for Choice, Choice USA and more. She was arrested while protesting the South African apartheid, created the Women and AIDS Fund, and testified on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment. So. Her heart is clearly in the right place.

Gloria Steinem


But back to the book: This memoir was not the result of a woman nearing 80, enjoying her retirement and being convinced to write a fluffy life story that would no doubt sell. My Life on the Road is rich and detailed in its description of not just Steinem’s history, but recent U.S. history as well, and politics in particular. Steinem gives just enough context of the social and political landscape of her early activist years that a younger reader or anyone new to feminism could appreciate the significance of Steinem’s—and other women’s—experiences. Her stories, of course, span decades and continents, and I was amazed by Steinem’s memory, or meticulous note-taking over the years, or both.

My Life on the Road isn’t just a book about feminism or activism, though it’s very much those things, too—it’s a book about the human spirit, serendipity, the importance of listening, the meaning of home, and friendship. While she jokes that a couple of events likely aged her, Steinem’s nomadic lifestyle has clearly kept her youthful. Now 81, she’s as sharp as ever.

A few excerpts from the book:

“No wonder studies show that women’s intellectual self-esteem tends to go down as years of education go up. We have been studying our own absence. I say this as a reminder that campuses not only help create social justice movements, they need them.”

“Reproductive freedom means what it says and also protects the right to have a child. A woman can’t be forced into an abortion, just as she can’t be forced out of childbirth by sterilization or anything else: the women’s movement is as devoted to the latter as the former—including the economic ability to support a child.”

“…It was okay for two generations of Bush sons to inherit power from a political patriarchy even if they spent no time in the White House, but not okay for one Clinton wife to claim experience and inherit power from a husband whose full political partner she had been for twenty years. I was angry because young men in politics were treated like rising stars, but young women were treated like—well, young women.”

“All my years of campaigning have given me one clear message: Voting isn’t the most we can do, but it is the least. To have a democracy, you have to want one.”
 Have you read My Life on the Road or Steinem’s other books? What did you think?

50 feminist books and authors to read

50 feminist books and authors to read | Witty Title Here

photo by Flickr user pamhule

Looking to jumpstart or continue your feminist education? This roundup of books is a pretty good start.

Below are 50 books by badass female authors who have all in their own way gone against the status quo. Though by no means comprehensive, this list ranges in genre and scope—including everything from poetry to memoir, 19th-century literature to 21st-century manifesto, and beyond.

Whether or not every woman on this list embraces the label “feminist,” every woman has in some way paved a path for the women who have come after them. These women gave a damn and used their talents as women and writers to make a difference. My only regret is that this list wasn’t twice as long, but then, I’d still be putting it together rather than making a dent in this list!

This roundup is in alphabetical order by author and includes either an excerpt from the book or a quote from a review.

So enjoy, and feel free to add books I missed in the comments. Like this list? Tweet about it.

1. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Nonfiction, 2014

Excerpt: “Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”

2. Infidel: My Life by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Nonfiction – memoir, 2006

“Narrated in clear, vigorous prose, it traces the author’s geographical journey from Mogadishu to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya, and her desperate flight to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage.” – NY Times

3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Young adult fiction, 2004

“A frightening and sobering look at the cruelty and viciousness that pervade much of contemporary high school life.” – Kirkus

4. The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou

Poetry, 1994


“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

5. The Essential Ellen Willis, edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz

Nonfiction, 2014

“Edited by Willis’s daughter, it begins with a 1969 essay on Willis’s awakening to feminism and concludes with excerpts from an unfinished book exploring the ‘cultural unconscious in American politics.'” – NY Times

6. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Science fiction, 1985

“It has become a sort of tag for those writing about shifts towards policies aimed at controlling women, and especially women’s bodies and reproductive functions.” – The Guardian

7. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Fiction, 1847

Excerpt: “I am not an angel,’ I asserted; ‘and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me – for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.”

8. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Fiction, 1899

Excerpt: “She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”

9. Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros

Fiction – short stories, 1991

“The stories are often about the romantic dreams of young girls longing to escape stifling small-town life who discover that things are not much different on the other side of the border.” – Library Journal

10. The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton

Poetry, 2012

“[This] may be the most important book of poetry to appear in years.” – Publishers Weekly

11. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins

Nonfiction, 2009

“Collins uses her great sense of revealing anecdotes, engaging personalities, representative case histories, resonant stories, and startling details to defamiliarize a decade we thought we remembered, and to show how truly far American women have come in every aspect of their lives.” – Huffington Post

12. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

Nonfiction, 1949

Excerpt: “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”

13. The Hidden Face of Eve by Nawal El Saadawi

Nonfiction, 2006

“A powerful indictment of the treatment of women in many parts of the Middle East.” – Labour Herald

14. In Search of Islamic Feminism by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea

Nonfiction, 1998

“A remarkable, stereotype-shattering, gender-bending study of Middle Eastern women and their efforts to gain equality.” – Kirkus

15. Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine

Nonfiction, 2010

Excerpt: “When the environment makes gender salient, there is a ripple effect on the mind. We start to think of ourselves in terms of our gender, and stereotypes and social expectations become more prominent in the mind. This can change self-perception, alter interests, debilitate or enhance ability, and trigger unintentional discrimination. In other words, the social context influences who you are, how you think and what you do.”

16. The Women’s Room by Marilyn French

Fiction, 1977

“A biting social commentary on an emotional world gone silently haywire, The Women’s Room is a modern classic that offers piercing insight into the social norms accepted so blindly and revered so completely.” – Goodreads

17. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

Nonfiction, 1963

Excerpt: “Over and over again, stories in women’s magazines insist that women can know fulfillment only at the moment of giving birth to a child. They deny the years when she can no longer look forward to giving birth, even if she repeats the act over and over again. In the feminine mystique, there is no other way for a woman to dream of creation or of the future. There is no other way she can even dream about herself, except as her children’s mother, her husband’s wife.”

18. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Nonfiction – essays, 2014

Excerpt: “It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away.”

19. The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar

Nonfiction, 1979

Excerpt: “A life of feminine submission, of ‘contemplative purity,’ is a life of silence, a life that has no pen and no story, while a life of female rebellion, of ‘significant action,’ is a life that must be silenced, a life whose monstrous pen tells a terrible story.”

20. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Nonfiction, 1970

“The publication of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch in 1970 was a landmark event, raising eyebrows and ire while creating a shock wave of recognition in women around the world with its steadfast assertion that sexual liberation is the key to women’s liberation.” – Amazon

21. The Sex Myth by Rachel Hills

Nonfiction, 2015

“Hills argues persuasively that when our value is tied to sexual desirability and performance, we live with a new kind of shame…The Sex Myth provides a clarifying framework for understanding new versions of old contradictions…Hills makes a smart argument against that strain of neo- or anti-feminism that would have women rebel against objectification by objectifying ourselves.” – NY Times

22. Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks

Nonfiction, 1981

Excerpt: “If women want a feminist revolution—ours is a world that is crying out for feminist revolution—then we must assume responsibility for drawing women together in political solidarity. That means we must assume responsibility for eliminating all the forces that divide women.”

23. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Fiction, 1937

“A deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates the big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who don’t know how to live properly.” – Zadie Smith

24. Cherry by Mary Karr

Nonfiction, 2000

“From Mary Karr comes this gorgeously written, often hilarious story of her tumultuous teens and sexual coming-of-age. Picking up where the bestselling The Liars’ Club left off, Karr dashes down the trail of her teen years with customary sass, only to run up against the paralyzing self-doubt of a girl in bloom.” – SF Chronicle

25. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston

Nonfiction – memoir, 1976

“Like the ‘ghosts’ in its subtitle (the word refers to the white Americans around whom Kingston grew up in Sacramento), The Woman Warrior stubbornly refuses to be either entirely fictive or entirely real. Perhaps the second most remarkable thing about the book is that in its wake, the American literary world still seems to regard the tissue-thin boundary between memoir and fiction as absolute and inviolable.” – Slate

50 feminist books and authors to read | Witty TItle Here

26. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Science fiction, 1969

“No single work did more to upend the genre’s conventions than The Left Hand of Darkness. In this novel, her fourth, Le Guin imagined a world whose human inhabitants have no fixed gender: their sexual roles are determined by context and express themselves only once every month.” – Paris Review

27. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy

Nonfiction, 2005

Excerpt: “A tawdry, cartoonlike version of female sexuality has become so ubiquitous, it no longer seems particular. What we once regarded as a kind of sexual expression we now regard as sexuality.”

28. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Nonfiction – essays and speeches, 1984

Excerpt: “Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.”

29. Sexual Politics by Kate Millett

Nonfiction, 1970

Excerpt: “Whatever the ‘real’ differences between the sexes may be, we are not likely to know them until the sexes are treated differently, that is alike.”

30. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Fiction, 1908

Excerpt: “Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them— that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”

31. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Nonfiction – memoir, 2011

Excerpt: “What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be. Are you a feminist? Hahaha. Of course you are.”

32. The Diary Of Anaïs Nin by Anaïs Nin

Nonfiction – memoir, 1966

Excerpt: “I disregard the proportions, the measures, the tempo of the ordinary world. I refuse to live in the ordinary world as ordinary women. To enter ordinary relationships. I want ecstasy. I am a neurotic—in the sense that I live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself.”

33. Fat Is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach

Nonfiction, 1978

“Orbach throws out old-fashioned notions of fat being the price one must pay for a life of greed and sloth. She proposes a vastly more complex thesis: namely, that gender inequality makes women fat.” – The Guardian

34. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Fiction, 2013

“Many of the elements of Nao’s story—schoolgirl bullying, unemployed suicidal “salarymen,” kamikaze pilots—are among a Western reader’s most familiar images of Japan, but in Nao’s telling, refracted through Ruth’s musings, they become fresh and immediate, occasionally searingly painful.” – NY Times

35. Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution by Laurie Penny

Nonfiction, 2014

Excerpt: “This is one of the reasons why women, and particularly young women, have adapted particularly well to the way in which social media and the capitalisation of the social realm requires everyone to apply the logic of branding to our own lives in order to gain followers. We have always been encouraged to understand femininity as a form of branding, albeit one burnt into our flesh at birth.”

36. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Fiction, 1963

Excerpt: “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”

37. Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt

Nonfiction, 2014

“Pollitt’s exploration of the hypocrisy of abortion opponents—including the ‘inverse relationship between support for abortion restrictions and support for programs that help low-income pregnant women, babies and children’—is so witheringly encyclopedic it will be an eye opener for those who have never darkened the door of a women’s studies classroom.” – NY Times

38. The Female Man by Joanna Russ

Science fiction, 1975

“It’s influenced William Gibson and been listed as one of the ten essential works of science fiction. Most importantly, Joanna Russ’s The Female Man is a suspenseful, surprising and darkly witty chronicle of what happens when Jeannine, Janet, Joanna, and Jael—four alternative selves from drastically different realities—meet.” – Goodreads

39. The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock by Tanya Selvaratnam

Nonfiction, 2014

“On one hand, it’s a critical inquiry into the world of reproductive technologies that have made it possible for women to have babies later and later in life. On another, it’s an examination of the cultural forces at play over the last 40-odd years that, Selvaratnam argues, have encouraged women to delay motherhood until they’re financially, professionally and emotionally ready. And on still another it is an angry, intimate account of Selvaratnam’s own struggle to have a child in her late 30s and early 40s—a struggle that led to multiple miscarriages, IVF, the discovery of and treatment for two rare cancers and, eventually, the end of her marriage.” – Chicago Tribune

40. Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons

Nonfiction, 2002

“There is little sugar but lots of spice in journalist Rachel Simmons’s brave and brilliant book that skewers the stereotype of girls as the kinder, gentler gender. Odd Girl Out begins with the premise that girls are socialized to be sweet with a double bind: they must value friendships; but they must not express the anger that might destroy them. Lacking cultural permission to acknowledge conflict, girls develop what Simmons calls ‘a hidden culture of silent and indirect aggression.'” – Amazon

41. Just Kids by Patti Smith

Nonfiction – memoir, 2010

Excerpt: “I’m certain, as we filled down the great staircase, that I appeared the same as ever, a moping twelve years-old, all arms and legs. But secretly I knew I had been transformed, moved by the revelation that human beings create art, that to be an artist was to see what others could not.”

42. Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith

Nonfiction – essays, 2009

“Smith casts her acute eye over material both personal and cultural, with wonderfully engaging essays-some published here for the first time-on diverse topics including literature, movies, going to the Oscars, British comedy, family, feminism, Obama, Katharine Hepburn, and Anna Magnani.” – Goodreads

43. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Nonfiction – essays, 2014

Excerpt: “Men explain things to me, still. And no man has ever apologized for explaining, wrongly, things that I know and they don’t.”

44. Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag

Nonfiction – essays, 1966

Excerpt: “None of us can ever retrieve that innocence before all theory when art knew no need to justify itself, when one did not ask of a work of art what it said because one knew what it did. From now to the end of consciousness, we are stuck with the task of defending art.”

45. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem

Nonfiction – essays, 1983

“Steinem’s truly personal writing is here, from the humorous exposé ‘I Was a Playboy Bunny’ to the moving tribute to her mother “Ruth’s Song (Because She Could Not Sing It)” to prescient essays on female genital mutilation and the difference between erotica and pornography. The satirical and hilarious ‘If Men Could Menstruate’ alone is worth the price of admission. – Amazon

46. Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti

Nonfiction, 2007

Excerpt: “What’s the worst possible thing you can call a woman? You’re probably thinking of words like slut, whore, bitch, cunt, skank. Okay, now, what are the worst things you can call a guy? Fag, girl, bitch, pussy. Notice anything? The worst thing you can call a girl is a girl. The worst thing you can call a guy is a girl. Being a woman is the ultimate insult. Now tell me that’s not royally fucked up.”

47. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Fiction, 1982

“Alice Walker’s choice and effective handling of the epistolary style has enabled her to tell a poignant tale of women’s struggle for equality and independence without either the emotional excess of her previous novel ‘Meridian’ or the polemical excess of her short-story collection ‘You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down.'” – NY Times

48. Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolfe

Nonfiction, 2012

“Exhilarating and groundbreaking, Vagina: A New Biography combines rigorous science, explained for lay readers, with cultural history and deeply personal considerations of the role of female desire in female identity, creativity, and confidence, from interviewees of all walks of life.” – Goodreads

49. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Nonfiction, 1929

Excerpt: “Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation.”

50. Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Nonfiction, 1998

Bitch is a brilliant tract on the history of manipulative female behavior. By looking at women who derive their power from their sexuality, Wurtzel offers a trenchant cultural critique of contemporary gender relations.” – Goodreads


What books would you add to this list? Leave your suggestions in the comments, and I just might do a part two to this post.

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Gift guide for the literary woman

Holiday gift guide for the literary woman

It’s December, which means we are all going to remain calm and act like sane, civil adults because there are more important things than holiday shopping.

Right? Good, now that we’ve got our priorities straight, here are a few gift ideas for the feminists, bookworms, writers or some combination of the three in your life. They’re all reasonably priced, and best of all, you don’t have to go anywhere near a mall to get them. File these under “Things to Give to Someone I Love and Possibly Buy for Myself.” Because they/you deserve it.

1. Five-year diary

For the writer who wants to document short notes about their lives every day for half a decade, get a five-year diary. One day, she’ll be able to look back on what she was doing on this date five years ago. (I’m three years into mine.) Urban Outfitters | Amazon

2. Noise-cancelling headphones

Give a writer the gift of silence so she can write her screenplay or manuscript in peace. She’ll thank you in her acknowledgements. Amazon

3. The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You 

For the voracious reader and/or hypochondriac, this book by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin has a prescription for all ills. Whatever you’re going through? There’s a book for that, and The Novel Cure can recommend it. Amazon

4. Field Notes notebooks

A writer can never have too many notebooks. These little books are slim and small—great for carrying in your bag or pocket and jotting down notes on the fly. For a sturdier design, Moleskine notebooks are a great alternative. Field Notes | Amazon

5. Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist

Book lovers with an equal affinity for booze will want to keep this one handy. With chapter titles like “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margarita,” this book is for anyone who loves a good play on words. While the cocktails themselves don’t stray too far from your basics, it’s perfect if you’re the kind of person who has no idea what goes in a cosmopolitan. (You’ll find out in the chapter titled “One Flew Over the Cosmo’s Nest.”) Urban Outfitters | Amazon

6. 642 Things to Write About

With this book, your writer friend will never run out of ideas again. It’s the perfect gift for the beginner novelist who just needs a prompt to get the creative juices flowing. Uncommon Goods | Amazon

7. Mindfulness coloring book

For those times when staring at a blank screen becomes unbearable, a coloring book is like therapy. That’s right, they make these things for grown-ups now. There’s something so soothing about coloring inside the lines. Brit + Co. | Amazon

8. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I haven’t read this book yet, but I have watched the TEDx Talk it’s based on, and Adichie is a captivating storyteller. Great gift for any budding feminist in your life. Amazon

9. Banned books mug

Anyone who calls themselves a fan of To Kill A Mockingbird, Animal Farm or coffee will appreciate a mug dedicated to the injustice of censorship. Plus, it’s heat-reactive. Out of Print Clothing | Amazon

10. Rookie Yearbook Four

Another great option for young badass ladies is Rookie magazine’s Rookie Yearbook Four. Filled with inspiring interviews, stories, photo editorials and more, it’s the kind of book that will make teens want to start a coffee table book collection (even if they don’t have a coffee table). Rookie Mag | Amazon


Want to support independent female artists? These shops sell literary gifts:

Type Shy makes beautiful library card notebooks

The Bookworm Prints has prints of literary quotes

Buy the Book Boutique sells jewelry, keychains and other gifts inspired by literature

Obvious State makes literary art prints and bookish paper goods

Monday Moon Design sells gorgeous black-and-white literary prints

Literati Club makes scarves printed with literature

Bookishly UK has gifts for book lovers including book page art and jewelry


See something you like? Send this link to a friend!

Books to read over the holidays

Books to read over the holidays

With Thanksgiving coming up (and Christmas not far behind), I’m looking forward to the opportunity to decompress from all that food by diving into a book or two. If you’ve got a little time off for the holidays, why not add to your list of books read in 2015 before the year comes to a close?

Fiction and personal essay collections are my favorite books to read when I’m holed up for a few days to enjoy the holidays and avoid Black Friday insanity. Here are a few recommendations so you can do the same!

You could read…

An old favorite

Some books make such an impression on you that you’ve just got to read them twice. I know, I know—there are too many books to read and SO LITTLE TIME, but what better time than the holidays to spend with a book that has changed you?

For me, that was Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. I picked this one up from the library earlier this month because the book I’m writing for NaNoWriMo has similar themes, and it had been years since I read it. I’m so glad I picked it up again—it was like reading it for the first time. There was so much more to appreciate about this book the second time around, just as I imagine there will probably be when I’m closer to the age John Steinbeck was when he wrote it. So many of his observations about American culture in the early 1960s when it was published were still relevant today, even prophetic.

The great thing about rereading an old favorite? You already know you’re going to love it.

A new author

Not just by reading one book, but two or more (chronologically) by the same author. If you’re curious about an author’s style and techniques, study their body of work to appreciate how their voice has developed and changed over the years.

I recently checked out Miranda July’s collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You, and novel, The First Bad Man. July’s short stories were so off-putting and perverted, yet her distinct and strange voice was compelling. Plus, her short stories prepared me for diving into a longer, weirder story. When July interviewed and wrote a profile on Rihanna last month, I thought, Yep, that’s July’s writing. You’ll be able to spot an author’s work from a mile away if you spend lots of time with them.

A collection of short stories or essays

If you want something you can easily pick up and read in short bursts (or between breaks in other books), try a collection of letters, short fiction or essays by an author you love. This is also great way to sample an author you’ve been meaning to read, and if you don’t have the chance to read the whole thing at once, you can pick it up any time.

Aside from July’s short stories, Lydia Davis’ collection Can’t and Won’t is another recent favorite. Some stories are merely a sentence long, often peculiar or witty observations, while others like “The Letter to the Foundation” are funny yet vulnerable portraits of anxiety. I also recommend Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, an enjoyable critique on pop culture from start to finish.

A book on writing

Looking for inspiration or motivation? Countless authors have written some fantastic books on writing that will remind you why you want to be a writer in the first place.

I love a good book on writing, particularly those that are more literary and observant than how-to. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is an old favorite I’ve read more than once, and Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life is wonderful in ways I didn’t expect from a book on the craft. I’d like to read Joyce Carol Oates’ The Faith of a Writer next.

Something from your bedside table

You know the one—that book you’ve been meaning to read for months. Quit putting it off and crack that book open already! The Christmas tree can wait.

I’ve got a few on my bookshelf I’d like to read, plus several that have been on my library wish list for a while, including Leslie Jamison’s collection, The Empathy ExamsI’ll let you know what I think after I’ve read it!

Currently I’m reading The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan is next on my list. (I can’t get enough of those library books.)

What’s on your to-read list? Anything to add here?


I’m taking the rest of the week off from the blog and newsletter to properly work on that reading list, enjoy the holiday, and end NaNoWriMo strong (hopefully—it’s been rough, guys). I’ll be back next week. In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating!

#BannedBooksWeek: How to write a book that gets banned

Banned Books Week: How to write a book that gets banned

Warning: This post contains material that may be offensive to people who hate books.

That’s because Banned Books Week is September 27-October 3, which means it’s time to celebrate all the nefarious, diabolical and dangerous literature that has threatened to poison minds everywhere since the dawn of the printing press.

It may seem silly now to think that classics like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird were banned from many schools, libraries and even bookstores, but times have changed. People don’t ban books for being blasphemous, suggestive or “too radical” anymore, right?

Wrong. Did you know that the Harry Potter series was banned in many schools for promoting “anti-family” values and black magic? Or that the Captain Underpants series for children was also banned, presumably because it has the word “underpants” in the title? Or that the freaking dictionary has been banned from several schools for including the definitions of dirty words like “genitalia”?

It’s all so ridiculous that it makes me aspire to write a book that gets banned. You, too? Great.

Here are 4 foolproof tips for writing a book that gets banned or, if you’re lucky, burned:

1. Write a book for children or teens.

While plenty of books for adults have been banned, your odds of successfully having your book banned will drastically increase if you write for the overly scrutinized genres of children’s or young adult books. Young, impressionable minds! Purity! Innocence! All qualities that are threatened any time a kid cracks open a book.

2. Make your protagonist have feelings and opinions that question authority or the status quo.

Bonus points for a female character with opinions. Your silencers will hate that. Think The AwakeningLittle Women (especially Jo’s character) or even Hunger Games—all books that have been banned or censored.

3. Include—or even just reference—sex.

Sex scenes, internal dialogue hinting at sexual feelings, masturbation or even a good, old-fashioned Spin-the-Bottle scene should do the trick. Because in the eyes of your critics, sex is inherently bad. And unnatural. Young people don’t know what sex is, and we should prevent them from knowing about it until they’re at least 40. Or never.

4. For that matter, throw in a few of the following:

Strong language, violence, drugs, alcohol, homosexuality, witchcraft, political views of any kind, satire, etc. You know, all things one might reasonably expect to encounter or learn about at some point in their lives. Here’s a handy chart you can easily reference when trying to come up with the most ban-able book possible.


Banned Books Infographic

Cool? Now get out there and plot your next communist propaganda masterpiece. Write a book using the guide above, and everyone book censors are trying to “protect” from your book will want to read it. As for me, I’m working on a manuscript about a rebellious girl who takes psychedelics and talks to animals. Although now that I think about it, that sounds a lot like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

What would your banned book be about? And what’s your favorite banned book?