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Summer reads 2017

Author:
sophia3

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

It’s that time of year again. If you’re lucky, the sun is out and shining gloriously down on you. If you’re British, it’s occasionally poking through the clouds a bit – and you’re chasing the patches of light whilst simultaneously groaning about the ‘heat’.

Oh yes. It’s Summer.

The best thing about Summer – in my humble opinion – is that there’s time to read, and no restrictions on what it is that you read. It makes me nervous that in a few years, my life won’t be structured around academic years, and I won’t have this open space to dedicate to lounging around, reading book after book. But I’m trying not to think about that too hard – I’ll save the breakdowns about my impending adulthood for more convenient times, such as exam season.

I’ve just finished my first year at university, where I study English Literature. I have read a few books for pleasure here and there, but I’ve found that when I’ve had free time I’ve wanted to spend it on other pursuits – by which I mean Netflix. I never thought I’d say this, but I haven’t wanted to read that much. I’ve been excited by new books and blew my student loan in Waterstones at the beginning of each term, but I haven’t read many of them. I’m generally very content to spend 85% of my time reading, but when I have no control over my TBR pile and said pile is full of pretentious essays that make little sense, and unsatisfying poetry written by white men I’m less keen. I love my degree, but it does suck some of the joy out of my favourite hobby.

However, now that I’ve had some time to decompress – and exhausted everything of interest on Netflix – I’m ready to read again. And I’m excited about it. Hopefully, you’re also feeling excited about it. It’s exciting. Books mean that not going on holiday doesn’t matter – you can travel all over the universe and across time, from the comfort of your home.

If you’re looking for some summer reading recommendations, you’re in the right place. I’m not going to patronise you and suggest nothing but novels about romance, shopping, and chocolate (which can be great fun, of course, but I’m tired of the assumptions that these kinds of lists tend to make). There are plenty of places you can go to for that. Powered By Girl is here to give you an alternative.

If you’re a fan of graphic novels, try….

PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi. All of Marjane Satrapi’s work is wonderful, but this is definitely the place to start. It’s an autobiography of her childhood and young adulthood, depicted in a beautiful and distinct style. Marjane grew up in Iran, during and after the Islamic Revolution, and PERSEPOLIS provides a great insight into what that was like. It is situated in personal experience but it also reveals a lot about the history and politics of the time. If you’re looking for something more lighthearted, EMBROIDERIES is fun and engaging, and is a completely unique work. It’s also a personal favourite of mine, just saying.

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If you’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale, try…

THE POWER by Naomi Alderman. This book has the greatest concept ever. Women can kill men with touch. If that isn’t the ultimate superpower, I don’t know what is. I also love ONLY EVER YOURS by Louise O’Neill, a novel heavily influenced by Margaret Atwood’s feminist masterpiece. It thoroughly critiques beauty standards and diet culture through compelling storytelling. It’s dystopian and yet hits incredibly close to home – it reflects the reality of our world and that is disturbing. If you struggle with an eating disorder, please be careful as it is brutally honest and does use numbers. Look after yourself and please reach out for support if you are triggered.

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If you’re pissed off about bi-erasure at Pride, try…

BI: NOTES FOR A BISEXUAL REVOLUTION by Shiri Eisner – a validating and thought-provoking manifesto for bi babes, everywhere. Reading this will make you feel powerful. It will remind you that it is not you that is wrong. They are.

If you miss One Direction and those solo careers aren’t quenching your thirst, try…

GRACE AND THE FEVER by Zan Romanoff. In case you’d forgotten, I love One Direction. And yes, I’m enjoying their solo careers, for the most part. But I miss them being THEM. To fill the void, I am reading a lot of boy band related fiction. YA authors sure do know how to fulfil a gal’s needs. GRACE AND THE FEVER DREAM does fangirls justice. It doesn’t patronise us. It doesn’t laugh at our expense. It is written FOR us. It is an ode to us and the way that we love wholeheartedly. It is fun. It is wonderful. I’m so completely obsessed with it. I think anything that I can relate back to One Direction is something I’m going to be obsessed with, but this book stands on its own in its brilliance.

Here’s to a summer of thousands of pages. Enjoy!

Powered By Girl’s Winter Feminist Gift Guide

Author:
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By Anna Hill

As winter fast approaches and various celebrations come about you might be thinking about what you want to ask for, and what you want to get others!! So I made a handy list of suggestions for you to peruse and/or send to a parent/friend/add to that amazon wishlist!

Fiction

She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya

This masterpiece of a book is so beautiful! It’s written by a bisexual trans woman of colour and is full of accurate depictions of what being bisexual and experiencing biphobia is like. Its an illustrated novel chronicling the life of one specific boy as he discovers himself and learns to define who he is himself, alongside a really lovely re-imagining/retelling of Hindu mythology.

Carol/ The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

Perfect for those wintery-Christmas-cold feels, Carol tells the story of Therese Belivet, a shy but artistic set designer and Carol, an older glamorous women on the brink of divorce. It’s a story set in the 1950s and is full of intricate and deep silences and omissions, portraying the lives of lesbian and queer women at that time. It is a great reminder of survival and love. This is also now a film which you could watch and discuss especially with the context that Patricia Highsmith, a lesbian herself, wrote it originally, but the director of the film was a straight man named Todd Haynes – how might that switch up perspectives?!

New Virginia Woolf Vintage Editions

Vintage has just released some beautiful new versions of Virginia Woolf’s work – my favourites are The Waves and Orlando. The Waves is an experimental modernist novel about five people and the way their lives wind together throughout their lives. The prose and imagery are amazing and inspiring. Orlando is very different – it’s a fun novel detailing the life of Orlando, a character that fluidly switches gender and time span, traveling from Istanbul to London to Russia.

Refugee Tales

This book is a double gift!! Refugee Tales is a collection of testimonies set out in a similar form as The Canterbury Tales and the entire profit of the book goes to Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group and Kent Refugee Help! Which means you get a shiny new book, and someone else gets funds that will help their wellbeing.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

This is a Young Adult Novel about a young Bruja [Latinx witch!]!! Perfect for the aspiring witch in your life; this is a story about mistakes, growth, family and identity. The novel is also part of the #OwnVoices movement, which means that it was written by someone who identifies with the main characters the story is about!

Ragdoll House by Maranda Elizabeth

Maranda Elizabeth is currently my favourite author and I attempt to include their work in every conversation! Ragdoll House is a wonderful novel about queer girl friendship, survival and love. This was described as a “queer punk classic” by one goodreads review and I couldn’t agree more! The prose is great and its always great to support mad disabled self-published authors.

Non-Fiction

Where Am I Now by Mara Wilson

Yes!! This is by The Mara Wilson, of Matilda fame! This is a collection of personal essays Mara has written about what it has been like for her growing up as a young girl and a former child actress. Her twitter account never ceases to entertain me and neither does this. Her honesty and wit is enthralling and her perspective is really interesting.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This book is a current feminist classic! You might have seen the ted talk this small book is based on, or you might have heard the section that is played in the Beyonce track Flawless. Either way, you probably will have come into contact with this book! With a stunning cover this is the perfect gift to baby feminists to help them on their way to greatness!

The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-Seven Visions Of A Wildly Better Future

This looks like a really interesting and hopeful read – what does a feminist utopia look like? What exactly do we want from liberation? In this collection over 50 authors discuss their feelings!! Including but not limited to Melissa Harris-Perry, Janet Mock and Sheila Bapat, in various different formats including interviews, poetry and short stories.

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

A collection of voices from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic British folks today exploring ideas about why immigrants come to the UK, why they stay and what it feels like to be “othered” – in all its forms, from being an “ambassador” for your race to having to jump through hoops to be seen as a “good” immigrant. Get angry when you read this!! Get challenged by your own prejudices!! Get learning! Perfect feminist work to enjoy and digest over the winter so in 2017 you can reify your perceptions, refocus and really help to destroy inequality and racism wherever you see it.

Comics and Zines

Beyond the Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology edited by Sfe R. Monster and Taneka Stotts

A beautiful collection of diverse and exciting comics! Featuring, but not limited to, an agender ghost working at a tea shop, constructed gay robot aliens falling in love, Chinese-russian bi polyamorous astronauts and a monster queen falling in love (with no words!)! In other words, it’s everything you have been missing! More information on it here

Jem and the holograms!

Jem is one of my favourite comics because of how diverse it is, and not just sexual and romantic orientation wise, but also in terms of body type!! This comic tells the story of a band made up of sisters as they try to thrive, using technology that is so advanced it can create a holographic lead singer! Full of vibrancy and excitement, Jem and the holograms is especially good for pop punk fans!! (but I pretty much think everyone should read it because all the band members are so god damn CUTE.).3 volumes are out so far!

Hysterical femme – karina killjoy

This is one of my favourite zines of 2016. It’s about being a femme survivor, taking up space and working to love yourself and other femmes and other survivors too. It’s so affirming to read that there is no right way to heal and that there are others who feel how I feel! Its about still being angry and hysterical and mentally ill and still being treated with kindness and understanding rather than being deriding and frustrating. This zine is beautiful and validating and I hope everyone reads it one day!

Queer Indigenous Girl #2

This is a lovely submission based zine for black, indigenous people of colour who are queer, trans, 2-spirit, mentally/chronically/physically ill and neurodivergent. In prioritizing these folk’s voices it’s really great to support and read their work! It’s a colour PDF zine with art and illustrations. It also talks about what living with ADHD is like, depression and survival.

Poetry

milk and honey by rupi kaur

This is a firecracker of a collection of poetry. It’s split into four sections and each of them meticulously breaks your heart and sews it back together over and over.

the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace

Another energetic feminist poetry collection, this one focuses on being the main character in your own story, recovering from abuse and inheriting the power that is inside of you! Plus it’s written by an asexual author who is outspoken about books and social justice on tumblr.

Radical Softness

This is the CUTEST feminist poetry pocketbook made by wonderful graphic designer and general cool person Soofiya. Perfect for the person who is SO busy kicking the kyriarchy to the ground that they only have short amounts of time to read poetry. You can read this anywhere and everywhere ingesting all the great vibes from it whenever you need to!

Heartless Girls

This is a poetry zine by Emma T and it has such brilliant poems! My favourite line is probably “I don’t know how to stay tender/ with this much blood in my mouth”. Emma’s poetry is raw and vulnerable and that’s why its so great!

That’s it for my suggestions, I hope you found something fun off this list!

Stories for summer

Author:
sophia3

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

Summer is upon us! Well…sort of, for those of us in the UK – but summer is rarely warm/dry/sunny here, is it? And it’s not summer in many other parts of the world right now… time is such a strange concept. And holy macaroni, I’ve just had an epiphany. TIME IS JUST A CONSTRUCT. TIME IS MEANINGLESS. TIME DOES NOT CONTROL YOU. Phew. I think my life may have just changed forever.

That aside, I am excited for summer, for the idea of it. Even though I’m not currently in education, summer still holds the connotations that it’s had in the past – the word still translates to one thing in particular: freedom. It’s swimming in an outdoor pool; the fresh air in my lungs as I come up for air and the sun shining on my back as I move smoothly through the water. It’s eating breakfast in the garden, starting my day with a sense of leisure, and making smoothies in the afternoon, then lounging on the grass, reading a book. It is, perhaps most of all, the books. Throughout the academic year, a large chunk of what we read is dictated by exam boards, by old white men who don’t know anything about what we’re interested in, let alone care. So every year, I look forward to the summer, to the freedom of being able to read whatever I want. I may not have had the external restrictions of academia lately, but old habits die hard. I’ve felt guilty every time I’ve gravitated towards a book just for fun, for escape, because I can’t shake the thought that I should be enriching my mind in an intellectual sense. I have felt shame every time I have given up on a heavy classic, because I should be stretching myself, because reading is supposed to be about learning. As if my break from academia isn’t about learning to relax, about letting myself breathe and having some fun. I know that as summer washes over me, this will become easier, that I will not feel quite so bad about reading solely for pleasure, because I have always associated this time with light and fun and I am used to giving myself permission to let go a little. I am very excited for the relief that it will bring.

If you are reading this, you are probably a bit of a book worm, like me. I reckon you probably share my excitement for summer reading, too. But if you’ve had your reading material selected for you all year, you might feel at a bit of a loss – what are you even looking for? Well, whether you’re off to the beach, in your back garden, in the car visiting country parks with your parents, or having to sneak-read behind the counter at work, I have a few fantastic recommendations for you:

If you’re starting university/college after Summer… Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer

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I read this graphic memoir whilst still at the Wrong University, and though I was completely distraught at the time, I was comforted by it. The protagonist, Ramsey, went to college in a completely new place, like me, and loved it, unlike me. Although I was bitter at the time that she got to enjoy her experience whilst I loathed it, I was also immensely reassured. It reminded me that it was possible. And whilst she loved where she went to school, it was clearly difficult for her, too. The workload, the navigation of a new city, the being away from home, the friendship anxiety… she was honest about that, which was so important for me. I needed to see that the people having a good time weren’t JUST living it up, it wasn’t ALL fun and games – that was just all I was seeing. I keep dipping into it again, and will certainly take it along with me when I go back to university in September, to soothe my anxieties. If you’re feeling stressed out about your move at all, I highly recommend Little Fish. Also, the drawings are so cute!

If you’re off on a road trip (or dreaming about one!)… The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Reading this will make you really really really want start a band with your best friends. Like, REALLY. But it’s not an entirely light-hearted read – it’s very much concerned with the question of ‘finding yourself’, and gets pretty profound in places. The thing is, it’s not predictable – self-discovery in YA can be fairly formulaic, usually revolving around the manic pixie dream girl trope, but LaCour’s writing is much too good for that. It’s subtly woven in to the fun and adventure, and to the touching moments between friends and family and strangers.

If you’re going to Summer Camp/working at Summer Camp/feeling nostalgic for Summer Camp… Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

I’m ridiculously obsessed with Summer Camp stories for someone who was such an anxious kid that I was physically sick on the first night of every school trip or holiday camp I went on, and actually left after the first 48 hours one time. Alas, the idea of camp enchants me, and Maggie Thrash’s graphic memoir was wonderful for my obsession. The images are so beautiful, it’s easy to believe that some kind of magic goes into making camp happen. It is also a heart-warming tale of exploration, of the first crush and confusion that comes along with it. It shows how all-consuming it is the first time you fall for a girl, how you are overwhelmed by the girl but also overwhelmed in a scary way, overwhelmed by the fact that your desire appears to be unlike your peers. Perhaps most importantly, this book is an ode to the mystical, chaotic, insular world of teenage girlhood.

If you’re off to a music festival… Remix by Non Pratt

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Live music outdoors is one of the best things about Summer. FACT. And best friends are one of the best things about life. ALSO A FACT. Thus, Remix by Non Pratt? One of the best books in YA fiction. FACT FACT FACT. Seriously, nothing screams ‘TEENAGE GIRLS FOREVERRR’ more than this book. I adore that it is a dual narration, from both of the BFFs – Ruby and Kaz. Often when a book has more than one voice, it can lose depth, you don’t get to know the characters so well, but Non Pratt manages it perfectly. The emotions are raw, the love is real, and you can practically smell the mix of sun cream and vomit typical of a UK festival.

If you are really missing One Direction… Kill The Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

It is so rare to find representation of fangirls and fandom that isn’t condescending, that recognises the different dimensions of this whole thing. Goldy actually shows the more ridiculous side of fandom, the side that middle-aged men refer to as ‘hysteria’, but with humour, affection and compassion. Equally, she highlights the sheer brilliance of fangirls, how determined, quick-thinking and creative we can be. Most importantly, she writes about how fandom makes you feel – how you form friendships, feel an affinity with other young girls, and how the object of your devotion gives you blissful joy. I will leave you with this quote, which kind of sums up how I feel about One Direction, and made me cry, because I miss my boys: “Did I love them because they were the only boys in my life who consistently told me that I was beautiful? Probably. I loved The Ruperts for who they were, sure, but I mostly loved them for how they made me feel. Which was happy. The Ruperts made me happy. The simplest thing to be in the world. And the hardest.”

If you are mostly just furious and fed up with the white cishet patriarchal world… Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

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Queer People of Colour are simply not represented enough, but in YA fiction, it feels particularly problematic – this is a genre making waves, queer authors like David Levithan being some of the most prolific, and girl power trilogies such as The Hunger Games and Divergent being amongst the most successful. And yet, QPOC, particularly women, trans, and non-binary folk, are severely lacking. So along comes this novel, this outstanding novel, whose protagonist is a queer latinx young woman, and the book is blatant about that – the cover clearly and proudly depicts a woman of colour, and (not to stereotype, but…) she has an undercut, so clearly, she is queer (really, how many cishets do you know who have undercuts?). In moments the novel can feel a little bit 101 on intersectional feminism and being queer, but most of the time, the knowledge that is conveyed fits well. It’s about learning who you are and embracing that, it’s about the liberation that comes with finding your community, about respecting other communities, about challenging the norms and the crap you have internalised. It’s about a summer of discovery, and makes for a funny, emotional, and enlightening read.

If you want something to fill your heart like Perks once did, minus the manic pixie dream girl syndrome… Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

I can’t sing the praises of this book enough, and the thing that I want most in life nowadays is for Kate Scelsa to announce that it is going to be turned into a film, because I feel a physical NEED to see this adapted for the screen. It would have the best aesthetic. And I would also bawl, annoying everyone in the cinema. This was a book that I really connected to, it was the first time I felt like I’d read about being a teenager with depression and how it affects your life in a way that truly resonated. It wasn’t dramatic about it – of course, sometimes depression IS dramatic, but it’s so rare that it is written about in a non-dramatic context. It still gets intense, but it also gives a picture of a ‘regular’ life – Mira is depressed, and some days she can’t go to school, others she can. It’s a depiction of depression that resonated with me as I read the book, and I think is relatable for many. Beyond that, it’s a tale of friendship, and it is just so beautiful. It will make you feel ALL THE FEELINGS. I love these characters, I love their relationships with each other, I love the way they view the world. I’m certain that you will love it all too.

Hopefully, some of these books will take your fancy. If you’re not convinced, I dare you to give one a try anyway! I didn’t think that I was going to like Remix at all, for example, but after a glowing recommendation from a highly trusted friend, I picked it up – and I am so glad that I did. It ended up being one of my favourite reads of last summer! Read a couple of pages if you see a copy in your local bookstore, and I promise, you will fall in love with at least one of these beautiful stories. Then you can sit back, relax, and lose yourself in them. Enjoy your summer!

Non-Sexist, Totally Fantastic Summer Book Recommendations

Author:

By Anna Hill

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In light of Sophia’s great post about the dire, repetitive sexism that is often prevalent in so-called “summer reads”, we decided in response that the rest of the PBG team would collect some of our own favourite summer reads and share them with you! Now we can all be huge nerds together and fall in love with some great books this summer! As it is sometimes harder to find alternative and less problematic books, we to put together our fave reads in a list for your enjoyment! If you want to know why we might have chosen them (some may not be as conventionally “summery” and “light” as other recommended reads in mainstream media), then it’s due to a range of reasons. These books are any/all/some/one/none of the following: empowering, liberating, moving, thought-provoking, stereotype smashing, thrilling, enthralling, exciting, enjoyable.

Without further adieu, here is PBG’s list of non-sexist, totally fantastic summer book recommendations:

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

This is a magnificent YA book and it’s so unbelievably good, it waayyyy passes the Bechdel test and it has mostly female characters who are kickass and freaking incredible. Basically a bunch of Beauty Queens crash land on an island and have to survive!! There are Queer characters, a trans girl, some really fab women of colour. Some really annoying tropes/stereotypes of women are utterly subverted and it’s just great, and it’s so aware of it all as well, it’s a clever satire. I think about it a LOT. Lastly it’s good for summer reading because it’s set on a desert island so it’s really HOT (and you know, summer is hot….. just go read this ok).

Every Day by David Levithan

This is a beautiful beautiful book. The story is a romance, so if you like to read love stories then this would be fab for you, it is also a beautifully written book, and it contains such wonderful moments that you will fall in love with all of it over and over again, every sentence. The story is slightly strange but very clever, it follows the story of “A” an entity or person that has no proper physical form – every day they wake up in another’s body. And one day they meet Rhiannon! (who obvs they fall in love with!) It’s also great because it discusses ideas about gender and sexuality and the fluidness of those ideas/constructs/concepts.

Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

This is a comic book series, and there are three volumes out so far and I am ITCHING for the next instalment, because SO MUCH DRAMA AND ACTION AND EXCITEMENT! The story is a war story and a love/family journey too – it follows a couple who fall in love but are on the opposite sides of the ongoing war that just keeps killing and hurting, and they have a baby. They then have to try to survive. It’s got a kickass female lead, as well as my personal favourite, an amazing bisexual woman named Gwendolyn who is so stylish and lethal. As well as this the relationship between Marko and Alana – the two who are in love, is very sweet and realistic, and the art is really really beautiful too. It’s so enthralling and interesting and beautiful and funny and silly and the characters are A+ (There are some really cute gay, green journalists!). I would also definitely recommend this to people who are new to comics (I’m a newbie myself) as it’s super easy to read/see and get into.

— Anna

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is basically a book set post-zombie apocalypse in this tiny village surrounded by the undead, or “unconsecrated.” It’s super religious and they’re basically told that they are the last humans left in the entire world, they’re God’s village. All the men are told to guard the fences and the women must all marry and have lots of babies because their survival depends on it. The protagonist, Mary, basically questions everything and sees past the lies, and she wants to be with a different guy to the one chosen for her because of love, not “duty.” When they’re pushed into the forest she is literally the most determined person and she realises her dream to find the ocean is the most important thing to her, and just being with this dude who she loves isn’t enough. And I won’t say much more but it’s so good.

Sing You Home

This a brilliantly well-crafted novel that outlines some very important issues that same-sex couples are unjustly forced to face. It is about: a woman named Zoe who fails to have a child multiple times and then gives up her hopes of ever being a mother. Her husband then decides to leave and her world is shattered. Luckily for Zoe, she finds a friend in her colleague Vanessa and the more time the two spend together, the better she feels. Zoe then discovers that she wants to spend more and more time with her new friend… until she realizes that what she really wants is something much more than friendship.

With a convincing and believable plot, and characters that you just want to hug (!), the book is a definite must-read. Picoult’s writing is compelling, moving and thoroughly thought provoking. Both Zoe and Vanessa are two of the strongest, bravest and most wonderful women I have ever encountered in literature. They both have a courage and defiance that lifts them above their struggles. Two thoroughly determined, tough and intelligent women (and they don’t rely on men either!).

— Yas

Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse by Suraya Sadeed

This book isn’t fiction, it is a memoir, but the writer has done incredible things, and it is an astonishing read. It is painful and sad to read at many points, as she describes experiences in the heart of a terrible war, seeing extreme poverty, and a kind of inequality that we in the West cannot ever truly imagine. Despite all this, it is immensely hopeful and inspiring, as Suraya Sadeed tells readers of the aid she brought to Afghan communities, and of how hard she fought to do so. She is truly admirable, and a reminder that we can make a difference, if determined enough, as resolve is a powerful trait in people.

— Sophia

The House of Bernarda Alba by Lorca

This recommendation is not exactly up everyone’s street! All the speaking characters are women (only one male character). It has been described as a photographic documentary of 1920’s Spain. Simply, there are five daughters who are in 8 years mourning after the death of their father but one gets engaged and problems follow. The text provides a wonderful insight into 1920s rural Spain and it’s attitudes towards women. Some have more power than others but in the end do they really have any power? Clever symbolism and stylistic techniques highlight the key themes of freedom and repression in a tragic tale of a family of women in mourning. Despite being set almost a century ago parallels can still be found in aspects of today’s society. Great play to help you question the things we see in our world today and what it was like to live as a woman in this society. Original language or a good translation is best (there is also an incredibly accurate English film starring Glenda Jackson).

— Chloe

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is an absolute classic that follows the life of Jane, from when she is a little girl dealing with cruelty and hardship to when she grows into an independent and intelligent woman. It’s a great feminist book because it was written by a woman and is about a woman at a time when society completely dismissed the idea of women being able to think/act for themselves.

Diary of Anne Frank

Also a classic! This book is both inspiring and also very sad. The diary was written by Anne Frank whilst she was in hiding during WW2 because she was Jewish. Anne inspires me because of her bravery and her honesty – I think her voice really speaks out to all women and girls.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl is about a girl who’s not afraid to be different and true to herself, it’s very heartwarming and tells girls that it’s ok not to fit in with the crowd!! (It might be for slightly younger readers)

— Alice

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

If you haven’t read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn I would highly recommend it, it’s an oldy but a goody. The book follows a girl’s life and family living in Brooklyn. Her family were Irish immigrates and very poor and they lived there during the time where that’s where immigrants would stay. It follows her becoming a woman, and it talks about the dynamics of her mother and father’s relationship. It’s spans over her life starting when she was about 8 and ending in her early 20s. It’s very well written although a tad slow in the beginning, you need to hold on until you get like 1/4 of the way through and it gets super good.

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice is very good, though over 900 pages if you’re looking for a longer read. The plot sounds weird but I promise if you get into it it’s so so good. The novel is about a family of witches that are all strikingly beautiful. It’s set in more modern times when they’re trying to figure out who the next witch is. It describes the history of the family line of witches throughout the book but its main focus is explaining what makes the most recent #1 witch unusually powerful. Of course there is some romance and such but the storyline is deeply complicated and very interesting. I don’t wanna say much more because it’s easy to give things away, just don’t read it if you’re squeamish about sexual themes, it’s an adult novel and I normally have to warn people beforehand because the book can get slightly graphic at times. Again it starts a bit slow and can be a tad confusing at times but I would highly recommend this book to everyone, even if you aren’t into fantasy

— Gracelyn

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A follow up to the highly acclaimed novel ‘The Kite Runner’, the book transports us into the life of Mariam, a young Afghan girl who is facing the daily struggle of living in a society that values women solely for their ability to reproduce. Though not light reading, Hossieni’s ability to make the harshest of abuse and discrimination readable subject matter is incredible, providing very valuable insight into the harsh lives of women in Afghanistan and beyond.

— Cora

Bedpans and Bobby Socks by Barbara Fox and Gwenda Gofton

Bedpans and Bobby Socks is set in the late 50’s. It’s about 5 British nurses who move to America to work for a while then go travelling in an old car all over the States. It’s a really fun summer read, especially if you like travel and roadtrip books, and the 5 nurses are all amazingly independent, adventurous women (it’s based on a true story, too!).

— Amy

Now go forth and READ!!!

The Unconventional Summer Reading List

Author:

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

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School is out – well, almost, in the U.K – and that means one thing… SUMMER! Summer means a lot of different things for different people; be it swimming in the sea; festivals; camping in the middle of nowhere; road trips; backpacking – usually something pretty cool. Sometimes, it’s just chilling out at the park or in the garden with ice-cream, homemade smoothies, barbecues, spending times with friends and family – which is equally wonderful, of course.

For me, though, the biggest appeal of Summer (and yes, I realise this makes me a huge nerd) is that I have plenty of free time… to read. In the year, I don’t get to read nearly as much as I’d like to, what with work, work, work, oh, and more work! But for two months, I can read a book a day if I want to, no problem! There’s absolutely no better way to relax!

I’m not the only one who thinks Summer is a time for reading, as magazines and newspapers begin to publish their lists of essential Summer reading around early June. Unfortunately, it would seem that I have the wrong idea with my mixture of the Brontës, John Green, and feminist manifestos. Because, each year, magazines’ lists are nothing like mine. Typically titled ‘beach reads for women’, ‘books for your beach bag’, ‘hot summer reads’ and so on, the lists compiled are beyond frustrating to see. Not only are the titles blatantly sexist, but the content tends to be, too. The message sent is that all women are the same – we like shopping, we’re obsessed with our looks, and WE JUST WANT A BOYFRIEND! This plays right into the kyriarchy, this idea that ‘real’ women are white, heterosexual, cisgendered, and of course, one-dimensional, dependent creatures.

It honestly really upsets me, the whole thing. But I’m not letting it get me down too much anymore. There is a way to combat this norm. There are always alternatives; you’ve just got to look a little harder sometimes. Here I’ve compiled a list of suggestions to start you off – Some are a little obvious perhaps, some you may not have even heard of. There’s a wide range of fiction, some young adult, and some adult. But be warned – whilst some are easy to read, these books are not necessarily all light. I like these books for precisely this reason – I have personally found them empowering, liberating, moving, thought-provoking, stereotype smashing, as well as simply enjoyable. I really hope you’ll find something in them too.

  • Matched – Ally Condie. ‘In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die. Yet for Cassia, the rules have changed.’ This Young Adult trilogy is astonishingly poetic in the way it is written, as well as being an exciting, emotional, compelling read. It is difficult not to find the characters endearing, with incredible development throughout the books. Cassia, the protagonist, is particularly interesting, as she begins as a standard ‘good girl’, complacent to the rules, but as the story goes on, she begins to really challenge the ways of the world around her, in spite of the consequences. It provokes intense political thought, whilst being very funny in places as well.
  • If You Find Me – Emily Murdoch. ‘A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. Suddenly taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.’ This book is beautifully written, and provides a critical narrative on our society, whilst reminding the reader to be grateful for what they have. It deals with several very sensitive issues, including childhood neglect and abuse, mental illness, and addiction, but does so very sensitively, and provides a lot of hope too, through the perspective of Carey. It is easy to relate to this girl – despite most readers living rather different lives from her, on the surface – as we recognise the outsider that is in ourselves, both highly sceptical, yet desperate to belong. A stunning debut.
  • A Gathering Light – Jennifer Donnelly. ‘Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true.’ Exploring familial relationships, and friendships, as well as romantic love, to a backdrop of history and mystery, this book is incredible. The main character, Mattie, is intelligent and hard-working, but also rather cheeky, which makes her a very appealing character. She also adores of her teacher, who is pretty darn cool, and writes feminist poetry. A well-written story, which discusses the personal and universal together, A Gathering Light is a great read.
  • Chains – Laurie Halse Anderson. ‘As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom.’ If you don’t cry a little whilst reading this, I will be surprised. It appears to be historically accurate, meticulously researched, doing justice to those affected by slavery. It is moving, empowering, and as a reader you find yourself feeling fiercely protective of Isabel. It is impossible to put down until the very end, as quickly you become thoroughly attached.
  • Since You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson. ‘Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell. But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. Where can it lead?’ This is released just this Summer, and is a great, easy read for the beach. It’s fun, hilarious in places, and immensely enjoyable. The main character Emily is wonderful, she is so normal, it’s fantastic. Checking things off her list is an adventure, and the way it’s narrated makes it all seem very liberating, like she’s learning a lot about herself. It’s inspiring in the way that it’s made me want to go out and do things that I often feel too scared to do. But it also reminds you not to assume things about people, stop making judgements – you don’t know anyone like you may assume. Nobody is perfect, life isn’t perfect, and it’s a reminder that these are true, whilst reminding you that it’s still beautiful. It stresses the importance of friendship, and makes you really, really, really want to hug your best friend.
  • The Help – Kathryn Stockett. ‘Three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town.’ Poignant, at times hysterically funny, thought-provoking, inspiring and hopeful. You would not expect an affluent white woman to be able to write accurately or sensitively about issues in the lives of black women in 1960s America, but this book is a real surprise. Everyone will take a lot away from The Help, about class, race, friendship, and more.
  • The Colour Purple – Alice Walker. ‘Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate.’ This book requires a TRIGGER WARNING, as the description of abuse is very graphic. However, I do believe it is an incredible book. It is such a powerful narrative, and an extremely emotional story throughout. It is also a great example of how female empowerment benefits society as a whole. The characters are multi-dimensional, you learn about their thinking, their beliefs, their reasoning. You see all sides of these people, the good and the bad – nothing is sugar-coated. This is a rare kind of book, and a brilliant one.

Happy reading girls!

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