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250 Books By Women All Men Should Read

Esquire made reposted a slide show of 75 books all men should read. The books are mostly fantastic and the headline phrasing didn’t much bug us. After all, Esquire is a men’s magazine and has always been marketed as such. The problem was that the list was all male writers, save for lone lady Flannery O’Connor. This really does imply that men don’t/can’t/shouldn’t read women and we were pretty sure that wasn’t the case among readers. We were also sure that part of the editorial reason for making such a list this way was to generate a response, so here it is. Over Memorial Day weekend we asked Joyland readers, editors, and contributors to come up with a list of 75 Books By Women All Men Should Read. We received over 250 suggestions in two hours. We think the below is a seriously devastating list of great books everyone should read. Thank you to all who took part via Facebook and Twitter. We had to format many different kinds of responses so let us know if we made a mistake with your selections. Also please, keep the talk going in the comments and everywhere else. — Emily Schultz and Brian Joseph Davis, publishers of Joyland

 

Mark Medley: White Teeth by Zadie Smith. Also: The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

 

Allison Devers: Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link. Also: We Have Always Lived in the Castle, To the Lighthouse, Wide Sargasso Sea, Middlemarch, Veronica, Haunting of Hill House, pick a Jane Austen any Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein.

 

Ruth Seely: Possession by A.S. Byatt

 

Arjun Basu: The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. For showing every man how not to deal with grief. Because if you can't overcome it, you end up with Geena Davis in the movie version.

 

Justin Taylor: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Also: The Waves and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

 

Sherwin Tjia: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn.

 

Dorothy Anne Brown: Larry's Party by Carol Shields. Because the chapter on naming something is just fun.

 

Charles McLeod: The End of Alice by A.M. Homes. Also: Escapes by Joy Williams, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, The Waves by Virginia Woolf, Lithium for Medea by Kate Braverman.

 

Sheila Heti: The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm. Also: Jane Bowles's "Two Serious Ladies," Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem," Sarah Manguso's "The Two Kinds of Decay," Amanda Filipacchi's "Love Creeps," The diaries of Ananis Nin, the journals of Simone Weil, Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed," Chris Kraus's "I Love Dick," Lionel Shriver's "We Need To Talk About Kevin," Rachel Cusk's "A Life's Work," Elif Batuman's "The Possessed," Clarice Lispector's "The Hour of the Star," Emily Schultz's "Black Coffee Night," Anne Carson's "The Beauty of the Husband," Mary Gaitskill's "Because They Wanted To," Simone de Beauvoir's "The Second Sex," and so on.

 

David Balzer: Evelina by Fanny Burney. Also: Mansfield Park or Persuasion by Austen; Daniel Deronda or Middlemarch by Eliot; Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan; The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton; Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym; Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion; The Bell Jar by Plath…Seconding the Spark and Woolf. This will be tough to narrow down. All the best books are written by chicks.

 

 

Anu Jindal: By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart. Also: I second Middlemarch and House of Mirth; Birds of America by Lorrie Moore; Good Morning, Midnight and/or Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

 

Marina Endicott: Open by Lisa Moore. Also: Annabel Lyon's The Golden Mean, Collected Stories of Grace Paley (and I second Persuasion) and this fall, the brilliant The Antagonist by Lynn Coady.

 

Sean Dixon: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek or Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard. Also: Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body, Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Donna Tartt's The Secret History, Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red, Barbara Gowdy's The White Bone; Sylvia Plath's Ariel; Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; I have a fondess for AS Byatt's Possession; and I want to add, Sheila Heti’s How Should A Person Be.

 

Emma Crandall: Passing by Nella Larson Also: Mrs Dalloway / I know why the caged bird sings / Wide Sargasso Sea / Pride and Prejudice / Zami / Middlemarch / Crossing the Mangrove / The Woman Warrior / The Price of Salt / Bastard Out of Carolina / Song of Solomon / The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas / Kathy Acker / Dogeaters / Rat Bohemia / Assata: An Autobiography / My Antonia / So Far From God / Stone Butch Blues!

 

Emily M. Keeler: The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. Also: Nightwood by Dijuna Barnes, And Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

 

Sara O'Leary: Nightwood by Djuna Barnes. Autocorrect suggests Nightspot but that's definitely a pink cover title.

 

Katherine Karlin: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. Also: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, Friend of My Youth, Hateship Courtship, Loveship, Marriage and Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley, Tell Me a Riddle by Tillie Olsen, A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks, Song of Solomon, Beloved, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

 

Adam Wilson: Edgar Allan Poe & The Jukebox by Elizabeth Bishop Also: Anne Carson, PK Page, White Teeth - Zadie Smith, Brief History of Love - Nicole Krauss, Death & Life of Great American Cities - Jane Jacobs, Toni Morrison, Ceremony - Leslie Marmon Silko. An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender, The Pharmacist's Mate by Amy Fusselman.

 

Aaron Golbeck: Bad Behavior by Mark Gaitskill. Also: How Should A Person Be by Sheila Heti and Parable Of The Sower by Octavia Butler.

 

J.r. de Plume: Sappho Also: George Eliot - Middlemarch, Emily Brontë - Wuthering Heights, Jean Rhys - Wide Sargasso Sea, Djuna Barnes - Nightwood, Gertrude Stein - Ida, Marguerite Yourcenar - Memoirs of Hadrian, Mercè Rodoreda - The Time of the Doves, Virginia Woolf - The Waves, Marilynne Robinson - Housekeeping, Amy Hempel - Reasons to Live, Joy Williams - Honored Guest, Lisa Moore - Open, Anne Carson - Glass, Irony, and God, Erin Moure's & Oana Avasilichioaei - Expeditions of a Chimaera.

 

Jennifer Krasinski: Good Morning Midnight by Jean Rhys Also: The Lover (Duras), The Beauty of the Husband (Carson), Speedboat (Adler), Play It As It Lays (Didion), The End of the Story (Davis).

 

Laura Purcell: Sula by Toni Morrison. Also: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Anne Tyler; Frankenstein, Mary Shelley; Middlemarch, George Eliot; any Jane Austen.

 

Anne Leslie Burbidge: Anything by Camila Gibb.

 

Claire Lacey: Lyn Hejinian's My Life Also:. Suzette Mayr's Monoceros. Beloved by Toni Morrison. Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness.

 

David Ross: Ann Beattie. Also: Mavis Gallant, and Marilynne Robinson too.

 

Kara Levy: Honored Guest by Joy Williams. Also: Mary Gaitskill's "Veronica"; Mavis Gallant's "Paris Stories"; "Hateship Friendship Courtship Loveship Marriage" (Alice Munro); Maile Meloy's "Both Ways is The Only Way I Want It"; and pretty much anything by Aimee Bender. I could clearly go on.

 

Anna Lev: Flannery O'Connor Also: Mary Shelley, Miranda July, Miriam Toews, Annie Proulx, Alison Bechdel, Charlotte Bronte.

 

Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer: Anything by Yoko Ogawa.

 

Max Fenton: Self Help by Lorrie Moore.

 

Monica Woelfel: The Book of Seeing With One's Eyes by Sharon Doubiago. Also: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

 

Mark Patterson: After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie by Jean Rhys. Also: Dirty Weekend by Helen Zahavi.

 

Joanne Haskins: The Volcano Lover - Susan Sontag. Also: The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver, We So Seldom Look on Love - Barbara Gowdy.

 

Joanne Huffa: Some of these have already been mentioned, but I vote for To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark), Desert of the Heart (Jane Rule), The Outlander (Gil Adamson) and Bastard Out of Carolina (Dorothy Allison).

 

Dave McGimpsey: Ann Douglas's The Feminization of American Culture (1977). Also: Katherine Dunn's Geek Love.

 

Shawn Syms: Books by women that every man should read... Um, my entire bookshelf? Barbara Gowdy, We So Seldom Look on Love, Helpless, Mister Sandman. Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer Way Up, Perfecting. Marnie Woodrow Spelling Mississippi. Lydia Davis, Varieties of Disturbance. Sarah Schulman, People in Trouble, After Delores. Toni Morrison, Sula. Lisa Moore, Degrees of Nakedness. Tory Dent, HIV Mon Amour. Valerie Martin, Property. Helen Humphreys, The Frozen Thames. Alexandra Leggat, Animal. Zoe Whittall, Bottle Rocket Hearts. And if I were to name one male writer every man should read, how about Eighty-Sixed, by the late gay, HIV-positive novelist David B. Feinberg.

 

Authors and books collected via Sheila Heti’s Twitter feed: Patti Smith, Sylvia Plath, Katherine Mansfield, Grace Paley, Lydia Davis, Alice Munro, Leanne Shapton, Jane Jacobs, Elizabeth Bishop, H.D., Clarice Lispector, Iris Murdoch, Shirley Jackson, Lorrie Moore, Lydia Davis, Angela Carter, Carson McCullers Lady Audley's Secret, Housekeeping, The Pursuit of Love, Evelina, Possession, Persuasion, Sappho, George Eliot, Jean Rhys, Djuna Barnes, Marguerite Yourcenar, Mercè Rodoreda, Anne Carson, Erin Moure, Jacqueline Susann, Frankenstein, Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, House of Mirth, Daniel Deronda, Return of the Soldier, Lydia Davis, Lynda Barry, Eileen Myles, Elizabeth Bishop, Anne Carson, PK Page, Zadie Smith, Nicole Krauss, Jane Jacobs, Toni Morrison, Leslie Marmo, Amy Fusselman, and Aimee Bender.

 

Jerome Stueart: Alice Munro--Open Secrets. Also: Anne Lamott--Traveling Mercies.

 

Sarang Gopalakrishnan: Marianne Moore: Selected Poems. Also: Kay Ryan: The Best of It, Anne Enright: Yesterday's Weather. Pride and Prejudice.

 

Sesshu Foster: I Love Dick by Chris Kraus. Also: i-hotel by Karen Yamashita, House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, The Lover by Marguerite Duras, Dinners & Nightmares by Diane di Prima, 117 days by Ruth First, The Accumulation of Capital and Imperialism by Rosa Luxemburg, the Rosa Luxemburg Reader, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter & Collected Stories by Carson Mccullers, In Search of Our Mother's Gardens by Alice Walker, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Zhange, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein: Selections by Gertrude Stein, Auschwitz and After by Charlotte Delbo, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, yeah.

 

Faye Guenther: Lydia Millet's 'How the Dead Dream.' Also: Dorothy Parker's 'Complete Stories'. Stein's 'The Making of Americans' or 'The Autobiography of Alice B. Tolkas', Lorde's 'Sister Outside' or 'Zami: Another Spelling of My Name', Brand's 'In Another Place, Not Here', Acker's 'Blood and Guts in Highschool', Mootoo's 'Valmiki's Daughter', Myles' 'Inferno: A Poet's Novel', Kincaid's 'Annie John', Ozick's 'The Shawl', Davis' 'Women, Culture and Politics', Sontag's 'Against Interpretation', 'Collected Stories of Lydia Davis', Danticat's 'The Farming of Bones.’

 

Lynda Grimes: Surfacing & The Edible Woman, Margaret Atwood. Also: Unless, Carol Shields; The Outlander, Gil Adamson.

 

SOME MEN

Emily Schultz: Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood because he wrote intimately of women without being intimate with women.

 

Brian Joseph Davis: Blood and Guts In High School by Kathy Acker. Acker once worked at Compendium Books in London and stocked her own books in the "Male Fiction" section. This book taught me how to steal for artistic survival.

 

Marina Endicott: Guy Vanderhaeghe's The Last Crossing (because the woman is so good).

 

FROM THE COMMENTS

 

Elyse Friedman: Metropolitan Life/Social Studies by Fran Lebowitz.Also: The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles.

 

Dawn Promislow: The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty.

 

Donna Northcott: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley. Also: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy.

 

Kisha Ferguson: Property by Valerie Martin.

 

Claudia: Mother Nature, by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Hotel du Lac, Anita Brookner, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark, Berger's Daughter by Nadine Gordimer, Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner, Mavis Gallant Yeah!

 

The Leanover: Oh, I'll take this chance to add Elyse Friedman's Then Again because I read it a million years ago and loved it. And she just commented above me.

 

Faded Paper: No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July. Also: Joy Is So Exhausting by Susan Holbrook, Kalila by Rosemary Nixon.

 

Dokusha: Any list that fails to include the works of Isabel Allende has got some serious 'splaining to do. Her writing is absorbing and brilliant even in translation, and she writes strong characters, which can be appreciated by men or women.

 

Cordyceps: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.  It isn't fiction, but its mark on the world has been profound. Also: I love Love LOVE Barbara Kingsolver's work.  Especially Prodigal Summer.  It would make a nice counter point to Silent Spring, actually.

 

Steven Beattie: If I were to pick one book it would be The Tale of Genji. Because she kind of, you know, invented the novel form.

 

…And that’s the list.  Thank you everyone who took the time to help make this and the thousands who shared, tumblr’d, and tweeted. We encourage everyone to continue talking about books by women, books by men, books by anyone, and to make your own lists.  Most of the above books are available through local independent bookstores and Indiebound is an excellent service that will help you find them.