A reading list for International Women’s Day 2019

Happy International Women’s Day! Our staff share their recommendations on what to read to mark this significant day, first held in 1914.

iwd2019fish My main claim to fame around the Readings office is that I was on board the Naomi Alderman The Power train before anyone else had read it, and I correctly guessed it as the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction that year. It’s an absolutely terrific book, and I highly recommend it if you’re wanting to read something that’s as entertaining as it is galvanising.

This year’s Women’s Prize longlist looks like an absolute corker. I’ve only read two of the 16 so far, but both are remarkable in their own ways. Pat Barker’s beautifully evocative retelling of The Iliad, The Silence of the Girls, takes an ancient story and imbues it with a modern voice that feels immediately and painfully familiar. Barker’s Briseis is not positioned as chattel to be quibbled over like a piece of wartime loot; she’s a formidable figure in her own right – full of strength, resilience, and a consuming female rage. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Melissa Broder’s The Pisces, a grubby, sexy, and confronting modern mermaid story that forces readers to consider our complicity in pursuing fantasies at the cost of everything else.

This International Women’s Day I’d like to make a start on reading more of the Women’s Prize longlist – I just have to decide whether to start with staff favourite Sally Rooney’s Normal People, or follow my nephew’s recommendation and read Madeline Miller’s Circe. Or maybe I’ll buy Sarah Moss’ slim little volume, Ghost Wall, which our Carlton bookseller Marie rhapsodises about. Or Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister the Serial Killer, which sounds wickedly entertaining. Whatever I decide on, I’m absolutely spoiled for choice.

Lian Hingee, digital marketing manager

iwd2019pink This International Women’s Day, I want to highlight the work of early-career female-identifying and non-binary writers. Jamie Marina Lau’s excellent novel Pink Mountain on Locust Island is the book I think I recommended the most in 2018, and the buzz surrounding it continues to grow – it was recently longlisted for this year’s Stella Prize. It is an energetic and experimental debut that is just delightful.

Candice Carty-Williams’ book Queenie, which comes out at the beginning of April, is maybe my favourite book I’ve read this year (so far). It focuses on themes of mental health, everyday racism, consent, family, and toxic relationships, and somehow tackles all this in a super readable and enjoyable way. It’s also really funny – Carty-Williams is a force to be reckoned with.

I’d also like to start reading Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. I have read so much buzz about their work, and I am excited to get stuck into it. Freshwater was on this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist, and it’s fantastic to see someone like Emezi, who is gender non-binary and was happy to be submitted for the prize, included in the list for the first time. I always want my feminism to focus on being inclusive, supportive and intersectional, and it’s comforting to know that organisations such as the Women’s Prize feel the same way.

Ellen Cregan, marketing and events coordinator

iwd2019burn It’s always a good day to read stories about strong women, but even more so in these challenging times. I am particularly passionate about youth literature that inspires young women to feel strong, empowered and able to stand up for themselves – skills I wish I had as a confused, terrified teenager. Laura Bates’ new book, The Burning, is one such inspiring read. Bates is the author of Everyday Sexism and Girl Up, and her debut YA novel is about a young girl so hounded on social media that she is driven to move towns, change schools and erase her online presence. In her new town, she is drawn to a story of local witch hunts, and the parallels between her experience and how women were persecuted in 17th century Scotland are plain to see. This is a fantastic read for young women (and men) about the perils of group think and social media’s mass surveillance.

I also can’t go past the enticingly titled Watch Us Rise by up-and-coming US authors Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan, and of course beloved Amelia Westlake, the winner of the Readings YA Prize and a fabulous feminist romp to inspire fierce, funny girls. Today and all days, rise up young women and let us hear you roar!

Angela Crocombe, Readings Kids manager

iwd2019daisy I’m pregnant, and all the fun pregnancy side effects (nausea, exhaustion, pain, the urge to do nothing but watch mindless terrible TV etc.) have affected my reading quite a bit over the last seven months. I currently have a list of books by women that I want to read, and I’m hoping if I buy them all and sit them on my bedside table, I’ll get my reading mojo back.

So, for the women out there who are feeling a little out of sorts this International Women’s Day, here’s that list – I hope it inspires you as well: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffmen, The Glad Shout by Alice Robinson, A Love Story for Bewildered Girls by Emma Morgan, Witches: What Women Do Together by Sam George-Allen, On the Come Up by Angie Thomas and What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume.

I also want to shout-out three YA books I completely loved from last year that have been appearing on various award shortlists and longlists in recent weeks, which is making me very happy: Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough, Between Us by Clare Atkins and I Am Out With Lanterns by Emily Gale. If you have a young woman in your life, buy her one of these.

Nina Kenwood, marketing manager

iwd2019baz I’m currently reading Heidi McKinnon’s two picture books I Just Ate My Friend and Baz and Benz, which has got me thinking about building strong friendships. For far too long, books, TV and film have leaned on the ‘mean girls’ trope, where girls are pitted against each other (often for the affections of a boy) and toxic friendships abound. Well, no more. Heidi McKinnon’s first picture book I Just Ate My Friend does an excellent job demonstrating a clear example of a toxic relationship by highlighting the pitfalls of eating your friends. Meanwhile, in Baz and Benz, we see examples of friendships based on tolerance and understanding – sometimes your friends can be a little annoying and say MEEP! all the time, but that doesn’t mean you should be mean to them and stop playing with them. These gender-neutral little monsters and owls have a lot to teach young children about healthy friendships, with the added benefit of making you and your child cackle uproariously.

Dani Solomon, Readings Kids assistant manager

iwd2019siri I’ve been devouring Siri Hustvedt’s latest novel, Memories of the Future, which explores one woman’s aim to live as genuinely and creatively as possible. The protagonist, S.H, uses the discovery of a long-lost notebook to analyse her memories and emotions from 40 years earlier. It is a startling read and perfect for International Women’s Day, because it asks the reader to reflect on what being a woman means in a divisive and staid environment. It is genuinely quite brilliant.

Chris Gordon, events and programming manager

iwd2019lip International Women’s Day should be a day of celebration and pride, but my positive feelings this week have been affected by the horrifying news reports about Preethi Reddy. Because of this, the books that have been on my mind are mostly ones where characters and authors are trying to make sense of extreme, conflicting emotions, which in turn have helped me process my feelings of anger and helplessness.

One of them is Melissa Lucashenko’s blistering account of one family’s ability to survive intergenerational trauma, Too Much Lip. Each of the characters’ lives has been twisted by violence, and as they try to untangle this history, you can feel their confusion, denial, and incandescent rage. Lucashenko tells this story with deft humour and compassion: her straight-talking, no-bullshit hero had me laughing out loud, and by the end, I was sobbing big, splotchy tears.

I also recommend Maggie O'Farrell’s brilliant I Am, I Am, I Am, but only to someone who can stomach a book that goes to some dark places. O'Farrell’s memoir is an account of 17 brushes with death she’s experienced, and some are very triggering. If you do feel up to it, however, what emerges is a fierce and hopeful call to arms to face the world with courage.

Finally, one of the best things about books is how they comfort you and give you hope. So I think I’ll pick up Clare Wright’s You Daughters of Freedom, for a vision of what can be achieved with persistence, and some old favourites: Naomi Novik’s bewitching fantasy Uprooted and Elizabeth Wein’s heart-rending World War II YA Code Name Verity.

Jackie Tang, digital content coordinator

Find even more reading suggestions by browsing the collection below.

 Read review
The Silence of the Girls

The Silence of the Girls

Pat Barker

$19.99Buy now

Finding stock availability...