A reading list for International Women’s Day 2018

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

‘International Women’s Day is a great time to reflect on the past, and appreciate the work of women authors who had to fight to have their writing published and taken seriously. Authors like Charlotte Brontë (who had to publish under a male pseudonym Currer Bell), Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and Christina Rosetti are some of my favourites from history, and are always worth a revisit. Another historical favourite of mine is the incredible Mary Shelley. With Frankenstein, a compulsively readable and enduring book, she single-handedly invented the genre of Science Fiction.

It’s also a great day to reflect on what we can do better – there is always room for improvement, and feminism is not exempt from this. Reading the work of authors Juno Dawson, Janet Mock, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Susan Carland remind us that, to paraphrase Dawson, there are as many ways to be a woman as there are women.’

Ellen Cregan, marketing and events coordinator

‘This International Women’s Day I’ll be reading Shout Out to the Girls, which contains mini-biographies of some of Australia’s most remarkable women, coupled with illustration from female Australian artists.

This is an absolutely fantastic introduction to some extraordinary role models from all walks of life: the arts, government, sports, science, and philanthropy, and it’s been done in a very positive and empowering way. Familiar names such as Cathy Freeman, Cate Blanchett and Julia Gillard sit alongside lesser-known heroes like 1920s mechanic Alice Anderson, robotics engineer Marita Cheng, and social worker Mum Shirl. It’s diverse, fascinating, inclusive, and a worthy book for any Australian bookshelf.’

Lian Hingee, digital marketing manager

‘Mainly I want to say that there is so much to be happy for this International Women’s Day – despite boring and boorish men leading our politics. Women are adjusting horizons. Stories are being shared. Young women are our new heroes. Honestly for the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful and encouraged. And there is plenty of terrific reading to keep my emotions buoyant.

Zadie Smith, for example, has a brilliant collection of essays out presently titled Feel Free. She covers a range of topics, and is always personable and reactive. If her take on social media is not enough to make you feel encouraged, perhaps dip into the translation of Olympe De Gouges’s The Declaration of the Rights of Women. First published in 1791, this essay has been reprinted with responses from various leading female thinkers.’

Chris Gordon, events manager

‘Ever since the needle on The New York Times began swinging towards the Red, I have been returning to resonant feminist texts for inspiration. A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft is a concise, elegant argument for the treatment of women as equal humans. Unfortunately, it is as relevant today as it was when originally published in 1792, yet despite that it is energising rather than enervating.’

Elke Power, editor of the Readings Monthly

‘Earlier this year I read Carmen Maria Machado’s incredible fiction debut, Her Body and other Parties, and was blown away by the opening story, 'The Husband Stitch’. Machado draws from fairy tales, science fiction, queer theory, pop culture and horror to explore what it means to be a woman, and in doing so, turns familiar stories and tropes upside down. This is the perfect book to pick up on International Women’s Day.

If you’ve already read this collection and are looking for something similar, try Jillian Tamaki’s comics collection, Boundless, or Intan Paramaditha’s newly translated story collection, Apple and Knife. As with Machado, Tamaki and Paramaditha push genre boundaries to explore contemporary womanhood.

Alternatively, you might be tempted to pick up a craftivism book such as Really Cross Stitch or Protest Knits. Crafting can be a therapeutic, fun and empowering form of protest.‘

Bronte Coates, digital content coordinator

'I’m hanging out for the third and final instalment of Hilary Mantel’s envisioning of the life and times of Thomas Cromwell, adviser to England’s Tudor King Henry VIII, which is reported to be in progress. I highly recommend the first two parts: Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. They are fascinating in their depiction of a man rising from obscurity to a position of great power, through sheer intelligence and ambition. Never mind that we’re talking about sixteenth century politics, monarchy, and the reformation of the church, the drama is just as relevant today, and the stakes higher. Mantel also made history by becoming the first woman to win the Man Booker prize twice, for these two books.

In the meantime, I’ll be reading the biography Prairie Fires of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. As a child I avidly read every book in the Little House series. I loved the character of young Laura Ingalls, who I considered the epitome of resilience as her family endured one set back after another in their quest to establish a homestead in latter nineteenth century frontier America. So I’m looking forward to finding out more about her remarkable life as she grew older, and during a challenging period of American history.’

Jan Lockwood, human resources manager

Find even more reading suggestions by browsing the collection below.

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Her Body and Other Parties

Her Body and Other Parties

Carmen Maria Machado

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