Recommended Reading: The Bloody Chamber


I’m recommending a hidden classic this week: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. Penguin has some beautiful editions. Check out my review at my blog Books Worth Reading.

Here they come, the best books of 2015…

I like NPR’s Book Concierge better than any other end-of-year roundups I’ve seen. It’s an elegant design that lets you hone in on just the types of books you’re most interested in. I already added several promising reads to my gigantic “to read” list.

The Wall Street Journal just picks the best of the best-of lists here. And New York Times Book Review columnists share the best books, new or old, they read this year.

Hang on, my obligatory best-of lists are coming!

Patricia Highsmith, misanthrope…


I explore my reactions to two of Highsmith’s thrillers and her cynical view of human nature in this essay on my blog Noir Femme.

An appreciation of Jane Austen…


I recently completed reading all of Jane Austen’s finished novels, a pleasant and rewarding project. Although her body of work was not large, there is not a single clunker in the bunch. The same cannot be said for many other novelists.

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. – Northanger Abbey

Like Shakespeare, Austen was a master of her form. As I was listening to Sense and Sensibility (the first of Austen’s books published but the last that I read), I happened to glance down at the progress bar just as Willoughby had sent his devastating letter to Marianne. It was exactly the fifty percent point. Austen know how to structure a narrative arc–she made it look easy.

Well, I am convinced that there is a vast deal of inconsistency in almost every human character. – Sense and Sensibility

Austen’s novels cannot be dismissed as merely romances. Her characters are fully realized people who come to seem like old friends, but they also represent the wide range of folly to be found in human nature. Austen used her constricted social settings to illuminate the limitations placed on women without coming across as preachy or melodramatic. Although her novels are 200 years old, we have no trouble relating to her characters or recognizing these issues with gender roles that our society still struggles with today.

But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world, as there are pretty women to deserve them. – Mansfield Park

Although Austen’s novels follow the same general format, each one is unique and has something important to say. Her satire on the gothic romance, Northanger Abbey, is often laugh-out-loud funny, but also a charming appreciation of readers and novels, as well as an exhortation to young women to rely on themselves and their own merits. Mansfield Park, on the other hand, showcases Austen’s biting, pointed wit; everyone gets exactly what they deserve in the end. As a coming-of-age story, Emma features a heroine who genuinely experiences self-realization and change over the course of the book.  (This essay is an illuminating look at how Austen pioneered a new point of view in novels that we now take for granted in Emma.) Many of us admire and want to emulate the headstrong, self-assured Elizabeth Bennett, but it is often Elinor Dashwood with whom we most sympathize and respect. Persuasion is possibly Austen’s most mature novel, a character study of an introspective, analytical heroine that advocates the rights of women to choose their own way in life.

She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning. – Persuasion

I’m sure I will continue to return to Austen’s novels as touchstones in my reading life. I count her among my favorite writers. Even after two centuries, her work remains relevant, inspiring, and unsurpassed.

Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind! But vanity, not love, has been my folly. … Till this moment I never knew myself. – Pride and Prejudice

Rebecca Solnit, fast becoming my new hero

Rebecca Solnit on books no woman should read:
“The list made me think there should be another, with some of the same books, called 80 Books No Woman Should Read, though of course I believe everyone should read anything they want. I just think some books are instructions on why women are dirt or hardly exist at all except as accessories or are inherently evil and empty. Or they’re instructions in the version of masculinity that means being unkind and unaware, that set of values that expands out into violence at home, in war, and by economic means. Let me prove that I’m not a misandrist by starting with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, because any book Paul Ryan loves that much bears some responsibility for the misery he’s dying to create.”

Another Blog Reboot

An Empty Earth is another project blog of mine that I’m reviving. It is mostly a bibliography of apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, with my notes. There are also some older essays about these genres, as well as essential reading lists. Check it out.

Recommended Reading: Going Through the Change


Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero NovelSamantha is a friend, and this is her first published novel. It is about four menopausal women who gain superpowers, a nice twist on the usual superhero fantasy. I promise if you read the first chapter, it will definitely hook you! This is the first in a planned trilogy.