2016 has been a hard one. In this relentless-feeling year, it’s been exhausting to be a woman (and to be just about anyone, truth be told.)
Now, as 2017 becomes our present, many may be feeling a more pervasive anxiety than just your usual New Year’s resolution-induced funk. So, as we move towards this New Year, we need as much to look forward to as possible.
How better to spark a little joy and buoy us than a good, feminist book?
Here are a few favorites – some 2016 releases you may have missed, some due out in early next year – you definitely want to add to your reading list.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
What’s not to love about Roxane Gay? Her earlier release, Bad Feminist, is a gospel for the 21st-century woman. If it’s smashing success, remarkable candor, and brutal honesty is any indication, Difficult Women promises to be your favorite New Year read. This book, which is made up of several short stories, centers around the narratives of complex, contradictory, ambitious women. The stories’ characters are, according to a preview on Amazon, lead “hardscrabble lives, [have] passionate loves, and [make] quirky and vexed human [connections.] That Gay treats these women with her signature mix of deep compassion and honest critique should come as no surprise. Her desire to show us women who make questionable decisions will remind fans of her essay on our habit to characterize nuanced women as “unlikeable.”
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Lindy West’s debut book is a must read. West, now also known for her widely shared post-election New York Times piece, is a masterful writer who brings her bright, bloggy voice to book form with verve. It’s funny, sharp, and witty, so those of us who first met West via her biting, deeply feminist Twitter account feel right at home. West’s simultaneously sarcastic and profound social commentary forces readers to reckon with our tendencies to shame and quiet women we call too loud, too fat, too bossy. Shrill sheds light on the importance of a woman’s right to her body and her voice.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Lab Girl, a beautiful new memoir by renowned geochemist Hope Jahren, tells the story of her early life and the plants she worked with along the way. You might know Jahren from her phenomenal blog, on which she’s taken on every topic from vaccinations to how to talk to sexist people. Jahren, a woman in STEM herself, depicts the harsh realities of being a woman in a dominated field with honesty, hope, and humor. In a post on her blog about how best to handle sexist comments, Jahren wrote “…they say this stuff because they want you to go away…every day that I don’t go away is my victory.” Luckily, she hasn’t gone away — in fact, you can crack open Lab Girl for more of her phenomenal and transformational writing.
A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman
Controversial writer Ayelet Waldman’s latest work shares her experience using small doses of LSD as a mood stabilizer. Waldman, who is know for being upfront about her mental health, has struggled rather openly with depression and mood disorders for much of her life. Her previous works, perhaps most notably Bad Mother, have been fodder for many conversations about how we judge women, parents, and ourselves. She is brave, brash, and unafraid to write things as she really sees them. Waldman’s newest book promises to be a fascinating and philosophically challenging peak into her journey with psychedelics as treatment.
South and West by Joan Didion
Prolific writer Joan Didion’s personal notebooks are rife with half-finished writings and jotted down inspirations. This latest book of hers is a combination of drafts. One she wrote in a journal following a trip in the South with her husband in the early 1970s. Another, Amazon reports, she “began [on] assignment from Rolling Stone on the Patty Hearst trial.” The book also includes her early thoughts about the West, many of which she expanded upon in later works. Didion’s cross-country musings are sure to make for a meaningful read. Her work, know for its beauty and precision, has made her a beloved stronghold of American writing.
From a passionate blogger’s first foray into book writing to a seasoned favorite, these authors and their phenomenal words are just the thing that might help us go bravely into the new year.