Posted by: biblioglobal | January 26, 2014

Year of Reading (Global) Women

I came across a couple of posts the other day listing a recommended book by a female author for each month of the year. One list focused on Arabic literature at the Arabic Literature (in English) blog and another list focused on South Asian writers at southasiabookblog.

I got some great reading ideas from both of them and thought it would be fun to make my own list of recommendations. I’m not an expert the way the writers of those two posts are, but I made a list of some of my favorite books by female authors from around the world.

January: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (Japan). I fell in love with this quiet and lonely short novel when I listened to a friend read it aloud.

February: Far and Beyon’ by Unity Dow (Botswana).  Unity Dow was Botswana’s first female high court judge, but she’s also a novelist, writing in this book about a family trying to balance traditional and modern culture.

March: Wild Swans by Jung Chang (China). This well-written history tells the story of much of the 20th century in China through the experiences Chang, her mother, and her grandmother.

April: The Country under my Skin by Gioconda Belli (Nicaragua). This is a fascinating memoir by a woman who was part of the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua.

MayProdigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (U.S.A.). This is my favorite book by Kingsolver, though not necessarily her most renowned. Read The Bean Trees or The Poisonwood Bible if you prefer, but definitely check her out.

June: A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua and Barbuda). I initially read this book about the challenges of living on a small Caribbean tourist-destination island for a class. The class never ended up covering the book, but I was very glad I had read ahead.

July:  Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria). When I was reading this book about a family living through the Biafrian civil war in Nigeria, I was completely immersed in its world. The characters were so nuanced and human, I found myself thinking about them all of the time.

August: The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht (Serbia). This novel is about a young woman doctor in a Balkans country recovering from the recent wars. It sometimes went a bit too magical-realism for my tastes, but

September: The Circle of Karma by Kunzang Choden (Bhutan). The fictional story of an illiterate Bhutani woman from a small village who makes her way into the wider world.

October: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Catherine Boo (U.S.A./India). This non-fiction book about life in a Mumbai slum reads like a novel and stings like a bee.

November: In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (Dominican Republic). I read this historical novel as a teenager and I would credit it with beginning to make me more aware of the world beyond the U.S. and Europe. I listed it in November because the U.N. International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is on November 25th, in honor of the Mirabal sisters (who fought against dictatorship in the Dominican Republic and who this book is about).

December: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (U.K.). I know, this is completely incongruous to the rest of the list. But I just couldn’t leave it out.

I also got thinking about many of the books by female authors I’m looking forward to reading and made a list of some of them too. I don’t have any plan to follow this as a schedule though. They are just books I’m excited about reading. Some of them are for the book-from-every-country project, others not.

January: The Mountain by Drusilla Modjeska (Australia/Papua New Guinea)

February: Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe by Doreen Baingana (Uganda)

March: Tutor of History by Manjushree Thapa (Nepal)

AprilStory of Zahra by Hanan Al-Shaykh (Lebanon)

May: Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela (Sudan)

JuneSo Long a Letter by Mariama Ba (Senegal)

JulyEmpress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang (China)

August: Absent by Betool Khedairi (Iraq)

September: Lunatic in my Head by Anjum Hasan (India)

November: The Color Master by Aimee Bender (U.S.A.)

December: Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Somalia/Netherlands)

I’d love to see more people make recommendation lists. Maybe ones for Latin American or African Literature? Or for a specific genres like science writing? Or just your own personal favorites,


  1. Great!!! I am in process of making my own year-long books to be read by global women of color, and trying to think of a way to use the new interest in this on the GWC site. Any ides? Want to help/contribute?

    You list some books I also love and some that I really must find.

    • Great, I look forward to seeing your list!

      I haven’t looked into it, but I think there’s a twitter hashtag you could use? I’m not that up on my use of social media…

  2. Have you found a copy of The Mountain by Drusilla Modjeska? I have looked long and hard for one to borrow or buy (cheaply) and failed.

    • I hadn’t looked until just now, but it looks like I can get it through the academic library’s inter-library loan. I don’t know whether you can get access to an academic library, but some places have community memberships.

  3. Reading women writers around the world is a wonderful challenge. I love to read translated fiction, but this area too suffers from an under representation of women authors, so highlighting those that have been is a good cause in my book!

    Love your list of favourites. I hope you find more in 2014.

    • I hadn’t thought much about the interaction between translation and gender. That does seem to be an added issue. Reading a bit about it just now, I also found it quite interesting that while women are under-represented in translations, they are over-represented as translators.

      • That doesn’t surprise me that there aremore women translating work, as one of the reasons often cited by Review Editors that more women aren’t reviewing is that men are more proactive and put forward proposals about what they want to review, whereas women wait to be asked – suggesting even those women Review Editors are more likely to react than to proactively seek out other reviewers.

        I would suspect with translations, that it is the publisher deciding and then requesting a translation, rather than translators proactively deciding which books they want to translate and approaching a publisher or an author.

        It seems we have to be more proactive and the #readwomen2014 challenge is certainly promoting that!

      • Good point! The book Women don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever is a great discussion of that topic. (And has inspired me to ask more.)

  4. I just posted my list of GWC books. I totally agree about wishing others would post theirs, especially about women of color in particular places.

  5. Wonderful list. Many of them are on my TBR, but also lots of new ones to add. I read So Long a Letter, none of the rest yet!

  6. […] Bibliglobal year of Reading (Global) Women […]

  7. My reading wish list has now been greatly expanded. Thanks for the ideas.

    • That could be a good thing or a bad thing!

      • Bad only in the sense that I have imposed a book buying ban until I can get my stock of unread books down to a manageable level. Which means it will be a long time before I can buy anything from my wish list

  8. […] a year ago, I posted A Year of Reading (Global) Women with two lists of books. One list of books I had read and loved by women around the world, one for […]

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