This month's task in the 2018 ONTD Reading Challenge is to read a book by a female author who is considered to be influential and has had a significant impact in literature, culture and/or society. There are ten suggested authors in this post, but please feel free to choose a different book from any of these recommended authors, and of course feel free to find a different author altogether! Don't want to read any of these authors? Scroll to see more recommendations and links!
Murasaki ShikibuFrom Wikipedia: "Murasaki's reputation and influence have not diminished since her lifetime when she, with other Heian women writers, was instrumental in developing Japanese into a written language. Her writing was required reading for court poets as early as the 12th century as her work began to be studied by scholars who generated authoritative versions and criticism. Within a century of her death she was highly regarded as a classical writer. In the 17th century, Murasaki's work became emblematic of Confucian philosophy and women were encouraged to read her books."
The Tale of Genji (first published 1008)
In the eleventh century Murasaki Shikibu, a lady in the Heian court of Japan, wrote the world's first novel.
But The Tale of Genji is no mere artifact. It is, rather, a lively and astonishingly nuanced portrait of a refined society where every dalliance is an act of political consequence, a play of characters whose inner lives are as rich and changeable as those imagined by Proust. Chief of these is "the shining Genji," the son of the emperor and a man whose passionate impulses create great turmoil in his world and very nearly destroy him.
This edition, recognized as the finest version in English, contains a dozen chapters from early in the book, carefully chosen by the translator, Edward G. Seidensticker, with an introduction explaining the selection. It is illustrated throughout with woodcuts from a seventeenth-century edition.
Phillis WheatleyFrom Wikipedia: "[Phyllis Wheatley] was honored by many of America's founding fathers, including George Washington, who told her that 'the style and manner [of your poetry] exhibit a striking proof of your great poetical Talents.' Critics consider her work fundamental to the genre of African-American literature. She is honored as the first African-American woman to publish a book and the first to make a living from her writing.
Poems of Phillis Wheatley
The poetry of America's first published black poet was published before the Revolutionary War and recognized throughout the English-speaking world.
Phillis Wheatley was born in Africa, sold as a slave in America, and became a celebrity in Europe.
This volume also contains a short memoir of her life.
Agatha ChristieFrom Wikipedia: "Christie's reputation as "The Queen of Crime" was built upon the large number of classic motifs that she introduced, or for which she provided the most famous example. Christie built these tropes into what is now considered classic mystery structure: a murder is committed, there are multiple suspects who are all concealing secrets, and the detective gradually uncovers these secrets over the course of the story, discovering the most shocking twists towards the end."
And Then There Were None (first published November 6th 1939)
First, there were ten - a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon.
Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they're unwilling to reveal - and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey.
Before the weekend is out, there will be none.
And only the dead are above suspicion.
According to Wikipedia: Le Guin has been described as "America's greatest living science fiction writer", has been awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters by the National Book Foundation, a lifetime achievement award, and included as a Living Legend in the "Writers and Artists" category for her significant contributions to America's cultural heritage by the U.S. Library of Congress.
Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin
A Wizard of Earthsea (first published 1968)
Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.
Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world.
This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance.
From Wikipedia: "Kingston has contributed to the feminist movement with such works as her memoir The Woman Warrior, which discusses gender and ethnicity and how these concepts affect the lives of women. She has received several awards for her contributions to Chinese American literature, including the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1981 for China Men."
Maxine Hong Kingston
Maxine Hong Kingston
The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (first published 1975)
A classic memoir set during the Chinese revolution of the 1940s and inspired by folklore, providing a unique insight into the life of an immigrant in America.
When we Chinese girls listened to the adults talking-story, we learned that we failed if we grew up to be but wives or slaves. We could be heroines, swordswomen. Throughout her childhood, Maxine Hong Kingston listened to her mother's mesmerizing tales of a China where girls are worthless, tradition is exalted and only a strong, wily woman can scratch her way upwards. Growing up in a changing America, surrounded by Chinese myth and memory, this is her story of two cultures and one trenchant, lyrical journey into womanhood.
Complex and beautiful, angry and adoring, Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior is a seminal piece of writing about emigration and identity. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1976 and is widely hailed as a feminist classic.
From Wikipedia: "Nin is hailed by many critics as one of the finest writers of female erotica. She was one of the first women known to explore fully the realm of erotic writing, and certainly the first prominent woman in the modern West known to write erotica. Before her, erotica acknowledged to be written by women was rare, with a few notable exceptions, such as the work of Kate Chopin."
Delta of Venus (first published 1977)
In Delta of Venus, Anaïs Nin penned a lush, magical world where the characters of her imagination possess the most universal of desires and exceptional of talents.
Among these provocative stories, a Hungarian adventurer seduces wealthy women then vanishes with their money; a veiled woman selects strangers from a chic restaurant for private trysts; and a Parisian hatmaker named Mathilde leaves her husband for the opium dens of Peru.
Delta of Venus is an extraordinarily rich and exotic collection from the master of erotic writing.
Butler was the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship (aka MacArthur Genius Grant). Her work has "helped define the literary cornerstone of Afrofuturism" and she broke ground as a Black female author in the science fiction genre dominated by white men.
Octavia E. Butler
Octavia E. Butler
Kindred (first published June 1979)
The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity.
Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life.
During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.
From Wikipedia: "Allende has been called 'the world's most widely read Spanish-language author.' In 2004, Allende was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2010, she received Chile's National Literature Prize. President Barack Obama awarded her the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom."
The House of the Spirits (first published January 2nd 1982)
In one of the most important and beloved Latin American works of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a luminous tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies.
Here is patriarch Esteban, whose wild desires and political machinations are tempered only by his love for his ethereal wife, Clara, a woman touched by an otherworldly hand. Their daughter, Blanca, whose forbidden love for a man Esteban has deemed unworthy infuriates her father, yet will produce his greatest joy: his granddaughter Alba, a beautiful, ambitious girl who will lead the family and their country into a revolutionary future.
The House of the Spirits is an enthralling saga that spans decades and lives, twining the personal and the political into an epic novel of love, magic, and fate.
Alice WalkerWalker was the first woman of color to win the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Color Purple, and she is considered "a major figure in what scholars term the renaissance in African American women’s writings of the 1970s."
The Color Purple (first published 1982)
The Color Purple is a classic. With over a million copies sold in the UK alone, it is hailed as one of the all-time 'greats' of literature, inspiring generations of readers.
Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls 'father', she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker - a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually, Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.
From Wikipedia: "Morrison played a vital role in bringing black literature into the mainstream. [...] She fostered a new generation of African-American authors, including Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Davis, and Gayl Jones" In 1993, Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Beloved (first published September 2nd 1987)
In the troubled years following the Civil War, the spirit of a murdered child haunts the Ohio home of a former slave. This angry, destructive ghost breaks mirrors, leaves its fingerprints in cake icing, and generally makes life difficult for Sethe and her family; nevertheless, the woman finds the haunting oddly comforting for the spirit is that of her own dead baby, never named, thought of only as Beloved.
A dead child, a runaway slave, a terrible secret--these are the central concerns of Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved.
Beloved is a dense, complex novel that yields up its secrets one by one. As Morrison takes us deeper into Sethe's history and her memories, the horrifying circumstances of her baby's death start to make terrible sense. And as past meets present in the shape of a mysterious young woman about the same age as Sethe's daughter would have been, the narrative builds inexorably to its powerful, painful conclusion. Beloved may well be the defining novel of slavery in America, the one that all others will be measured by.
OTHER AUTHOR SUGGESTIONS:
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Zora Neale Hurston
James Tiptree, Jr.
EVEN MORE CHOICES CAN BE FOUND HERE:
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