500 Great Books by Women by Erica Beurmeister, Jesse Larsen, and Holly Smith

Title: 500 Great Books by Women
Authors: Erica Bauermeister, Jesse Larsen, Holly Smith
Published: 1994
Genre: Reference
Pages: 387
Rating: ***
500 great books by womenHere is an articulate guide to more than 500 books written by women, a unique resource that allows readers the joy of discovering new authors as well as revisiting familiar favorites. Organized by such themes as Art, Choices, Families, Growing Old, Growing Up, Places and Homes, Power, and Work, this reference book presents classic and contemporary works, from Lady Nijo’s thirteenth-century Japanese court diaries to books by authors including Toni Morrison, Alice Hoffman, Nadine Gordimer, and Isabel Allende. With annotated entries that capture the flavor of each book and seven cross-referenced indexes, 500 Great Books by Women is a one-of-a-kind guide for all reference readers and book lovers that celebrates and recommends some of the very best writings by women. (from the back cover)
Thoughts: As this is a reference book, there really isn’t much to review. This book is, as the title says, a book about books written by women. Divided into various topics, the book consists of 500 short reviews. I was expecting most of the books mentioned to be classics written by women but, although classics are included, this turned out not to be the case. One of the great things about the book is its indexes. Besides the expected ones by title, date, etc. there is also an index for books concerning people of color in the US and an index of books dealing with LGBT themes. I admit I am somewhat confused by the last one: it’s called ‘Index of Some Books About Gay and Lesbian People.’ The index lists lists about 20 titles that were reviewed in the book, but, as I read this book straight though, I can say that there are at least twice as many books with those themes in the book that aren’t listed and I’m not sure why, although there must be a reason for it. One of the bad things about this book is that it is quite dated; it was published in 1994 and I suspect that some of the books, especially the older ones, might now be hard to find. I also had some problems with the reviews, and one reviewer in particular, that I thought were not that well written (although perhaps I shouldn’t point the finger- I know my reviews could use improvement!)- saying that an author writes in ‘voluptuous prose’ or that the images of a book will stay with you ‘like hallucinations you experience when you have a fever’ is not going to induce me to read a book, I’m sorry to say.
     I was quite surprised at the number of books I had already read or had already planned to read. But of course, the best thing about this book is that I have added to my TBR substantially! Here’s what I picked out -I’ve put in parentheses what chapter section the books fell under and I’ve underlined those I’m particularly looking forward too.
Confession of Lady Nijo by Lady Nijo; c. 1300; Diary; (Heritage)
A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft; 1792; Non-fiction; (Power)
Memoirs of a Korean Queen by Lady Hong; c. 1796; Memoir; (Power)
Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth; 1800; Novel; (Conflicting Cultures)
The Cavalry Maiden: Journals of a Russian Officer in the Napoleonic Wars by Nadezhda Durova; 1836; Diary; (Pioneers and Seekers)
Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, in a Two-Story House, North, Showing that Slavery’s Shadows Fall Even There by Harriet E. Wilson; 1859; Novel; (Trials and Adversity)
Mountain Charley or the Adventures of Mrs. E. J. Guerin, Who sas Thirteen Years in Male Attire by Mrs. E. J. Guerin; 1861; Autobiography; (Pioneers and Seekers)
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs; 1861; Autobiography; (Trials and Adversity)
The Irish R. M. by E. (Edith) Somerville and Martin (Violet Florence) Ross; 1899-1915; Short Stories; (Places and Homes)
The Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin; 1903; Non-fiction; (Places and Homes)
The Convert by Elizabeth Robins; 1907; Novel; (Choices)
Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim; 1922; Novel; (Pioneers and Seekers)
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie; 1934, Novel; (Observations)
The Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck; 1946; Novel; (Growing Old)
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey; 1951; Novel; (Power)
Storm in the Village by Miss Read (Dora Jessie Saint): 1958; Novel; (Work)
The Bell by Iris Murdoch; 1958; Novel; (Ethics)
Floreana: A Woman’s Pilgrimage to the Galapagos by Margaret Wittmer; 1959; Memoir; (Pioneers and Seekers)
The Wall by Marlen Haushofer; 1962; Novel; (Imagined Worlds)
Two in the Far North by Margaret Murie; 1962; Autobiography; (Pioneers and Seekers)
The Censors by Luisa Valenzuela; 1976; Short Stories; (Trials and Adversity)
Kindred by Octavia Butler; 1979; Novel; (Imagined Worlds)
How to Suppress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ; 1983; Non-fiction; (Power)
Lemon Swamp and Other Places: A Carolina Memoir by Mamie Garvin Fields with Karen Fields; 1983; Autobiography; (Places and Homes)
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns; 1984; Novel; (Growing Up)
Fiela’s Child by Dalene Mathee; 1986; Novel; (Identity)
Grey is the Color of Hope by Irina Ratushinskaya; 1988; Memoir; (Ethics)
Dancing of the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places by Ursula K. Le Guin; 1989; Essays; (Art)
The Road to Miyama by Leila Philip; 1989; Non-fiction; (Art)
The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway; 1989; Autobiography; (Growing Up)
The Nocturnal Naturalist by Cathy Johnson; 1989; Journal; (Observations)
Plain and Simple by Sue Bender; 1989; Memoir; (Ways of Knowing)
Real Farm by Patricia Tichenor Westfall; 1989; Essays; (Ways of Knowing)
Through the Arc of the Rainforest by Karen Tei Yamashita; 1990; Novel; (Imagined Worlds)
Quiet Odyssey: A Pioneer Korean Woman in America by Mary Paik Lee; 1990; Autobiography; (Pioneers and Seekers)
Living by Water: Essays on Life, Land, and Spirit by Brenda Peterson; 1990; Essays; (Ways of Knowing)
Regeneration by Pat Barker; 1992; Novel; (Violence)
Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage, and Survival by Velma Wallis; 1993; Novel; (Growing Old)
     That’s 38 books total! I am not challenging myself to set a timeline for these books or even committing myself to reading all of them; they simply sounded interesting and I might want to read them in the future. And increasing the number of books I read that are written by women in never a bad thing either 🙂
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About hillarypat

I'm a recent college graduate and this is my blog where I talk about whatever happens to be on my mind- mostly books!
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12 Responses to 500 Great Books by Women by Erica Beurmeister, Jesse Larsen, and Holly Smith

  1. angirach says:

    Reblogged this on The Cool – In Review and commented:
    Awesome find! AHorseAndACarrot is awesome!

  2. TBM says:

    This sounds like a great resource, a little dated, but that will always be the case for these types of resources. How cool!

  3. severalfourmany says:

    Interesting list. I have been reading a good bit of older Asian lit. and seem to have missed Lady Nijo.
    Lady Hong’s Memoirs of a Korean Queen is really an amazing and moving book. I think you would really like it. I would recommend reading this version: The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea translated by JaHyun Kim Haboush (http://www.amazon.com/Memoirs-Lady-Hyegyong-Autobiographical-Eighteenth-Century/dp/0520200551/ref=rec_dp_1). It is an excellent modern translation, includes all four of the memoirs and has a good introduction, notes, genealogies and glossary.

    • hillarypat says:

      I’m really excited to read Lady Hong’s memoirs! It seems like something that I would really enjoy. Thanks for recommending a good edition; when I get around to reading it I will look for that version!

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