08 March 2019

6 Books to Celebrate Women's History Month

The other day I was in one of those rare states of being in between both print/digital and audiobooks. When I was thinking about what to read next, I remembered March is Women's History Month. This prompted me to sort through my new releases to see which titles would fit the theme. I found books geared to young adult readers and to adults. My mix includes fiction and nonfiction, and one is written in verse.

Although not all the books I feature today are technically women's history, I think they all nicely celebrate the spirit of Women's History Month.

review American Princess by Stephanie Marie ThorntonAmerican Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton (Berkley, March 12): Alice Roosevelt, daughter of President Teddy Roosevelt, was a no-nonsense, you-can't-stop-me kind of woman. She grew up in the public eye and knew how to use that platform to its best advantage, without stifling her wild side. Yes, she smoked cigarettes in public, but she also understood Washington, DC. Even so, she was less savvy when it came to friendships and love, and her flamboyant personality veiled some deep sorrows. This well-researched novelized version of Alice's life begins in 1901 with her father's unexpected presidency (after McKinley was assassinated) and ends in late 1970s, just before her death. Alice witnessed two world wars, women's suffrage, two presidential assassinations and one resignation, and great changes in technology and society. Audiobook: Penguin Audio; 15 hr, 27 min; read by Elizabeth Wiley.

review The Real Wallis Simpson: A New History of the American Divorcée Who Became the Duchess of Windsor by Anna PasternakThe Real Wallis Simpson: A New History of the American Divorcée Who Became the Duchess of Windsor by Anna Pasternak (Atria; March 5): You know who Wallis Simpson was: the woman who caused a king to give up his throne. Simpson's disruption of the monarchy is often thought of as the least of her sins. She was supposed to have been a Nazi sympathizer and spy and self-promoting schemer. Pasternak's new biography provides an alternate perspective of what lay behind the gossip and public perceptions and paints a different picture of the woman who was shunned by Britain, suggesting that the royal family took advantage of the situation to dethrone Edward, whom they thought unfit to rule. In this account, Simpson is less concerned with becoming a queen than she is with the welfare of her husband, being the only one who knows how to placate his whims and moods. Pasternak also suggests a fairly innocent reason for the Windsors' interest in Hitler. Did Simpson get a raw deal from the royals and the media or did she deserve her bad press? This biography helps round out Simpson's story. Audiobook: Simon & Schuster Audio; 11 hr, 37 min; read by Laura Kirman.

review Salt on Your Tongue by Charlotte RuncieSalt on Your Tongue by Charlotte Runcie (Canongate, March 5): It's a little hard to describe this book of personal essays because Runcie covers so much territory within its covers. As the subtitle--"Women and the Sea"--suggests, the unifying thread of her pieces is the ocean. Some of the essays are clearly nature writing; some are about motherhood; and others take a literary, mythology, or history bent. Women have always had a mixed relationship to the sea. The ocean took their husbands and sons but also provided food, beauty, and recreation. Runcie explores the shoreline and tidal pools, recalls songs and poems celebrating the sea, and turns to the waves when life is overwhelming. Shakespeare, folk tales, Greek mythology, and science all make appearances, but Runcie's Scotland and its rugged coast is the star. This is a book for those who love the beach. Audiobook: Cannongate; 8 hr, 48 min; read by Jessica Hardwick.

review Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David ElliottVoices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott (HMH Books for Young Readers, March 26): This novel in verse geared to young adult readers imagines Joan of Arc's last day through multiple perspectives, some living, some not. Elliott uses a variety of poetic forms, which are signaled by typeface, placement of the words on the page, and ornamented initial capital letters. We hear from Joan's mother and Catholic saints; from the king and from her childhood friends. We also hear from inanimate objects, like a church's altar; from animals, including a stag; and from emotions and states of being, such as lust. Elliott bases at least some of his work on the historic records of Joan's two trials. The first trial includes Joan's own words and resulted in her being burned at the stake. The second trial, held years after her death, documents the voices of the people who knew her well. The book includes a map, a guide to pronunciations, and an index of poetry forms used. Forget the "young readers" label; this is for you too. Audiobook: no information.

Review of Women Who Dared to Break All the Rules by Jeremy ScottWomen Who Dared to Break All the Rules by Jeremy Scott (Oneworld, March 12): This collection of short biographies focuses on six women who defied their gender stereotypes and/or societal expectations to follow their own advice. Some are well-known women, such as Mary Wollstonecraft whose equal rights document has inspired women for centuries. Others are more obscure, such as Margaret Argyll, who was often the subject of a hostile press as she pursued her passions (and divorces). The other women are Victoria Woodhull (women's suffrage), Aimee Semple McPherson (a preacher), Edwina Mountbatten (last vicereine of India), and Coco Chanel (fashion icon). This collection provides a good introduction to interesting women who were a force to be reckoned with during their lifetimes; some of them are still making waves today. The book is illustrated with black-and-white photos and ends with a bibliography of the sources used. Audiobook: no information.

Review of Yes She Can compiled by Molly DillionYes She Can compiled by Molly Dillion (Schwartz & Wade, March 5): This book collects the stories of 10 young women who served in the White House during the Obama administration. Now a few years older and in a different America, these women give us an inside look at the everyday workings of the White House, share their thoughts on being part of a historic presidency, and inspire women and girls to find their own place in American government. Although these women helped shaped their country and the world, they aren't afraid to share their blunders and mistakes, and it's exactly this personal and down-to-earth viewpoint that makes these essays so accessible. You too, no matter your age, can make a difference: get out the vote, become an activist, volunteer, find a new job--just do what you can to make the world a better place for everyone. The book includes a glossy photo insert and ends with a guide for how young people can become involved in the day-to-day business of running the government. The target audience is young adult, but these smart, capable women are speaking to all American citizens. Audiobook: no information.


rhapsodyinbooks 3/8/19, 7:01 AM  

Good list! I was always fascinated by Joan of Arc, and the thoughts of women who served in the Obama administration sound very interesting.

bermudaonion 3/8/19, 8:15 AM  

Nice variety of books to celebrate women! American Princess and Women Who Dared to Break all the Rules appeal to me the most.

Kay 3/8/19, 8:31 AM  

I remember seeing the cover of American Princess and thinking it might be a good one. The others look good as well. Great list for this month! And I love the fact that you include the audio info as well. I'm reading about half my books by listening to them.

Susie | Novel Visits 3/8/19, 8:38 AM  

Several of these are appealing to me, but Yes She Can stands out the most. I think it's because I can't stop longing for a better time!

Daryl 3/8/19, 8:53 AM  

awesome ... and i know who needs these ...

sherry fundin 3/8/19, 10:03 AM  

Thanks for sharing some new to me authors.
sherry @ fundinmental

Les in Oregon 3/8/19, 2:56 PM  

Great list! I'm very interested in The Real Wallis Simpson and Yes She Can. Thanks so much for sharing these titles with us.

Vicki 3/9/19, 8:52 AM  

I'll be checking my library for these.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 3/9/19, 9:16 AM  

I'm fascinated with Women Who Dared. I didn't, and sometimes I wish I had.

Of course it's never too late....

(Diane) bookchickdi 3/11/19, 12:15 PM  

I'll keep my eyes out for American Princess and The Real Wallis Simpson.

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