Friday, October 4, 2013

Suggested Reading for the Students of a Certain Professor

By Kim

This past week a University of Toronto professor and Giller award nominee stirred up a media backlash with his comment that he is not interested in teaching books by women, Chinese authors or, oddly, books by his fellow Canadians. (For the full article, click here.)

As you can imagine, this professor is taking a beating and it's not just women authors who are irate. Yesterday author Karen Essex started a thread on Facebook calling for everyone to stage a boycott – instead of buying this professor’s book, buy something by a female author or a Chinese author or, preferably by a female Chinese author. Historical fiction writer C.W. Gortner  (a man) promptly posted that he was “getting everything Pearl S. Buck ever wrote, plus a little Toni Morrison and Isabel Allende on the side to complement [his] F*** You platter.

C.W., if you are reading this, please know that I added one of your books into the stack of a half-dozen or so books by minority women I bought today. I'm sure you won't mind.

For students of the-professor-who-won’t-be-named-here, the contributors of What Women Write put together a list of potential authors for you to study should you grow bored of reading all the “serious heterosexual guys” your teacher has on the syllabus. We have, I think, managed to include women authors from every continent. Many of these writers are widely accepted as part of the literary canon and are often taught in university classes. Some have won major awards. Others have just written some damn fine books.

As a big fan of Canadian literature, I threw in quite a few authors who hail from your side of the border.

I urge you (and everyone really) to buy or borrow some of these books. 

Toni Morrison – Sula, Song of Solomon, Beloved
Pearl S. Buck – The Good Earth, A House Divided
Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird
Gloria Naylor – Mama Day
Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre
Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights
Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
Virginia Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse
Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility
Sojourner Truth - Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave
Elizabeth Barrett Browning – Sonnets From the Portuguese
Harriet Beecher Stowe – Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Emily Dickenson – Poems
Louisa May Alcott – Little Women, Little Men
Christina Rossetti – Verses
George Eliot – Middlemarch, The Mill on the Floss, Adam Bede
Harriet Jacobs – Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Kate Chopin – The Awakening
Edith Wharton – The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence
Willa Cather – The Song of the Lark, My Antonia
Gertrude Stein – The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Joyce Carol Oates – Black Water, What I Lived For
Madeleine L’Engle – A Wrinkle in Time
Maya Angelou – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar
Flannery O’Conner – Wise Blood, The Violent Bear it Away
Doris Lessing – The Golden Notebook, The Fifth Child, The Good Terrorist
Nadine Gordimer – July’s People, Burger’s Daughter
Jamaica Kincaid – Annie John, The Autobiography of My Mother, Lucy
Isabelle Allende – House of the Spirits, Of Love and Shadows, Eva Luna
Eudora Welty – The Optimist’s Daughter, Losing Battles
Betty Smith – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Joan Didion – The Last Thing He Wanted, Democracy, The Year of Magical Thinking
Annie Proulx – The Shipping News, Brokeback Mountain
Jane Urquhart – Map of Glass, The Underpainter, The Stone Carvers
Margaret Laurence – The Diviners, The Stone Angel
Ursula K. Le Guin – The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, The Farthest Shore
Jean Rhys – Wide Sargasso Sea
Isak Dinesen – Out of Africa, Babette’s Feast
Jhumpa Lahiri – Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake
Anne Sexton – Live or Die, The Book of Folly
Katherine Mansfield – In a German Pension, The Garden Party
Sue Monk Kidd – The Secret Life of Bees
Adeline Yen Mah – Falling Leaves, Watching the Tree
Zora Neale Hurston – Their Eyes Were Watching God
Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie – Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun
Amy Tan – The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife
Alice Munro – Dance of the Happy Shades, The Moons of Jupiter, The Progress of Love
Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale, Cat’s Eye, Life Before Man
Alice Walker – The Color Purple
Gwendolyn Brooks – Annie Allen, We Real Cool
Adrienne Rich – On Lies, Secrets and Silence; The School Among the Ruins
Elizabeth Strout – Olive Kittridge
Geraldine Brooks – March, Caleb’s Crossing, Year of Wonders
Thrity Umrigar – The Space Between Us, The Weight of Heaven
Ann Patchett – Bel Canto
Sally Gunning – The Widow’s War, Bound, Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard
Anne Tyler – The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons
Bebe Moore Campbell – What You Owe Me, Brothers and Sisters
Elizabeth Berg – Open House, Durable Goods, Talk Before Sleep
Kate Morton – The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours
Cathy Marie Buchanan – The Day the Falls Stood Still, The Painted Girls
Dani Shapiro – Devotion, Slow Motion
Barbara Kingsolver – The Poisonwood Bible, Pigs in Heaven
J.K. Rowling – the Harry Potter series
Marilynne Robinson – Gilead, Home
Nikky Finney – Head Off and Split, The World is Round
Margot Livesay – The Flight of Gemma Hardy, The Missing World
Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies
Jane Smiley – A Thousand Acres
Sue Miller – While I Was Gone, The Good Mother, Inventing the Abbotts
Cheryl Strayed – Wild, Torch
Anna Quindlen – Black and Blue, One True Thing
Carson McCullers – The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, The Member of the Wedding
Laura Ingalls Wilder – Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy
Margaret Dilloway – The Care and Handling of Roses With Thorns
Maeve Binchy – Tara Road, A Circle of Friends, Nights of Rain and Stars
Jacqueline Luckett – Passing Love, Searching for Tina Turner
Mary Oliver – American Primitive, New and Selected Poems
Rosamunde Pilcher – The Shell Seekers, September
Katherine Anne Porter – Ship of Fools
Lan Samantha Chang - All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost; Inheritance: A Novel
Yiyun Li - Gold Boy, Emerald Girl: Stories, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers: Stories 

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. If you have further suggestions, please feel free to offer them in the comments.


  1. Love it! Thrilled to see Margot Livesey on here. The opening to The Missing World is so masterfully crafted!

    1. I agree, Kathryn. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I hadn't heard the flap. Thanks for this comprehensive reading list :-)

  3. Say whaaaat?! Unbelievable.

    (Great list!)

    1. I do wonder what century he's living in.


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