By Barbara Lee
Summer is in full swing, and that means some downtime to unwind (if we’re lucky) and get wrapped up in a good book. Here are six women-focused reads on my list this year, some political, some personal and one perennial favorite to celebrate the season.
Rad American Women A- Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped our History…and our Future! by Kate Schatz
Encyclopedias aren’t exactly fun summer reading. Until now. Writer Kate Schatz and illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl put a feminist twist on the traditional A to Z book with Rad American Women A – Z. The slim book is sized for kids and appropriate for adults, too.
It combines my passion and my mission: It’s a vibrantly colored collection of illustrations that focus on women who have broken the rules, broken barriers and built legacies. Readers will learn about activists, abolitionists, sports stars and scientists from Angela Davis to the Grimke Sisters to Billie Jean King and Rachel Carson.
We can’t be what we can’t see, and this book helps open our eyes to all that is possible for girls and women. It will no doubt be on the list of books I love to give to the future (and current) feminists in my life.
Plenty Ladylike: A Memoir by Senator Claire McCaskill with Terry Ganey
Senator Claire McCaskill is one of the strongest, smartest women I know. Few people could manage the loss of a husband, sexist slings and notoriously tone-deaf opponents with such grace. Her memoir will be in my travel bag as soon as it hits stores on August 11.
She exemplifies what happens when women are at the table in politics: They change the conversation by making it more inclusive, effective – and in Claire’s case – unapologetically honest. The senator from Missouri shares her personal path from high school to the State House to the U.S. Senate, including the obstacles and opportunities along the way. In her trademark candor and charm, Claire has described how she is leading the way for other women leaders: “Today we should be saying to young women: speak out, be strong, take charge, change the world.” Ladylike, indeed.
The Senator Next Door: A Memoir from the Heartland by Senator Amy Klobuchar
I met Amy Klobuchar when she was a stand-out county prosecutor and have supported and admired her ever since. From her roots in suburban Minnesota to her role as first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in her state’s history, Amy has always remembered where she comes from and who she serves. Amy has a solid track record of professional results – we can thank her for guaranteed 48-hour post-delivery hospital stays for mothers, which she accomplished before she was even elected. With a disarming sense of humor, Amy’s substance and style will shine in her to-be-released memoir. I can’t wait to pick up a copy on August 25.
Pioneer Girl: An Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Edited by Pamela Smith Hill
This book’s size alone makes it more textbook than beach book. Yet the 472-page hardcover tome is one of the hottest sellers, with first editions scoring up to more than three times the cover price since its release last December. And it’s a book that many of us read decades ago. Or so we thought.
Pioneer Girl: An Annotated Autobiography is the unfiltered memoir of famed Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder. If the Little House novels are for pre-teens, this is nonfiction for the women they’ve become: more brutally honest, complete with spelling errors and the scathing setbacks that characterized life in 1870s America. This book isn’t yet available for e-readers, so we’ll have to read it in hard copy. Perhaps by candlelight, for authenticity’s sake.
Poems from the Pond by Peggy Freydberg, Edited by Laurie David
Martha’s Vineyard inspires artists of all kinds. The island’s stunningly simple beauty is the subject of paintings, the setting for songs and the source of inspiration for writers (I’m lucky to spend time there every summer). The late Peggy Freydberg, a novelist and columnist, was a long-time Vineyard resident who found her poetic voice at the age of 90, writing poignant poetry about the essence of life, love and loss from a woman’s unique perspective. Peggy saw the galleys right before she passed away this spring at 107. This collection of poems is a tribute to the human spirit — and a testament to the fact that creativity knows no age limit.
The Beach Book by Gloria Steinem
This book is a piece of happy nostalgia I revisit every summer. Written in 1963, it is one of feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s earliest books, and a glimpse into her love for travel. Its appeal has endured for more than 50 years, proving that wanderlust is timeless. The inside flap covered in foil for sunbathing shows how far we’ve come!
Read more: Summer Reading: The Women’s Edition