If you’ve ever studied literature, you’ll know that feminism and gender equality are among the favourite topics of academics.
Almost every assignment I’ve ever been set has included an option to discuss women and how they are portrayed in texts, and I have not let one slip. I’ve written about sexism and sexuality, power and patriarchy, and lots more contained inside book covers. But I’d never thought much about the covers themselves.
So you can imagine my conflict when asked to arrange the books at work into ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ sections. While this may be an effective sales technique, it went against everything I’ve ever written to exclude children from certain books, experiences and ideas based on their gender. And don’t even get me started on the colour of the ‘Girls’ section. (Clue: it wasn’t imaginative.)
Gender-based marketing is happening all over, especially for children’s products. Dolls and beauty products are often labelled ‘Girls toys’, whereas boys are directed towards action figures and cars. All this does is reinforce gender stereotypes that are not helpful or progressive.
Unfortunately I was unable to change the display. However, I would always encourage any child to be curious about books, games or toys that are not marketed for their gender. Adult fiction is not separated into ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ and neither should children’s fiction be separated so. If I want to read a book covered with pictures of creepy-crawlies, computers, and cars, I jolly well will.
When times are tough, a good book always makes me feel better. So for anyone wishing to take a break from their worries and dive into a new novel, here is a list of my Top 20 Books So Far.
- Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
- Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
- The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
- Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence
- Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
- I know why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- The Awakening, Kate Chopin
- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
- Atonement, Ian McEwan
- Persuasion, Jane Austen
- To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
- Therese Raquin, Emile Zola
- Dangerous Liaisons, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
- Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
- A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket
- The Organized Mind, Daniel Levitin
- The Jiggy McCue series, Michael Lawrence
Which books would make your Top 20? I’d love to hear your suggestions below.
Today is a wonderful day. As an English student, most of the literature I read was written before my great-grandparents were born. And while I love reading stories from literary giants, such as, Dickens, Hardy and good old Bill Shakespeare; their work is somewhat struggling to keep up with my life.
So, quite wonderfully, I have discovered a new book, written this century, that has already convinced me to read it cover to cover. And shockingly, it’s non-fiction.
Enter: The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin.
This Sunday Times bestseller ‘will teach you to function better, go further and find more time to do the things you actually want to do.’ Levitin teaches us about organisational systems through time, how the brain organises and categorises information and how we can put these to our advantage. This is a book that is not only aware of, but actively engages with the Internet and social media – at one point it directs us to a YouTube video – for useful, scientific purposes.
So far, I haven’t finished reading. But Levitin tells us that in the late 1600s, I might have given up on books altogether. He says that just like warnings we received against TV and computers, ‘intellectuals warned that people would stop talking to each other, burying themselves in books, polluting their minds with useless, fatuous ideas.’ This seems unbelievable. To think, that at one point academics actually discouraged reading! Luckily for Levitin, their ideas don’t seem to have been very influential.
There are many more gems like that one in The Organized Mind, but I won’t give them all away. Except, I can’t help revealing that I love Levitin’s use of the feminine pronoun ‘she’ as standard. So it’s a feminist book too. Perfect.