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Thursday, April 26, 2012

114

Really Good Books For People Who Are Reading a Lot of Articles About Girls

Let's just say there are a lot of articles about Girls. And, if you're like me, it's been making you think a lot about women, and friends, and the city, and becoming a person, and ESPECIALLY about all the wonderful, wonderful books about those things. Like these!

The Best of Everything, Rona Jaffe – I read somewhere that Lena Dunham makes everyone read the first two books on our list, which makes perfect sense to me, since they are The Books.

The Group, Mary McCarthy – Oh, okay, I mean anything by McCarthy is good for our purposes. You could also go with Memories of a Catholic Girlhood.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, ZZ Packer – Short stories are the best. More short stories. Sometimes I go through a phase where I decide to read a single short story every night before bed. Some of them by Packer, who is young and brilliant and beautiful and has interesting things to say.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath / The Women's Room, Marilyn French – So, here's the deal. I do not actually like either of these books, personally, but that doesn't mean I don't think they're extremely important for the whole gestalt of this thing we're talking about. Maybe you should buy a lot of wine and get in bed for a week and plow through Valley of the Dolls and Peyton Place, too? Call me! That sounds like fun.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, Jeanette Winterson – I just finished Winterson's new memoir. Oooomph. Wow. Please read it, because it's really vital for anyone feeling overwhelmed by the masses of privilege being brought to the table by many of our other selections and also our main topic. She's a genius. She was this tough, scrappy genius in a terrible environment, saved by THE WRITTEN WORD, AS ARE WE ALL.

The Robber Bride, Margaret Atwood – WOMEN, am I right? No, really. Am I right? Are we here to help each other, or to return from the dead and steal each other's lovers? Who knows.

Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood, bell hooks – This is definitely not one of hooks' better known works, but it's a personal favourite. I never get tired of hearing about how reading can fuck up your life in the best possible way: complicating you, freeing you, pissing you off, making you difficult to work with, making you hard to pacify.

Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade
, Rickie Solinger – The losers at Kirkus called it "regrettably dry." They can suck it, because it's completely fascinating and rocks your entire world. There's no point in talking about girls becoming women in this country without talking about reproductive freedom, and you really do have to talk about reproductive freedom as meaning completely different things, historically, to black and white women. It's incredible.

You should be watching Veep, too. Veep is fun. Watch it with your female friends. Don't come back from the dead to steal their lovers.

114 Comments / Post A Comment

crane your neck

I just read THE BEST OF EVERYTHING and wanted to tell everyone about it. Thank you so much, Nicole!

Gnatalby

I literally just tabbed over from reading an article about Girls.

paperbuttons

@Gnatalby hand to god, so did I, and my husband was sitting in the other room reading a different article about Girls. Shit's bananas.

ingrid.tuesday

Zenia of The Robber Bride was the heroine, right? It's been a while since I read it, but I remember thinking those women were much better off without their lousy men.
What about The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark? Not that I've seen "Girls", but it seems like The Girls of Slender Means is the same story, only in wartime London.

phlox

@ingrid.tuesday This is like my favourite Atwood! Zenia's not the heroine, she's the nemesis. And the Walrus just put out a new Atwood short story about her.

plonk

@ingrid.tuesday i recommended "the girls of slender means" below! i love that book a lot. such a strange blend of familiar and alien, and so bitchy and so so sad.

Steph

@ingrid.tuesday youu kind of just blew my mind a little bit! They were WAY better without their men- Zenia totally did them a favor. Might need to re-read with my new perspective shift.

FulanaDeTallcan

@phlox ...but maybe she means that Zenia halfassbackwards IS the heroine because the men she stole were so wack? (Well, not West, he seemed okay in a tepid brontosaurus kind of way.)
Also, thanks for the link! I might have to subscribe to The Walrus just to get to hear the end.

leastimportantperson

@ingrid.tuesday Totally agree! Zenia was like this almost merciful bitch-goddess acting out the tragedy of heterosexuality. <3/loathe her.

phlox

@FulanaSutanaMengana Tepid brontosaurus! That is the best description.

D.@twitter

@ingrid.tuesday This was the first book of Atwood's that I read. Zenia was basically a sociopath, but just like the three women in the books, I was drawn to her anyway.

dale

I hope someone is rigging the lotto for me to win tomorrow, because otherwise how am I to catch up on all this reading?

Susanna

A girlfriend gave me The Group and it knocked my socks off. I thought the original SATC novel was dark, but no... Not a patch of MacCarthy. And nor is Mad Men - Mad Men wishes it were as good as The Group.

ZZ Packer! I met her once ('ware, namedrop) at a book party and she said I was a doppelganger of her friend - we had a confused drunk conversation and I forgot to tell her how superb Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is. I need to dig it out again...

franceschances

@Susanna Why are there no more collections of her short stories? I need more!

Speaking of cake, I have cake

@Susanna I really didn't like The Group and I was expecting to, so it was a bummer. I just found it depressing, and everyone in it was such an asshole. To me it felt like it had been written by an insecure person who wanted to settle scores with the rich bitches who were mean to her in college. Not saying that's what Mary McC was doing, it's just how it felt to me.

Gwdihw

@Susanna Is the SATC book really dark? I had never heard this.

Susanna

@Susanna Wikipedia says she's working on a novel about the aftermath of the Civil War. Not short stories, but sounds promising, no?

Susanna

@l'esprit de l'escalier That's my memory of it, from ten years ago. Everyone is pretty horrible and takes lots of drugs. It is *not* the TV version.

Susanna

@Speaking of cake, I have cake It's hard to read a book where everyone's horrible, and it is indeed bleak as hell. But it's good!

Biketastrophy

I feel bad, but I was disappointed to not find any links to articles about Girls.

Cat named Virtute

@Biketastrophy Do you need more? I've read probably eight in the past week.

noReally

Nora Ephron wrote an awesome piece about The Best of Everything, maybe when she had the column in Esquire? Collected in Crazy Salad. Same book has an excellent piece on feminism and sex fantasies. Katie Roiphe isn't fit to carry Nora's bags.

PotatoPotato

READ. THIS. BOOK.

I loaned mine out and I'm not sure I actually got it back, which is a shame because I wanted to loan it to so many people.

literary_hippie

This list. So much YES!

chnellociraptor

Am I allowed to ask why you didn't like the Bell Jar? Not to like, start some brawl over Sylvia Plath, I'm just curious.

martinipie

@chnellociraptor I didn't really like it either, but that's maybe because I didn't read it until I was past what I think of as kind of the threshold for finding it awesome? Same deal with Catcher in the Rye. Maybe it's just me but I think there's a window from like, 12-18 wherein you can read those books and think they Speak The Truth and Get You ohmygod. But I read both for the first time (for the same course, actually) after that window and didn't hate them per se, but found them a little navel-gazey and immature.

chnellociraptor

@martinipie That's fair. I read it when I was 17 and I suppose I did have a pretty big, teenager-y response to it, but I still enjoy it. Though in all fairness, I am not that far out of adolescence.

Nicole Cliffe

@martinipie I'm with you. I didn't read it until this last year. Also, Ted Hughes is my second-favourite poet, behind Philip Larkin, so I think I'm secretly Team Cruel Male Poets.

Faintly Macabre

@martinipie Same here. I read it last year, I think, when I was 21/22, and I found it more depressing than lifechanging. Though some of my reaction's probably just from personal taste--I don't tend to like depressing or tragic books because they make me depressed. Doubly so for books about mental illness.

themegnapkin

I didn't like the Women's Room, either. It was totally readable - I plowed through it in about a day and a half - but got worn down by it.

sox
sox

@Faintly Macabre I read it at 23, and although I did find it depressing, if I'd read it between 12-18 when I Really Was Depressed, there's good chance I'd have tried to drown myself, eat a bottle of aspirin and crawl up under the front porch, or come up with something even worse. But I liked it in some strange way, like when a tooth is loose and the pain feels so good when you wiggle it back and forth.

glitterary

@martinipie I actually love The Bell Jar. I first read it when I was... seventeen? for class, and wasn't particularly moved by it. I mean, it was like a version of Catcher In The Rye (which I hate) where I could relate to the protagonist and she was actually a worthwhile sort of person, as opposed to Holden Caulfield who does nothing but whine whine whine, oh my god SHUT UP. But then when I was 20, I became chronically depressed, and suddenly everything about The Bell Jar just fell into place. There are so many different ways people experience depression, and Esther's is so like mine that it became suddenly searing and really important to me. But that's a really personal route to liking a book, and I get why it's not universally appealing.

Bittersweet

@martinipie: Other masterpieces of literature that were less awesome at 30 than at 17 - Wuthering Heights (sorry, Emily) and Romeo & Juliet. Maybe it's just jealousy from a long-married crone...

Verity

@martinipie I read them both while in that age range and wasn't all that fond of either of them. (Admittedly, I was very bad at being a teenager.)

chnellociraptor

@Bittersweet Ugh, I could never really get on board with Romeo and Juliet at any age. I mean, there are passages I appreciate, but the story is just dumb. Dumb people shouldn't be together, the end. I recently produced a three-hour staging of it and wanted to die the entire time.

Cat named Virtute

@Bittersweet Agreeeeed. But I read those at 16 and 15 respectively and still despised them both. Still hated WH at 20 when I had to read it for a Victorian lit seminar. UGH. HEATHCLIFF IS NOT ROMANTIC, HE IS A JACKASS.

superdreaming

@Nicole Cliffe YES team cruel male poets. Ted Hughes does something really fabulous/electrifying with predators in a lot of his poetry that I just can't get over.

glitterary

@Marika Pea@twitter I really, really liked Wuthering Heights, but hated pretty much every character. But in that “oh wow, this is an amazing book about awful people” sort of way that is very rare. I think if only one of them had been awful I would have hated it, but because it was all horrible people ruining each other’s lives rather than just being miserable to nice people it was a highly enjoyable train wreck.

Decca

@chnellociraptor My Plath trajectory went like this:
age 14 - read The Bell Jar, like it a lot
age 17 - grow to disdain Plath cause you're aware of how much of a cliché it is for a mopey bookish teenage girl to like her
age 21 - get over yourself, read the journals and the poems, ignore Johnny Panic, fall back in love with her.

I recently heard an interview with her. Her speaking voice is so extraordinary, very attractive and lively.

Bed Monster

@martinipie Oh man, I've read both. I hardly remember The Bell Jar, but boy do I remember Catcher in the Rye. Pretty much everyone in my high school English class hated it with a capital H, but I was ok with it. I grew to love it over time mostly because I felt like it was ahead of its time. Salinger was commenting on a phenomenon that would soon become pretty common among teenagers due to the economic boom post-world war two and how that benefitted/changed what it meant to be an adolescent. It also helps that my dad loves that book, and we have one of those father-daughter things with it.

meganmaria

@chnellociraptor I read The Bell Jar last year. I had to put it down for a couple months, because I had read some spoilers on Goodreads to see if it was something I was in the mood to read and they said how the book was semi-autobiographical and I kind of related to some of her descriptions of her ambivalence about certain situations. Then I read how she committed suicide. I actually had a recurring nightmare for about a month that she was chasing me around with go-go-gadget arms and legs, trying to get me to stick my head in an oven, too, because, “You’ll love it! It’s a gas!”.

JadedStone

@meganmaria I am a horrible horrible person for laughing at that last line.

I LOVE the Bell Jar. Then again, I went through a phase of 'books about women and suicide' so I mean, DUH.

Decca

@Nicole Cliffe I also really, really like Ted Hughes and I hate the immediate vilification of him from lots of sources. The whole of The Hawk in the Rain collection is so great: there's a poem in there called Incompatibilities and it's wrecking my head that I can't find a copy of it online because it's amazing and shows how sexy and fucked up their relationship was from the start.

meganmaria

@Jade To be honest, I was pretty freakin' impressed with my subconscious (or whatever) for coming up with that.

But in the dream, Sylvia morphed from her lovely self into some weird hybrid of Freddie Kreuger in the first Nightmare on Elm Street and that weird animation style from The Rugrats with crazy hair and smeared, uneven bright red lipstick all over her face.

Jubie

Incompatibilities
Desire's a vicious separator in spite
Of its twisting women round men:
Cold-chisels two selfs single as it welds hot
Iron of their separates to one.

Old Eden commonplace: something magnets
And furnaces and with fierce
Hammer-blows the one body on the other knits
Till the division disappears.

But desire outstrips those hands that a nothing fills,
It dives into the opposite eyes,
Plummets through blackouts of impassables
For the stars that lights the face,

Each body still straining to follow down
The maelstrom dark of the other, their limbs flail
Flesh and beat upon
The inane everywhere of its obstacle,

Each, each second, lonelier and further
Falling alone through the endless
Without-world of the other, though both here
Twist so close they choke their cries.

Ted Hughes, The Hawk in the Rain, Faber & Faber, 1972.

from 'ere

Decca

@Jubie Oh brilliant! Thank you so much. I kept searching but you are better at the internet than I am.

"But desire outstrips those hands that a nothing fills,
It dives into the opposite eyes"

Nnf.

hallelujah

Instead of a list I make myself, I am just bookmarking every one of these and calling it a day on the Books to Read front. Everything sounds so lovely and fascinating!

billie_crusoe

I LOVE JEANETTE WINTERSON SO MUCH. It's embarrassing, really. As in, I want to write her love letters, and I have never felt the urge to write to an author / musician / artist before. I swear, my mother has the same psychopathies as Mrs. W, and I identify with Jeanette so much. READ IT.

dtowngirl

@che I just finished "Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal"--it was fantastic. I love her!

literary_hippie

@che Yes! Winterson was on my exams reading list, and despite my stress and tears, I wanted time to slow down so I could enjoy Sexing the Cherry more.

Cat named Virtute

@che Ahhh, SO much Winterson love. The Passion makes me swoon. I love getting lost in her language.

dale

@all I hug ALL of you Winterson fans. Let's have a weekend getaway where we lounge about in our jammies all reading her books.

Also there will be cake. Because books + friends = good reason for cake.

Nicole Cliffe

We should meet in London at the organic food store she owns. Um, I'm not a dangerous stalker. Really.

Verity

@Nicole Cliffe Ooh. I want to go to there.

billie_crusoe

@Nicole Cliffe AHH YES. Books and cake and organic food! And London!

stonefruit

@Nicole Cliffe TICKETS BOOKED, let me know the actual dates once we've firmed this up.

scojo

nicole cliffe, you on fiyah!

RK Fire

Sadly, I skimmed through this and thought that this last line, "Don't come back from the dead to steal their lovers" was a reference to Game of Thrones/ASOIAF than anything else and kept on thinking to myself "I don't recall the White Walkers/Others stealing other people's lovers!"*

I will read more carefully in the future.

EDIT/PS: How does anyone feel about Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club being on this list? I first read it when I was 16 and thought "omg, I totally relate to this as a 2nd gen Asian American" and then, three years later, rolled my eyes and said "ugh, this is such a cliche Asian American memoir-ish book**" and now, nine years down the line, I still think there's a lot w/r/t women, and growing up, and developing your own identity in various circumstances (most of them urban) that would meet the broad frames of this list.

*maybe the Night King?
**I was obnoxious in college, sometimes, especially since this was the book that, in hindsight, kicked off the flurry of Asian American memoirs in the 90s. also, the movie probably employed 95% of the working Asian American actors/actresses during the time period.

RK Fire

@RK Fire You know, if I remember it correctly, I think Joy Luck Club had very little to do about women and friends. However, it's really heavy on mother/daughter relationships, from both sides.

Lucienne

@RK Fire I'm not Asian/Asian American, so I can't come at JLC from that perspective, but I do think that Amy Tan speaks to my mother's generation much more than she speaks to my generation. (Although I think my mom likes different Amy Tan novels? Kitchen God's Wife, maybe?) I've noticed this with some of my friends, too: their moms love Amy Tan, pretty much regardless of race and ethnicity - my friends, not so much.

Which actually makes the book more interesting, so. (Should clarify: not more interesting because as a story about being Asian American it is uninteresting! Just because the reaction actually seems to be split along mother/daughter lines in my highly anecdotal experience.)

werewolfbarmitzvah

@RK Fire I have a reputation for being a book snob AND for almost never reading contemporary novels, but lemme tell ya, I can devour an Amy Tan book like it's a box of Mallomars. She seems to write the same book over and over again (except for Saving Fish from Drowning, the other books are pretty firmly set in the mother-daughterish time-period-shifting sort of thing), but lordy is it all incredibly absorbing. Kitchen God's Wife is my favorite!

sox
sox

@RK Fire Did you read Saving Fish From Drowning? Everything about it is so good!

On a side note, I read The Joy Luck Club in 12th grade and loved it to pieces being that I grew up in a Rural Appalachian Nowhere but had visited San Fransisco and wanted to move there SO bad and therefore felt so culturally informed and sophisticated reading it. And then I read Mr. Murder by Dean Kuntz even though I hate murder books. ...A couple weeks later I was interviewing for a scholarship and they asked what the last book read was and to talk about the dynamics of it a bit and instead of telling a white lie and citing the cultural amazeballs that is The Joy Luck Club, I stupidly talked about Mr. Murder. I did not get invited to the next round of interviews. So. Much. Regret.

LMac

@RK Fire Ugh, The Kitchen God's Wife is so important. Joy Luck is fun and a good read, but Kitchen God really takes it up like, twelve notches.

RK Fire

@Lucienne: The mom dynamic you've noticed is really interesting! I had imagined that her books really speak more to anyone who has felt cross-cultural tugs growing up, which could really cross race and go into a number of ethnic or class lines. However, I could really see how moms, especially contemplative moms, think about their experiences an dhow they might project onto their daughters. (Could it be the class or maybe an urban/suburban thing for you and your friends' moms? Just a really random guess... like maybe your moms are thinking about their lives versus their moms' lives?) I've been thinking about the reverse a lot lately, which is probably why I'm a little less scornful of JLC right now.

@everyone on the thread: I don't think I've read any of her other books! Well, I tried reading one more when I was 17 but I was unimpressed... that being said, I'll definitely Kitchen God's Wife and take a look at Saving Fish While Drowning. Also, I realize I haven't read any Asian American fiction/memoirs in a really long time.

Lucienne

@RK Fire Hmmm, well, my life has been pretty solidly suburban, and so have the lives of my friends, but I don't know that much about their mother's lives pre-suburbia, let alone their grandmother's lives. (You are definitely right that familial narratives of race, class, and ethnicity really play into individual reading of JLC.) And I think there's definitely a sense of "but my life was like this and you don't even know what I gave you/gave up for you/lived through before you existed" in pretty much anyone's relationship with their mother. JLC hits that relationship really hard.

So, I guess you read the book as a mother or you read it as a daughter, and it's difficult to toggle between the two positions. Maybe it's slightly easier if you're both mother and daughter, but I'm 23 and so most of my friends are just daughters.

MmeLibrarian

Thank you for reminding me that I've been meaning to read The Group since I saw Betty Draper with it. Library request submitted.

George Templeton Strong

@MmeLibrarian Try to get your hands on McCarthy's A Charmed Life. It's a thinly veiled roman a clef about her disastrous marriage to Edmund Wilson and their time living in Wellfleet. It makes the Draper marriage seem idyllic and aspirational by comparison.

George Templeton Strong

@George Templeton Strong Also, when we all run into Mary McCarthy in the afterlife, hope that Lillian Hellman is in a separate ward and don't mention her name.

Maria

Thank you, Nicole! I was just trying to figure out what books to take on vacation.

FoxyRoxy

I'm going out of town tomorrow and wondered what to read on the plane. I'm all over The Best of Everything. Great list!

nyikint

Nicole, I just want to say - you've been really knocking it out of the park for the last couple of days.

Cat named Virtute

This is extremely relevant to my interests, as I cannot seem to stop reading about this damned show even though it infuriates me (maybe because a tiny part of it also charms me? Ugh).

ALSO I just picked up Love in a Cold Climate as per 'Pinner recommendations from six months ago, so thanks for that! I'm really looking forward to it.

I'd also like to talk about how I'm fifty pages away from the end of We Need to Talk About Kevin, and oh MAN, guys, it is so grim and depressing in a way I did not at all expect.

Interrobanged

@Marika Pea@twitter DUDE YES, let's talk about We Need To Talk About Kevin. The movie version was playing at the second run theatre near my house, and the book was so good (but so harrowing) and I adore Tilda Swinton . . . but I just cannot with seeing actual people act it out.

(Have you gotten to the twist ending part yet?)

billie_crusoe

@Interrobanged OOH, is the book good? I love Tilda Swinton, so I saw the movie, but I don't know if I can handle the book! (I guess the reverse of what you said? Books are way more intense to me than movies.)

Cat named Virtute

@Interrobanged I haven't seen the movie OR gotten to the end yet (went out drinking instead of finishing the last fifty pages last night), but oh man it just makes me so depressed reading it. Especially because I can see some elements of myself magnified in Eva, which is disturbing (thank god I'm not planning to have children, oh god). And I'm never sure how much is her being fucked up and how much is Kevin being fucked up, and oh man, it is playing games with me.

Cat named Virtute

@Interrobanged Ahhhhh, I just finished it! Oh man, it was good but SO FUCKED UP and harrowing, and ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

plonk

THE GIRLS OF SLENDER MEANS by Muriel Spark!!!!

pityslice

The Bell Jar features a vivid description of an avocado filled with crab salad... And it directly led me to buy fake crab meat to make my own version, which was a mistake.

MeghanElizabeth

@pityslice I've always wanted to do that! And isn't there some grape jelly and avocado talk too?

Rebecca Cowley@facebook

Oh my, Like Life by Lorrie Moore please.

Dorothea

@Rebecca Cowley@facebook everything (except a gate at the stairs) by lorrie moore!!! i am such a huge lorrie moore fan girl. and why not self-help? hello, being a young woman in the city making questionable decisions in a sharp, poignant voice!

oh, disaster

@blahstudent Self-Help forever.

Decca

@oh, disaster When I was 14 my mother gave me a copy of Self-Help, which was really, really excellent mother behaviour.

joie

Nicole, what have you done to me?!?! I of course ignored the other, better recommendations from the free classic Kindle books and have instead been devouring the Outlander series. Ugh, I think deep down what I really enjoy is historical romance novels.

Fayebelline

Was really excited to read The Best of Everything, but had to give it up because it was just dull and less about career gals than their relationships. Plus, it was pretty poorly written - she claims she wrote it virtually straight out and was barely edited. If that's true, then you can totally tell.

null

Every time one of these posts comes up it means I'm going to have several more books to add to my "to read" list.

Amphora

@klaus Plus the recommendations of other books by the same authors in the comments...I'm at 55 and counting on this year's list!

JoanTition

I love the Best of Everything and read it basically every summer
and then I read Valley of the Dolls
and then I like to roll around on the beach (because that's where I read them!)
and then I like to scream about wanting a pill problem or to be named Gregg or to LIVE BACK IN A TIME WHEN THINGS WERE NOT GREAT BUT APPEAL TO ME NONE THE LESS

and then my boyfriend gives me a joint and let's me babble feminist theory re: the books

so basically I love summer & books about ladies (and my boyfriend).

Interrobanged

Female friendships and other relationships between women are one of my top five favourite things for reals. You know, I've never had a serious relationship/been in love, so my most important connections have been with my female friends, and representations of those kinds of relationships and womanhood are super relevant to my interests. So thanks, Nicole!

Would strongly recommend Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier.

Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse

@Interrobanged I LOVE Born Confused!!! It's one of my favorite books. It makes me sad that no one else on earth seems to know about it (except you apparently!).

Lucienne

Oh: Sula. (Okay, not cosmopolitan. Still wonderful.) Also Passing (toxic female frenemyship).

beezus.

I loooooved "The Group."

Bonus: The movie is available on Netflix Instant, worth watching for the fact that it stars a young Jessica Walter -- as in, LUCILLE BLUTH!

melis

i dunno what you mean
i would never try to take julia from you
shes never even seen me

Verity

*adds things to reading list*

This is somewhat off topic, so I apologise, but I thought if I went and posted it on a more relevant book thread, nobody would see it. Can anyone recommend a good biography of Louisa May Alcott? I suddenly really want to read about her and transcendentalism and abolitionism and everything!

beezus.

@Verity This is off-topic of your off-topic post, but I recently went on a Wikipedia binge reading about L.M. Montgomery, and would love to read a good actual biography of her ... if anyone knows of one, would love to hear about it.

mascarasnake

@Verity Slightly off-topic, but I can't wait to read Alternative Alcott - it seems so far from the books she's known for.

mascarasnake

One more novel about a girl coming of age in the city - Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid.

Cavendish

I would put Cat's Eye next to Robber Bride, because holy shit.

Amphora

@Cavendish YES CAT'S EYE! Robber Bride has been on my bookshelf untouched for years. Taking my cue to read it now.

ingrid.tuesday

@Cavendish Cat's Eye is the best Atwood, at least if you were picked on by other girls as a child and felt like you were the only girl ever picked on by other girls and are not bitter about it at all in adulthood, of course not.

Cavendish

@Amphora I love Robber Bride! You should totally read it. I should read it again. I think I was a little young for it (like 17), which is why Cat's Eye resonated so much more.

Susanna

@Cavendish If ever I meet someone who needs to understand what being a girl is like, I give them Cat's Eyes.

stonefruit

@Susanna I read the crap out of Cat's Eye in like 4th or 5th grade, and figured that's what Atwood generally wrote about. So then I tried A Handmaid's Tale in 6th grade, which at the time I found boring, baffling, and not at all cool.

I corrected for this a few years ago, and am ashamed it took me so long.

George Templeton Strong

The Best of Everything was also made into an over-the-top movie starring Hope Lange, Suzy Parker, Louis Jourdan, and Joan Crawford. Peyton Place, Valley of the Dolls--those movies have nothing on this one. Netflix has never heard of it but you can watch the trailer on youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8r_k6o-W9g

Spooky Behaviour

la;dsfkjaoe;alfkjsdfl;kj ZZ PACKER !!!! "Brownies" might be tied with "The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried" for the-most-powerful-short-story-ever-written. I want to create some sort of garment out of it's pages so I can cloak myself in ZZ Packer's awesomeness. I *may* have settled for licking every page instead.

oh, disaster

My new life goal is to read every book Nicole recommends. I'm prepared to die trying, a book in hand.

Decca

Another relevant book would be my journal, ages 16-22.

harebell

This list desperately needs Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Girls of Slender Means, and Loitering with Intent. Dark, witty, ironic, biting, plus daring deeds involving a gorgeous Elsa Schiaparelli dress. I suppose it takes it out of the "Girls" era, since many novels are set in the 20s and 30s, but so good, so much tougher and darker and more humane than most books written more recently.

Big second to Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy if You Could Be Normal?, though. Be sure to read it after Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, not before, so you don't have any surprises spoiled.

Yay for lists of good books.

George Templeton Strong

@harebell Have you ever read Sparks's Memento Mori? I recommend it highly. It's the opposite of Girls.

Charlotte

I just saw the movie of "The Best of Everything". It's Mad Men. Right down to the office doors. SOMEBODY OUT THERE WATCH IT.

adriana

Nicole, I love this column. My Goodreads bookshelf is blowin' up, thanks to you. BUT can I suggest that you link to independent bookstores instead of Amazon? ( <3 u Powell's Booksie! )

George Templeton Strong

This thread, I think, has probably come to an end but to anyone who is still reading this:

I was in my early 20s when I came across Margaret Drabble's "The Radiant Way." Has anyone read it? I bought (literally, and I mean literally, and I know what literally means) two dozen copies and made every recipient read it. I loved it. Many of the recipients did not! I am not an English woman and my sister isn't A. S. Byatt and my husband isn't Michael Holroyd and I'm not one of the three dozen British people allowed to write everything that gets published but still...If I had a book to write it would be modeled after "The Radiant Way."

paperbuttons

I feel like I have to go write a Billfold post about how dangerous it is for my budget when I read this column. There is something Nicole's writing style and genuineness and enthusiasm that makes me basically just click back and forth between this page and Amazon, adding book after book to my cart.

But buying books doesn't count anyway because books are good for you! Right?

cape

ahh! Veep. So good. Perhaps not quite as biting as (the essentially original iteration) The Thick Of It (see also In The Loop) but brilliant and if Armando Ianucci isn't one of the wittiest, most deft male-writing-for-female-character writers out there, I don't know who is. Veep. The trump card in Sunday's hand.

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