A Feminist Reading List

We_can_do_itElizabeth Heritage asked for recommended reading lists from each of the people she interviewed in relation to our article on feminist themes at NZ literary festivals. Please feel free to add your own recommended reading at the bottom, and we will incorporate this gradually into the main list.

Our respondents were: Carole Beu, from The Women’s Bookshop, Ponsonby; Matthew Simpson from publisher HarperCollins NZ; Tilly Lloyd, from Unity Bookshop, Wellington; Writer and Lecturer Anna Jackson; Nicola Strawbridge, from Going West Festival; Kathryn Carmody, from NZ Book Council, and Rachael King, from WORD Christchurch.

cv_a_history_of_nz_women A History of NZ Women, by Barbara Brookes (BWB) Recommended by Tilly Lloyd.
• Animal: The Autobiograpghy of a Female Body, by Sara Pascoe (Faber) Recommended by Tilly Lloyd.
Bad Feminist, by  Roxanne Gay (Little, Brown) Recommended by Tilly Lloyd.
Colour of Food: a Memoir of Life, Love and Dinner, by Anne Else (Awa) Recommended by Tilly Lloyd.
Do It Like a Woman – and change the world, by Caroline Crido-Perez (Portobello)
Everywhere I Look, by Helen Garner. Helen Garner is one of my favourite feminist essayists – whose feminism, and humanism, and personality inform everything she writes on every topic. Recommended by Anna Jackson.
Fat is a feminist issue, by Susie Orbach. Orbach’s book made me see that, unless something was done urgently, what was going on around me would continue indefinitely. Highly motivating. Recommended by Maria McMillan.
Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, by Bell Hooks is a must. Recommended by Nicola Strawbridge.
cv_the_fictional_woman Fictional Woman, by Australian crime novelist Tara Moss. (HarperCollins)  This 2014 book focuses among other things on the under-representation of women in modern entertainment, media, advertising and politics. It was a #1 Nonfiction bestseller in Australia. Recommended by Matthew Simpson.
Fifty Shades of Feminism, edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes & Susie Orbach (Virago, 2013)
Published as a response to Fifty Shades of Grey – it is a brilliant collection of 50 stunning essays by a wide variety of feminists, young & old – and it has a grey cover! Recommended by Carole Beu
Fighting to Choose: the Abortion Rights Struggle in NZ, by Alison McCulloch (VUP) Recommended by Carole Beu.
• Freedom Train: The story of Harriet Tubman, by Dorothy Sterling.() I loved that Harriet Tubman, who herself escaped slavery and returned many times to help others escape, was short, not physically beautiful and plagued by narcolepsy. I knew the stakes were as big as could be and every time I read was stirred by the fact one woman, through cunning and cleverness and stubborness was responsible for life and death. Recommended by Maria McMillan.
Fury: Women Write About Sex, Power and Violence, edited by Samantha Trenoweth (Hardie Grant) Recommended by Carole Beu.
Headscarves & Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, by Mona Eltahawy (Wiedenfeld & Nicolson) Recommended by Carole Beu.
cv_how_to_be_a_womanHow to Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran (Ebury Press). As she says: “We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?” Recommended by Nicola Strawbridge.
How to be Both, by Ali Smith. This is one of the loveliest novels I’ve read, about art, ambition, identity, and relationships including the relationship between a daughter and a mother. Recommended by Anna Jackson.
How to Win at Feminism (HarperCollins), the new book from the editors of the Reductress feminist satirical website, is another one we love. Never let it be said that feminists are a humourless bunch. Recommended by Matthew Simpson.
cv_I_call_myself_a_feministI Call Myself a Feminist :The View from Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty, edited by Victoria Pepe (Virago)
Virago followed Fifty Shades of Feminism up in 2015 with this great collection. Recommended by Carole Beu.
In Gratitude, by Jenny Diski (Bloomsbury) Recommended by Tilly Lloyd.
Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg (W H Allen)
A more controversial, alarming book, which may start arguments that are surely worth having. Recommended by Anna Jackson.
Mary Anning’s Treasure, by Helen Bush. Like Harriet Tubman, Mary Anning was no beauty. She was gruff, proud, and as strong as a man. Once with an unexpected tide, she hoisted a woman across her shoulders and carried her to safety. I was going to be a paleontologist when I grew up because of Mary Anning. Recommended by Maria McMillan.
Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit (Granta) Recommended by Carole Beu, Tilly Lloyd
Moranifesto , by Caitlin Moran (Ebury press)
Then there is the wonderful Caitlin Moran. She is the first of a whole range of young women who don’t give a stuff what people think of them. Recommended by Carole Beu and Anna Jackson, who says, “I find Caitlin Moran terrifically funny and magnificently sensible.”
cv_not_that_kind_of_girlNot That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham. Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer are figures from popular culture whose frank and unapologetic feminism is completely central to their fame and genius. This was a huge bestseller. Recommended by Matthew Simpson.
Roll on the revolution . . . but not until after Xmas! : Selected Feminist Writing
A collection of years of feminist essays, many of them originally published in Broadsheet Magazine, from 95-year-old New Zealander Margot Roth, now living in Melbourne. The project was begun by the late great Pat Rosier (former Broadsheet editor) & has been completed by The Margot Collective (available from PDL, via Paul Greenberg). Recommended by Carole Beu, Tilly Lloyd
Sex Object, by Jessica Valenti (HarperCollins) , founder of Feministing and columnist/staff writer with The Guardian (US), is a confronting and forthright memoir about how she came to be a leading voice in third wave feminism. Recommended by Matthew Simpson.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, by Lindy West (Quercus) Recommended by Carole Beu.
So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder (Scribe) Recommended by Carole Beu.
Speaking Out, by Tara Moss (HarperCollins). This is the follow up to Fictional Woman, and is a practical handbook for women and girls on speaking out safely and confidently in a world that marginalises them. Recommended by Matthew Simpson.
Scv_stuff_i_forgot_to_tell_my_daugthertuff I Forgot To Tell My Daughter, by Michele A’Court (HarperCollins). A’Court is one of NZ’s pre-eminent and funniest feminists. Recommended by Matthew Simpson.
The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson (Text) Recommended by Tilly Lloyd and Anna Jackson, who says, “this is a brilliant mix of essay, memoir and lyric about the difficulty of negotiating parenthood, gender roles and relationship issues in a marriage with a transgender partner.”
The Blazing World, by Siri Hustvedt (Sceptre) This brilliant novel looks at the career of a woman artist who devised an art project to expose the bias against women artists: she set up a young, male imposter to pretend to have made the art works she herself would produce, then reveal her identity; as she anticipated, there was an excitement around his work her own work had never generated even though this work was very much a development of her own ideas. What she didn’t anticipate is that he would claim the work as his own, and no one would believe it was hers, despite all the proof of her workings. It is a brilliant premise and the novel draws out the twists and turns of a gripping story brilliantly, but what is ultimately so moving about the novel is its complex representation of relationships between difficult people, and the difficulty of managing personal relationships alongside ambition. Recommended by Anna Jackson.
The Changeover, by Margaret Mahy () I had no brother to save but, as the world revealed itself to me at 14 as ethically bereft and deeply women-hating, I realised I had my own personal and intergalactic crisis to deal with. There was only one thing for it. Hmm, thought I was a mere human? Pyeouw! Take that, patriarchy. Recommended by Maria McMillan.
The Fact of a Doorframe, by Adrienne Rich ()  Rich seemed to capture perfectly our own struggles in dealing with the horror of a world that seemed particularly violent towards women, and a desire, despite it all, to love, laugh and celebrate. Recommended by Maria McMillan.
The Female Eunuch, by Germaine Greer (HarperCollins). This was published over 40 years ago and it’s never been out of print. It is still a go-to work about how 20th century western society was taking away women’s agency on so many levels. Recommended by Matthew Simpson.
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer will certainly be just as big a smash as Lena Dunham’s book, if not bigger. Recommended by Matthew Simpson.
The Natural Way of Things, by Charlotte Wood () Recommended by Maria McMillan.
cv_unspeakable_ThingsUnspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution, by Laurie Penny (Bloomsbury). This is the book that I’d recommend to get anyone fired up about feminism. Recommended by Kathryn Carmody.
We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (4th Estate) Recommended by Carole Beu, Matthew Simpson, Tilly Lloyd. Matthew adds, “We should all be feminists is something every young woman and man should be afforded the chance to hear or read.”
Who was that Woman Anyway: Snapshots of a Lesbian Life, by Aorewa McLeod (VUP) Recommended by Tilly Lloyd.
Why Science is Sexist, by Nicola Gaston (BWB Texts) Recommended by Tilly Lloyd.
Witches: Salem 1692, by Stacy Schiff (Weidenfeld) Recommended by Tilly Lloyd.

And some online recommendations, from Rachael King, WORD Christchurch Director:
I love On the Rag, The Spinoff’s podcast which is run by Alex Casey, who is writing some fantastic commentary on the representation of women in the media. The Spinoff is publishing a lot of good feminist writing. Alex will be at the festival of course, along with three other Spinoff editors.

I also recommend BUST, which isn’t widely available in New Zealand but which can be found online. It was started in the Riot Grrl era and has kept on going. When I first was introduced to it by my friend Gemma Gracewood, I found it incredibly refreshing and encouraging. So of course I had to take Gemma with me when I met with Debbie Stoller in New York – it was a wonderful meeting of minds.

Two feminist writers are visiting for WORD Christchurch in a week or so: Tara Moss, noted earlier; and Nadia Hashimi, whom Matthew Simpson says is “an Afghan-American novelist whose stories of the intimate lives and struggles of women in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan are imbued with a strong message of female solidarity across national and cultural divides.”

Tell us your favourite feminist reads below, and we’ll add them to the list.

What makes a book face-out material? by Tilly Lloyd

The author is hot or about to be or we hope, could be. The author was a Unity old girl circa 1995. The author is speaking at our next lunch-time gig. The author faced them out without even saying hello. The author is Slavoj Zizek and even a single copy is worth face-out. The author had an affair with our IT’s editor so we are practically family. The author is family. The book is new, or old. The book is controversial. The book is important. There is plenty of stock. The writing is so good it’s unhinging. The writing is gluten-free but the publicity is gold. The spine-out had a stock-turn of 10. The book was staple-bound. The antler ‘thing’ is not over. The owl ‘thing’ is not over. The film was selected for the film fest. The poster was perfect. The reading copy is quite doggy after so many staff read it. The cover art is pure zeitgeist. The cover art is not the best but there’s something about it anyway. The cover art is yellow. The rave in Flavorwire seemed reliable but we imported too many for right now or even this year. The rights auction was in Beattie’s Blog. The author was on Kim Hill’s show. The story just broke. We owe the publisher a favour. The supply was double but it was a blessing. The supply was double and we should have subbed it at x 1 or x nil. The weight is a good corner anchor on the table. The staff practise the art of juxtaposition and the principles of design. Anything the buyers buy could go face out. This is called advocacy.

P.S. Opportunistic sleight of hand while walking by:
We walk towards Science Fiction because the punter wants the entire China Miéville backlist plus the Three Moments of an Explosion regardless of the fact it hasn’t been published yet and that Unity can’t change its June release date. En route, we spy an empty hole on the music table, so the nearest spine-out is artfully flipped into face-up, even if it means the entire row is now slightly flabby, and even if the new face-up is Journey to the Centre of the Cramps which is only scary because the staff has a collective allergy to the word ‘journey’. But it’s the best we can do to keep the place looking loved when we’re busy. This is called merchandising.

by Tilly Lloyd, owner/manager of Unity Books, Wellington

This was Tilly’s answer on behalf of Unity Books, when asked by Elizabeth Heritage for 6 March’s feature article in The Read, what makes a book face-out material?

Book price comparisons: a Unity Books perspective

Unity Signature 2013

Unity Books Wellington is fortunate to have two commerce students (Courtney Smith and Selina Kunac) on the staff. During the recent intensification in the debate about New Zealand RRPs − particularly where the book has the UK price printed on the back jacket – we produced a price comparison spreadsheet for our lead winter titles on our front-of-house pyramid book display.

Looking at the spreadsheet as a whole, there is not a lot of difference between the publisher/agencies involved.

We sent the specific publisher result to each publisher/agency involved and asked them to respond about their factors for pricing books for NZ. We got great and lengthy comments, for which we give them our thanks.

In summary, comments included that NZ RRP involves flags listconsiderations of: format, extent, print volume and location, UK buy price (their margin), the ebbs and flows on individual title costs created by publisher discount changes, UK home vs export royalties, production values, the forecasted sell-through rate, the air or sea freight costs to the warehouse, then out again by air to NZ, the cost of carrying stock in a distribution centre. Then there is the need for NZ publishers to set some level of standardised price pointing, release date, parallel importing, write offs and depreciation, returns and returns freight, exchange rates (which have been mercifully steady) and, as we are all aware, the many other business overheads feeding book sales and relying on book sales, all involving people & services. No real surprises. Every aspect of the book industry is pared back. The long lunch hasn’t been part of the formula for some time.

Are the originating UK prices too high? Can the multinational’s NZ offices keep improving bookseller margins and Total Operating Margin? Can the pricing process itself (UK price converted to Australian price, converted to NZ RRP) be changed?

Competitively fair pricing has always been vitally important to indie and group viability, and it is amplified now with the growing online offshore consumer culture. NZ online spending offshore rose 11% in a quarter compared with the same time last year. Local web sales increased by half again in the same period. The government’s perpetual “work in progress” about GST capture of offshore purchases is lamentable. Until they resolve that, our RRP is always going to be 15% higher than the Amazon/Book Depository price, regardless of our shop business strategies.

Unity Books Wellington has said for two years, that publisher/agency conversions from UK to $A to $NZ have improved a lot – that NZ RRP’s do not have a lot of fat in them – and this view is reinforced by the results of this exercise. We welcome feedback from others in the book industry.

Unity Books doesn’t want to alienate those for whom RRP is a major industry issue, but our analysis of this survey is that a lot more could be achieved for viability and fair pricing if the entire trade – including the publishers – got behind the Booksellers NZ and Retail NZ lobby for government capturing the GST on offshore purchases.

Article by Tilly Lloyd, Manager, Unity Books Wellington

* opinions in this piece are those of Tilly and her shop, and do not necessarily represent those of Booksellers NZ as an organisation.

‘Sniff the book’ – some field notes from the analogue appreciation society #writersandreadersnz

Blogging about Writers & Readers: Are we the last real book readers? 
Monday 12 March 12.30pm, Downstage Theatre

Well, shame on me for thinking the audience might be a little scant for a debate about whether ‘we are the last generation of real readers.’ Quite the opposite. The Downstage theatre was packed with ‘real readers,’ perhaps drawn by the credibility of the panellists as much as the topic.

Fergus Barrowman, Tilly Lloyd and Denise Mina were there to represent the holy trinity of the publisher, bookseller and (last but not least) author.

Kathryn Ryan, the lively and amusing chair of this session, began by listing a few of her favourite things about the physical book, including texture, tactility and of course odour! Kathryn appealed to the ‘book sniffers’ among the audience, saying the first thing she does is ‘sniff the book.’  I don’t know if a nod to ‘Smell the Glove’ from Spinal Tap was intentional here, but I’d love to see a mockumentary on bookselling in these troubled times as ‘a mighty wind’ blows through our sector…

Tilly Lloyd was first to speak, acknowledging the familiar faces in the audience from the ‘analogue appreciation society.’  Tilly went over the highlights from Unity’s own list (compiled over a few chardonnays) on the stellar qualities of the book: surveillance free, shareable, memory evoking, bendable, rippable and Lydia Wevers term ‘heft’ all featured. She concluded that we don’t look at bookshelves with disinterest, before addressing that gnarly word ‘real’ and the arrogance of the analogue assumption. What makes a real reader anyway?

Tilly’s answer was the definitive answer of the panel. ‘No, we are NOT the last generation of real readers.’ The book will make it back to the future. No-one knows exactly what it will look like. Tilly mentioned hardbacks the equivalent of ‘Crown Lynn with words.’   Comparisons to Vinyl were inevitable. Denise Mina – the author – might have been the most positive speaker of all three, saying the form will be transformed; although certainly none of the panellists were pessimists by any stretch of the imagination.

Tilly envisaged a ‘disharmonious’ but mutually inclusive future for the e-book and the p-book. Tilly herself refuses to demote the book to being called the p-book. (A qualm I noticed Fergus did not share).  Tilly had some great quotes about the ‘distributor’ of our times.

This from Amazon: ’Physical books won’t completely go away, just as horses haven’t completely gone away.’ (I have searched the internet for this quote and can’t find it. Grrr.)

And this on Amazon: ‘A heartbreaking work of Staggering Greed.’ There was much laughter from the audience at this point.  I hope they are all shopping locally. If they weren’t before the talk, they probably are now.

At one point Denise rallied the crowd: ‘Amazon really is the devil and we need to stand up to them.’

Summing up our current set of anxieties Tilly said, ‘booksellers fear the death of the street, publishers fear obsolescence and authors fear working for free.’

The matter of money was well tackled by Denise Mina who spoke last, bringing us all back down to reality – most authors aren’t making a living from their work anyway. Professional writers in the UK make an average of about 6,000 pounds a year. Only 5 authors in Scotland make over 100,000 pounds a year. (I will mention that a UK bookseller probably struggles to make between 15,000 – 18,000 pounds a year working full time.)

Denise said ‘no one would be stupid enough to do this for the money.’ She was referring to authors, but I think that statement covers bookselling too. Continue reading