Classic Reads for the Rest of Us

I enjoy classic books. There’s something about books that have stood the test of time that intrigues me.

But let’s face it, historically books by white men are the ones most often considered as “classics.” Some books by white women have been included and the canon is expanding to include writers of color and writers outside of Europe and the US but often, one has to do some research to uncover these titles even though there are a wealth of them.

And if you’ve visited my website before, you know that my focus is on reading “for the rest of us,” or books by womxn and others of historically marginalized populations.

So when I recently decided to join The Classics Club, I knew I wanted to focus on classics by womxn, including Black women, women of color, queer women, and women outside of the US and Europe.

The Classics Club was created in 2012 to inspire people to read and write about classic books. The idea is to pick a list of 50 or more classic books that you commit to reading and sharing on your site over the next five years. After reading the guidelines and how to join, I decided it would be something I would like to take on but with my own twist (of course).

One thing I appreciate about The Classics Club is that you can define “classic” how you like. I gave my list a lot (like, A LOT) of thought and narrowed down the most important factors in its creation:

  • Of course, my classics are all by womxn.
  • I focused on classics in feminism, gender, women’s, and queer studies (and not just White Feminism™ although there are some of these titles included).
  • I wanted the majority of writers to be BIWOC or/or international.
  • I was open to fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, histories, and more. I excluded poetry for the most part as I am just not a big fan.
  • I was open regarding publication date and wanted to include titles from throughout history until 2010, which I just chose because I wanted a Nnedi Okorafor book.
  • I focused on books that I have never read but there are some on the list that I haven’t read in many years and I wanted to re-read them.

You’ll note the exclusion of some books that you might think would be obvious choices given the criteria above (Zami, Jane Eyre, The Color Purple, Bluest Eye, etc.). Sometimes this is because I have read them before and am not looking to re-read them; other times, this is because I just don’t want to read them or just didn’t want to include them on this list. Bottom line: I included what I wanted!

My list is below. I’ve included the original publication/writing dates and plan to read them in chronological order. It’s possible the list may change or grow over time. I will be adding Amazon links and more tags, and I will regularly update the list as I make my way through and will link titles to the posts I write about them.

UPDATE: I’ve removed Vindication of the Rights of Woman and replaced it with Still Brave (#99).

So, here are the 100 titles I’ve chosen to read by August 23, 2023:

  1. Completed 10/2/18 – The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon by Sei Shōnagon (c10th century) – Read my review!
    Tags: Japanese, memoir, women in translation, history
  2. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (1848)
    Tags: British, white, literary fiction
  3. Narrative of Sojourner Truth by Sojourner Truth (1850)
    Tags: Black American, history, memoir
  4. The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts (c1855)
    Tags: Black American, literary fiction
  5. Our Nig: or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black by Harriet E. Wilson (1859)
    Tags: Black American, fiction
  6. The Curse of Caste; or The Slave Bride: A Rediscovered African American Novel by Julia C. Collins (1865)
    Tags: Black American, fiction
  7. The Light of Truth: Writings of an Anti-Lynching Crusader by Ida B. Wells (1885-1927)
    Tags: Black American, history
  8. Iola Leroy by Frances EW Harper (1892)
    Tags: Black American, historical fiction
  9. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892)
    Tags: White American, short stories, feminist, mental health
  10. The Awakening by Kate Chopin (1899)
    Tags: White American, American South, literary fiction
  11. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery (1908)
    Tags: Canadian, white, children’s
  12. American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings by Zitkala-Sa (1921)
    Tags: Native American (Sioux), poetry, folklore, biographical
  13. Plum Bun: A Novel Without A Moral by Jessie Redmon Fauset (1928)
    Tags: Black American, Harlem Renaissance
  14. Passing by Nella Larsen (1929)
    Tags: Black American, Harlem Renaissance
  15. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (1929)
    Tags: British, white, feminism, writing
  16. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (1936)
    Tags: White American, lesbian, literary fiction
  17. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
    Tags: Black American, historical fiction, American South
  18. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)
    Tags: White American, coming of age, family, American North
  19. Nada by Carmen Laforet (1945)
    Tags: Spanish, women in translation, fiction
  20. The Living is Easy by Dorothy West (1948)
    Tags: Black American, Harlem Renaissance
  21. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
    Tags: French, white, feminist theory
  22. Pinjar: The Skeleton and Other Stories by Amrita Pritam (1950)
    Tags: Indian, WIT, fiction
  23. Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks (1953)
    Tags: Black American, family, coming of age, fiction
  24. Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone (1953)
    Tags: Japanese American, memoir, immigration
  25. Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall (1959)
    Tags: Black American, immigration, American North
  26. Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller (1959)
    Tags: White American, lesbian, historical fiction, romance
  27. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959)
    Tags: Black American, play, family
  28. Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus by Carolina Maria de Jesus (1960)
    Tags: Brazil, poverty, memoir
  29. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing (1962)
    Tags: British, white, feminist
  30. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963)
    Tags: White American, feminist
  31. Efuru by Flora Nwapa (1966)
    Tags: African (Nigerian), literary fiction
  32. Jubilee by Margaret Walker (1966)
    Tags: Black American, historical fiction, American South
  33. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (1966)
    Tags: Dominican, feminist, literary fiction
  34. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin (1969)
    Tags: White American, queer, science fiction, GNC
  35. Daddy Was a Number Runner by Louise Meriwether (1970)
    Tags: Black American, American North, family, coming of age
  36. Sexual Politics by Kate Millett (1970)
    Tags: White American, feminist theory, literary criticism
  37. Sisterhood is Powerful by Robin Morgan (1970)
    Tags: Essays, feminism
  38. Unbought and Unbossed by Shirley Chisholm (1970)
    Tags: Black American, memoir, politics
  39. Black Women in White America by Gerda Lerner (1970)
    Tags: Austrian American, Black American, history
  40. Sappho Was a Right-On Woman: A Liberated View of Lesbianism by Sidney Abbott and Barbara Love (1972)
    Tags: White American, lesbian, feminism
  41. Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (1973)
    Tags: White American, romance, humor
  42. Sula by Toni Morrison (1973)
    Tags: Black American, coming of age, friendship
  43. Between Two Worlds by Miriam Tlali (1975)
    Tags: African (South African), autobiographical
  44. Woman at Point Zero by Naawal el Saadawi (1975)
    Tags:  Middle Eastern, African (Egyptian), literary
  45. Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society by Fatemah Mernissi (1976)
    Tags: African (Moroccan), feminist, Islam, MENA
  46. For colored girls who have considered suicide/When the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange (1976)
    Tags: Black American, feminist, play, mental health
  47. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston (1976)
    Tags: Chinese, creative memoir, immigration
  48. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko (1977)
    Tags: Native American (Laguna Pueblo), literary fiction
  49. The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World by Naawal el Saadawi (1977)
    Tags: Middle Eastern, African, feminist theory
  50. Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman by Michele Wallace (1978)
    Tags: Black American, feminist, feminist theory
  51. Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta (1979)
    Tags: African (Nigerian), family, literary
  52. Kindred by Octavia Butler (1979)
    Tags: Black American, speculative fiction
  53. Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks (1981)
    Tags: Black American, feminist
  54. Obasan by Joy Kogawa (1981)
    Tags: Japanese Canadian, historical fiction, literary fiction
  55. This Bridge Called My Back by Cherrie Moraga (1981)
    Tags: Latinx, essays, feminism, creative nonfiction, poetry
  56. Women, Race, & Class by Angela Y. Davis (1981)
    Tags: Black American, feminist theory, history
  57. But Some Of Us Are Brave: All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men: Black Women’s Studies by Akasha (Gloria T.) Hull (1982)
    Tags: Black American, essays, bibliography
  58. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (1982)
    Tags: South American (Chilean), magical realism, historical fiction
  59. Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor (1982)
    Tags: Black American, short stories
  60. Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology by Barbara Smith (1983)
    Tags: Black American, lesbian, literary, feminism
  61. In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens by Alice Walker (1983)
    Tags: Black American, essays, feminist theory
  62. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks (1984)
    Tags: Black American, feminist theory
  63. House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (1984)
    Tags: Mexican American, coming of age, historical fiction
  64. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (1984)
    Tags: Native American (Anishinaabe/Ojibwe), family
  65. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde (1984)
    Tags: Black American, lesbian, feminist theory, essays
  66. Sisterhood is Global by Robin Morgan (1984)
    Tags: Essays, transnational feminism
  67. When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America by Paula Giddings (1984)
    Tags: Black American, history
  68. A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
    Tags: Canadian, white, dystopian
  69. Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson (1985)
    Tags: British, white, lesbian, biographical
  70. Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World by Kumari Jayawardena (1986)
    Tags: Sri Lankan, transnational feminism, Asia, Middle East
  71. Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua (1987)
    Tags: Latinx American, lesbian, feminist, poetry, memoir
  72. Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner (1987)
    Tags: Austrian American, feminist, history
  73. Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur (1988)
    Tags: Black American, memoir
  74. The Middleman and Other Stories by Bharati Mukherjee (1988)
    Tags: Indian American, short stories, Asian, immigration
  75. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (1988)
    Tags: African (Zimbabwean), family, coming of age
  76. Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (1989)
    Tags: Chinese American, immigration, family
  77. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins (1990)
    Tags: Black American, feminist theory
  78. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by Judith Butler (1990)
    Tags: White American, feminist, queer
  79. To My Children’s Children by Sindiwe Magona (1990)
    Tags: African (South African), autobiographical
  80. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez (1991)
    Tags: Dominican American, Latinx, coming of age, family, immigration
  81. Creation of Feminist Consciousness by Gerda Lerner (1993)
    Tags: Austrian American, feminist theory, history
  82. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (1993)
    Tags: Black American, coming of age, dystopian
  83. Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought by Beverly Guy Sheftall (1995)
    Tags: Black American, feminist theory, history
  84. Paradise by Toni Morrison (1997)
    Tags: Black American, literary fiction
  85. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (1997)
    Tags: White American, historical fiction, Christianity
  86. African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850–1920 by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn (1998)
    Tags: Black American, history
  87. Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson (1998)
    Tags: Jamaican Canadian, speculative fiction
  88. Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks (2000)
    Tags: Black American, feminism
  89. Sisters in the Struggle: African-American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement by Bettye Collier-Thomas (2001)
    Tags: Black American, history, feminism
  90. this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation by Gloria Anzaldua (2002)
    Tags:  Essays, lesbian, feminism, creative nonfiction
  91. African Women and Feminism: Reflecting on the Politics of Sisterhood by Oyeronke Oyewumi (2003)
    Tags: African (Nigerian), feminism
  92. Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision by Barbara Ransby (2003)
    Tags: Black American, biography, history
  93. Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity by Chandra Talpade Mohanty (2003)
    Tags: Indian American, transnational feminism, essays
  94. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (2003)
    Tags: Iranian, memoir, Islam
  95. Sisterhood is Forever by Robin Morgan (2003)
    Tags: Essays, feminism
  96. African Gender Studies: A Reader by Oyeronke Oyewumi (2005)
    Tags: African (Nigerian), essays
  97. Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai (2006)
    Tags: African (Kenyan), memoir, ecofeminism
  98. The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang (2008)
    Tags: Hmong American, memoir, family
  99. Still Brave: The Evolution of Black Women’s Studies edited by Frances Smith Foster, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, and Stanlie M. James (2009)
    Tags: Black American, women’s studies, history
  100. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (2010)
    Tags: African (Nigeria, Sudan), dystopian, magical realism

 

classicsclub

 

Whew.

Thanks to The Classics Club for the inspiration to undertake this challenge! Care to join me? Let me know or create your own Classics Club list!

 

 

Let me know what you think of my list! What books did I not include that you think I should have? What titles don’t deserve a spot on the list? 

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