Women read more than men do. It’s a fact.
Last year 82% of women read a book while only 69% of men did.
Not only that, women who read averaged 14 books last year while men who read only averaged 10. More women read AND women read more.
But even with women reading more than men, and with almost an even distribution between men and women authors in the amount of books published, books by women are more easily ignored.
Rob Carmack correctly points out that this is a result of marketing, something female authors have noted. Books written by women are marketed to women. Men don’t read them because they have flowers on the cover and so seem like “girl books.” Men should not be afraid to read "girl books," he says. So it's odd when Carmack goes on to suggest two books by women that are about gender. While there is definitely value in these books, probably not the best choices to show that books by women should have a broad appeal.
The foundation of my reading old books project was that there is value in reading an author because their experience is different from our own, but we need to be careful not to limit women to the role of authors who are able to round out our experiences.
I don’t think we should read a book just because it was written by a woman, or try to keep a complete balance (“Well, I just read a book by a man, better find one by a woman.”) Instead we should read great books by great authors regardless of their gender. We should be more willing to read a book with a woman’s name on the spine, but not BECAUSE it has a woman’s name on the spine.
Still, my own bookshelf is mostly male authors. It isn’t hard to see the subtle ways that culture has kept us from reading women's books and we should certainly be open to reading more women. Most of my books are Classics, philosophy, or theology, not disciplines women have taken part in until recently and it’s easy to maintain the status quo and never allow women a voice in a male dominated world. To counteract that, Joanna Walsh has has started #readwomen2014 to encourage people to read more books written by women. I can’t endorse this enough.
With that in mind I’ve compiled a list of Christian women you need to be aware of and one book by them you need to read.
P.S. Clicking on the book cover will take you to amazon where buying the book can support your own learning, the author (if they're alive), and this site.
Revelations of Divine Love
Julian of Norwich
Revelations of Divine Love is a book of mystic devotions written in the 14th century after a near death experience in which Julian was given 16 visions. It is thought to be the first book in English written by a woman. I read it last year and reviewed it here.
The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life
Hannah Whitall Smith
Hannah Whitall Smith was born in Philadelphia to Quaker parents. This book is a practical examination of what is required for Christians to remain joyful (spoiler: it's faith in God).
The Complete Stories
Flannery O'Connor is an Southern author of short stories. Her stories are informed by her belief that "Grace changes us and change is painful." This collection contains all 31 of her short stories.
Ruth Haley Barton
Ruth Haley Barton is the founder of the Transforming Center, a community engaged in helping pastors and leaders experience spiritual transformation. Sacred Rhythms highlights seven different spiritual disciplines that are helpful in transforming your life.
God Gave Us Love
Lisa T. Bergren
I read this book everyday. Don't let the fact that it's a children book deceive you. God Gave us Love (and every book in Lisa Bergren's God Gave Us . . . series) manage to be simple enough for a child to read and profound enough for an adult to learn from. Definitely read these to your kids (and you should probably pay attention).
A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time holds a special place on this list because it was actually my first favorite book. This young adult novel is about a fourteen year old girl named Meg Murry whose scientist father disappears. Her neighbors, who are actually supernatural beings, take her on a journey across the universe where she discovers that a "darkness" is trying to invade Earth. The story has themes about good vs. evil, the value of sacrifice and love, and the importance of mystery.
The Mind of the Maker
Dorothy Sayers is an English crime novelist who was a good friend of C.S. Lewis and his group, the Inklings. The Mind of the Maker is a departure from Sayers normal writing. It is a theological work comparing the creative process to the Trinity and exploring how understanding one can help us to understand the other.
The Interior Castle
Teresa of Avila
Teresa of Avila is a carmelite nun from Spain. In 1577 she wrote The Interior Castle to teach how to use service and prayer as tools for spiritual formation. Teresa imagines spiritual formation as a journey through seven mansions, ending with union with God. Similar to the Cloud of Unknowing, The Interior Castle focuses on ordinary and contemplative prayer.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a series of meditations on nature in Roanoke, VA from an unnamed narrator. It is similar in style to Henry David Thoreau's Walden, but Dillard says she is not a nature writer. Instead, she says Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a theological book. There is a lot to learn about theology from careful examination of the natural world and ourself, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek helps teach us.
Anne Lamott is a recovering alcoholic, political activist, writing teacher, former bulimic, single mother and Christian. She is irreverent and humorous and because of that has build a pretty considerable fanbase. Her memoir, Travelling Mercies is a series of stories that helps to explain how she came to faith and what role it plays in her life.