500 Great Books by Women

bauermesiter

500 Great Books by Women (1994)
edited by Erica Bauermeister, Jesse Larsen, and Holly Smith
426 pages

I don’t review reference books here on 1330v, but I love this book and wanted fellow bookworms to know about. If you liked Book Lust by Nancy Pearl, you will love 500 Great Books by Women.

Edited by Erica Bauermeister, Jesse Larsen, and Holly Smith and compiled with the help of thirty contributors, 500 Great Books gives the reader a collection of short reviews of lesser-known books of all genres written by women writers from different races, ages, sexual orientations, and countries. Many of the featured books were first published in a language other than English.

The reviews are divided by theme such as Growing Old, Choices, Families, Ethics, Observations, and many more. I used post-its to mark all the books I wanted to read and I ran out of post-its! My book now looks like a rainbow.

Many of the books featured here I have not heard of and less than twenty of them I’ve read. The editors included many well-known writers like Angela Carter, Louise Erdrich, Alice Walker, and Barbara Kingsolver but you are not going to find every book they wrote in this collection. Instead every writer only gets one book featured to leave room for other writers. I thought the idea was thoughtful and fair.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book is that there’s no table of contents though you can find out what books is featured by going to a theme’s page. Included in the back of the book are many indexes such as by title, subject, country, and others.

I loved the beginning of the book’s preface,

We read to learn, to feel, to stretch beyond our own lives, to escape, and to understand. A book has the power to reach back toward us and let us know we are not alone. Up from a flat page of type comes joy or anger or sadness, a sentence that soars, or an image that surprised like a photograph long forgotten. For a few hundred pages we can feel new rhythms, see new images, learn about ourselves, and become someone else.

The contributors and editors did an amazing job with this book. With so many books published every year in the United States let alone other countries, 500 Great Books is not meant to be comprehensive but to recommend to the reader some of great books the editors have read. Highly recommended.

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18 thoughts on “500 Great Books by Women

  1. How much of a description/overview do they give of each writer/book? Although I had fun paging through Book Lust, the one thing that let me down was the relatively sparse descriptions of the books listed. I understand that part of the fun is finding the books for yourself, but I like to read more than a sentence or two about each book.

    It sounds like a great collection, though. I’ll be checking to see if my library has a copy the next time I visit them.

  2. I’m adding this to my library request list now. Sounds like a book I’d really like! Thanks for your review.

  3. Vivienne: I know I won’t know. It’s a great collection.

    Steph: It’s basically a review of the book. Most are at least half a page long. The review always comes with quotes from the book. Way better than Book Lust.

    Jill: I hope you enjoy it.

  4. This sounds wonderful.. adding to wishlist.. thanks! I so enjoyed Book Lust. While I had the same qualms as Steph about there being not enough description about each book, I realize that if there were more description there’d be less titles included. So I guess the reason why I love Book Lust is that there are so many titles in it. But this sounds so good, coveting it now..

  5. Thank you for sharing this with us, Vasilly! It sounds amazing. One of my goals for this year is to read a larger percentage of books by women, and this would be a wonderful way to find new authors to try.

  6. Quotes, you say? Score! I will definitely be looking for this one, then. I think it’s great that they highlight just one book for each author, since discovering the author is always the hardest part. If you love one book they’ve done (and they’ve written many great ones), then any reader worth her salt will find the rest on her own!

  7. This one has been on my radar since I read Erica Bauermeister’s The School of Essential Ingredients. I loved Book Lust, so I will have to add this one to my wish list!

  8. Oh wow! This looks like an amazing book, I love books about books and reading one specifically about women writers would be really cool.

  9. Oh, Vasilly, what an amazing book! It sounds like it’d be a really cool book to read and/or leaf through for reading ideas!

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  11. WOW. I love that quote! That is so beautifully written. I have had Book Lust on my list to get my hands on for a while. I am reluctant to buy it since I already have 1000 Books You Must Read Before You Die. That is a tomb. This book has very interesting categories and I like that it has new books to try. Thanks for the review!

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