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Belinda Jack's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Belinda Jack recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Belinda Jack's favorite book recommendations of all time.


An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting

Wickedly funny and bitingly satirical, The Art is a comedy of manners that gives insights into eighteenth-century behavior as well as the timeless art of emotional abuse. It is also an advice book, a handbook of anti-etiquette, and a comedy of manners. Collier describes methods for "teasing and mortifying" one's intimates and acquaintances in a variety of social situations. Written primarily for wives, mothers, and the mistresses of servants, it suggests the difficulties women experienced exerting their influence in private and public life--and the ways they got round them. As such, The Art... more
Recommended by Belinda Jack, and 1 others.

Belinda JackThis is a satirical work and I think it gives us a very clear idea of how some women read the so-called “conduct books”. These books emerged in the late 16th and early 17th century and they told women how to behave in every respect, from being perfect wives to loving mothers. (Source)

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The Blazing World and Other Writings

Flamboyant, theatrical and ambitious, Margaret Cavendish was one of the seventeenth century's most striking figures: a woman who ventured into the male spheres of politics, science, philosophy and literature. The Blazing World is a highly original work: part Utopian fiction, part feminist text, it tells of a lady shipwrecked on the Blazing World where she is made Empress and uses her power to ensure that it is free of war, religious division and unfair sexual discrimination. This volume also includes The Contract, a romance in which love and law work harmoniously together, and Assaulted and... more
Recommended by Belinda Jack, and 1 others.

Belinda JackI mentioned earlier that I think there are material and physical barriers to women and their reading, and then psychological barriers. I think what Margaret Cavendish was aware of was that books and reading could be an extraordinary imaginative liberation. And that imaginative liberation was really just as important as the physical liberation. (Source)

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Gender equality and the responsibility of husbands and fathers: issues that loom large today had currency in Renaissance Venice as well, as evidenced by the publication in 1600 of The Worth of Women by Moderata Fonte.

Moderata Fonte was the pseudonym of Modesta Pozzo (1555–92), a Venetian woman who was something of an anomaly. Neither cloistered in a convent nor as liberated from prevailing codes of decorum as a courtesan might be, Pozzo was a respectable, married mother who produced literature in genres that were commonly considered "masculine"—the chivalric romance and...
Recommended by Belinda Jack, and 1 others.

Belinda JackShe was actually called Modesta Pozzo and she was a Venetian noblewoman. She was outraged by some of her reading. In my research about women’s reading I discovered that quite often it was a case of looking at what women had written as a reaction to their reading – when they felt frustrated and angry, particularly by representations of women that they thought were completely untrue to life. (Source)

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The Book of the City of Ladies

A fascinating insight into the debates and controversies about the position of women in medieval culture, written by France's first professional woman of letters

The pioneering Book of the City of Ladies begins when, feeling frustrated and miserable after reading a male writer's tirade against women, Christine de Pizan has a dreamlike vision where three virtues—Reason, Rectitude and Justice—appear to correct this view. They instruct her to build an allegorical city in which womankind can be defended against slander, its walls and towers constructed from examples of...
Recommended by Belinda Jack, and 1 others.

Belinda JackYes, I think she was. It was hard to pick out the key books in the history of women readers because there are such a vast number. But I wanted to pick them from different periods. Christine de Pizan was one of the earliest women authors to challenge the misogyny of the day. She identified all sorts of differences between the way girls and boys and men and women were treated, and felt that any... (Source)

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The Second Sex

Newly translated and unabridged in English for the first time, and brilliantly introduced by Judith Thurman, Simone de Beauvoir’s masterpiece weaves together history, philosophy, economics, biology, and a host of other disciplines to analyze the Western notion of “woman” and to explore the power of sexuality.

Sixty years after its initial publication, The Second Sex is still as eye-opening and pertinent as ever. This triumphant and genuinely revolutionary book began as an exceptional woman’s attempt to find out who and what she was. Drawing on extensive interviews with women...

Arianna HuffingtonGreat Thrive Questionnaire by @smlafleur, founder of M.M.LaFleur. On the book that changed her life, The Second Sex: "it changed my entire perception about what it means to be a woman, and it may be the unconscious reason behind why I started my company." (Source)

Erica JongThe French literary world is incredibly sexist and here was one of their darlings pointing out how much they discriminate. (Source)

Belinda JackIn making a distinction between sex and gender she drew attention to how much of what women had to contend with was actually something that society imposes. (Source)

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