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The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore
This is a Book About Books-one of my favorite genres, after historical and YA fiction. The author picks twelve books with strong female main characters, giving a concise chapter title to each:
Self: Lizzy Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Faith: Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Happiness: Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Dignity: Celie in The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Family Ties: Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
Indulgence: Claudine in Colette's Claudine novels
Fight: Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Compassion: Scout Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Simplicity: Laura Ingalls in The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Steadfastness: Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
Ambition: Jo March in Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Magic: Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
(I've read nine of the twelve to date; Their Eyes Were Watching God, the Claudine novels, and Gone With the Wind are still on my to-read list.)
For a good Book About Books, you need either good writing or a person with good taste in books (or both). The Heroine's Bookshelf has excellent writing and lots of it, while not going into extensive summaries or quoting the books too much. The author also picked steadfast books: All are classics, and while some might wish for a heroine in a modern setting, I enjoy classic books and think the twelve heroines are a perfect selection for a book of "life lessons", as the The Heroine's Bookshelf is subtitled.
Other things I like about this book:
The mix of plot summary and personal experience. The author combines the two perfectly, making it a Book About Books with the tiniest touch of universal memoir.
The "Literary Sisters" feature: Instead of a "Similar Books" section, the author includes "Literary Sisters" at the end of each chapter.
The small size, perfect to carry in a purse or backpack. Reading about your favorite book is the next best thing to immersing yourself in the real thing.
The small author biographies deftly incorporated into the review.
"Read This Book:" Near "Literary Sisters", Erin Blakemore has included witty suggestions of when this book might be most needed. Anne of Green Gables should be read "When someone repeatedly misspells your name or implies that they'd rather interact with a man" or "When life gives you wrinkled yoga pants instead of puffed sleeves".