10 Good Books for Women - Great Reads
Summary and Introduction to the Red Tent
Ten Great Books That Will Feed Your Soul
1. Red Tent
Here’s a look at a woman’s difficult life in ancient times. The story is taken from Jacob and his four wives in the book of Genesis. But, that’s where the basis ends.
The author weaves a tale of how Dinah is the only daughter of Leah and Jacob. She lives a beautiful childhood in Mesopotamia and as she grows into a woman, she spends time learning the stories of the four wives, acquires the skills to become a midwife, and suffers the death of her husband at the hands of her brothers.
Dinah ends up in Egypt, pregnant and learning a new language. But, this does not stop her from leading an extraordinary life. This tale is truly one that looks at what women do in society dominated by men who tend toward aggression.
2. Snowflower and the Secret Fan
Lily and Snow Flower are seven when they become laotong, or “old sames” – friends who could communicate and mentor each other after they were off and married.
Their story begins in 19th century China, where women’s feet were still bound and societal expectations were quite strict. Women were in arranged marriages and often found themselves isolated and out of contact with others, especially if they lived in rural areas.
Lily and Snow Flower are able to learn a secret writing language, nu shu. This allowed them to communicate despite their isolation and wrote to each other on fans, or handkerchiefs in embroidered messages. The two women remain friends through famine, motherhood, and through many other trials of daily life.
When a misunderstanding arises, Lily and Snow Flower’s friendship begins to unravel. Will they make amends? Find out in this tale of triumph and tragedy, love and loss, friendship and heartache.
3. Mother Earth Father Sky
This book takes place in pre-historical times high in the northern hemisphere where the winters were harsh. The story focuses on Chagak, a valiant woman who comes of age in arduous circumstances.
While gathering berries, another tribe attacks hers and they are all burned and killed. The only survivors are Chagak and her little brother Pup.
After burying all of the members of her tribe, she attempts to find her grandfather’s tribe but instead finds an island and a man named Shuganan. There, Chagak’s little brother dies and Shuganan takes care of the grieving Chagak.
Not long after, a man of dubious character visits the island and takes Chagak by force; he gets her pregnant. Traumatized, Chagak vows to never marry. She gives birth to Samiq.
When she encounters another tribe, the chief Kayuq beckons her to take care of his son who was teetering on death because Kayuq’s wife and mother to his son passed away. He declares his love for Chagak. But will she marry him despite her vow?
This tale shows the purity of heart of a woman who endured life’s worst blows, but perseveres and triumphs in spite of her obstacles – an inspirational read in that sense. You won’t be able to put this book down.
4. Dance of the Dissident Daughter
By: Sue Monk Kidd
Also the author of The Secret Life of Bees, Kidd shares her life experiences as a Baptist preacher’s wife who begins to question her religion and her role in society.
She explores her spirituality in a way she had never dared: from a more feminine perspective. While she still roots her beliefs in the idea of Christianity, she forges ahead with a new kind of belief system. She learns to find sacredness in her surroundings and in herself.
This book follows Kidd on a spiritual awakening that awakens that side of all of us that is at once more tender, and more feminine. This journey is one of epic perseverance and acknowledging that we all need to embrace our femininity and be proud of it.
5. Education of Little Tree
By: Forrest Carter
This touching story begins with a boy who was orphaned at a young age. He goes to live with his grandparents. His grandfather is white and his grandmother is Cherokee.
They teach him about respecting nature, taking only what is needed and leaving the rest for Mother Nature to do with as she needs. Though this takes place during the Great Depression, Little Tree learns that all you need is love.
He learns that when white men come to his grandparents’ house demanding money and taxes, his grandfather can hold his own, inventing curious ways of avoiding the capitalist economic system. He further develops contempt for the white man when he is taken to an all-white school.
The school’s attempts to assimilate backfire but how does Little Tree handle it all? Find out in this glorious tale of love and loss, perseverance and a relentless love of life with a healthy dose of respect for nature.
6. In the Time Of the Butterflies
By: Julia Alvarez
The author, Julia Alvarez paints a fictional story of the Mirabal sisters, whose story is based on historical fact. Set in the 1960s, this gripping tale includes perspectives of the four sisters that reveal aspects of the oppressive dictatorship of Trujillo.
Taking place in the Dominican Republic, an underground movement attempts to overthrow his regime. All the sisters and their husbands, except Dede, become active members in the move to overthrow Trujillo.
When authorities discover and arrest their husbands, the sisters visit them in prison. The story culminates with a fight for what's right, honest and decent. Will the sisters survive and successfully help overthrow the dictatorship?
Though it is a gut-wrenching tale, you will see the beauty in the way these women lived out their lives and how they came to be known nationally in the Dominican Republic as the “butterflies” or “las mariposas”. Their efforts to help topple a dictatorship elevated these women national hero status.
7. The Help
By: Kathryn Stockett
This incredible read is a poignant tale of love and loss in 1960s Mississippi. Three women – one white and two black – come together and form a movement of their own that will help redefine their roles in society and even their roles as women.
Skeeter, a recent college graduate, wants to become a writer. She weaves the stories and plights of black maids and how their white employers mistreat them. T
hough this book already has a movie made – it’s that good – many women will appreciate the eloquent and spot-on writing by Kathryn Sockett. A winding tale of triumph, these three women will enter your world and you will emerge the same, yet different, and for the better.
8. Atlas Shrugged
By: Ayn Rand
This book is an eerie insight into the problems and issues we all face in our society today. Though fictional, this novel delves into the stories of American Industry and what happens if industrial workers go on strike.
What makes this novel so compelling is the fact that the storyline essentially parallels the philosophical values of the author, Ayn Rand. Taggart, one of the main characters, faces the grim reality of life in a recession.
She will take on the problem of saving the country, make it her own, and find a solution, despite monumental obstacles.
Ayn Rand reinvents the spirit of humankind by asking the difficult questions: what if life as we know it ceased to exist and the "motor stopped running"?
9. The Truest Pleasure
By: Robert Morgan
Perhaps the author is truly in touch with the “feminine” because he tells this tale of a young couple in love in the early 20th century, but from the perspective of Ginny.
He weaves together a beautiful story of budding love that must endure the hardships of living on a farm, the death of a child, Ginny’s desire for Pentecostal salvation, and Tom’s intolerance of Ginny’s religious tendencies.
The marriage seems all but doomed to fail until one day, Ginny realizes her Truest Pleasure. This novel is at once a tragic love story with an ending that is sure to leave you pondering for days about your own Truest Pleasure.
Anyone that appreciates relationships or is in a relationship that is struggling needs to read this.
10. Poisonwood Bible
By: Barbara Kingsolver
Nathan Price, an Evangelical Baptist Preacher takes his family on a missionary trip to live in the Belgian Congo.
He takes his wife and four daughters, along with everything they think they need. What they don't know is that so many of the items they bring are not compatible with Africa: the seeds they brought die out, their style of religion is foreign to the inhabitants there, even where they live tests the limits of their cultural knowledge.
As the story unfolds, tragedies afflict the family. Their lives are completely transformed by their experiences in the Congo and as the family grows and changes, they will never return back to the United States quite the same.
This is a beautiful tale of hope, of good intentions lost, and a heart-wrenching saga of the triumphant feminine spirit. This is a must-read for Kingsolver fans and women from all walks of life.
Have You Read These?
Which Is Your Favorite?
Author's Note (CC)
When I was compiling the books for this list, I had no idea that quite a few of them had been made into movies.
That just goes to show: amazing books get lots of readers and Hollywood pays attention.
I have read all of these books personally. They each have touched my life in different ways. I now walk with a wider world view, a bigger tolerance for all peoples on the planet, and a desire spread to the word about some incredible reads that may well change your life.
© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun