Have I told you lately that I like words? That I like books and people who write them (except James Joyce)? Back in May the folks at the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction launched a campaign (using the hashtag #ThisBook) to find the most influential books written by women. The top 20 list was announced yesterday and it's a beauty; a shining and strange collection of books. There aren't any really individual surprises on the list, but taken all together I feel the many ways that these stories and poems have woven their way into our lives. Eight of them have woven their way into mine.
The Color Purple in particular was a powerful book for me, read for the first few times when I was a similar age to Celie when she first started writing letters to God. It was hideously awful and so beautifully written - and it made me fall in love with the epistolary style.
If you're hankering to listen to people talking about books, you can peruse a pile of videos at the ThisBook site, with lots of famous women talking about the books by women that have had the most impact on their lives. I really like Shami Chakrabarti's point about To Kill A Mockingbird, which came in in the No. 1 spot: "With human right under attack the world over, the enduring appeal of Harper Lee's great tale gives hope that justice and equality might yet triumph over prejudice."
The full top 20 is:
- To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
- The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
- Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
- Harry Potter - J.K.Rowling (although how this counts as one book, I'm not sure)
- Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
- Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
- Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
- Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
- The Secret History - Donna Tartt
- I capture the Castle - Dodie Smith
- The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
- Beloved - Toni Morrison
- Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
- We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
- The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
- Middlemarch - George Eliot
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
- The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing
- The Color Purple - Alice Walker
- The Women's Room - Marilyn French
What do you think of the list? Any favourites on there? What book written by a woman has had an impact on your life?