My life has been blessed by incredible books, and the incredible women who recommended them. In honor of Women’s History Month, here are a few key books given to me by important ladies.
“Einstein’s Dreams” by Alan Lightman
A common sentiment on social media: “Men become philosophers when they come to the conclusions most girls have at 12 years old alone in their bedrooms.” Indeed, catch-ups with my girlies often resemble Enlightenment-era salons, or Plato’s symposium, where human nature and metaphysics are braided in with the latest steaming-hot gossip. A close friend from college gave me a copy of Alan Lightman’s “Einstein’s Dreams” in the airport. This slim volume holds quick snippets of alternate realities, and in each one, time works differently than in our world. Is it essentially Albert Einstein fanfic? Yes. Is it thought-provoking? For sure.
“Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides
Friendships among high schoolers are built on bartering; the limited economic power of part-time jobs and parental dependences means many must trade to get the things they need. My high school bestie and I switched socks and books with little expectation of getting our things back. Cleaning an old bedroom, I recently found a battered copy of Jeffrey Eugenides’ “Middlesex.” This is a sprawling narrative bouncing between generations and continents, from grandparents to grandchildren, from Detroit to remote Greek villages. Our protagonist is an intersex man named Cal, grappling with fate, love, genetics, and tragedy. It won a Pulitzer, so I figured it’d be good. My best friend recommended it, so I knew it’d be good.
“Blood and Guts in High School” by Kathy Acker
Educators who really truly believe in their pupils make all the difference. I’d picked up a fat stack of books for class; on top of the pile was Kathy Acker’s “Blood and Guts in High School.” I flipped through its pages -- all scribbled-over, often nonsensical, always provocative. I knew then my favorite professor had another wild semester prepped for us. The book’s protagonist, Janey, tells her story in collage; hers is a child-like portrayal of a traumatic life. Our professor, an incredible writer herself, showed us the fan mail she had sent Acker years ago. Women have forever honored women, and I hope I one day too can pass on all that this professor had given me.
“All About Love: New Visions” by bell hooks
There’s two important girlie relationships: the ones we have with other random girls, and with ourselves. This book, for me, lies at the intersection of both. bell hooks’ “All About Love: New Visions” was recommended by a stranger, and grounded my understanding of love, for self and others, in a foundation more beautiful than anything before. hooks weaves together personal stories with academic criticism and pop culture references, sharing her new vision of the world. It’s beautiful!
“Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder
The first and most important woman I ever met was my mother. She radiates beauty, confidence, care, and so much intelligence. She works in public health, and a hero of the field is Paul Farmer, who unfortunately passed about a year ago. In “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracy Kidder chronicles the physician and anthropologist’s work in healthcare around the globe. My mother gave me a copy. Here were the motivations and tribulations of the job, with all the beauty and pain it carries. It was a peek into my mother’s world, one that let me understand her a bit better. Isn’t that the point of books?