Monday, December 14, 2009

Women's Nonfiction: A Guide to Reading Interests by Jessica Zellers

I am not sure that women's nonfiction really is a genre, but I do not think it matters. Genre is a concept that may interest librarians more than writers and readers. What matters is that there are books of particular interest to women and a large community of women who read. Jessica Zellers serves both well with her new book Women's Nonfiction: A Guide to Reading Interests.

Women's Nonfiction is the third volume in the new readers' advisory series Real Stories which suggests nonfiction books to librarians and readers. It follows volumes on investigative reporting and biography. The second volume, of course, is my book, so I am particularly interested in Jessica's book. On examination, I find our books complementary. Early in her book Jessica explains that "it is a rare Women's Nonfiction narrative that does not refer, at least in part, to people's life experiences." Appropriately her first chapter is "Chapter 1 - Life Stories: Biography, Autobiography, and Memoirs." I notice that we have even identified a few of the same titles, including Jackie Cochran: Pilot in the Fast Lane by Doris L. Rich and Boudica: The Life of Britain's Legendary Warrior Queen by Vanessa Collingridge, but our "Now try" recommendations are all quite different, as you might expect.

So, as a guy, what do I like about this book? The chapter that most interests me is "Chapter 5 - Adventure and Travel." Jessica's descriptive reviews suggest a number of books that I'd like to read, including Across the Savage Sea: The First Woman to Row Across the North Atlantic by Maud Fontenoy, The Girl from Botany Bay by Carolly Erickson, and Travels with a Medieval Queen by Mary Taylor Simeti. I also see promising titles in "Chapter 4 - Women's History," including Warrior Queens by Antonia Fraser and Uppity Women of Ancient Times by Vicki Leon.

I would not want you to think all of Jessica's books are biography, adventure, or history. In her introduction, she states that she includes nonfiction books that women read for pleasure. Most are narrative nonfiction but not all. Many of the titles included deal with personal growth, women's health, beauty, feminism, activism, women at work, and women in society.

When I was visiting the Elmhurst Public Library a few weeks ago, I noticed a "help yourself" readers' advisory display, including fiction and nonfiction readers' advisory guides. Women's Nonfiction: A Guide to Reading Interests would serve well on such displays everywhere, especially as a circulating book that readers could take home.

Zellers, Jessica. Women's Nonfiction: A Guide to Reading Interests. Libraries Unlimited, 2009. 442p. ISBN 9781591586586


Melisende said...

Travels with a Medieval Queen is a great read.

vicki leon said...

HI, am embarrassed to make such a tardy comment but want to thank you for mentioning my book, Uppity Women of Ancient Times, as a title that sounded promising to you as a guy reader. Having just started a blog on historical research (
I am in awe of your monumental body of work here. After profiling 900 women in 4 Uppity titles, I've turned to even quirkier topics. My latest will, I hope, intrigue more 'guy readers' like you: it's a survey of ancient science and superstition called HOW TO MELLIFY A CORPSE (do not try this at home.) Impudent best wishes, Vicki Leon