Gilmour Girls: A Reading List for David Gilmour

7 Oct

This list is not as diverse as I wish it could be. It’s still very white, and there isn’t a super great representation of queer and trans* folk. It sort of ended up being both a reading list for David Gilmour and a list of my favourite books by women. Writing this has been a great exercise for me, and has illustrated pretty clearly that I need to expand my own reading repertoire – I do love women writers, but I still tend to favour white, cis-gender women. Helloooooo to my own cultural bias.

I didn’t include any Alice Munro or Virginia Woolf because Gilmour says that he likes both of those authors, and I don’t have multiple books by the same author. Those were some rules that I arbitrarily made up for myself.

Please feel free to add to this list or to fangirl with me over how much you love some of these books. Fangirling is the best!

1. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ohhhh, books about Ordinary People set against the backdrop of Serious Historical Events, you get me EVERY. DAMN. TIME.

2. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

The best book that I’ve ever read about the nearly-invisible cruelties that little girls practice on each other, and the lifelong fallout of that sneaky, subtle bullying.

3. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

One of the best depictions of depression and suicidal ideation in classical literature.

4. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

My friend Jesse said it best: Alison Bechdel’s memoirs are like magic. You read them, and they’re technically about her, but somehow you end up learning about yourself?

5. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Shut up, I don’t even care, I fucking love this book. DO NOT LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT. 


6. Villette by Charlotte Brontë

I don’t care if Jane Eyre is your favourite book of all time, I swear to you that this book is better.

7. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

I have four words for you: Lesbian. Coming. Of. Age.

In the south.

With cheerleaders.

And bourbon.

8. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Oh good lord I am such a sucker for dystopian fiction it is not even funny.

9. My Ántonia by Willa Cather

Sort of like Little House On The Prairie for grownups. Except for the fact that Little House On The Prairie is totally for grownups too.

10. Chéri by Colette

In which a young, beautiful man (who loves silk robes and pearls) is kept and petted and spoiled by a woman twice his age, and then has to deal with her departure when he gets engaged to a much younger woman. Maybe one of the best role reversals in literature? Anyway I love Colette so much.

11. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Like Jane Eyre except better, spookier and more accurate in terms of how creepy and skin-crawly the Mister Rochester character is. You guys, MISTER ROCHESTER IS AWFUL. 

12. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Probably the weirdest book I’ve ever read and that’s saying something.

13. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

I think this is my favourite novel about transgender experience?

14. The Butterfly Ward by Margaret Gibson

This weird little book of short stories found its way into my hands on my birthday about ten years ago. I’ve never read anything else by this author – never even seen anything else by her – but some of the stories in this book haunt me still.

15. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

I don’t even care if you liked the movie. Suck it up and read the book.

16. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The book that made me realize that I needed to cultivate better, stronger friendships with women. Friendships where I felt empowered instead of competitive.

17. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs Of A Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston

I don’t even know how you could see this book’s title and not immediately need to read it

18. The Namesake by Jumpha Lahiri

If you read this book while you are pregnant you will suddenly begin obsessively stock-piling baby names as if there might be some kind of baby name shortage.

19. The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

I read this as a very impressionable teenager and was hooked.

20. Small Island by Andrea Levy

Race and class in post-war London how does that sentence fragment not make you tingle with excitement even a little?

21. Fall On Your Knees by Ann Marie MacDonald

I have read this book so many times and it is so painfully near to my heart that I don’t even know what to say about it. Frances Piper is one of my favourite fictional characters of all time ever.

22. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel


As a post-script, I think that, as David Foster Wallace would say, this was Hilary Mantel’s way of imposing her phallus on the consciousness of the world seriously thought what does that even mean.

23. The Group by Mary McCarthy

A lovely, weirdly prescient little midcentury gem about a group of friends and how their lives diverge after college. A lot of discussion about how fucking hard it is for women to have it “all” – if that’s even possible.

24. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

If this book doesn’t give you Feelings I am pretty sure that means that you don’t have a soul.

25. The Street by Ann Petry

A single mother living on her own 1940s Harlem. Do I have your attention yet?

26. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

As if this was not going to be on this list. Have you even met my blog.

27. Clay Walls by Kim Ronyoung

Faye, a second generation Korean-American, says at one point that reading is, “just a way for me to see how other people live. I haven’t found a book yet written about the people I know.” And then Kim Ronyoung wrote that book.

28. The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This one took me two reads to love, but love it I do.

29. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Speculative fiction gives me a total boner.

30. Push by Sapphire

Ohhh this book made me break out into a sick sweat. Maybe one of the best reminders of my privilege that I’ve ever had?

31. Memoirs Of An Ex-Prom Queen by Alix Kates Schulman

Another one that took me a while to love – I felt like the main character was so privileged and whiny. And then I realized that that was kind of the point, and also that those things didn’t take away from her experiences.

32. Caucasia by Danzy Senna

Probably the first book to really make me think about race – definitely the first time I ever questioned the idea of being colour-blind, and my first encounter with the idea of passing privilege.

33. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

The most painfully accurate description of what it’s like to be a white, lower-middle-class girl.

34. A Tree Grow in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I don’t even care if this is a YA book, it’s balls to the wall one of my favourite books. BALLS TO THE WALL.

35. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

One of those epic books that spans several generations and several families, except this one explores race and class in 1980s England. And it’s so unbelievably good.

36. Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

I don’t even care that this book is super dated, it is the book that made me fall in love with historical fiction and also bromance.

37. Angel by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that Elizabeth Taylor)

Probably the most selfishly awful, incredibly unlikeable protagonist I’ve ever encountered (and that’s including Holden Caulfield), but. 

38. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

Heartbreaking and darkly funny and also Miriam Toews is one of the best human beings on this planet maybe.

39. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t so innocent. Also you will want to punch Newland Archer a bunch. But it’s good, I promise.

40. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Scary Evangelical Christian Lesbian Coming Of Age. No but seriously.


42 Responses to “Gilmour Girls: A Reading List for David Gilmour”

  1. CanaryTheFirst October 7, 2013 at 2:39 am #

    The Doomsday Book and The Poisonwood Bible are two books I’d put on any list. Must reads! Absolutely recommend.

    • Ari October 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

      The Doomsday Book, oh my God, yes.

  2. Joy October 7, 2013 at 2:40 am #

    Also, What We All Long For by Dionne Brand.

  3. Laura Lynn October 7, 2013 at 2:52 am #

    Ooh ooh…I have to say Carson McCullers ‘Ballad of the Sad Cafe’ even if everyone else loves ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’. And yes, Canary the First, The Poisonwood Bible. Definitely. I love your list and I’m intensely happy to see quite a few I haven’t read. Something to look forward to. Ps. Gone With the Wind…one of my perennial favorites.

  4. giovanna October 7, 2013 at 3:24 am #

    i cannot even begin to tell you how grateful i am that you put miriam toews A Complicated Kindness in there. I’m grateful for all the other books too, but this author… ohmygod.

    i second dionne brand.

    i suggest anne carson’s Autobiography of Red and thea hillman’s Intersex. amazing writing all around.

    p.s. holden caulfied totally fucking rocks.

  5. Stephanie Bergner October 7, 2013 at 3:26 am #

    Thank you for this list. I can’t wait to start reading some of these.

    I’d like to fangirl Fall on Your Knees. This is one of my top 10 favorite books. There are lines that read with such a beautiful flow that they are still in my head today.

    If I may add a book, I’d like to recommend The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich.

    Another very powerfully written book is Beyond the Pale by Elana Nachman/Dykewomon. This is a historical novel about Jewish women immigrating to the U.S. from Russia. This is set around the turn of the century and tells a lesbian love story amidst the early labor movement in the garment industry. I learned a lot about the contributions of Jewish women immigrants on the U.S. labor movement.

    • giovanna October 7, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

      you are so right. louise erdrich totally belongs here.

  6. Rebecca Faria (@RebelBeckerton) October 7, 2013 at 3:28 am #

    The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson! The main character is unsympathetic, but well-written, and the story is compelling. Oh, and also Midnight Robber. Actually, ANYTHING by Nalo Hopkinson. Excellent queer-positive speculative fiction by a black Caribbean-Canadian woman = OH YES PLEASE.

  7. Scott Davis October 7, 2013 at 3:44 am #

    I have to add the following most beloved books:

    The Crystal Cave, the Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment, by Mary Stewart
    The freaking Whole Earthsea trilogy by Ursula LeGuin, plus her freaking stunningly good The Winds Twelve Quarters,
    And the book that made me want to write SOMETHING, anything, that would influence someone’s life: I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, by Joanna Greenberg (pseudonym Hannah Green) PLEASE if you read nothing else on my list, read this!!! It’s based on Freudian Psychology, which sucks, but it’s freaking autobiographical which means it’s author has freaking BEEN there!!!

    Pride and Predice, by Jane Austen
    The Happy Hooker, by Xavier Hollander (yes, I know, but this is the book that allowed women, after centuries of propaganda, to admit that their sexuality was every bit as important as man’s!)

    The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baronesse Orkzy ( yeah, it’s about a man, but it’s Zorro way before there wasa Zorro!)

  8. computersupportrialto October 7, 2013 at 3:52 am #


  9. Martin Reaves October 7, 2013 at 4:17 am #

    The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova.

  10. Ari October 7, 2013 at 4:22 am #

    I have just read way more non-fiction than fiction, but I did read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, who is apparently the giant of Nigerian literature. It’s spread over two or three time periods, so it starts with a traditional Igbo village, and takes you along with a family and a village through the upheaval of the introduction of colonialism. I’ll admit up front that the sexual politics might seem terrible–traditional Igbo society, at least as presented by Mr. Achebe, was unapologetically patriarchal, polygamous in fact–but I recommend it to your list as important literature on colonialism, told from the perspective of the colonized, written by a non-European. Powerful but totally accessible.

  11. Sara October 7, 2013 at 4:29 am #

    GEEK LOVE. It is my #1 favourite ever, and the one book I read over and over.

    The book I’ve been most excited about in a few years is In Zanesville, by Jo Ann Beard. It’s a coming-of-age story (YES) about a kind of oddball 14 year-old girl (YES). Everyone in our book club swooned over it.

  12. Herbal Indonesia October 7, 2013 at 4:56 am #


  13. lauratfrey October 7, 2013 at 5:15 am #

    I follow two types of blogs: book and feminist, and when they come together it makes me so happy. Thanks, David Gilmour!

  14. turapolis October 7, 2013 at 5:58 am #

    I know it is meant for David, but thank you for this list. I’ve read some of them, and there are so many I’ve never even heard of.

    After my first child I hadn’t picked up a book in a really long time. The book I happened to find was Fall On Your Knees. I had no idea what I was in for, and although I can see it’s greatness, and the power of that story, I really think it should come with a warning. It ripped me apart.

    My own addition would be Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb. Although the story isn’t all unicorns and butterflies, that book left me in a better place.

  15. s. wheels October 7, 2013 at 6:37 am #

    Oh man, you had me until Alison Bechdel. I feel like Fun Home was just Bechdel proving that she had a read a lot. And she didn’t turn out to be any better a reader than her dad was. Just can’t agree with you on that one.

    But you have some seriously good taste. Thanks for posting!

  16. pengantinpelik October 7, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    ‘Sing to the Dawn’ by Minfong Ho is the first book I read that could make me cry, and in retrospect, reading it all those years ago (a good 15 years ago if I’m not wrong, as an adolescent) opened my eyes to what I now know is male priviledge, and stirred the young feminist in me. For historical fiction about another part of the world, in particular Indonesia, Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s works, both in Indonesian / Malay and translated to English, are my favourite.

  17. Plathfan86 October 7, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    July’s People by Nadine Gordimer. She’s white, but her fictional projection of post-apartheid, war stricken South Africa doesn’t sugar coat any of the realities of the white female protagonist’s mortification of self as she is forced to live in poverty under the protection of her previous servant. Gritty, heartfelt, but most of all, resistant to the creation of an over-sentimentalised projection of apartheid harmony. Eye-opening and wonderful.

  18. Andrea Stoeckel October 7, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    Your list is amazing. I’ve read over 75% of them. That’s a lot of work. BTW I adore your blog!

  19. lauralord October 7, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Women Without Men by Shahrnush Parsipur, Everything (not the title, literally everything written by) Philippa Gregory, Sula by Toni Morrison, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Ain’t I a Woman by Bell Hooks, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

    If you’re into the serious historical events, go for Philippa Gregory. Everything is told from the women’s standpoint, with strong female leads in a time period/society where women were far from the strong lead in anything. She’s amazing and his history is pretty darn accurate.

  20. recalcitrantobserver October 7, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Reblogged this on recalcitrantobserver and commented:
    I’m so looking forward to exploring some of those!

  21. AJ October 7, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    So many books, so little time to read!

    I have to add, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee, ‘The Handmaiden’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood (made much more of an impression on me that Cat’s Eye but at the end of the day I would recommend all of her books), and ‘Maya’s Notebook’ by Isabel Allende. And those are just off the top of my head.

  22. mfennvt October 7, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    Wonderful list! I would also add Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven. Her prose is brilliant. Another vote for To Kill A Mockingbird, as well.

  23. Frances October 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    I love the title of this post.
    All of these (that I haven’t read yet) are so on my list.
    (It’s just Stone Butch Blues, not Stone Cold!)

    • bellejarblog October 7, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

      Augh! Best/worst typo ever?

      And I wish I could take credit for the title of this post, but Sara Pellerin came up with it!

  24. katyandtheword October 7, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Reblogged this on katyandtheword and commented:
    YAY! I love this reading list!!!

  25. Burns the Fire October 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    LOVE this list. Thank you. These women’s names offer balance and relief.

  26. glasshill October 7, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Wonderful list, many of my favourites! Sharing this! !

  27. glasshill October 7, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    Reblogged this on Emma and Toad and commented:
    Wonderful reading list! Enjoy it David Gilmour.

  28. My Inner Chick October 7, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    Colette, Plath, & Atwood have my heart ❤

  29. Cecilia October 8, 2013 at 2:55 am #

    Absolutely love this list. Some favorites, many on my to-read list, and others I haven’t heard of but will now check out. I appreciate your commentaries too – very helpful! I have read mixed reviews but I am eager also to read Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook. Thanks again for this!

  30. Archita October 8, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    A tree grows in Brooklyn will always be in my top 10 favorite list. I would also like to add three more names:
    1. Interpreter Of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri , Short story collection and won Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award in the year 2000
    2. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai – a tale related to colonialism and the effects of post-colonialism , winner of Man Booker 2006
    3. Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai , one of the finest authors I read.

  31. Rhonda Kronyk October 10, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Since Alice Munro just won the Nobel for literature (the first Canadian woman to win a Nobel!!) I think her work should be added to the list.

    As an aside – Gilmour says that Tolstoy is one of the literary greats who is worthy of his time. I just found a great quote by Tolstoy that Gilmour may want to take to heart: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Opening yourself to new experiences is a great first step towards personal growth and change.

  32. overlookedonlookers October 10, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    So many great books on this list, but oh, I love Marion Zimmer Bradley! Have you read Tiger Burning Bright, that she co-wrote with Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton? I really liked that one, too. A bit unrelated, but I also love Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier.

    I’ve also never thought of Sense and Sensibility as a portrayal of depression! I’ll have to read it again with that in mind.

  33. My Islamic Life October 21, 2013 at 1:15 am #

    I just printed out this list…and will come back and read through the comments and add more titles. Here I thought I was well read.

  34. M. R. December 2, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Rose Tremain has written historical fiction every bit as gripping as Hilary’s. Try “Music and Silence”, f’rinstance …

  35. Heather March 15, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson; Away by Amy Bloom.

  36. Tara May 12, 2014 at 12:06 am #

    Julie Otsuka’s THE BUDDHA IN THE ATTIC will blow anyone’s mind. It’s told in the first person plural (!), and every sentence is a delicate, brutal, incandescently imagined poem.


  1. Just about everyone wants David Gilmour shortlisted for the Giller | - October 7, 2013

    […] Tweeters: Cheap-shot rhetoric posted in reaction to the original Hazlitt article questioned where Gilmour got off on focusing on a female character in his novel, cast light on the career aspirations of his own daughter and asked whether the offhand mention that none of the writers he wants to teach are Chinese also revealed him as a racist. “An Open Letter to David Gilmour” included an insistence to audit one of his classes by a writer who argued that all of her life ambitions were being undermined by his idiocy, proved popular because Anne Thériault included a selfie with her middle finger extended, which showed insight into what to do in order to get social media clicks. (Later, she offered a reading list.) […]

  2. 2013 In Review: Part 2 | The Belle Jar - January 6, 2014

    […] – Gilmour Girls: A Reading List for David Gilmour […]

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